Setting a TV music series in the most famous recording studio in the world seems so obvious that it’s a wonder no one’s done it before. But better late than never.
“Live From Abbey Road,” a 12-part series of hour-long sessions, each featuring three major acts, is headed for the Sundance Channel in June. (The show, centering on the iconic Beatles studio, debuted in Britain in January.)
The show is independently produced under license from the studio’s owner, EMI, by Londoner Peter Van Hooke, a longtime drummer with Van Morrison’s band and an accomplished record producer, and London-based Texan Michael Gleason, a former director of MGM Studios who runs Farm Street Music.
Van Hooke believes that TV producers have never understood the culture of music and that the long list of poor music shows led artists to be leery of this one.
“All the acts when they came in were in damage-control mode. The mind-set was, ’This is a TV music show, so therefore the sound is going to be rubbish, the visuals are going to be rubbish, and they don’t understand our culture,’ ” Van Hooke says. “The first part of every day has been to get them to understand that this is a very familiar environment and they’re dealing with musicians who understand their credo.”
Each episode features an iconic act, an established singer-songwriter and a breakthrough act. They are seen in the studio as if making a record, and the cameras catch conversations in the setup and between takes. Paul Simon, Dr. John, David Gilmour, Corinne Bailey Rae, Damien Rice, the Kooks, Razorlight, Snow Patrol and Kasabian are among the acts who have signed up.
“I feel we have something completely different,” Van Hooke says. “I’ve actually thought about why it works in so many ways, and it is very simple. It’s because we have no studio audience, so it’s very, very personal and intimate. Records are not made with audiences.”
Director Annabel Jankel (”Max Headroom”) uses an average of five high-definition cameras to capture the action. “Once the artists are in Abbey Road, Studio One or Studio Two where we’re shooting, it’s treated as an environment that is being recorded, off-camera, supposedly behind the scenes, down time, interviews, interaction between band members, responses after various takes, the good stuff, the bad stuff and all the stuff in between,” Jankel says.
Van Hooke says record labels have supported the project and that he’s delighted with the response from major artists. The only big name who turned him down? His old boss, Van Morrison.