November 9th 1961 – Brian Epstein sees the Beatles at the Cavern Club

On November 9th 1961, Brian Epstein went to the Cavern Club to see the Beatles, initially to ask about where to obtain the record they had made in Hamburg with Tony Sheridan. Accompanying Brian was Alistair Taylor, his personal assistant. In this exclusive interview with the London Beatles Fanclub magazine, conducted in 1995, Alistair told me about that day:

“We had imported the record by Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers (really the Beatles) and it sold like crazy. One day Brian came in and said, “Do you remember that record we sold by the Beatles?” I said ‘Yes, of course’, and he said, ‘Well, they are playing at the Cavern, today, at lunchtime, let’s go to lunch and call in at the Cavern’.

So we went to the Cavern. Ghastly place. We went in suits, like I’m wearing today, and there were these four ghastly youths up on stage, wearing black leather jeans, black jackets, smoking and drinking, and so loud. Brian and I sat at the back, we only heard about four or five numbers and they were just so charismatic and so exciting. What really struck us was the final number, which Paul announced they had written. It was ‘Hello Little Girl’. It was a damned good number. We didn’t like pop music, we just sold records for a living. I was a jazz and classics fan.

We went to lunch, and Brian asked me what I thought of them, and I said, ‘They were bloody awful, but absolutely incredible!’ We talked a bit more, and Brian said ‘I’m thinking of managing them!’. I said, ‘My god, you’re kidding’ – I thought it was great. He said ‘If I do manage them, would you come with me. Who do you work for, me or NEMS?’ I said ‘I work for you’ So he said, ‘If you come with me, I’ll give you 2.5% of the Beatles earnings. I replied, ‘I couldn’t accept that Brian’ I had no money to put up and I knew it would be very expensive. I said all I wanted was a better salary, that’s all.”

So Alistair turned down the chance of getting a very nice share in the Beatles, but remained a big part of their entourage, at NEMS with Brian, and later as general manager of Apple, until he was fired by Allen Klein.

Alistair passed away in June 2004.

 

Blogger Richard Porter, guiding a Beatles tour of London with Alistair Taylor
Blogger Richard Porter, guiding a Beatles tour of London with Alistair Taylor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Making of the Beatles ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ DVD

From the archives of the London Beatles Fanclub Magazine – an exclusive Behind the Scenes view of the making of the A Hard Day’s Night DVD.

In October 2001 a crew from Miramax from the US were in London to interview the original cast and crew of A Hard Day’s Night – and I was lucky enough to be involved. I had three days in the company of the people that made one of my favourite films – and had a great time.

I was first approached at the Chicago Beatlefest to be involved in the DVD by Martin Lewis, the producer of the DVD edition. He wanted help with some of the original film locations and with locating some of the people involved in the film, and with providing archive material from my collection.

Originally, Martin and the film crew were due in London in mid September, but filming had to be postponed due to the tragic events of September 11th.

The film crew finally made it to London in early October, and spent a week interviewing the original cast and crew. Many of the interviews took place in Twickenham Film Studios, where most of the interior scenes of the film were shot.

The interviews were divided in two. On Thursday October 11th the crew of the film were interviewed and the next day the cast. On each occasion the participants had a chance to see the film again. And then they all contributed their reminiscences in a ’roundtable’ setting on audio. Each participant was also interviewed on camera individually by Martin.

I spent much of each day chatting to the participants while the others were being interviewed. At one point Martin discovered that one of the crew members waiting to be interviewed needed to leave soon because of his travel schedule – so Martin asked me to lend a hand and finish off an interview that he’d started with couple of the sound editors. That was something I wasn’t expecting! Martin told me afterwards that he was very pleased with my work.

Disappointing for me personally – Richard Lester, who of course directed the film, was not present with the other members of the crew that re-united at Twickenham Film Studios on the first day. He was unavailable that day – and Martin did a very extensive interview with him on another day.However many other fascinating characters were. These included Gilbert Taylor, who prior to working on A Hard Day’s Night, had been cinematographer on Dr Strangelove, and subsequently went on to be cinematographer on Star Wars and Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy. He had loads of stories about these great films he worked on.

