Ever since the Beatles made it their ’60s stomping ground, London’s Abbey Road Studios has been synonymous with big-budget opulence and pristine productions from rock’s great and good. Today, as Westminster darkens, we revisit gems from one of the borough’s attraction that continues to shine.
10 ‘Ceremonials’ by Florence & the Machine
After the massive international success of ‘Lungs’, Florence Welch was invited by her label to record a snazzy follow-up in plush US studios. Instead, she stuck close to home and refined the sound she’d meticulously crafted in her earlier work, resulting in a breakthrough record that dazzles without burning your retinas.
9 ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ by Howard Shore
You can imagine the scene when Howard Shore delivered his fantastically bucolic score for the Lord of the Rings film series: bedraggled crew members sinking into euphoric reverie as the hobbits rejoice in the burrows. It wasn’t just a sonic triumph, however: as well as lending the films their signature atmos, the soundtrack alone went platinum in the US. It was an epic score.
8 ‘Let it Come Down’ by Spiritualized
Four years after their seminal record ‘Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space’, Jason Pierce and Spiritualized floated down from the cosmos and delivered one of the most startlingly beautiful and imaginative records the studio had seen –quite a feat, given the guestbook.
7 ‘The Madcap Laughs’ by Syd Barrett
After a host of fruitless sessions, madcap visionary Syd Barrett holed up in Abbey Road with members of the Soft Machine to lay down a record that would send Barrett’s legend reverberating into rock legend for decades after his death.
6 ‘Stormcock’ by Roy Harper
Containing just four tracks, ranging from seven to 13 minutes, 1971’s ‘Stormcock’ is an intricately detailed insight into folk icon Roy Harper’s uncompromising genius. Unfortunately, his reputation has come under fire following accusations of child sex abuse, which he has denied.
5 ‘Late Orchestration’ by Kanye West
‘Late Orchestration’ documents Kanye’s one-off performance of tracks from his first two records, backed by a 17-piece orchestra. Its character is distinct enough to establish the record as a classic in its own right, with thoughtful arrangements expanding Kanye’s sonic remit to breathtaking peaks he wouldn’t revisit until ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’.
4 ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ by Pink Floyd
After taking baby steps with debut single ‘Arnold Layne’, the prog maestros decamped to Studio Three to indulge an altogether more salubrious excursion, packed with immersing sound-washes and Barrett-dabbled genius. Meanwhile, the Beatles recorded ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ next door…
3 ‘Afrodisiac’ by Fela Kuti
As the record that introduced Brian Eno to both jazz and polyrhythms, ‘Afrodisiac’ has a claim to be one of the most influential albums on alternative rock music ever. But it’s also a pivotal moment for Fela himself: it’s the first record to hint at his political radicalism, with ‘Je’Nwi Temi’ flicking off the authorities who try to silence him.
2 ‘Odessey and Oracle’ by The Zombies
The Zombies tapped into some dark magic while recording this second album in 1968, but swiftly broke up and vanished off the radar. Decades later a resurgence of interest revived their cult, and ‘Odessey and Oracle’ has secured its rightful place as a visionary psych classic.
1 ‘The White Album’ by The Beatles
The Beatles quickly made Abbey Road’s Studio Two their own, occupying it for rehearsals and hang-outs, occasionally nipping into the broom cupboard for a sneaky spliff. ‘The White Album’ sees them sprawl into their experimental element, mapping the contours that are now established as rock music’s DNA. It was their last record that gave the iconic studio its name (it’d previously been called HMV Studios and EMI Studios), but ‘The White Album’ stands as testament to its boundless possibilities.