The History of Film Recording at Abbey Road Studios | As Told By Abbey Road's Mirek Stiles | Part Two

The History of Film Recording at Abbey Road Studios | As Told By Abbey Road's Mirek Stiles | Part Two

In the previous instalment of my riveting blog, I introduced the enlightened reader to the curious little back story of how Abbey Road forged an allegiance with Anvil Film and found itself at the centre of the movie scoring universe. I also hinted that some of the film projects to grace the studios would have been enough to make Sir Edward Elgar’s moustache hairs stand on end - well I wasn’t joking. In this chapter we will look a little closer into some of the wonderful, extraordinary, eccentric and sometimes just plain wacky titles recorded at the studios during the primary decade of its new venture.

Hold on tight…

Eye of the Needle, 1981

Let’s start at the beginning shall we, January 1981. With nearly 100 credits under his belt including epics such as Ben Hur, King of Kings, The Green Berets and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Abbey Road was in excellent hands for their first dabble into movie world with Miklos Rozsa and his suspenseful score for Eye of the Needle. This film adaptation based on the Ken Follett best-seller was directed by Richard Marquand, whose next film would be a little ditty known as Revenge of the Jedi, which also was scored at Abbey Road (see below). This deliberately slow moving, British made downbeat WW2 spy thriller starring Donald Sutherland has a wonderful dark and brooding atmosphere and Rozsa’s suburb score is a perfect accompaniment.

Sadly, the soundtrack is rather difficult to find, and if you do find a copy it’s more than likely a re-recording by the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra. Not that there is anything wrong with the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra, but as was quite common with many films up to and including this era, the albums released were normally not the same recordings used in the film. Due to various red tape it usually worked out cheaper to re-record the desired score in Europe. Funnily enough the Abbey Road mobile team re-recorded Rozsa’s score for Ben Hur in Rome in 1959 for this very reason. This means unless you are listening to the music from the actual film, you’ll be missing out on the original performance by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the wonderful acoustics of Studio One. As I listen to the end credits with my eyes closed, I can picture the band resonating in that large room with its beautiful lush long decay times and a big blooming bottom end. The first, and most definitely not the last time that blooming bottom end would make its way into the endless credits rolling up the screen as the punters scoff the remaining crumbs from their popcorn box.


Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981

I would often tell people on one of the many studio tours provided at some ungodly hour in the morning that Raiders of the Lost Ark was one of the first film scores recorded at Abbey Road. Well following some actual research, it turns out it was the fourth, after the aforementioned Eye of the Needle, along with Alex North’s Dragon Slayer and Michael Kamen’s Venom. I do apologise for merrily skipping past such legends as North and Kamen, but it was actually rather difficult to narrow down the scores I’m focusing on because scoring Abbey Road during the ‘80s was an outrageously prolific venture. Deciding which titles to focus on was a rather daunting task.

So, Raiders of the Lost Ark, what can I say that already hasn’t been said before. From what I have been told the early days of scoring at Abbey Road were less than perfect. The problem being that Abbey Road as a facility wasn’t built with film scoring in mind. The control room for Studio One during this period, as well as being small, was a rectangle shape running parallel to the recording area. This meant that the mixing console and speakers faced one direction whilst the control room window (used to see the musicians) faced the other direction. This worked fine in most conditions and is a set up found in studios all over the world, but in the instance of film scoring in an era where the only picture source came from a 35mm projection out on the studio floor, it was less than ideal. So much so that apparently when Steven Spielberg first started working in Studio One, he announced to the room “Which way do you want me facing? The speakers or the screen?”, I imagine half serious and half joking. But that’s how it was back in the early days of scoring at Abbey Road. Today the facility is world class, a technically advanced recording venue with every viewing option known to humanity, but back then you just had to get on with it.