Other Beatles-connected people present were Roy Benson, who was an assistant editor on A Hard Day’s Night, who, three years later, spent 3 months editing Magical Mystery Tour. Also present was Denis O’Dell, who was assistant producer on A Hard Day’s Night and later was head of Apple Films. I chatted to Denis in the cavernous studio one at Twickenham Film Studios, where The Beatles also filmed much of Let it Be. Denis told me it was really him who produced the film but towards the end of shooting Neil Aspinall asked if he could be credited as the producer and Denis agreed. I heard many stories about the making of the film which I won’t give away here – you’ll have to watch the DVD! I did hear one story that I found very amusing. As most of you know John, George and Ringo all had their solo spots in A Hard Day’s Night, without the other Beatles. The idea was to introduce The Beatles to their audience as individuals. You are probably wondering why Paul McCartney didn’t get a solo spot. Well, he did actually film one, but it got cut. The scene was based in a rehearsal studio for actors with Paul and actress Isla Blair. The official reason given for the scene being cut was that it didn’t fit with the rest of the film. However the version I heard was that Isla was wearing a low-cut period costume and Paul was staring down her cleavage! It wasn’t noticed until it was too late to re-shoot so Paul lost his solo scene!

For lunch Martin took the crew to the nearby pub The Turk’s Head. This too was A Hard Day’s Night location. It was the pub which Ringo enters during his walkabout and disrupts all the pub games. The bar looks remarkably similar to this day. Winchester Hall, the function room of the pub, was used by The Beatles for an end of filming party and it was here the crew enjoyed a grand meal and further reminiscences.

One lady I met that day was Betty Glasow, who was The Beatles hairdresser on both A Hard Day’s Night and Help. She had with her a photo album filled with amazing mementos, including a photo of the Fabs in Help signed by all four with funny captions. I couldn’t help noticing that George signed as George ‘Dandruff’ Harrison! She also had a signed first edition of A Spaniard in the Works, signed with a special message from John, together with a lock of his hair. When I told her how much I thought her collection was worth she was amazed.

The next day it was the turn of the actors in the film. Those present included John Junkin, who played Shake, Anna Quayle, who played Millie -the lady who engages in a conversation with John in the corridor, dancer Lionel Blair, Jeremy Lloyd, who is seen dancing with the Fabs in the nightclub scene. He was the one teaching Ringo the Jumping dance! Another great character I met was David Janson. He played the young boy that Ringo bumps into when walking by the river.

As with the crew – everyone was interviewed both separately and in a roundtable setting. And they all had lunch at the Turk’s Head pub.

I had a wonderful time meeting all these wonderful characters and hearing their stories of how one of my favourite film was made.

You’ll see it all on the DVD!

PS Betty Glasow later sold her collection at auction. The signed copy of a Spaniard in the Works sold for £24,000!

November 9th 1966 – When John met Yoko….?

According to John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and most Beatles books, they first met at the Indica Art Gallery on November 9th 1966, at Yoko art exhibition. John and Yoko always asked about how they met, and often told the same story, but did embellish it a bit over time. However, were all the facts correct?

Here is the story, as told by John and Yoko:

 

On 9th November 1966 a Japanese artist Yoko Ono put on an exhibition at the Indica Art Gallery, called Unfinished Paintings and Objects. John Lennon was invited by the Gallery’s co-owner John Dunbar to view the exhibition the day before it opened. Dunbar told John Lennon there would be a happening in a bag – John immediately thought there would be an orgy and gladly went to the gallery. He found lots of strange objects and exhibits, including an apple on a stand. John went over to see the price and was amazed it cost £200! He was amused, but Yoko wasn’t amused when John picked up the apple, and took a big bite out of it!

The Apple on a stand from the Indica Art Gallery
The Apple on a stand from the Indica Art Gallery

John then saw a piece called Ceiling Painting. It consisted of a step ladder with a magnifying glass hanging from the ceiling. He went up the step ladder and looked through the magnifying glass to the ceiling. Printed there was the word ‘Yes’. John said later if it had been something negative he would have left, but it was ‘yes’ and it encouraged him to stay.

Yoko Ono demonstrating 'Ceiling Painting'
Yoko Ono demonstrating ‘Ceiling Painting’

By this time John Dunbar came over and introduced John to Yoko. She said later she did not recognise John that day. In fact, she said the only Beatle name she could remember was Ringo – it means ‘apple’ in Japanese.

John asked where the action was. Yoko just handed John a card which said ‘breathe’. John panted on the card and gave it back. He then saw an exhibit called Painting To Hammer A Nail In. John went to hammer a nail into the board, but Yoko stopped him, saying she did not want any nails in the board before the exhibition opened. After much persuasion by John Dunbar she finally allowed John to hammer one in – if John gave her five shillings. John said, “Here’s an imaginary five shillings and I’ll hammer in an imaginary nail.” John said later that it was then that their eyes met.

