Here comes the sum: $45 million. That's what it could take to buy Abbey Road, the most important recording studio — nay, recording valhalla! — in the history of popular music. Start searching your sofa for loose change, Beatlemaniacs, because it might be up to us to save the place.
Abbey Road Studios, currently housing the ghosts of John, George and Mean Mr. Mustard, have been put up for sale by EMI music group, the Beatles longtime label. EMI, according to reports, needs to raise more than $150 million to prevent a breach of its banking arrangements with Citigroup. EMI figures Abbey Road could bring in one-third of that. It won't be a final financial fix, but it'll be something.
Oh, and speaking of Something: Not only were most of the Beatles' albums — including, of course, 1969's Abbey Road and great parts of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and "the White Album" — recorded at the London spot, but Abbey Road's cover was shot on the infamous "zebra crossing" outside. Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon was made there, as were Wings' Band on the Run, Radiohead's The Bends and the soundtracks for the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings flicks — just to name a few.
I'm not interested in the woes of another mismanaged record label. However, I am very interested in whether Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr will be reaching for their considerable checkbooks anytime soon. Abbey Road needs to remain either (1) a working studio or (2) a well-preserved museum and tourist spot.
Despite being a music critic — a breed of historian unfailingly in love with the past — I'm actually not the most nostalgic dude. When dollar-eyed moguls tear down venerable old concert halls (say, New York's CBGB), I don't get that torn up about it.
But the perilous future of Abbey Road Studios sends a true volt of panic through me. This is deeply personal to me: Sgt. Pepper's and Abbey Road were the first albums I remember listening to with my late father. Besides, tearing down the Mount Olympus of Music seems unwise for our collective karma.
I'm not alone in my worry. Shortly after news of the potential sale broke, music fans flipped, lighting up Facebook and Twitter. The National Trust, a British heritage-protection charity, offered momentary calm by saying it may intervene. The Trust already owns the boyhood homes of McCartney and John Lennon; however, it did not protect the Cavern Club, where the Beatles were discovered by future manager Brian Epstein.
So whither Abbey Road? Maybe the National Trust or McCartney will step in. Virgin's Richard Branson would be a logical buyer, too. Phantom of the Opera composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has talked about ponying up for it. Let's hope someone does something. Because let me say this: If the birthplace of Come Together gets turned into a McDonald's, there's going to be serious Helter Skelter to pay.
Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/popmusic.