Back to the particular score in question, and I have to say I think it’s pretty incredible that that this amazing score for a much-loved movie was recorded within the walls of Abbey Road. Listening to the recording on Spotify, the sound of John Williams, the LSO and Studio One is simply a spine-tingling combination. The brass sound alone on this recording is insane; in fact the sound of everything is spectacularly good. Just imagine being there, within the gigantic acoustics of Studio One watching a huge 35mm projection on the back wall as the Map Room cue is performed by the LSO complete with a full choir; the room must have been positively buzzing. This recording is without a doubt an Eric Tomlinson classic and I’m sure a point of reference for many recording engineers and composers alike – quintessential textbook stuff.
On an interesting side note, I recently pulled a job sheet from the archives titled Raiders 2. The recorded repertoire for this single session was noted down as Anything Goes Parts 1, 2 and 3. I assume this would have been pre-records used for filming the Temple of Doom elaborate opening scene. I couldn’t find any more information and have no idea if it’s the same recording was used in the finished film. Unfortunately, the final score for the film wasn’t recorded at Abbey Road. Sorry, but we can’t do everything!

Outland, 1981

I wanted to mention the often forgotten British made sci-fi thriller Outland because, well why not. I was lucky enough to catch a 70mm presentation of this film at the Prince Charles Cinema a couple of years back. As I was taking in the visual feast on offer, I was thinking to myself this movie has style. True, most of the style might have been heavily influenced by Ridley Scott’s Alien, but making this unfair connection doesn’t distract from the fact that Peter Hyams’ space western has quite rightly found a cult following. Adding more connections to Scott’s masterpiece is that fact the score for Outland was also composed by the brilliant Jerry Goldsmith. This was the first, but certainly not the last movie recorded by Goldsmith within the inimitable acoustics of Studio One. The score itself is brilliantly haunting and oozes atmosphere, with a subtle mixture of traditional orchestral textures and electronic elements. A very cool score in my opinion and comes highly recommended. On an incredibly geeky side note, this was one of only four films released using the Mega Sound format. This format essentially required cinemas to install a wall of sub woofers behind the screen to shake the audience out of their seats. I don’t know if Eric Tomlinson would have done anything out the ordinary during the recording session to help with such trickery, but I imagine the effect would have been created during the film’s dubbing stage.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover, 1981

One of the many film or TV adaptations of the notorious D.H. Lawrence novel, first privately published in 1928 with an openly published UK edition in 1960, which lead to much controversy. A failed court case against Penguin Publishing promptly resulted in three million sales. Apparently, the jury lost sympathy with the prosecution when asked if it were the kind of book "you would wish your wife or servants to read" – a different world back then.

Fast forward 21 years and the equally notorious Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, who bought Cannon Films in 1979 and forged a business of buying bottom barrel scripts and putting them into production, acquired the rights and hired Just (Emmanuelle) Jaeckin to direct.

The Golan Globus era of Cannon films was immortalised in the interesting and strangely inspiring documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films. The duo were the schlock cinema masters and by 1986 had reached their apex of releasing 43 films in one year. Such inspiring quotes from the cousins include “The name of the game is to do, not just blah blah blah talk about it” and “In Hollywood it’s 90% talk and 10% making films, sometimes we make better films, sometimes we don’t make such good films, but we do make films”.

Cannon purchased Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment in 1986, including Elstree Studios (who were involved in setting up film scoring at Abbey Road in the first place), a back catalogue of films and chain of cinemas. The original business model of making lots of small budget films hoping one or two would be a hit to fund the next round of films worked for a while. Some even won Academy Awards and Golden Globes but eventually the business was run into the ground after rapid expansions and a series of notorious big budget flops (see Lifeforce below).

The score for Lady Chatterley’s Lover was a co-composition by Richard Harvey and Stanley Myers, who just happened to write Cavatina, most famously used in the film The Deer Hunter (also distributed by EMI Films). The reason for the dual credit is difficult to establish and the soundtrack album is a rare find, although it was released on vinyl and cassette at the time of the film’s release. During this period Myers had a long collaboration with a young Hans Zimmer who looked after the electronic aspect of his scores. Zimmer was an experienced and talented synth programmer, a rare and in demand skill in the early ‘80s and almost certainly worked with Myers on this score. The film’s main theme is rather quirky, complete with lush strings, woodwind flurries, flute solos and a rather funky synth line that resembles something like a harpsichord. It’s easily the most interesting aspect of the entire movie.