Yoko Ono, Painting to Hammer a Nail
Yoko Ono, Painting to Hammer a Nail

The Background to the ‘meeting’ 

Barry Miles, Peter Asher and John Dunbar opened the Indica Art Gallery in Mason’s Yard, St James’s in early 1966. They were leading lights in London’s counter-culture, and were regular visitors to the Scotch of St James’s Nightclub in Mason’s Yard. They wanted to start their own art gallery and bookshop, and on a visit to the scotch, noticed that number 6 Mason’s Yard was empty,a and thought it would be an ideal place.

Even though most people thought the gallery was named after one of the first exhibition there, Indications, it was actually called after the plant Cannabis Indica.

A major benefactor to the gallery was Paul McCartney – he was dating Peter Asher’s sister Jane and even lived in their house. Paul donated money to the Indica project, helped move in the furniture and designed the wrapping paper for the gallery. Paul also got John Lennon interested in the gallery.

Is it all True?

John and Yoko told this story, or different versions on the same theme, on many occasions, but is it all true?

Firstly is the date correct? John and Yoko always said they met on the 9th November 1966. The number 9 was always in important in John’s life, and it seemed fitting that John and Yoko met on John’s ‘lucky’ day. Or did they? In all the interviews they gave, they always stated they met the day before Yoko’s exhibition opened to the public. However, the exhibition opened on the 8th November, which means if the date is correct, it was the day AFTER it opened. If they did actually meet the day before the opening, that puts the date at November 7th, not John’s lucky day. However, another problem with the 7th is that was the day John returned from Spain, where he was filming ‘How I Won the War’. Would he really attend an art exhibition the same day?

An ad for Yoko exhibition - showing the start date of November 8th
An ad for Yoko exhibition – showing the start date of November 8th

It seems Yoko and Sean are sticking with the 9th as the date, as on November 9th 2006, Sean did a special concert at St James’s Church, Piccadilly, which is only a few hundred metres from the Indica Art Gallery. Sean made a point in telling the audience it was the 40th anniversary of his Mum and Dad meeting.

Like all good stories, John and Yoko did embellish it over time. It was only at the end of his life that John thought there was going to be a happening in a bag. In earlier versions of the story, this wasn’t mentioned. It’s also in later versions that Yoko said about John picking up the apple and biting it.

However did their first meeting actually take place at Indica at all. When Paul McCartney inducted John into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he told a different story. In an ‘open letter’ to John, and in front of Yoko, he said.

“After that there was this girl called Yoko. Yoko Ono. She showed up at my house one day. It was John Cage’s birthday and she said she wanted to get hold of manuscripts of various composers to give to him, and she wanted one from me and you. So I said,” Well it’s OK by me. but you’ll have to go to John. And she did.”

So did Yoko meet Paul before John, and did Yoko go to see John? Well, whatever the case, The attraction between John and Yoko was instant, and controversial. I won’t get into a discussion about Yoko here, or we will be here all day and night. However will say that once John was asked by a journalist ‘Why Yoko?’ John said ‘She’s me in drag!’

Update

A report in ‘International Times’ of which Miles was a founder, lists the dates of Yoko’s exhibition from the 9th to 22nd November, and also mentions ‘Bag wear’ http://www.internationaltimes.it/archive/index.php?year=1966&volume=IT-Volume-1&issue=1&item=IT_1966-10-14_B-IT-Volume-1_Iss-1_003

 

November 4th 1963 -the Beatles By Royal Command!

The Beatles’ famous appearance on the Royal Command Performance took place at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Coventry Street, London, on 4th November 1963. This is an annual charity event, which is always attended by at least one member of the Royal Family. For this concert the Royals were the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. These performances are very high-class occasions with extremely expensive tickets.
It was in front of this distinguished audience that John made his famous comment: “For our next number I’d like to ask for your help. Will those in the cheaper seats clap your hands? The rest of you just rattle your jewellery!”

It sounded like an impromptu joke, but in a later interview John Lennon said that the Beatles actually worked it out the day before the show – so this was a well thought out comment! However, John told Brian he was going to tell the crowd to rattle their f***ing jewellery. If John had used that word in front of the Royals it would have been the end of the Beatles career!

Luckily, John’s comment did not outrage the Royals; after the show the Queen Mother asked Paul McCartney where they were playing next. Paul said they were playing Slough. The Queen Mother was delighted and said, “Ah, that’s near us!” Windsor Castle, a royal residence, is just down the road from Slough. She did not go to the concert though.

