James Taylor looks out at the sprawling London skyline. “This is where it started,” he says. “The moment.” He made his first trip here in 1968, playing for Paul McCartney and George Harrison and becoming the first artist signed to the Beatles’ record label, Apple Records. This was before he moved to Laurel Canyon with the rest of the denim-draped California dreamers who defined the sound of the late 60s and far beyond. Before he met David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Carole King and Joni Mitchell. Before he and Mitchell fell in love. Before he wrote his pivotal album Sweet Baby James during a stint in a psychiatric hospital. Before his marriage to Carly Simon, which opened up his personal life – including his long battle with heroin addiction – to public consciousness. Before he sold 100m records, performed for the Obamas and the Clintons, and then, decades later, appeared on stage with one of the world’s biggest pop stars, Taylor Swift, who is named after him.
It was a cassette tape that set the course for Stefanie Hempel’s life.
When she first heard the Beatles belt out She Loves You on a tape her father managed to get his hands on in East Germany, nine-year-old Hempel was hooked.
“I remember everything, every second about this moment,” Hempel, who grew up in Grabow, a small East German town between Hamburg and Berlin, tells The Local.
“I listened to this tape over and over again and I wanted to know everything about them. I started to play the songs on the piano and sing, and I fell in love immediately with the voice of John Lennon.
“Just one year later I started to write my own songs, and they were all love songs for John Lennon.”
Now Hempel’s career is dedicated to the Liverpool band that honed their style in Hamburg. The 42-year-old founded a walking and musical tour in the city more than 15 years ago.
And in March Hempel will host a three-day festival to celebrate 60 years since the band performed in the Hanseatic city.
The studio which lent its name to the seminal Beatles album turns 90 next year and has a long tradition of innovation – one which is continuing with its Red tech incubator
To step inside Abbey Road Studios is to step into music history.
Some of the world’s most famous and influential albums have been recorded here, including Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and OK Computer by Radiohead.
Studio Two, which was used to lay down much of The Beatles’ best-loved work, features pictures of the Fab Four as well as Kylie Minogue and Oasis.
Now a Grade II-listed building, its endearing popularity is evident among the queue of tourists waiting to have their picture taken on the iconic pedestrian crossing – which also has protected status. Even Studio Two’s original wooden flooring remains in place.
What is perhaps less well known is the history of innovation at the St John’s Wood institution. From the creation and patenting of stereo in 1931 to holding the blueprint for the modern recording console, the walls and feel of the three-storey townhouse lay claim to a heritage which changed music forever.
Parents and pupils interested in attending the proposed school can put their name down now
Plans for the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA) to open a senior school have moved a step further after a new funding application for the project was made.
LIPA, set up by Paul McCartney and Mark Featherstone-Witty in 1996, is among a number of applicants for the latest wave of free school funding in a list published by the government last week.
The well-known city institute opened a primary school in 2014 and a sixth form in 2016 – and parents of pupils at those schools were first asked their views on the school opening a senior school in 2017.
At the time LIPA said opening a senior school would allow it to close the gap between its primary and sixth form provision.
On February 11th 1963, the Beatles recorded their debut album Please Please Me in one day! (Their second album took even longer :>)
In an amazing recording session that lasted just shy of 10 hours, the Beatles recorded 10 tracks. The Beatles weren’t in tip top condition either – the winter of 1962/63 was one of the coldest on record, and John Lennon was suffering from a particularly bad cold, that was affecting his voice. He got through the session sucking on Zubes throat sweets. Paradoxically, right by the jar of Zubes was a huge jar of cigarettes, that the Beatles smoked constantly through the day.
Only 2 songs were recorded in the morning session, ‘There’s a Place’ and ‘Seventeen’ (the working title of ‘I Saw Her Standing There’) At lunchtime, the engineers went to the the local pub, the Heroes of Alma, but the Beatles stayed in the studio to rehearse.
After lunch, they recorded ‘Do You Want to Know a Secret’ and ‘Misery’. Then at the 7:30pm evening session, things really started to pick up pace. They first recorded their own song ‘Hold Me Tight’ – but it didn’t really work, and the song was re-recorded for the Beatles second album ‘With the Beatles’.