Upon release the film was not as successful as Golan and Globus had expected, although it did become very popular in the home video market. I wonder why?

First Blood, 1982

First Blood is probably one of the most influential action films in the history of movie making. Since its initial release, it has created a strong following and pretty much defined the genre of the all-American action hero. Based on the novel by David Morrell, this raw and gritty film is a roller coaster ride of action and suspense. It also has a strangely sensitive side with none of the exploitative on-screen body counts the sequels became notorious for. All the principal cast have been praised for their outstanding performances and some critics even rate First Blood as one of the best films from 1982. Recorded by Alan Snelling in Studio One, August 1982, First Blood is another fine example of a Jerry Goldsmith score at the height of his creativity. This masterclass of thrilling action writing was Goldsmith’s sixth project of the year; the esteemed composer was in huge demand. Once again, the sound of Studio One is buzzing in this recording, subtle synthesized textures are skilfully blended with the more traditional orchestral elements that create a lush, wide screen palette. The revered music recorded at Abbey Road would go on to provide melodies and motifs for no-less than four sequels, the theme from Home Coming is a classic, instantly recognisable melody from the movie scoring world. Highly recommended listening.

Return of the Jedi, 1983

Despite various conflicting accounts and recollections, I unfortunately have to report that The Empire Strikes Back wasn’t recorded at Abbey Road Studios. However, the next best thing was: Return of the Jedi or Revenge of the Jedi as it was known during most of its production life, until someone pointed out the last thing those morally upstanding Jedi citizens would do is inflict revenge. As with A New Hope and Empire, the trusted team of Eric Tomlinson and Alan Snelling were tasked with recording what was then seen as the final Star Wars film. In typical John Williams fashion, everything was recorded in the room at the same time with very few overdubs. I don’t want to belittle the sound of the original Anvil scoring stage, but here is an example of the magic of Studio One that you can compare for yourself with a simple experiment. Go onto Spotify and listen to the first few seconds of A New Hope and then The Empire Strikes Back. Then do the same with Jedi and you will instantly notice a difference in the sonics. The sound of the LSO on Jedi is a different beast altogether; wider, fuller and richer and that can be largely attributed to the sound of Studio One. Ironically the Jedi soundtrack initially didn’t receive a full double LP release unlike the two previous films, probably due to the fact by 1983 orchestral film scores were falling out of vogue. The 10-day recording schedule started on Monday 17 January but for some reason, probably a booking conflict, one of the big battle cues towards the end of the film was recorded at Olympic Studios in South London. Olympic Studio One (now a cinema) was a wonderful sounding room, but much smaller compared to Abbey Road Studio One and this proved to be a problem for both John and Eric. For John, because the size of the orchestra had to be downgraded and, for Eric, because he had serious problems back at Abbey Road mixing the recording to match the sound of the other cues in the film. Subsequently, the cue ended up being dropped from the original soundtrack album.

Brazil, 1985

Every film scored at Abbey Road before Terry Gilliam’s unsettling dystopian sci-fi film Brazil would have been recorded through the EMI TG12345 mixing console, in a small control room, facing the wrong way to the large projection screen out on the studio floor. The EMI TG desk was an incarnation of a 1969 design, and although it has a wonderful sonic character it was in no way intended for the complications and intricacies of film scoring. So, this set-up was less than ideal from a logistical and technical point of view and was becoming a huge issue. Most directors and composers coming through the doors of Abbey Road were used to the large luxury scoring stages found in LA and at the time, compared to those establishments, it’s fair to say Abbey Road control room One would have been a bit of a culture shock.