You can watch the Beatles performance here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWDFuVRWdn4&feature=youtu.be

The Beatles were asked to perform on the show many times after this – but always refused. As John Lennon said in the Beatles Anthology book:

“We managed to refuse all sorts of things that people don’t know about. We did the Royal Variety Show, and we were asked discreetly to do it every year after that, but we always said, ‘Stuff it.’ So every year there was a story in the newspapers: ‘Why no Beatles for the Queen?’ which was pretty funny, because they didn’t know we’d refused. That show’s a bad gig, anyway. Everybody’s very nervous and uptight and nobody performs well. The time we did do it, I cracked a joke on stage. I was fantastically nervous, but I wanted to say something to rebel a bit, and that was the best i could do.”

The programme for the Royal Command Performance
The programme for the Royal Command Performance
The commemorative booklet to celebrate the Beatles performance
The speical booklet to celebrate the Beatles performance

26th October 1965 – the Beatles Receive their MBE Medals from the Queen

October 26th 1965 – The Beatles receive their MBE medals from the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

The Beatles arrive at the palace in John’s black Rolls Royce. 2 years later, John had it repainted in very bright psychedelic colours. I wonder how that would have looked arriving at Buckingham Palace! 
In this clip below the car is seen leaving from outside Waddon House, William’s Mews, Knightsbridge, where George and Ringo had lived for a time. Paul and Ringo are picked up from Ringo’s flat in Montagu Square, where they are photographed on the steps, waiting for the car to arrive.
The car is driven by Beatles chauffeur Alf Bicknell.

After they left the Palace, the Beatles attended a press conference at the Savile Theatre, which had just been bought by Brian Epstein.

Many years later, John Lennon told a French newspaper journalist that the Beatles had smoked a marijuana joint each in the Buckingham Palace toilets to calm their nerves. This ‘confession’ was probably one of John’s ways of destroying the Beatles ‘nice guy’ image when the Beatles were breaking up, and almost certainly didn’t happen. John then sent his MBE back to the Queen, in protest of Britain’s involvement in the Biafra war and America in Vietnam.

Paul McCartney – Different Decade, Same Jacket!

Much was made about Paul McCartney wearing the same jacket to the premiere of ‘The Beatles 8 Day’s a Week, the Touring Years, than he wore to the premiere of A Hard Day’s Night in 1964.

It is not unusual for Paul to keep his jackets for a long time. Here are 2 pics I took of Paul, the first in 1983, the second in 1997,a and he’s wearing the same Jacket in both!

Paul McCartney outside AIR Studios in 1983
Paul McCartney outside AIR Studios in 1983
Paul McCartney at Abbey Road Studios in 1997, wearing the same jacket he wore in 1983!
Paul McCartney at Abbey Road Studios in 1997, wearing the same jacket he wore in 1983!

34 Montagu Square – Home to Ringo Starr, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix!

The ground floor and basement apartment of 34 Montagu Square looks like any other in the area. However, the Chicago Tribune has called it ‘The ultimate rock n roll pad’. That’s because it had associations with three Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Chas Chandler and god knows how many other rock stars who passed though it non-descript front door.

Ringo Starr moved into the apartment in 1965 with new wife Maureen. The area has always been quite hip and Ringo had Mick Jagger and his then girlfriend Chrissie Shrimpton as virtual next door neighbours – they lived just around the corner in Bryanston Mews East.

Maureen was heavily pregnant when they moved in and gave birth to her first son, Zak, at Queen Charlotte’s hospital, Hammersmith, on 13th September 1965. Alf Bicknell, the Beatles chauffeur, remembers getting a call from Ringo at 2am that morning to come to collect Maureen from Montagu Square and take her to the hospital.

ringomaureen2

Ringo and Paul, who lived in nearby Wimpole Street, left from 34 Montagu Square to go to Buckingham Palace to receive their MBE medals, together with John and George.

Paul and Ringo on the steps of 34 Montagu Square, waiting their ride to Buckingham Palace, to see the Queen
Paul and Ringo on the steps of 34 Montagu Square, waiting their ride to Buckingham Palace, to see the Queen

The flat was decorated by Brian Epstein’s interior designer, Ken Partridge, in early 60s camp pop star style with purple watered-silk wallpaper, silk curtains and lead-streaked mirrors.

Ringo moved out of Montagu Square after only a few months and into a large house in Weybridge, but kept hold of the apartment as a London base and also so friends could use it. In 1966 Paul McCartney used the basement of the apartment to build a small recording studio.

