The news broke yesterday that EMI is allegedly putting Abbey Road Studios up for sale. The sum it could raise would barely begin to plug the black hole in the difference between what was paid for the company and what it’s now worth – it just lost £1.75bn – not even with its prime location in St John’s Wood.
But the black hole it would leave in 80 years of the UK’s musical memories if it disappears cannot be measured in pounds, guineas or euros. This was where the Beatles made their recordings – just look at the graffiti on the wall outside for proof of how much that still means to everyone; where the teenaged Yehudi Menuhin recorded Elgar’s Violin Concerto with the composer conducting (the latter then sloped off to the races); and those are just the two most famous instances.
I hope he’s right. Otherwise, what will they do with Abbey Road? Options: pull it down and build luxury flats subject to planning permission; convert it to same, at a premium for its history; turn it into a bijou hotel with an Elgar Suite and a Beatles-themed jacuzzi…
Or, if either the government or someone with a heap of dosh and philanthropical mindset could please step this way, turn it into a musical museum. I was about to suggest this but Norman Lebrecht, a neighbour of the studios, beat me to it over at Slipped Disc.
This would be a musical museum with substance. Perhaps an ever-renewed display of irreplaceable photos, a recording archive available to the public for listening, memorabilia and minutiae of the great and the good…
And if we apply some lateral thinking, it would also be an excellent location in which to display the V&A’s musical instrument collection. Come on, National Lottery Funds – the Olympics will last all of two weeks, but this would be long-term, solid, sensible and necessary. Abbey Road Studios is part of our national musical soul, such as it is. Get on and preserve it for the nation: that’s what you’re there for!
UPDATE, THURSDAY 18TH 8.50AM: Apparently the National Trust is now saying it would consider buying Abbey Road Studios if there is enough support. Bloggers & music biz acquaintances strongly divided on this idea at present. I would be roundly in favour if it turned out there’s no way the place can be kept going as a working studio.