For almost the entirety of their career as recording artists, The Beatles worked in one studio: EMI Studios on Abbey Road in St. John’s Wood, London. The band’s first audition for George Martin, first singles, and first albums, were all cut in Studio Two, which became the band’s headquarters for the rest of the 1960s. If you love any Beatles song, there’s a strong chance that it was cut at Abbey Road.
But there are exceptions. The basic track of ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ was recorded at EMI’s Paris studio while the band were on tour in 1964. As the group were allowed more freedom in their recording process, the band began using more state of the art studios, like Trident and Regent Sound, for their eight track recordings. By the time the band were recording Let It Be, the band had also built their own studio in the basement of their Apple headquarters. In order to keep them around, EMI had to install an eight track into Abbey Road to make sure The Beatles didn’t permanently jump ship.
In May of 1967, the band had just completed work on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. That album had been recorded entirely at EMI, except for the basic track of ‘Fixing a Hole’, which the band taped at Regent Sound after EMI wouldn’t grant them a last-minute session. The Beatles were working later into the night by this point, and when they convened for a six-hour session on May 11th starting at 9pm, the choice was made to go somewhere other than Abbey Road.
It was Mick Jagger, singer of the friendly rival group The Rolling Stones, who suggested his band’s choice studio, Olympic Sound. Having recently moved locations and redesigned with more modern recording equipment, Olympic represented a fresh angle for The Beatles to record their latest song, ‘Baby, You’re a Rich Man’. Inspired by the burgeoning countercultural movement, the song was a sardonic take on either hippies, manager Brian Epstein, or themselves.
“That’s a combination of two separate pieces, Paul’s and mine, put together and forced into one song,” Lennon is quoted as saying in David Sheff’s All We Are Saying. “One half was all mine. [Sings] ‘How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people, now that you know who you are, da da da da.’ Then Paul comes in with [sings] ‘Baby, you’re a rich man,’ which was a lick he had around,” he added.
The new studio must have inspired a new level of creativity within the band, at least according to studio owner and engineer Keith Grant. “I do a lot of orchestral work and you naturally push people along,” Grant told Beatles biographer Mark Lewishon. “The Beatles said that this was the fastest record they’d ever made. They were used to a much more leisurely pace. We started the session at about 9pm and it was finished and mixed by 3am, vocals and everything. They kept on playing, version after version, then we spooled back to the one they liked and overdubbed the vocals”.
Jagger was present for the sessions, and the band enjoyed their time at Olympic so much that they decided to return a month later to record the basic track for ‘All You Need Is Love’. Olympic Sound Studios would be used intermittently by the band for the next few years, most notably on late-period tracks like ‘Something’ and ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’.