In “If These Walls Could Sing,” McCartney slips nearer to recounting her father’s history with the space. And yet, the documentary, coming to Disney+, captures the soul and the earworm tunes that emanated from the studio’s surroundings with an endearing ease.
Unfortunately, her film falls short of the example set by Greg ‘Freddy’ Camalier’s incisive recollection of FAME studios in “Muscle Shoals.” While Camalier’s vision thoughtfully parses the mythology, scandals, and music to offer a complete portrait of what made those four walls so special, McCartney becomes too bogged down in purely rendering a jukebox-driven recounting of events.
We get a few biographical notes about Abbey Road: How it was founded as EMI studios, how George Martin became attached to the company, and what was initially recorded there before it became the permanent home of the Beatles. But McCartney soon transitions to her father, who provides anecdotes about the songs recorded there and what instruments contributed to those compositions. Though one does expect McCartney to look toward her famous roots, especially in a story that’s so personal to her—she opens “If These Walls Could Sing” by sharing a baby picture of herself in the studio’s control room—the time allotted to an already well-covered subject feels misused.
Especially when most music aficionados are probably keenly interested in the overall history of this studio: What makes Abbey Road so unique? Why did so many artists choose these surroundings to record some of the greatest pop music ever?
The answers come in fits and starts. We meet the studio’s longtime technician Lester Smith, an intriguing lynchpin in the day-to-day happenings of the space, but that only makes the absence of more people involved with the upkeep of Abbey Road even more glaring. John Williams also appears to discuss recording the soundtracks to “Indiana Jones” and “Star Wars” there. His explanation of the room’s unique reverb, setting this studio apart from all others, is the closest we get to someone not talking about being in the space during some famous event but absorbing the area.