In his book Paul McCartney – Many Years From Now, Barry Miles recalled that Paul was getting friendly with members of the avant garde and underground art movements. Paul wanted to start a facility for poets and avant garde musicians to record their work. That way a lively exchange of tapes would happen between these people. Paul often let his friends such as author William Burroughs, art gallery owner Robert Fraser, and filmmaker Anthony Balch use the studio to make their weird experimental recordings. Paul also used the studio to work on his own songs such as Eleanor Rigby. The tape perator of the studio was Ian Sommerville, a good friend of Barry Miles. Ian moved into the flat with his boyfriend Alan. In the end the idea for the studio fell through, as Ian got the idea the studio was only for Paul McCartney. The equipment was removed and Ian moved out of the flat.

On 6th December 1966 Ringo let the apartment to Chas Chandler, the former bass player of the Animals. Chas had just discovered a guitarist in a small club in Greenwich Village, New York, and decided to become his manager and bring him to England. His name was Jimi Hendrix. When Chas moved into Montagu Square with his girlfriend, Lotta, Jimi and his girlfriend, Kathy Etchingham, moved in too.

Jimi and Kathy had lots of rock star friends and would invite them to Montagu Square for parties. They also had a rather stormy relationship. After one spectacular row Kathy stormed out and didn’t return until the next day. When she came back she asked Jimi what he’d been doing while she was away. Jimi handed her a piece of paper with the lyrics of a song he’d written called The Wind Cries Mary. Mary was Kathy’s middle name, which she hated and Jimi only used it to annoy her.

After a while the neighbours started complaining about the noise coming from the flat and Jimi and Kathy were asked to leave.

 

Jimi Hendrix on the steps of 34 Montague Square
Jimi Hendrix on the steps of 34 Montagu Square

After Jimi and Kathy moved out, the apartment was used by Lillian Powell, Cynthia Lennon’s mother. That arrangement changed when Cynthia caught John with Yoko Ono at their house in Weybridge, called ‘Kenwood’. Cynthia briefly moved in with her mother. Cynthia went on holiday to Italy, but was shadowed by a private detective, hired by John. Within five minutes of her arrival back at Montagu Square there was a knock on the door and a solicitor handed her a writ for divorce, citing HER adultery. Cynthia immediately counter-sued.

Finally, John moved out of Kenwood and into the Montagu Square apartment and Cynthia moved briefly back to Kenwood, which was eventually sold as part of the divorce settlement.

Soon after arriving in Montagu Square John and Yoko asked Apple assistant Tony Bramwell to come to the flat with a camera and go away before any pictures were taken. They then photographed themselves naked and put the pictures on the cover of their LP Unfinished Music Volume One, better known as Two Virgins.

A censored version of the 2 Virgins Album cover :>)
A censored version of the 2 Virgins Album cover :>)

Nudity on LP covers was certainly not common and when the Chairman of EMI, Sir Joseph Lockwood, was shown the photos, he was horrified. John and Yoko were summoned to explain themselves. When John was asked about his motives, he said it was artistic – shocking people was an art form. At this Sir Joe got really angry, he said to John, ‘If you were doing this for art you could at least put some better looking bodies on the cover – why not get Paul to do it – or use statues from a park!’

Time Out later lampooned the Two Virgin’s cover picture and drugs bust on one of their famous covers. Over John’s ‘private parts’ is a sticker that says ‘Member of the British Empire’ – the name of the medal the Beatles were given a few years earlier. Coming out of John’s mouth is a speech balloon that says ‘It’s no good officer – it won’t stand up in court!’

A few weeks later the apartment was raided by the police and John and Yoko were arrested for possession of cannabis. Apparently John received a telephone call from a journalist friend to tell him the police were going to come, so he called his old friend Pete Shotton to help him clear the apartment of anything incriminating.

The police still found some cannabis in the apartment. John later said the drugs could have been planted by the police – in fact the leader of the police team Sgt Norman Pilcher was later arrested himself for perverting the course of justice. It was also very suspicious that a press photographer was present to take a picture of John being led out of his flat by the police.

John being led away by the police from Montagu Square
John being led away by the police from Montagu Square

At the time Yoko was heavily pregnant with John’s child. However, in November 1968 Yoko was rushed from the apartment to hospital where she suffered a painful miscarriage.

John decided to plead guilty to the drugs charge to keep Yoko off the charge, as she could have been deported if found guilty of drugs possession. Also the police said they would drop the obstruction charges. John was only fined about £100 and thought it was the end of the matter but, when John and Yoko moved to America in 1971 the conviction came back to haunt him. He wanted to stay in the States, but the Immigration Service tried to deport him because of
the conviction.

Later it emerged that the Nixon administration were illegally trying to get John out of the country, as John was campaigning against the Vietnam war. John’s fight to stay in America lasted for four years until he was finally given his Green Card in 1976.

Regretably, after John’s conviction Ringo was forced by the landlords to sell the apartment, so ending the Beatles’ brief but extremely eventful time here.

