I was invited to listen to the 50th-anniversary edition of Abbey Road at Abbey Road Studios. Wow.

[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.

Giles Martin

Read the rest of my review here. I also got a chance to speak with Ringo. Meanwhile, here are some pictures from the event.

A look at the Dolby ATMOS rig from the back of Studio 2. The system must have had 32 channels. My chair was the to the right of the brown one in the second row.
A view of the rig from the front.
The staircase up to the control room.
Various vintage keyboards including the Hammond used on Abbey Road, the “Lady Madonna” upright and the Mellotron used on “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Note the parquet floor. It hasn’t changed since the 60s.
A sample of the instruments used in recording Abbey Road in 1969.
The new 2019 remix of “Here Comes the Sun.”

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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