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The greatest debut albums recorded at Abbey Road Studios

If music history is to be written, Abbey Road Studios should have its own chapter. As the world’s first purpose-built recording studio, the world-renowned complex in north-west London has made major advances in music technology over the past 90 years and has welcomed a host of legendary names through its doors. We’re talking the likes of the Beatles, Oasis, Pink Floyd, Adele, Kate Bush, Kanye West, Ella Fitzgerald, Amy Winehouse, Frank Ocean, Fela Kuti, Aretha Franklin, Radiohead, Fontaines DC and Lady Gaga – not a bad ensemble of musical talent , we think you’ll agree.

While a host of seminal albums have come to life within the hallowed walls of Abbey Road, there are also a number of artists who have been fortunate enough to create, record or put the finishing touches to their debut LPs in the studios before they then went on to dominate the music world in their own way.

To celebrate the launch of DHL and Abbey Road Studios’ talent scouting FAST-TRACK Sessions, offering aspiring artists the life-changing opportunity to complete a two-day recording session at Abbey Road under the guidance of esteemed producer Hannah V, NME looks back on the eventful past of the studios. Here are five of the best debut studio albums recorded at Abbey Road.

The Beatles – Please Please Me

When: 1963

The facts: Recorded at Abbey Road Studios when they were still known as EMI Recording Studios, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr – with the help of their trusted producer George Martin – launched an unrivaled career with their upbeat album – ailing debut of Original songs (‘Love Me Do’, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’) and covers (‘Twist and Shout’, ‘Baby, It’s You’).

The Beatles
The Beatles performing on stage, circa 1963 (Image: King Collection/Avalon/Getty Images)

Incredibly, 10 of the album’s 14 tracks were recorded in a single day (February 11, 1963). A mammoth undertaking, as Paul McCartney recalled: “John had to save ‘Twist and Shout’ for last and sucked zoobs all day – those little throat lozenges. And he ended up having to do ‘Twist and Shout’, knowing full well that he had to do it last because it would just rip out his throat to do it. It was great. You can still hear that on the record.”

What happened afterwards: After the release of “Please Please Me” in March 1963, the music would never be the same. The Beatles changed the course of popular music forever, recording a multitude of albums of all time – including 1969’s Abbey Road, of course! – before they split in 1970. A good 50 years later, they are still considered the greatest music group of all time.

Pink Floyd – “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”

When: 1967

The facts: When the Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ at Abbey Road Studio Two, next door at Studio Three Pink Floyd took their first experimental steps as a proper album band. “So we sit and talk in the control room and get to know each other,” producer Norman Smith recalled in 2007. “The control room door opens and Paul McCartney walks in. He wanted to meet the boys. He had heard of them. And after a little chat with them, he comes over to me and puts his hand on my shoulder and he says to the Pink Floyd guys, ‘You can’t go wrong with this guy as a producer.'”

Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd in 1967 (Image: Andrew Whittuck/Redferns)

The late Syd Barrett (more on him shortly) then led the way as the quartet hit the road, as drummer Nick Mason later remarked: “Effectively recording our live set…hearing ‘Piper…’ now gives a rough indication of the.” Set list we had played”. The end result was an excitingly whimsical work that gave the Pink Floyd story a suitably psychedelic beginning.

What happened afterwards: While Barrett soon left the band, Pink Floyd persisted in becoming one of rock music’s greatest frontiers (see 1973’s “The Dark Side of the Moon”).

Syd Barrett – “The Madcap Laughs”

When: 1970

The facts: Almost two years after his unfortunate departure from Pink Floyd, Barrett released his intimate solo debut LP. Quickly recorded at Abbey Road with the help of former bandmate Roger Waters and Pink Floyd replacement David Gilmour, The Madcap Laughs displayed a tender side of its enigmatic creator that fascinates to this day.

Sydney Barrett
Syd Barrett (Image: Gems/Redferns)

“He seemed like he knew something you didn’t,” drummer Jerry Shirley later recalled of his collaboration with Barrett on Abbey Road. “He had that maniacal giggle that made ‘The Madcap Laughs’ such a fitting name for his album – he really laughed at you.”

What happened afterwards: Barrett’s second solo studio album, Barrett, followed just 10 months later, but it was to be his last. After a brief stint in the band Stars, he retired from both music and public life. However, his legend was already secured – not that that mattered too much to the man himself. “It really comes down to writing good songs,” Barrett once mused wisely.

Massive Attack – “Blue Lines”

When: 1991

The facts: Abbey Road was one of five studios used by the Bristol trip-hop group during the recording of their debut nine-track LP Blue Lines in 1991. Arguably the best-known song on the record, “Unfinished Sympathy,” was partially recorded and engineered at Abbey Road.

The spine-chilling track features beautiful, uplifting strings arranged and directed by producer Wil Malone, who recorded a string section at Abbey Road to add even more weight to Massive Attack’s standout track.

What happened afterwards: Since the release of Blue Lines, Massive Attack have released four more studio LPs, including 1998’s Mezzanine, which gave the group their first ever UK number one album. Not only are they becoming prominent climate activists, they are still an impressive live act.

Dave – “Psychodrama”

When: 2019

The facts: South London rapper, musician and producer David Omoregie – or Dave as we all know him – headed to Abbey Road during the recording of his acclaimed 2019 debut album Psychodrama.

David
Dave poses with the Hyundai Mercury Prize: Albums of the Year award at Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith on September 19, 2019 in London (Image: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

Dave and co-producer Fraser T Smith not only spent hours in the studio’s production suite, The Garage, but also recorded the strings for the haunting track “Lesley” at Abbey Road’s Studio Two with musician and arranger Rosie Danvers (the has previously worked with artists such as Adele, Kanye West and Coldplay).

What happened afterwards: ‘Psychodrama’ deservedly won both the 2019 Mercury Prize and Album of the Year at the 2020 BRIT Awards, while Dave was at this year’s BRITs following the release of his acclaimed second LP ‘We’re All Alone In This Together’. The sky is the limit for Dave…

For more information on the DHL and Abbey Road Studios FAST TRACK sessions, click here

https://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-radar/the-greatest-debut-albums-recorded-at-abbey-road-studios-3197318?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-greatest-debut-albums-recorded-at-abbey-road-studios The greatest debut albums recorded at Abbey Road Studios

Caroline Bleakley

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