News that the hedge-trimmers who own EMI are putting the Abbey Road studios up for sale comes as no surprise round here. Living round the corner, as I do, I have seen a thinning of the trail of musicians making their Monday morning slog to work, and the great orchestral pantechnicons are rarely seen nowadays in the courtyard.
It’s not just to do with the shrinking record industry. Many of the facilities provided by Abbey Road can now be emulated on a laptop in a musician’s back-bedroom. The ceremony of going to studio is no longer a necessity of musical life.
Still, I’ll be sorry to see it go. I used to drop in to the canteen to catch up with musicians between sessions and always appreciated the informality of the place. It was not always so. Old-timers told me they used to get turned away by the doorman if they turned up for a session without jacket and tie. The grand old days of Elgar conducting Land of Hope and Glory are preserved on Youtube for all to share.
The outer wall of the studio complex attracts hundreds of tourists every day, all years round, many of them leaving grafitti that declare their love for the Beatles, who enshrined the house in legend.
What will number 3 Abbey Road fetch on the property market? The way prices are heating up round here, I’d guess £30-40 million.
Not a bad return on the 1929 purchase price of £100,000, but nowhere near the £120 million that Terra Firma need to raise by June to service a Citibank loan – and when the sale boards go up they will offer a sorry symbol of an industry that is coming to an end.