5 of the best albums recorded at Abbey Road studios

Category: News

In September 1969, the Beatles released Abbey Road.

The band’s 11th studio album is a cultural landmark and the last album the band recorded together. (Let It Be followed in 1970, but John Lennon left the band before its completion.)

The album received mixed reviews on its initial release. Since then, it has gained iconic status thanks to songs like ‘Come Together’, ‘Something’, and ‘Octopus’s Garden’ and the infamous and oft-imitated cover image, which added fuel to the “Paul is Dead” conspiracy theory still gaining supporters at that time.

(Paul is the only Beatle not wearing shoes on the cover, which, to some, is evidence that he died in 1966 and was replaced by a look-a-like!)

But the 1969 sessions weren’t the Beatles’ first at Abbey Road. They first entered the studio in 1962 when they recorded ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘PS I Love You’ among other early tracks. Since then, a large number of classic albums have emanated from this iconic studio.

Here are five of the best.

1. The Piper at The Gates of Dawn by Pink Floyd (1967)

Pink Floyd’s debut album, The Piper at The Gates of Dawn was the only one to be masterminded by Floyd co-founder Syd Barrett.

Barrett wrote all but three of the album’s tracks, combining his trademark brand of psychedelia, which moved from a free-form style employing dissonance and feedback to short sharp pop songs.

The album came off the back of the band’s initial success with the singles ‘See Emily Play’ and ‘Arnold Layne’, neither of which appear on the album.

While recording the album, Pink Floyd met the Beatles who were also recording at the studio, this time on Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and Roger Waters would return to Abbey Road for their 1973 masterpiece Dark Side of the Moon. Before that, though, they would help Syd Barrett record tracks for his debut solo album, The Madcap Laughs in 1970. The album flopped commercially but was later regarded as a cult classic.

Barrett would make only one more solo album before retiring from the music business altogether. Dark Side of the Moon would go on to sell 45 million copies.

2. Afrodisiac by Fela Kuti (1972)

The Nigerian musician, composer, and political activist Fela Kuti is regarded as the “King of Afrobeat”. He pioneered the genre-defining sound, combining elements of West African music with American styles of funk and jazz.

Afrodisiac is Kuti’s 8th studio album and clocking in at 39 minutes features just four lengthy tracks. Among them are Kuti’s first Nigerian hit ‘Jeun Ko Ku’, which sold over 200,000 copies and the first track to hint at the political activism that dominated so much of the rest of his life, the closing ‘Je’nwi Temi (Don’t Gag Me)’.

Fela Kuti and Afrobeat were already hugely influential, but Afrodisiac also has the distinction of being the album that introduced Brian Eno to both jazz and polyrhythms.

Fela Kuti continued to release music into the 1990s. The final incarnation of his band, Kuti and Egypt 80, continues to perform to this day with Fela’s son Seun as the leader of the renamed Seun Kuti & Egypt 80.

3. The Best Years of Our Lives by Steve Harley and the Cockney Rebels (1975)

The Cockney Rebel formed in 1972 but cracks in the band began to form early. The music press, repeatedly drawn to band co-founder and frontman Steve Harley, reported on him while neglecting the rest of the group. Tensions grew even as the band received initial success.

The band recorded two albums, 1973’s The Human Menagerie and its follow-up The Psychomodo (1974). The latter album included the hit single ‘Mr Soft’.

By 1975’s The Best Years of Our Lives, though, the band had torn itself apart. It was now mainly a Steve Harley solo project featuring a revolving door of band members and session musicians.

And yet, the release featured what would become the band’s only number-one single, ‘Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)’. Despite the song’s upbeat catchiness, it was actually a dig at Harley’s former band members, who he felt had abandoned him.

4. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by Howard Shore (2001)

Peter Jackson’s epic, three-part retelling of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings deserved an equally epic score. Composer Howard Shore delivered just that and having recorded the majority of the music at Watford Town Hall, he retired to Abbey Road studios to mix it.

Beginning in Hobbiton, in the bucolic Shire, Shore’s theme set the tone for the opening film in the trilogy and its follow-ups.

The score went platinum in the US amid huge critical acclaim. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Score, the Grammy for Best Soundtrack Album, and the World Soundtrack Award for Best Original Soundtrack.

It was recently featured on the BBC Proms 2023, as part of a night celebrating the best music from fantasy and science fiction films.

5. Ceremonials by Florence and the Machine (2011)

Florence and the Machine’s debut album Lungs went six-times platinum in the UK and saw similar commercial success in Australia.

While the band had offers to record their sophomore effort in the US, they opted to record Lungs’ follow-up, Ceremonials at Abbey Road instead.

The album became the band’s second number-one album and produced five singles.

Ceremonials received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album, while the single ‘Shake It Out’ was nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. The album also became the band’s first top 10 hit on the US Billboard 200, where it peaked at number six.

The album has gone on to sell more than 2 million copies worldwide.