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Records and Rebels of the 60s at the Victoria and Albert Museum

You Say you Want a Revolution? – Records and Rebels 1966-1970 is a fab gear new exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum – and a must visit for Beatles fans.

During the years covered by the exhibition, the Beatles wee arguably at their collective peak, and not surprisingly, feature prominently in the exhibition, including many items never seen in public before. A highlight is a display about Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, featuring the original Sgt Pepper uniforms worn by John Lennon and George Harrison; the cut outs of Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allan Poe, that are seen on the album cover; the lyrics of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, handwritten by John; and Within You, Without You, Handwritten by George; and one of Georges own sitars. This area of the exhibition is worth the admission money on its own!

The Beatles memorabilia doesn’t end there – Yoko and Olivia have donated lots of their late husband’s mementos, including the jacket worn by John on the ‘Our World’ TV broadcast of ‘All You Need is Love’, and a purple velvet jacket worn by George on the Frost programme. Then right at the end of the exhibition, the jacket John wore on the ‘Imagine’ video. This really got to me.

One item that’s exhibited which isn’t quite what it seems is a white suit, that the exhibition book says was the one worn by John Lennon on the Abbey Road crossing, for the iconic album cover shoot. However, the book says it was designed by Ted Lapidus, when John’s Abbey Road suit was designed by Tommy Nutter in Savile Row. The suit might have belonged to John, but it wasn’t the one he wore that day.

Overall, there must be at least 25 Beatles handwritten lyrics dotted about the exhibition, surely the most ever seen in one place.

But of course, there is much more to the exhibition than just the Beatles. A highlight is certainly the Woodstock Room, where you can watch the film of the iconic festival on a huge screen, lounging on beanbags, and surrounded by loads of mementos from the various bands and artists that took part, including Roger Daltrey’s stage outfit, Pete Townshend’s broken guitar.

As well as all these stage suits and instruments etc, the exhibition includes hundreds of album covers from the period, which are very much works of art in their own right, and great concert posters.

The exhibition is not confined to music by any means. There are sections on fashion, art, politics, early computers, and space travel.

I must have spent at least 2.5 hours in the exhibition, and will definitely go back again. I came out feeling like I’d just smoked a massive joint! A very hippy, trippy, show!

 

George Harrison's Sgt Pepper suit
George Harrison’s Sgt Pepper suit
The Exhibition poster
The Exhibition poster

The Beatles Come to Town!

Here is the original ‘Beatles Come to Town’ film -as made by Pathé News,  shot at the Manchester ABC, Ardwick on November 20th 1963. I was one year old a day later, so unfortunately wasn’t there! Excerpts from the film are used in The Beatles, Eight Day’s A Week, the Touring Years, but rather strangely, the audio has been replaced on some of it by audio from the Beatles Live at the Holywood Bowl! Why??

This was filmed on 35mm, especially to be shown as a short film in a cinema, before the main feature came on. The newsreels gave the audience news and information before television became widely available. However, by the 1960s, it was getting rather out-dated. However, I also love the commentaries by Bob Danvers Walker – a legend of British broadcasting.

 

 

The Beatles Live in Melbourne 1964

Although there was some ‘new’ colour footage from this gig in ‘The Beatles Eight Day’s a Week – the touring years, I think it was a missed opportunity not having more from this amazing show from Melbourne in 1964.

The scenes in Australia were if anything more riotous than in the US. When the Beatles arrived in Adelaide, something like half the population lined a motorcade from the airport to their hotel!

I think this is one of the best filmed Beatles performances. Unlike Shea, the sound has not been ‘doctored’ – ie there have been no overdubs made, yet the Beatles sound great! For me, You Can’t Do That and Long Tall Sally are the stand out songs.

I especially love the end of Long Tall Sally, when a guy looking exactly like John Lennon, manages to get on stage, and shakes John’s hand in the middle of the song!!

Hopefully, in the not too distant future, we will get an official DVD of The Beatles full concert performances. If we do, this show must be included.

 

London Beatles and Rock Tours this week

Busy week on my Beatles and Rock and Roll tours this week:

Tuesday 11:20am – Beatles In My Life from Marylebone Station
Wednesday 2pm – Beatles Magical Mystery tour from Tottenham Court Road
Thursday 11am – Beatles Magical Mystery tour from Tottenham Court Road
Friday 2pm – Rock and Roll London from Tottenham Court Road
Saturday 11:20am – Beatles In My Life from Marylebone Station
Sunday 11am Beatles Magical Mystery tour from Tottenham Court Road

There is no need to book for tours, just turn up at the meeting points before the times stated

For more details see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com

Welcome! About The Awful…

HI all,

Welcome to my new blog. I am Richard Porter. I am a full time Beatles tour guide in London, and also own the Beatles Coffee Shop at St John’s Wood Station, the nearest to Abbey Road.

I really became a fan in 1976 when I was 13 years old. EMI re-released all the Beatles singles and they all reached the top 100 of the British charts at once. Of course, they were played on the radio a lot, and I thought they were great. My first Beatles record was The Red Album and I went on to buy all the singles and albums in 2 years – not bad when I just earned pocket money from my parents.

At first I was very isolated in my Beatle fandom. My interest coincided with the punk rock boom and all the other boys in school were in to the Sex Pistols and the Clash. Being a Beatles fan was not regarded as hip! Also I didn’t really realise there were so many other fans around.