After various conversations and a few sternly written letters from clients, it was established two things had to happen to keep Abbey Road relevant in the movie world. One was to build a new larger control room that faced the studio and two was have a dedicated technical engineer to cater for the increasingly complicated and stressful projects coming through the doors. The two problems were actually interlinked, as more composers were starting to bring elaborate synth rigs complete with a dedicated programmer. On some sessions you literally couldn’t move in the control room. Match that with increasing use of video playback, slaving more machines together for increased track count, newer digital recording and mix down options being requested and the whole process was pushing the technical boundaries to the max. It became abundantly obvious that Abbey Road had to up its game. A new control room was built next to the old one, on the location of the old rampway used by orchestras to load gear in and out. This not only increased the control room floor space, allowing for a state-of-the-art SSL mixing desk, large synth rigs and surround sound speakers, but more importantly the control room faced the screen and musicians out on the studio floor. Directors could now hear and see their film at the same time – marvellous!

Another major development was the transfer of technical engineer Dave Forty from a small EMI tracking facility in Manchester Square to join Abbey Road as a member of the team dedicated to film scoring. As Allan Rouse put it “Eric brought the work here, Dave kept it here – Dave was in touch with what the film studios wanted”. Over the years Dave Forty contributed a number of technical improvements to Studio One to keep the facility in line with that of scoring stages found in the States. He was also on hand to help with the increasingly advanced technical requirements in the control room, where downtime is simply not an option. Around this time Eric Tomlinson and Alan Snelling decided to go freelance (but would continue to be regular clients at Abbey Road) so it was decided that Abbey Road needed a new team member to look after film jobs exclusively; and this important role went to Abbey Road engineer Allan Rouse. The first film job booked under this new exciting era of film scoring at the studios was Terry Gilliam’s brilliant sci-fi fantasy film Brazil. You might as well start in style!
How I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall to witness director Terry Gilliam, composer Michael Kamen and music co-ordinator Ray Cooper working together in Studio One, what a team!

Gilliam asked Kamen to base his entire score on the 1939 song Aquarela do Brasil by Ary Barroso. Kamen tried to pursued Gilliam otherwise, but his mind and vision was made up. The pain staking process of writing an entire score based around another composition took around six months, with Kamen and Cooper re-working many cues up to four or five times. Kamen was so concerned with the potential publishing nightmare that he hired musicologists to study each cue to work out how the publishing needed to be split. Kamen was slightly surprised when this team reported back that they couldn’t actually determine a huge amount of relationship between the two; a testament to Kamen’s superb scoring skills. Adding further complication to matters, a rough cut of the film was ‘spotted’ using elements from Kamen’s previous film The Dead Zone (also recorded at Abbey Road) which Gilliam fell in love with, so the composer had to find a way of introducing yet another flavour without copying himself. This resulting impressive music has it’s tongue firmly in its cheek, utilising everything from Kazoos to creating percussive elements using typewriters. It’s a hugely imaginative score recorded once again by Eric Tomlinson and perfectly complements Gilliam’s nightmarish fantasy world.
 The new Studio One control room was installed with a fancy SSL mixing console

The new Studio One control room was installed with a fancy SSL mixing console


Lifeforce, 1985

Golan and Globus are back at Abbey Road, this time with Tobe (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) Hooper in tow for the wonderfully eccentric British science fiction horror Lifeforce. As with anything touched by Golan and Globus, all is not as expected.

Fresh from his success directing Poltergeist, Cannon films signed Hooper for a three-picture deal with Golan and Globus expecting a post Poltergeist hit, particularly as the screenplay was developed by Dan O’Bannon who co-wrote the film Alien. Instead they got this, a bizarre, totally over the top take on the Colin Wilson 1976 novel Space Vampires. The film was poorly marketed, confused the hell out of audiences and became a massive box office flop, despite Golan claiming it was going to be the “cinematic sci-fi event of the ‘80s”, after spending $25m to make it.