In October 2010 Yoko Ono unveiled an English Heritage Blue Plaque to John Lennon at 34 Montagu Square. I was lucky enough to be invited to the unveiling. Hundreds of fans gathered to hear Yoko make a short speech, along with Beatles biographer Hunter Davies, and members of English Heritage, who sponsor the plaques.

Yoko Ono unveiling the plaque to John Lennon at 34 Montagu Square
Yoko Ono unveiling the plaque to John Lennon at 34 Montagu Square

 

ebookmontagueplaque

The day before the unveiling, I was lucky enough to go into the apartment, and was interviewed about the history of the apartment for a DVD.

Blogger Richard Porter inside 34 Montagu Square
Blogger Richard Porter inside 34 Montagu Square

 

Blogger Richard Porter is a professional Beatles tour guide in London and owns the Beatles Coffee Shop. For more details of his tours, see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com

The article is adapted from Richard’s book ‘Guide to the Beatles’ London’ which is available from http://www.beatlescoffeeshop.com/shop/product.php/2/guide_to_the_beatles_london__guide_book_by_richard_porter

Ocober 22nd 1999 – Inside Abbey Road Studios

A great memory from 1999. I was asked to do a special Beatles London tour for DJs from MJI. Later, they were broadcasting Live from Studio One at Abbey Road Studios to all over the US. I was invited along and was interviewed live on about 15 US radio stations in 3 hours!!! I started on stations based on the east coast and working my way west – due to time zones :>) I was in illustrious company too!

 

Line-up for MJI Broadcast from Abbey Road Studios - including me!
Line-up for MJI Broadcast from Abbey Road Studios – including me!

The Abbey Road Crossing

On 8th August 1969, at 11.35am, four men walked across a zebra crossing in St John’s Wood. Hardly an earth-shattering event, but since then millions of people have come to the very same crossing to imitate those four men.

Of course, the four men in question were the Beatles, and the crossing is in Abbey Road. The ‘Fab Four’ were posing for the photo that was to be used on their last album to be recorded. Abbey Road has never been the same since.

Every day, fans from around the world come to the crossing to walk in the footsteps of their heroes and to see the studios where they recorded most of their songs.

The Beatles had been coming to Abbey Road for many years to record at the EMI Studios. Their die-hard fans often visited the studios in the hope of catching a glimpse of them coming or going. A select few even camped in the car park to see their heroes come out after a late night recording session. However, it wasn’t until after the Beatles named their album after the street it was recorded in that it became world famous and a shrine for fans.

Things could have been very different. Originally the LP was going to be called Everest – after the favourite brand of cigarettes smoked by Geoff Emerick, the Beatles’ recording engineer. Someone had the bright idea that the Beatles should go to the mountain of the same name to shoot the album cover! The Beatles reaction to that idea can’t be repeated here without offence! Finally, it was decided to call the album Abbey Road. Incidentally the album was NOT named after the studio, but the road where the studio is situated. The studio was then called EMI and didn’t change its’ name until after the album came out.

The famous pose of the Beatles on the Abbey Road crossing endures as one of the most memorable LP covers of all time, and one of the easiest for fans to replicate. The idea for the picture was probably Paul McCartney’s. A sketch drawn by Paul showing how the picture should look still exists. The photographer was Iain MacMillan, a long time friend of John and Yoko. MacMillan had known Yoko before she met John, and it is quite possible that John’s first site of Yoko might have been on one of MacMillan’s photos. His photos illustrated the catalogue for Yoko’s exhibition Unfinished Paintings and Objects, at which the couple first met.

For the photo shoot, the Beatles congregated by the crossing at around 11.35am. This was an early start for them, as normally recording sessions didn’t start until around 5pm. This was done deliberately to ensure fans would not interrupt the photo session. The day was gloriously sunny and Iain MacMillan stood on a stepladder in the middle of the road to get the required angle. The Beatles were asked to cross the road in procession, while MacMillan attempted to get the best shot. In the end six photographs were taken, and the whole session only took about 10 minutes.

Shot one shows them walking from left to right, with a Mercedes car coming out of the car park of the studios. Shot two has them walking the other way across, towards the studios. In both shots Paul has his head bowed and is seemingly preoccupied with his feet. By shot three Paul has removed the open top sandals he was wearing and is now barefoot – an historic decision! Shot three was probably the best so far, but has traffic too near to the crossing to be perfect.

Shot four again shows them going from right to left. Like shot two, the Beatles don’t seem to be concentrating on getting the right pose. Maybe they already had it in mind that the shot would look better going the other way across. Shot five was the best by far and the one used on the album cover. Another shot was taken but this was far inferior.

