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More Than Just The Fab Four


There are so many addresses in London that have significant rock and roll history but I'm not sure there's one more popular or recognizable than Abbey Road Studios. While I try to write blog posts about the lesser known locations and the cool stuff that happened at them, what kind of rock and roll blog site would this be if I didn't give #3 Abbey Road its due?


But let's go back a little further than what you may already know about it. We'll get to the rock and roll stuff in a minute.


Before it became a recording studio it was called Abbey Lodge and was a bunch of individual flats. One of the tenants there was a guy named Arthur John 'Maudy" Gregory. His residency in the building dates back to just after World War I. Maudy was self employed and had a very lucrative racket selling honors for various political parties. From him you could purchase a knighthood for £10,000 or get yourself the title Baron for £40,000 (significant coinage back then). It's said he would split the proceeds with political parties; all of which denied having any idea what he was doing. Well by 1927, apparently someone figured it out and the government blocked him from selling British honors, so he shifted gears and started selling Papal honors and noble titles from Ukraine.


Another tenant in Abbey Lodge at the time was a former music hall star named Edith Rosse. She had performed as one Vivienne Pierpoint and had recently separated from her husband. Although she was older than Maudy, they were known to throw wild parties for friends that involved music and dancing well into the wee hours. Rosse and Maudy were friends but never romantically connected as Maudy was gay.


In 1930 the building was sold and the then tenants moved out but not before Maudy convinced Rosse to make him the beneficiary of her will. She did so just a few days before she fell into a suspicious coma and died. He inherited her £18,000 and buried her in a shallow grave but in a coffin that wasn't sealed. Rains caused the coffin to become waterlogged ruining any chance of authorities to exhume and examine the body for foul play, even though Maudy was highly suspected of having poisoned her.


He was never charged with her murder because it couldn't be proven but he was convicted and imprisoned for selling those honors.


The sale that forced those tenants to move was to The Gramophone Company who merged with Columbia to become Electric and Musical Industries - or EMI. In 1931 EMI opened the three studio complex we know as Abbey Road Studios today.


So, fast forward to 1982 when a book called Abbey Road by authors Brian Southall, Peter Vince and Allan Rouse was published. They write that people who worked in the studios claimed it was haunted by a lady ghost they believed to be Edith Rosse.



In 2021, a pair of original foyer doors that separated the reception area from the actual studios went up for auction. These doors had clear glass panels in them and functioned as those foyer doors until 1988 when a refurbishment rendered them useless. The auction house included a letter of authenticity with the doors written by a former recording engineer named Ken Townsend who worked in the studios from 1950 to 1995 (yes, he worked on some Beatles recordings too).


Contents of this letter explain that the glass wasn't always clear. The original frosted glass was replaced in the 1960s to the ones that were now housed in the frames.


Quoted from the letter Townsend wrote: "The most likely was that they did not meet the standard required by the fire regulations, but the other was more probable. The night security staff, who at the time were Mr. Smythe and Mr. Blyth, complained that in the early hours, the Abbey Road Ghost came down the corridor and the doors would swing open and this white dressed lady would go past them. By replacing the old frosted glass gave them (sic) advance notice to make a hasty exit." (photo credit: ewbankauctions.co.uk)



Well, ghost stories certainly haven't deterred musicians from recording in the legendary building. The Beatles recorded 90% of their music here. In August of 1969 they were photographed on the crosswalk in front of the building. The famous result that became the cover of their Abbey Road album. The album's fame actually brought about the name change from EMI to Abbey Road Studios.


Pink Floyd recorded their 1973 album Dark Side Of The Moon and their 1975 Wish You Were Here album here too. It was in studio three while mixing their ode to Syd Barrett, Shine On You Crazy Diamond, that they noticed a heavy set man lurking around only to realize it was Syd in a delusional state. It took them a while to recognize him.


Amy Winehouse recored her last record here when she sang a duet with Tony Bennett called Body & Soul in March of 2011.


Scores of film soundtracks have been recorded here as well including those for Black Panther, Harry Potter and Avengers: Endgame.







Abbey Road turned 90 in 2021. It has been the birthplace of some of our favorite music continuously since it opened with the exception of three months in 2020 when it closed in March of that year because of COVID lockdown. But those three months didn't go to waste. The downtime was used to install a commemorative manhole cover and to repaint the white stripes of the famous crosswalk.








While it does get crowded with tourists wanting to replicate the boys walking across the famous street, it really is a must see for music fans. I have several selfies walking the famous zebra stripes and I actually have added my signature to the graffiti out front too. The adjacent shop offers some great swag items you can't find anyplace else too.



(source: The Telegraph - James Hall 12Nov2021)


Two of our walking tours make stops at Abbey Road Studios. Check them out: https://videolibrary.rocktourlondon.com/programs/marylebone-places-2aad21?categoryId=95943


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