The music for this curious gem of a movie is not without its own complications. Apparently, James Horner was originally approached to compose the score but was unavailable. Then legendary composer Henry (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) Mancini was approached, but only agreed to take on the project based on the concept of a 15-minute dialogue-free opening sequence, which would be his space ballet. The score which was recorded in Studio One by Eric Tomlinson is, as you would expect, absolutely spectacular. Golan, Globus and Hooper wanted a classic John Williams style wide screen experience and that is precisely what Mancini delivered.

What happened next isn’t totally unheard of, but still created for unusual circumstances. For the US market it was decided to cut the film down by 15 minutes and change the tone of certain scenes in the movie, especially the opening “space ballet”. To help accommodate these changes it was decided to re-work some elements of the score. Mancini was no longer available and had moved onto his next project (Santa Clause: The Movie of all things) so Michael Kamen was drafted to fill in the gaps. What that leaves us with is an unusual situation where two versions of the film exist, each with slightly different scores that totally change the mood of the film. It’s actually a masterclass in the power of music within a scene and how it makes us feel. I would recommend any student studying scoring to jump on this rare chance to compare the two versions. It’s not unusual for composers to leave projects and have their score replaced by someone else, but you don’t often get to compare the two versions side by side with picture. Both scores are excellent and equally valid, but deliver a radically different experience. Mancini’s is a more traditional orchestral score - science fiction, whereas Kamen’s is synth driven, darker and more terrifying - pure horror.

Upon its release Colin Wilson was unimpressed with this adaptation of his novel. He wrote of it, "John Fowles had once told me that the film of The Magus was the worst movie ever made. After seeing Lifeforce I sent him a postcard telling him that I had gone one better." Despite this, and the fact the film was one of the many nails in coffin for Cannon films, it’s still been described by critics as a “guilty pleasure”. One thing is for certain, they don’t make them like this anymore.

Aliens, 1986

If you think you’re having a bad day at work and need some grounding, look no further than the ordeal James Cameron had to get his vision for the sequel to Ridley Scott’s classic onto the big screen. Given a tight production timeline, fixed release date and a modest $18m budget, the odds were stacked against Cameron before a single frame had been shot, but little did he know of the carnage that would unfold before his very eyes.

Two weeks into filming, one of the principle cast was busted in possession of a controlled substance and had to be swiftly replaced, hence most scenes involving said actor re-shot; that alone would be enough to cause most schedules into a downward spiral. It turns out this was to be the least of Cameron’s problems. The young director was used to a more guerrilla style of filmmaking, so received the shock of his life when confronted with the very British, fully unionised, tea drinking crew at Pinewood Studios. The regular tea breaks, long lunches in the local pub and Friday night ‘pound in a jar’ raffle infuriated Cameron as it ate into his extremely tight shooting schedule. Marry this with the fact that many crew members had worked on Scott’s original Alien and were probably wondering who this young upstart was to cash in on its success, and you had a recipe for disaster. Reportedly the Director of Photography refused to light the sets the way James had requested and the 1st Assistant Director would set up scenes contrary to Cameron’s direction. Perhaps they were trying to be helpful, but the fact is they were not delivering Cameron’s vision, causing outrageous amounts of delays and ultimately had to be replaced. This caused a near mutiny on set and almost caused the production being pulled altogether. It was only after a huge summit meeting, agreeing on mutual boundaries and even a screening of Cameron’s first film The Terminator, which was yet to be released in the UK, to prove his credentials did the filming resume. By this stage the damage had been done and the schedule for the film was wildly out of control.

James Horner travelled to the UK to write the score expecting to be presented with a finished locked picture, but soon found out they were still shooting, let alone editing. Horner had given himself six weeks to write the score and ended up sitting around for three weeks visiting the sets and then eventually the editing process where he witnessed 16 edit rooms with bins of film everywhere – there was nothing for him to work with. Horner could write the themes and melodies no problem, but had no way of creating a structure to picture, because there was nothing even resembling locked images to score to. By this stage it was six weeks before theatrical release and not a single note had been recorded. The composer described the situation as a nightmare.

