Abbey Road Studios’ history will forever be intertwined with The Beatles, and for good reasons, the Fab Four recorded a majority of their albums at the studio. The studio in 1976 even changed its name from EMI Recording Studios to Abbey Road Studios in honor of The Beatles’ album “Abbey Road” (1969).
But the studio is so much more than The Beatles. In her directorial debut “If These Walls Could Sing,” Mary McCartney (daughter of Paul McCartney) delves into the 90-year history of the studio. She chronicles the countless musicians who have walked through their doors and the impact the studio has had on music.
Mary McCartney highlights how the studio became a place for experimentation and growth for music for many artists, showing how integral the studio space can be for producing music. Musicians such as Elton John and Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) reminisce about their time as session musicians at Abbey Road.
Mary McCartney even goes down memory lane, sharing stories about how she grew up going to the studios and watching her parents make music there. In recent years, I have noticed documentary directors inserting themselves into the film’s narrative.
Documentaries like Robert B. Weide’s “Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time” (2021) take a similar approach telling two stories, one being the friendship between Vonnegut and Weide and the second documenting the life and legacy of the late author. In “If These Walls Could Sing,” Mary McCartney lets her memories of the place influence how she tells the story of Abbey Road Studios.
As a Kate Bush fan, the part I found the most surprising was learning that the music video for her song “Sat in Your Lap” (1981) was filmed at Abbey Road, and the album it was included on “The Dreaming” (1982) was partially recorded there.
Now, The Beatles are not forgotten. Ample time is spent exploring their history with the famous studio. The two surviving members, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, recall their first time at Abbey Road and meeting who would become their longtime producer George Martin.
Paul McCartney and Starr share how, after the band stopped touring in 1966, Abbey Road helped them mature as a band with albums such as “Revolver” (1966) and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (1967).
Former Pink Floyd members Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Nick Mason have a similar experience as The Beatles, using the studio space as another instrument in their albums. Specifically with their debut, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” (1967) and arguably one of Pink Floyd’s most iconic albums “The Dark Side of the Moon” (1973).
“If These Walls Could Sing” shows how music has evolved since the opening of Abbey Road Studios in 1931 and how music tastes have changed over decades, from the classical recordings that marked the studio’s beginnings to the psychedelic and countless movie scores recorded there in the 1960s and ‘70s and to the way a song is recorded and distributed.
I would say music now takes influence from a wide variety of places. It does not matter what genre it is from it can be used.
Also, very few documentaries make you care about a building in the way this one does. By the credits, you appreciate the history a little bit more. It is a fun watch that is full of surprises.