My Abbey Road: Alan Snelling #AbbeyRoad90

22nd January 2022

The esteemed engineer and co-founder of Anvil Abbey Road Screen Sound Limited - a partnership which brought film scores to Abbey Road - sheds some light on his important contribution to our legacy.

From mixing Dance Craze, a rockumentary about the 2 Tone movement, to recording music for the Brideshead Revisited TV series, to engineering the score for the first Rambo film in 1981. Alan has seen many sides of Abbey Road in an era too often overlooked.
 
 

"I’m immensely proud that myself and Eric Tomlinson were given the opportunity to start up Anvil Abbey Road Screen Sound Limited in August 1980 which initiated film scoring at Abbey Road.

Abbey Road is a unique and magical place to work. You can just feel the history in the walls and I am very privileged to have worked there and been a part of it. As a child I looked in wonder at the Beatles magazines showing lots of equipment and the glorious Studio Two where most of their recordings were carried out. Then 12 years later I'm there, working in these rooms. I had to pinch myself!"

 

"One of my first projects was in Studio Three, on the original Pink Floyd Neve console, mixing all the live concert recordings for a rockumentary feature film called Dance Craze which went on to become a 2 Tone classic. Joe Dunton, inventor of the steady-cam 35mm camera, and Gavrik Losey filmed various up-and-coming English ska bands of that time including Madness, The Specials, The Beat, Bad Manners etc.

This was quite an advanced technical achievement for 1980, involving two 24-track machines locked to video. I think it’s fair to say it was a baptism by fire for the technical boys at Abbey Road. In early in 1981, my mix of the soundtrack was shown alongside a 70mm print of the film at the Empire Cinema in Leicester Square in glorious 6-track discreet sound, which set a precedent in cinema audio."

 
 

"In addition to Studio One, Anvil Abbey Road also installed film projection into Studio Two and at various times both studios were fully booked with Eric and myself independently recording live orchestras for various film scores.

One particular project was Granada TV’s flagship period drama Brideshead Revisited with music composed by Geoffrey Burgon.  I recorded and mixed the music for all 13 episodes of this production with Geoffrey in Studio Two, while Eric was recording with John Williams in Studio One.

On some projects we would mix in the new Penthouse Studio built in 1980. Composers and clients really liked finishing their projects in this room because it was very private and intimate (shame there was not lift at that time - the four flights of stairs were good exercise for us all!)."

 

Your most memorable recording?

"One of the most memorable recordings I did in Studio One was First Blood with Jerry Goldsmith in August 1982. This was the first Rambo film. I was 25 and flying by the seat of my pants recording an 80 piece orchestra straight to 3-track (!) tape. It was an incredible adrenaline rush as there was no ‘fix it in the mix’ scenario, it was live straight to film!"

 

Your favourite memory?

"I have so many amazing memories from Abbey Road, but perhaps a favourite personal moment is sitting next to Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd while he was played acoustic guitar parts for The Wall film score.

Also in December 1981 the BBC privately hired Studio Two for their Nationwide series Christmas party. This was a major event with many celebrities of the day turning up. It was a private function, but that didn’t stop most of the Abbey Road staff, including me and some personal friends gate crashing it. Things really livened up after that! The highlight of the evening was a brilliant live set by a band called Scarlet Party who were recording their debut album at Abbey Road at the time with Haydn Bendall and Tony Clark. It was a very memorable experience."

 
 
Alan kindly provided us with some never-before-seen footage from Studio One of the legendary Jerry Goldsmith rehearsing the score for a 1991 feature film called Not Without My Daughter. The session featured an 80-piece orchestra and three keyboardists with six or seven synthesisers, all playing live.

In the video you'll see:

Jerry Goldsmith - composer/conductor
Alan Snelling - engineer
Arthur Morton - Jerry Goldsmith’s orchestrator
Terry Rawlins - picture editor (he also cut Aliens, Bladerunner and Chariots of Fire)
Ken Hall - music editor
David Firman - session keyboard player
Sidney Sax - eminent violinist, fixer and leader of the orchestra for Jerry.

Watch the video below!
#MyAbbeyRoad #AbbeyRoad90 #AlanSnelling
 

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