The Beatles then recorded four cover versions, ‘Anna (go to him)’ ‘Chains’ ‘Boys’ and ‘Baby It’s You’. By the time the Beatles recorded ‘Baby It’s You’, John Lennon’s voice was really rasping, and he and the other Beatles were glad that they thought the day was over, and retired to the canteen. But it wasn’t, because ‘Hold me Tight’ hadn’t worked out, another song was needed. After a short debate, it was decided that it should be ‘Twist and Shout’ – a real fan favourite at their gigs. John’s voice had nearly gone by then, so, according to some accounts, he took his shirt off and ripped into ‘Twist and Shout’ in his most raucous voice possible on the first take. A second take was attempted, but wasn’t needed, as John had nailed it with the first take, and also totally ruined his voice in doing it! What an end to an amazing day.
Even though Please Please Me only took one day to record, it stayed at number one in the UK album chart for 30 weeks, only to replaced by the Beatles second album ‘With the Beatles’!
On February 11th 1968, the Beatles were in Studio Three at EMI Studios to make a video of their new single ‘Lady Madonna’. As they were in the studio they decided to record a new song, while being filmed. That song was Hey Bulldog.
Decades later, the raw footage of the Lady Madonna video was discovered, and recut to make a new video for Hey Bulldog :>)
The Beatles turn the session into a big party, with many friends in attendance, including Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, Donovan, and Mike Nesmith of the Monkees. Even though the orchestra were asked to wear evening dress for the occasion, one of them also wore a red clown nose, and the leader of the violins wore a gorilla paw on his bowing arm!
After the orchestra had left, the Beatles,and friends who stayed behind, got around a microphone and did a big hummmmmm. This was going to be the coda for the song, and the album. However, a few days later, this was replaced by the long piano chord.
The session is almost exactly 4 years to the day since the Beatles recorded the entire Please Please Me Album (February 11th 1963) – a quantum leap in 4 years!
This unique recording session was filmed for posterity. Tony Bramwell of NEMS was in charge of the shooting, gave out cameras to many of the participants to help. The resulting film was supposed to be part of a TV special about making the ‘Sgt Pepper’ album, but it was never completed, and the film made that day wasn’t broadcast for several years, as the song was banned due to supposed drug references.
Blogger Richard Porter is a full time Beatles Tour Guide in London. For more details of his tours, see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com
Gene Gallagher, 18, and Sonny Starkey, 19, are said to have fought their way down an aisle while a third pal shouted racial abuse at a supermarket employee. Noah Ponte – a model signed up to IMG – reportedly yelled: “You bloody Indians. Go back to where you came from. You’re not wanted here.”
The alleged fracas started just before midnight when Gallagher, Starkey and Ponte, 19, tried to buy a can of beer at Hampstead Tesco Express in north London.
It wouldn’t scan at the checkout because licensing laws mean Tesco doesn’t sell alcohol after 11pm.
Ponte then tried to walk out with the can in his hand, prosecutor Adeal Mahmood told Highbury Corner magistrates.
He added: “Police received a call from Tesco Express with a report that a group of males were fighting with staff.
“On arrival they had detained Mr Starkey and Mr Gallagher.
“Mr Ponte was outside. On seeing police, he walked away. All of the suspects were detained by officers and identified as being part of the fight.”
In the space of just ten years, The Beatles would revolutionise music in a manner which is likely never to be repeated on the same scale. John, Paul, George, and Ringo would go from a group of local musicians trying to make their name around Merseyside into internationally renowned superstars regularly mobbed by adoring fans.
Even 50 years after the fab four went their separate ways, the indelible impact on popular music continues to be seen to this day. Their role in the shaping of popular culture has been discussed extensively, and the group are still the highest-selling artists of all time with nearly 280,000,000 sales worldwide.
During peak Beatlemania, and even in the years that followed, the group attracted a legion of adoring fans who have investigated and analysed even the minutiae of their activities extensively. Moreso than any other band in history, The Beatles have been chronicled to a point where fansites can tell you what they were doing on almost any given day during their time together.
Which is why you might find it surprising that despite the sleuthing of superfans the world over, several mysteries about The Beatles, and those around them, have gone unsolved in the years since the group’s breakup.