The first Abbey Road photo
The first Abbey Road photo

2nd

The 3rd Pic taken
The 3rd Pic taken
The 4th Pic
The 4th Pic

 

The 5th pic taken - the one used on the album cover
The 5th pic taken – the one used on the album cover

 

The last pic taken
The last pic taken

After the session on the crossing Iain MacMillan got in a car with Anthony Fawcett, John and Yoko’s assistant, to find a suitable road sign for the back cover. They found one on the junction of Abbey Road and Alexandra Road. As MacMillan was about to take a photograph of the sign a girl in a blue dress walked through the shot. Fawcett remembers that Iain MacMillan was angry the girl had got in the way – but other accounts said it was planned. Unfortunately, the Abbey Road sign no longer exists. This part of Abbey Road was redeveloped in the 1970s and the wall and sign demolished.

The session on the crossing only lasted about 10 minutes – leaving the Beatles over three hours to kill before they were due to start recording. According to Mal Evans in his personal diaries, Paul, John and Ringo went to Paul’s home nearby to relax while George and Mal went to “Regents Park Zoo to meditate in the sun. To Krishna Temple for lunch and studio for 3pm”.

Since the famous Abbey Road picture was taken, several million people have crossed the street to imitate their heroes. In 2005 Abbey Road Studios estimated 150,000 come to Abbey Road every year.

Just after the album came out, the Abbey Road cover became the central part in a bizarre rumour and conspiracy theory that Paul McCartney was dead! It is hard to pinpoint where the rumour started, but it seemed to begin almost simultaneously in different universities in America. Word went around that Paul had died in a car accident in 1966 and that the Beatles had replaced him with an imposter, to ensure their fame wasn’t affected. However, the Beatles felt guilty about doing this, so they put ‘clues’ on various album covers and songs to tell the truth. Many of these clues can be found on the Abbey Road album cover.

The picture is supposed to be of Paul’s funeral procession, with George Harrison dressed as the gravedigger, Ringo Starr the undertaker, and John Lennon the preacher. Paul McCartney is supposedly wearing an old suit, and is barefoot – how bodies are buried! Paul is holding his cigarette in his right hand – fans pointed out the ‘real’ Paul McCartney is left handed, so the man in the picture isn’t Paul, but an imposter. Some even named the imposter as William Campbell, who had won a Paul lookalike competition. Paul is also out of step with the others, drawing attention to himself.

By the side of the crossing is a white Volkeswagen car. The first part of the car’s license plate is LMW – this is supposed to stand for ‘Linda McCartney – widowed.’ The second part is 281F – this is supposed to signify that Paul McCartney would have been 28 years old – IF he was still alive! Actually, he was 27 in 1969.

There are even clues on the back cover. The ‘Beatles’ sign has a crack through it – to show that the band are no longer complete. Also the sun has shone though the shadows to create a shape that is supposed to resemble Paul McCartney’s skull!

Rumours of Paul McCartney’s demise spread like wildfire, especially when Russ Gibb, a DJ on a radio station WKNR in Detroit, received a telephone call from a student telling him to look for clues. From there the whole thing became an international pastime. The Beatles’ offices received many calls from distraught fans wanting to know the truth.

The rumour only started dying down when a reporter from Life magazine went up to Scotland, where Paul was staying, to obtain an interview to prove that Paul was still alive.

The cover of a mag on the Paul is dead rumour
The cover of a mag on the Paul is dead rumour

Since 1969 the rumour has refused to go away. There have been many books and TV shows on the subject. Paul himself lampooned the rumour on his 1993 album Paul is Live. He returned to the Abbey Road crossing with Iain MacMillan to pose with his old English sheepdog, Arrow. For the cover Paul is superimposed on an original Abbey Road picture – with the Beatles taken out. However, the VW license plate has been changed, to 51 IS – Paul’s age when the Paul is Live picture was taken.

The cover of 'Paul is Live'
The cover of ‘Paul is Live’

On 8th August 2009 I organised a mass crossing of Abbey Road, exactly 40 years to the minute since the Beatles. I arranged for a Beatles lookalike band, Sgt Pepper’s Only Dart Board Band, to lead fans across wearing the same styled clothes as the Beatles wore 40 years earlier. I thought we may get some media interest, as we’d organised similar crossings on the 25th and 30th anniversaries. However, I was totally shocked by the scenes around the crossing. There were at least 15 TV crews around the crossing, representing over 100 countries. The event was featured in countries like the USA, Russia, India, Greece, Italy, Australia with many covering it live! There were also scores of press photographers and many hundreds of fans. Eventually the police closed Abbey Road for over an hour and fans held an impromptu street party.