With studio dates booked, and no way of pushing them back, Horner’s absolute priority was to ensure there was actually music on the stands for the London Symphony Orchestra to perform. By the time sessions started, the final climatic scene of the film hadn’t even been written, due to the fact it didn’t exist. In many circumstances what was being recorded didn’t work as planned, as the picture had subsequently been re-cut. This is a terrible situation for a composer to find himself in and caused huge amounts of tension at the studios for all involved. Horner explained he could only deliver 80% of what was being asked, it would be 100% with more time. He was subsequently told someone would be found who could; his reply was “please do as I would like to meet this person as I could learn something”. Of course, this was all just war talk in the trenches and everyone ended up getting on with the task at hand. Eventually during the final dubbing stage excerpts from Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Alien ended up being used for the aforementioned, climactic scene of the film and various cues of Horner’s had to be looped, truncated and moved out of context to deliver the final print master. Despite everything pretty much going wrong, the score was still nominated for an Academy Award in 1986 and quite rightly so, as the music for Aliens is an adrenaline fuelled roller coaster ride of pure orchestral excitement and terror. Perhaps this could be considered as a useful metaphor for never giving up, despite the odds being stacked against you?

Everyone I asked at Abbey Road who remembers these sessions, pretty much gives the same recollection: “it was a (insert expletive here) nightmare”. I imagine Eric Tomlinson must have assumed he wouldn’t work with James Horner again, and James Horner assumed he wouldn’t work with James Cameron again, none of which turned out to be true. One critic described Aliens as "painfully and unremittingly intense" – I imagine that’s how anyone who worked on the film felt too.
James Horner in Studio One control room during the scoring of *Aliens*

James Horner in Studio One control room during the scoring of Aliens


Highlander, 1986

For his latest project, Michael Kamen was on a hat trick scoring at Abbey Road. He had previously recorded The Dead Zone and Brazil is Studio One and even had a flutter with the aforementioned Lifeforce before returning for Russell Mulcahy's hugely influential fantasy adventure Highlander.

The $19m budget for the film had been put up by EMI Films. At the time EMI Films had just been sold to The Cannon Group, so the film was probably financed indirectly by Golan and Globus; those guys had their fingers in many pies.

Highlander was an early example of incorporating music video editing styles of quick cuts and high-octane music into a feature film, which is now pretty much the norm for action features. The grand orchestral score performed by the National Philharmonic Orchestra was in the hands of Michael Kamen, but the soundtrack also includes several songs from the band Queen specially written for the film. This opportunity was originally offered to prog rock band Marillion who turned it down due to touring commitments, a decision they reportedly later regretted. Brian May was inspired to write the beautifully haunting song Who Wants to Live Forever whilst viewing a rough cut of the film, for which the strings were recorded in Studio One during these sessions.

Eric Tomlinson was once again at the helm of the recording console. Some members of Queen were in awe of Tomlinson’s method of delivering a finished soundtrack via a live sound mix. Reportedly Brian May was working in Studio Three and came down to Studio One to see how they were getting on and was amazed by the sound Eric was capturing in one pass, compared with the precise layering techniques used to create a typical Queen recording.

Unfortunately, the film’s poor box office reception meant the planned soundtrack album was cancelled. Some of the Queen songs found their way onto the album It’s a Kind of Magic, but the majority of Kamen’s fantastic score remains unreleased to this day. Despite being considered a flop at the time of its release, the film has gone on to become a cult classic and is considered one of the most influential films of the decade.

