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May 2019
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2002-04-12 The voice of Sligo: Following in the steps of the Beatles

When you say the words "Abbey Road" to people they immediately think of the Beatles, EMI, zebra crossings and possibly a wall covered in graffiti. You can imagine the amount of sleep I had the night before we were due to commence recording our second album in this Mecca of recording studios?


But in reality it is really just a normal enough looking whitewashed house in a North London suburb. We asked our driver (it's far from drivers I was reared!) to let us out on the other side of the road so we could - do the zebra crossing bit.


We waited patiently for the obligatory Japanese tourists with their camcorders to re-enact the Beatles' famous walk, and then proceeded to do exactly the same thing ourselves. By now we had all frustrated the North London commuters enough. The Japanese tourists had hung around and requested a photo with us - I suppose they were keeping their options open.


Then it was time to add our names to the famous wall of graffiti. I tried to remain cool as I read a few of the thousands of messages from Beatles fans all over the world. Then when my turn came, I let myself down badly and wrote - "Oh my God, I can't believe I'm here!". How uncool was that?


Our producer was Mike Moran who was responsible for the "Barcelona" album for Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe, as well as loads of albums for Queen, Elton, David Bowie, Elaine Paige, Domingo, Carreras and a host of others. We'd done a lot of the preparation at Mike's gorgeous house in Great Missenden, near Amersham in Buckinghamshire. When we had worked for hours in his studio it was nice to be able to dive into his indoor pool, or to walk around his many acres looking at his horses. You know the sort of thing? (No, neither did I!). In the evenings we went back to "The Old Crown" in Amersham, famous for being the country hotel in "Four Weddings and a funeral". And who was lucky enough to stay in the room, the bed even, that Andie McDowell and Hugh Grant slept in? Yes, it was me, though in my case I was alone.


Anyway, back to Abbey Road. Our Executive producer was David Bryce who was Sir Cliff's manager for years. We all headed into Studio 2, where the Fab Four had done all their albums. I suddenly began to feel like Dougal on "Father Ted" - Aaaagh, Ted, I'm in Abbey Road recording our second album with Mike Moran! But I pinched myself a few times, and realised it was all actually happening , and went down to meet the orchestra.


Studio 1 is huge! Kate Bush used to have parties on roller-skates in there, and seemingly it's big enough to hold a jumbo jet. Football is often played in there on lunch breaks. During my years of study in London, I had been employed as a session singer there on a recording of Showboat, a very brief appearance which doesn't even make it onto my CV. The great (late) violinist Yehudi Menuhin had recorded the Elgar Violin Concerto here when he was just a lad, and the conductor on that occasion was Elgar himself. Sir Yehudi later recorded this piece again under the baton of Sir Adrian Boult in the same studio.


Studio 2, where we were, is smaller, and the 50-piece orchestra were packed in like sardines. It has a state of the art "Neve desk with flying faders and the legendary Neumann U47 valve microphones, just in case you're interested! The red light went on, we went to our separate booths at the back of the studio, and watching the conductor on our little tellies, we began the process of setting down the tracks. Not much pressure on us after all really, as this was the day to get the orchestra right - we could do the "vocal fixing" later!


The canteen is homely, partly due to very friendly staff including a lovely lady from Newbridge in Kildare. There is also a little garden out the back, where I could almost picture John and Paul creating some of their mini-masterpieces.

Abbey Road is a normal enough sort of place, with lovely friendly people, but that doesn't make the experience of recording there any less mind-blowing!