Me with Sgt Peppers Only Dart Board Band 8th August 2009
Me with Sgt Peppers Only Dart Board Band 8th August 2009
Abbey Road August 8th 2009 - 40 years to the minute since the Beatles crossed
Abbey Road August 8th 2009 – 40 years to the minute since the Beatles crossed

In December 2010 the Abbey Road Crossing was given ‘Grade 2 Listed Status’ by English Heritage. This means that the crossing cannot by moved or altered without specific Government permission. In its’ report English Heritage said, “The Abbey Road zebra crossing is of undisputed interest as a late C20 iconic cultural site”. It also states in the English Heritage document that they believe the crossing has moved since 1969. This isn’t the case. Linda McCartney was also present on the day of the Abbey Road photo shoot, and took many pictures. Her shots show the side of the road, and shows things like the drain by the crossing on one side, and the manhole cover on the other are still in the same place now as they were in 1969.

Linda McCartney's photo - showing the location of the crossing.
Linda McCartney’s photo – showing the location of the crossing.

 

Author and blogger Richard Porter is a professional London Beatles tour guide. For more details on his tours, see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com

The Beatles at the London Palladium, October 13th 1963

On 13th October 1963, the Beatles appeared on a TV show called Val Parnel’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium. The Palladium was, and still is, London’s most famous theatre, and it was regarded as a highlight of a ‘showbiz’ career to play there. Sunday Night at the London Palladium had been going for several years, and was one of the most watched TV shows in the the UK. On March 2nd 1958, Buddy Holly and the Crickets appeared on the show – and very much influenced the youth of the UK, including John, Paul, George and Ringo, who were all glued to the TV that night!

The Beatles appearance on the show was very popular – about 18 million people watched this show. By then, the Beatles already had 3 number one hits, and been on TV many times, but all on shows geared towards teenagers. The Palladium show was the first time they had been on an ‘family’ show. They topped the bill on the show, which was presented by Bruce Forsyth. Forsyth whipped the audience into a frenzy by counting down to the Beatles appearance. They sang From Me To You, I’ll Get You, She Loves You and Twist and Shout. They also appeared, together with the rest of the cast, right at the end of the show, to wave goodbye to the audience on the Palladium’s revolving podium.

No film of the show remains, as TV bosses at the time did not think anyone would want to watch this performance of the Beatles after it was first shown. There is audio of the show though – which you can listen to here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6C_f9lvyFg

There is, however, footage of the Beatles coming out of the theatre. You can see that the street was packed with people. The Beatles come out, and there is no car waiting for them. They rush towards what they think is a taxi, but it turns out to be a police car, and policemen would not let them in. Ringo comes out first, then the other three follow, and there is nowhere for them to go. This confusion was probably because the stage door is around the back, and they came out of the front entrance. Maybe, that was deliberate, as all the press were outside here.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNYXilEvSo4

Throughout the day the theatre was besieged by several hundred Beatles fans. Next day all the UK newspapers were full of stories of the mayhem. Although screaming girls were a regular occurrence around the Beatles by then, the national newspapers had virtually ignored the Beatles and their fans up to this point. The Palladium show changed that; from now on the Beatles were hardly ever out of the newspapers. A couple of weeks after the Palladium show the term ‘Beatlemania’ was used for the first time to describe the scenes that now greeted the Beatles wherever they went.

Beatles books have often misstated that their famous 1963 appearance on the Royal Command Performance was held at the London Palladium, when it fact it was held at the Prince of Wales Theatre, a month after the Palladium concert. This confusion was no doubt brought about by a poster that was released at the time, of the Beatles standing in a doorway. The poster said: “The Beatles, Royal Command Performance 1963, London Palladium”. This is a mistake, and a strange one, as the poster was officially licensed by NEMS – Brian Epstein’s company! You would have thought someone would notice such an error!

The Beatles made a second appearance on Sunday Night at the London Palladium in January 1964, and, if anything, were greeted by more mayhem than their first appearance. They returned to the Palladium for the last time in July 1964 for a charity concert called The Night of a Hundred Stars.

 

The Beatles at the Lonon Paladium, October 13th 1963
The Beatles at the Lonon Palladium, October 13th 1963

Blogger Richard Porter is a professional Beatles Tour Guide in London. For details of his tours, see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com His book, Guide to the Beatles London, is available at http://www.beatlescoffeeshop.com/shop/product.php/2/guide_to_the_beatles_london__guide_book_by_richard_porter