My Abbey Road: John Kurlander #AbbeyRoad90

My Abbey Road: John Kurlander #AbbeyRoad90

15th January 2022

The legendary engineer who worked on countless projects such as The Lord of The Rings trilogy, The Beatles Abbey Road and Fela Kuti's Afrodisiac, started at Abbey Road as a tape-op in 1967. He was just 16 years old.

Read on to find out some of John’s highlights from his near 55-year association with Abbey Road Studios.


What does Abbey Road mean to you?

"Having been on staff for 30 years and then as a visiting engineer for a further 24 years, I feel Abbey Road has been my life. It’s all about the location, the staff, the gear, but mainly the talented people who have come through those doors."


Your favourite personal memory at Abbey Road?

"My first visit to EMI Studios was in 1965. I was 13 years old and attended Kynaston School only three blocks from the studio. My home in Hall Road was even closer, just 200 metres away. My whole life and upbringing were totally centred in St. Johns Wood.

My form teacher at school, Mr. Green, was a neighbour and very close friend of Gus Cook, head of the technical department at the studios. (Gus later became general manager). One day Mr. Green said he’d arranged for a group of 25 of us to visit the studios in order to record some crowd noises for an HMV spoken word recording of Shakespeare’s Richard III.

We made the 5-minute walk to the studio and marched straight through the gates, much to the surprise and envy of the many Beatles fans who had already assembled in the street for the band’s arrival after lunch."

"Our 2-hour session took place in Studio Two in the front half of the studio floor nearest the control room. Behind us on the carpeted area were The Beatles instruments and mics setup for the Help! sessions. We did our best job in shouting crowd SFX as Shakespeare had intended, and when finished, the EMI producer told us we could take a quick look around at the setup, but do not touch!!! For kids growing up in '60s London it was all a little surreal to be invited inside to such a place.

Less than two and a half years later, aged 16, I notified school I’d be leaving after the summer break to take up a job offer as tape-op / 2nd engineer at EMI Studios. Even today, it remains unsubstantiated whether my revered Mr. Green had anything to do with this!"


The most memorable (perhaps unexpected) recording session?

"Way, way too many, but I’ll never forget when Greg Lake from Emerson, Lake & Palmer recorded his iconic I Believe in Father Christmas with 95 members of the London Symphony Orchestra (in July!). In order to create a holiday party vibe, Greg brought in a huge fully decorated Christmas tree.

On another occasion that year, also with the L.S.O., we were recording an experimental project that later became the format for the Classic Rock series. Possibly inspired by the Christmas tree story, the executive producer hired a stripper to surprise and entertain the orchestra in the tea-break. As we put on her music track, some of the brass players from the back of the room rushed forward and accidentally damaged a double bass in the process. The producers were kindly requested not to pull such a stunt again!"


Your favourite all time recording associated with the studios?

"Must be The Beatles Abbey Road, of course! Not only an outstanding recording, great fun and unbelievable honour to work on, but the naming of the album, and subsequent re-naming of EMI Studios ensured worldwide fame to 3 Abbey Road. For music tourists from all over the world this is now on the map for generations to come."


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