Robocop, 1987

Another example of a hugely influential film from the decade being given the Abbey Road treatment is Paul Verhoeven’s important, if not violent, action satire on media influence, capitalism, greed and human nature – Robocop. In the US, Robocop was originally given the box office suicidal X rating 11 times before finally being granted an R certificate after substantial trimming to the violence. Upon submission to the UK the BBFC reported "the slightly offbeat and tongue-in-cheek tone of the film serves to ameliorate the loving care and attention with which Verhoeven treats the violence". However, more recent viewings reveal how the brutality on screen is far less shocking than the social commentary, and how that message feels even more relevant today than it did back in 1987. The director reflected of his film "We are now living in the world that I was proposing in RoboCop ... how big corporations will ‘take care of us' and ... how they won't." It is considered one of the best films of the year and even esteemed British director Ken Russell said it was the best science fiction film since Fritz Lang’s Metropolis from 1927.

The score for Robocop composed by Basil Poledouris, known for his epic and powerful orchestral style, was another perfect fit for huge widescreen sound of Studio One. The music for the film blends traditional orchestral sounds with synthesised elements to mirror the part man, part machine premise of the story. The score, performed by the Sinfonia of London Orchestra and conducted by Howard Blake and Tony Britten, often alternates between big brash brass material and more introverted string pieces. Although on conducting duties for this project it’s worth noting Howard Blake composed the music for the hugely successful animated film The Snowman, also recorded at Abbey Road.

Robocop was a huge production, which involved using Studio Three as a dedicated synth rig room linked up to Studio One via tie lines – that is a lot of synthesisers! Allan Rouse once told me of all the films he worked on at Abbey Road this was his favourite. He found the film very intriguing and said Basil was a pleasure to work with. Eric Tomlinson was also said he enjoyed working with both Basil Poledouris and Michael Kamen, as they were “both jolly people and very appreciative”. Click here for an in depth interview with Eric.

In Summary:

The 1980s was an exciting, if not fraught initial decade of scoring at Abbey Road Studios. During this period, after a mid 70s lull in productivity, classical music suddenly took off again in a big way with the popularity of CD and digital recording; ironically the very reason film work at Abbey Road started in the first place. This resulted in a situation where EMI Classics were trying to book dates in Studio One, but couldn’t get them because of the film projects, and vica-versa.

You might think having too much work banging on your door is a good thing, but this led to serious tensions between film and classics. At the time Abbey Road was still an EMI studio and EMI Classics became increasingly upset they couldn’t book what they regarded as their own recording venue. Similarly, EMI Classics started block booking studio time way in advance, whereas film dates tended to move around or come in at the last minute, creating less than ideal scenarios for the studio bookings team. Turning down film work because of a classical booking wasn’t in the studios’ best interest, as ultimately film had the bigger budgets and they were independent clients bringing in cash. Classics was just another department within the EMI corporation, so effectively it was one department charging another department internally. An all-out war between EMI Classics and ANVIL Abbey Road Screen Sound broke out with studio manager Ken Townsend slap bang in the middle. It all became very messy. This combined with the fact that Abbey Road, at this stage, was still finding its feet from a technical point of view with regards to film scoring must have been a huge amount of frustration for Eric Tomlinson and Alan Snelling. By the end of 1984 the Anvil-Abbey Road alliance had ceased and both Eric and Alan decided to go freelance. Tomlinson suspected the end of the alliance was probably one of the reasons Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was not scored at Abbey Road.

Politics and technical mayhem aside, the fact remains film companies and composers didn’t stop banging on the door of No.3 Abbey Road. An accolade not only to the celebrated sound of Studio One and the suburb London based musicians, but also to people who worked at the studios. Everyone from Eric Tomlinson, Alan Snelling, Ken Townsend, Allan Rouse, Dave Forty and a whole host of team members behind the scenes played their part during this important defining decade for Abbey Road. They laid the foundation in creating a core part of the studios’ business that we are still very proud of today. In conclusion I think it’s fair to say the unmistakable sound of an orchestra in Studio One is a beautiful and unique thing; match that with picture and the experience is quite simply breath taking.

Join Mirek for Part Three of The History of Film Recording at Abbey Road Studios by heading to the link here.

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