Image: Abbey Road sign.
Matt Wilson
Devoted fans pay their respects to the Beatles by autographing a sign outside the world-famous recording studio.
By Reporter
NBC News
updated 3/22/2005 11:47:13 AM ET 2005-03-22T16:47:13

A leafy, tree-lined suburb of London recently saw more than its usual amount of visitors on a sunny spring Saturday morning.

The world-famous Abbey Road Studios, best known as the Beatles recording studio, is holding a film festival for the first time to celebrate 25 years of recording film soundtracks.

The two-week film festival, the first in the studio's 74-year history, is running until April 3 and will showcase a selection of films picked from the 150 that have been scored at Abbey Road.  Among the films that will be shown are “Braveheart,” “Aliens,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

Studio One, the world’s largest-purpose built recording studio, is equipped as a 350-seat cinema for the festival, which kicked off with a screening of the Beatles “A Hard Day’s Night” on Saturday.

Studio Two, where the Beatles recorded, has been turned into a photographic exhibition to accompany the films screened next door.

Studio One opened in November 1931 with a recording of “Land of Hope and Glory” by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Edward Elgar. A blue English Heritage plaque on the wall commemorates this recording.

Due to the success of major movies like "Star Wars" and "Superman" that were filmed and produced in the U.K. in the 1970s, a company was formed between Abbey Road Studios and a scoring stage whose lease on their current building was ending. 

The new company, Anvil-Abbey Road Screen Sound, had its first full orchestra film scoring session in Studio One by the end of 1980. The first major film release to have its music scored at the studio was Steven Spielberg’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” which was be shown on the first evening of the festival.

By the end of 2004, Abbey Road Studio projects dominated the Best Score categories at the Oscars, the Grammy’s, the Golden Globes, and BAFTA awards.

Illustrious history
Abbey Road gained its popularity in the 1960s when the Beatles recorded their most famous album there — the eponymous — “Abbey Road.” 

When the Beatles first arrived in 1962 they were expected to record in lounge suits and the technicians that worked there wore white "laboratory" style coats!  Their last session together was completed in 1969.

Since then hundreds of recording artists, including Radiohead and Pink Floyd have recorded albums there. Studio Two is preserved virtually as it was in the 1960s, making it a destination for modern artists to come and be inspired by the musical history and surroundings.

The adulation does not stop with recording artists; the perimeter walls outside the studio are whitewashed over on an almost weekly basis to cover the graffiti from fans paying their respects to the Beatles.

Even the road sign is replaced on a regular basis because of fans stealing it for a permanent memento of their visit.

The festival has attracted an international audience. During the first screening on Saturday, the opening chord of "A Hard Day’s Night" rang out to cheers and applause.

For this reporter and avid Beatles fan, the real value of the experience was to have been in the room where the Beatles recorded nearly all of their music, as well as “A Hard Day’s Night.”

Matt Wilson is the NBC News London Bureau coordinator.


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