Review If These Walls Could Sing [Disney+]
Director: Mary McCartney | Time to play: 86 minutes | Year: 2022
Quiz question: What did Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles, Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, the soundtrack of The Empire Strikes Back and the James Bond song Goldfinger have in common? That’s right, all of these famous pieces of music were recorded in a studio in the City of Westminster district of London. The address: 3 Abbey Road.
Officially named Abbey Road Studios only in 1976, Abbey Road Studios was the scene of a vital part of modern music history. The studio was founded in 1931, after a huge London mansion was purchased at auction. After extensive renovation, it served primarily as a venue for live recordings of classical music. The studio really got big thanks to the rise of rock and roll. In the 1980s, the studio was saved from destruction when filmmakers began recording their soundtracks there.
It’s actually pretty late for a decent documentary on the studio’s rich history to have been made. The recording location gained worldwide fame when The Beatles named their last recorded album after it and used the zebra crossing in front of the gate for the iconic Abbey Road cover. Beatles fans view the studio as one of their pilgrimages and you’re a hero if you get anything credited to the plastered stone fence.
Undoubtedly the creator of If these walls could sing he benefited from his legendary father. This music documentary is the first documentary by photographer Mary McCartney, daughter of Beatle Paul. McCartney, who often finds it difficult to separate the personal and the professional in this somewhat summary documentary, has been in the studio since childhood. And she managed to get not only her father, but many high-profile artists to sit in the talking chair with her name.
McCartney treats the history of Abbey Road largely chronologically. It’s no surprise that he’s focused a lot on his father’s rather popular band, but this choice is also a bit of an easy one. Even knowing that Abbey Road was the home of The Beatles. However, it’s nice that the filmmaker also looks into the rich history of classical music. Including cellist Jacqueline du Pré and pianist Daniel Barenboim. And he also brings something more than Western music, by the hand of the Nigerian Fela Kuti.
In addition to the simple, but increasingly messy chronological narrative, many facts are told. Composer John Williams best explains why it’s such a special place. In addition to the many facts worth knowing, the details are sometimes stretched too thin, though the making of perhaps the Beatles’ best song, A Day In The Life, remains a story that isn’t heard enough.
McCartney relies heavily on the big names he’s managed to get in front of the camera (and in Kate Bush’s case, the microphone). His slightly too personal homage to a hallowed place for musicians is a rather unbalanced and messy exercise, but nonetheless an indispensable one for any lover of music history.
If these walls could sing can be seen in Disney+.