My Abbey Road: Jeff Jarratt #AbbeyRoad90

7th August 2021

My Abbey Road with…Jeff Jarratt

Engineer and producer known for his work with Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Syd Barrett, Fela Kuti, London Symphony Orchestra and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

On the 55th anniversary of the legendary producer joining Abbey Road Studios, Jeff shares his favourite memories and what the studios mean to him; from his first day on the job to recording Yoko Ono’s heartbeats as part of John and Yoko’s Wedding Album.

Jeff's Abbey Road

August 8 1966 - my first day of working at EMI Studios, now of course known worldwide as Abbey Road. I was 17 and the only real passion I’d had since hearing the scratchy sounds of old 78 discs being played at home on a wind-up record player was my love of music.

It’s therefore perhaps not so surprising that the 55 years that have since passed seem to have disappeared as quickly as the blink of an eye. I’ve never felt like I’ve been to ‘work’. Every day I have been lucky enough to simply enjoy doing the thing I love most. Abbey Road became my second home. In fact for many years I spent more time there than in my actual home. Where else in the world could you be working with the likes of Yehudi Menuhin in the morning, Stan Getz in the afternoon and Pink Floyd or The Beatles in the evening? The amazing life I’ve enjoyed has been thanks to the experience and opportunities that Abbey Road gave me. It will always be a special part of me.

Your Favourite Memories?

I have too many ‘favourite moments and memories’ to mention but if I have to choose one example that covers both ‘moments and memories’ it would be when George Harrison told me that he wanted to bring Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Doris Troy and Madeline Bell into Abbey Road to overdub guitar, organ and vocals onto a track he had been working on at Olympic Sound Studios with Billy - and then asked if I would engineer the session for him.

I was 19 and had worked on various Beatles sessions when their regular engineers had been unavailable. It made me immensely proud to think that George would want me to work with him on another project with such incredible musicians. The session took place in Studio Two. Every take of Eric and Billy playing had its’ own magic and George wanted to keep as much as possible. The problem was that the analogue multitrack tape had a limited number of tracks free to record on. The Abbey Road technical guys came to the rescue and managed to synchronise various machines together which then enabled us to keep all the takes that Eric and Billy played. We finished the evening adding the brilliant backing vocals of Doris and Madeline. The session is one I shall never forget.

Some very special memories are from the sessions I produced when my late brother, Mike Jarratt, was engineering for me. The many projects we worked on together included several of the Classic Rock albums, the Michael Crawford performs Andrew Lloyd Webber album featuring Michael with the London Symphony Orchestra, two of the Hooked On Classics albums with Louis Clark conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and - at the other end of the musical spectrum - the album Skeleton In Armour by the progressive rock group Fusion Orchestra.

He was a brilliant engineer and musician and always a joy to be with. He won a Grammy Award for his soundtrack recording of the Academy Award-winning film The Last Emperor.

Your Favourite Recordings?

Unexpected - probably when John Lennon arrived with a heart monitoring machine and said that he wanted to record his and Yoko’s heartbeats as part of their Wedding Album.

Favourite recording - I have worked with artists from the worlds of opera to heavy rock. Each genre has provided favourite recordings - producing the Live album with Fela Ransome Kuti and Ginger Baker with its fusion of exciting, hypnotic African rhythms being one of them. The music sounds as fresh and compelling today as it did fifty years ago. Pink Floyd’s Piper At The Gates Of Dawn has to be another favourite. It was the first album I’d worked on as an assistant engineer and I was amazed at how different the music was from anything else I’d ever heard. Just as fascinating was recording some of the world’s greatest classical artists such as Jacquline du Pré. Her passion for the music she was playing and sound she created with her cello could make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Then of course there is the Abbey Road album. The opportunity of working with such incredibly talented and creative artists has to put anything you did with them high on any list of favourites. Although I only worked on a handful of sessions for the Abbey Road album, Something, I Want You (She’s So Heavy) Octopus’s Garden and Oh! Darling are all titles which include various vocals or instruments recorded on sessions I engineered. I feel incredibly lucky to have been involved in such a classic album - something I never imagined to be a possibility a few years earlier when huddled around a cheap transistor radio with friends in the school playground in the hope that we might hear the latest record by the Fab Four!

I have many favourites but producing together with Don Reedman the sessions for the first Classic Rock album featuring the London Symphony Orchestra created a recording that will always mean something special to me. The arrangements - mostly written by the immensely talented Andrew Jackman - combined the orchestra with a rock rhythm section and one hundred singers from the Royal Choral Society performing symphonic versions of contemporary classics such as Bohemian Rhapsody. The sessions took place in Abbey Road’s Studio One, beautifully engineered by John Kurlander. I remember standing next to Andrew on the conductor’s rostrum during the first rehearsal. After a lot of pre-production work, it was an emotional moment hearing the creation of such an ambitious idea finally coming together. The album was released in 1978 and its international success has resulted in the recording and release of a further nine albums. It also provided me with the surprise opportunity to conduct an excerpt from the project live on prime time German TV – a nerve-racking but hugely enjoyable experience! The unique acoustics of Studio One are an essential part of the Classic Rock sound and every one of the albums has been recorded there - as well as some new titles for album number eleven!

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