All that changed on that awful day in December 1980. John’s death really devastated me and I didn’t have anyone to share my grief with. I therefore put an ad for penpals in Beatles Monthly and was amazed by the number of replies I received. It was through a penpal that I heard about the Beatles convention to be held in Liverpool in August 1981. I was amazed that such a thing existed and arranged to go.

That convention was a real revelation to me. There must have been over 1000 like minded fans there – I was not alone! The abiding memory of that convention is when Victor Spinetti unveiled a statue of John and everyone sang Give Peace a Chance. It was a really moving moment.

A few months later another penpal told me he’d met Paul McCartney regularly outside a recording studio in Oxford Street, London. Now Oxford Street is the busiest shopping street in London, and I didn’t even know there was a studio there. Of course, I later found out it was AIR Studios, which was owned by George Martin.

One weekday evening I arranged to meet my friend and several others outside the studio. I’d only been there 10 minutes when the unmistakable figure of Paul McCartney emerged from the building. Paul chatted to us for several minutes and I got him to sign my Paul McCartney and Wings book. Paul was at AIR for many months during that period and I got to meet him several times.

I started writing for Beatles fanzines and when those fanzines ceased publication I decided to start my own fan club with two old friends. The London Beatles Fanclub was born in November 1988.

As Editor of the magazine I got to meet and interview many Beatles-related people, such as Kenny Everett, Alan Parsons, Alistair Taylor, and Alf Bicknell.

I also started corresponding with Beatles fans around the world. One was Irina Dyomkina, who ran the Moscow Beatles Fanclub. Irina moved to London in the early 1990s and became the secretary of the London Beatles Fanclub. We married in June 2004. Irina is now a fully qualified London ‘Blue Badge’ guide.

After a while members of the club started asking me where various London Beatles landmarks were. Obviously, I knew the major ones, but started researching some more obscure sights. I discovered someone was actually guiding tour of London Beatles sights, so I went along on one. The guide seemed very impressed at my knowledge and asked me to guide the tours for him. Of course, I said yes. I just did Sunday tours to start with, but after leaving University decided to take up guiding full time. I’ve now been guiding tours for well over 20 years.

In those 20 years I’ve met Beatles fans from all over the world. It never ceases to amaze me how universal the appeal of the Beatles is. Just last year I did a tour for two guys from North Korea. Despite the huge risks involved, they had managed to escape across the border into South Korea. They immediately became Beatles fans and had a dream to come to England to see all the main Beatles places. They were very emotional when I showed them places like the inside of Trident Studios, where the Beatles recorded Hey Jude (normally we don’t go inside on tours, but this was a special occasion!) and the Abbey Road Crossing.

On August 8th 2009, I organised a special tour to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road for the famous album cover picture. I want to cross exactly 40 years to the minute since the Beatles. I asked a Beatles tribute band ‘Sgt Pepper’s Only Dartboard Band to dress as the Beatles were on the album cover and lead us across. Just before the day, a realised that ‘Ripley’s Believe it Or Not’ in London owned a replica of John Lennon’s psychedelic Rolls Royce, so we borrowed it for the day for the Band to arrive at the crossing in the car.

Word spread fast what we were planning, and a few days before I started getting calls and emails from TV companies wanting to cover the event. In the end, we had at least 250 people turn up for the tour, (luckily I had a couple of other guides to help!) and there must have been well over 2000 people around the crossing. In the end, the police closed Abbey Road to traffic and there was an impromptu party around the crossing. The event was carried live on BBC News and on stations in the US, Russia, Australia and many, many others.

I have also got to go to some great places. One day a German TV Station rang me to ask me for my help. They were filming in Studio Two at Abbey Road and the roof of 3 Savile Row – and they wanted me to act as technical adviser – and pay me too! Of course I said yes. These places are normally out of bounds for fans and I felt really privileged just being there.

For a long time people kept on asking me when I was going to write a book on The Beatles, and I finally got around to doing it. I found I had so much material on The Beatles’ London haunts, I was only using a fraction of it on the tours. Also I had lots of material from interviews I did for The London Beatles Fanclub, – the book virtually wrote itself. I was very glad when Jeff Jarratt of the Abbey Road Cafe decided to publish it. Jeff worked with The Beatles on the Abbey Road album, and is now a successful producer in his own right.

In 2006, Jeff rang me up, completely out of the blue, and said he was retiring, and would I like to buy the Abbey Road Café! Luckily I had the cash available and Irina and I bought it, and changed its name to the Beatles Coffee Shop. It is situated at St John’s Wood Underground Station, the nearest to Abbey Road Studios and the crossing.

Now I have TWO Beatles-related jobs. It can be very tiring at times – but never boring! Thank you John, Paul, George and Ringo, for giving me this Fab life!

For info on Richard’s London Beatles Walks, please see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com

For info on the Beatles Coffee Shop, please see http://www.beatlescoffeeshop.com

On this blog, I will keep you up to date with news about Beatles-related events in London, and around the world. I will also include some archive material from the London Beatles Fanclub Magazine, that I edited for over 10 years.

If you would like to contribute a news story, or would like to comment about the blog, please email me at richardandirina@tiscali.co.uk

I hope you will enjoy the show!

Richard at Apple

Richard at Apple