[This was my weekly column for GlobalNews.ca this week. – AC]
When The Beatles issued Abbey Road on Sept. 26, 1969, the hi-fi revolution had yet to take hold. Most people would have heard it on cheap portable record players with plastic tonearms or through hulking console stereos that masqueraded as furniture.
his meant that even though the album was recorded using the very best technology of the day — it’s the first Beatles album to use both eight-track multi-track recorders and a solid-state mixing console — George Martin and his crew had to be very respectful of the limitations of the playback equipment of the day. No one wanted the needles jumping out of the groove during passages of deep bass, nor was there any point worrying about capturing all the high frequencies.
Abbey Road has been reissued numerous times since then (most notably with 40th-anniversary remaster in 2009), each utilizing the latest tech to enhance and clean up what was committed to tape between February and August 1969.
For the album’s 50th-anniversary, Giles Martin, son of George, was entrusted with giving Abbey Road a top-to-bottom inside-out refurbishment using the original source materials. This newest version — surely the clearest, best-sounding version ever — was revealed with a special listening session in Studio 2, the room inside Abbey Road where the Beatles made most of their magic.
Stepping into Studio 2 is like going back in time to 1969. Nothing has changed (“Even the paint job, sadly,” remarked Giles). If you’ve seen pictures of The Beatles at work back in the day, rest assured that everything has been preserved at it was. The only thing that has been updated is the staircase up to the master control room on the mezzanine level.