Abbey Road Studios now historic site

About a week after reports that the iconic Abbey Road Studios was for sale, the British government has stepped in to declare the recording facility a historic site.
Abbey Road Studios, the famed north London facility most associated as the recording studio for the Beatles, was named a historic site by the British government on Tuesday. ((Oli Scarff/Getty Images))
About a week after reports that the iconic Abbey Road Studios was for sale, the British government has stepped in to declare the recording facility a historic site.

The culture ministry announced Tuesday that the 1830s north London villa housing the world-famous music studios — most often associated with The Beatles — has been granted Grade II status, the second-highest category.

The building "acts as a modern day monument to the history of recorded sound and music," English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley said in a statement.

"Some of the most defining sounds of the 20th century were created within the walls of the Abbey Road Studios," he said. "It contains, quite simply, the most famous recording studios in the world."

With its new designation, changes can still be made to the villa's interior, but "care must be taken to ensure that any alterations with respect to its character and interest are fully considered," the government said.

Owner EMI cash-strapped

Reports emerged last week that EMI, which owns the studios, intended to put the high-profile facility in London's St. John's Wood neighbourhood up for sale in an attempt to pay down its debt.

The news sparked a massive outcry and immediate calls for the building's preservation, with former Beatle Paul McCartney among those urging Abbey Road be saved. Britain's National Trust charity and musical theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber were among the parties who said they were contemplating buying and preserving the building.

"Abbey Road Studios have produced some of the very best music in the world. It is a testament to both the importance of music in people's lives as well as the passion this kind of issue stirs up, that so much interest has been generated by the perceived threat to the future of Abbey Road," Culture Minister Margaret Hodge said in a statement.

On the weekend, EMI revealed that its intention is to retain the facility, though it has been in talks with "interested parties" about plans to revitalize the studios.

Acts from Pink Floyd to Radiohead to top symphony orchestras have recorded at Abbey Road Studios. Though the cultural landmark is closed to the public, the famed crosswalk outside it continues to draw fans and tourists from around the globe daily.

The iconic pedestrian crossing in front of Abbey Road Studios still draws fans and tourists daily. Hundreds gathered there to mark the 40th anniversary of the Beatles album Abbey Road in 2009. ((Sang Tan/ Associated Press))

With files from The Associated Press