Helter Skelter – the new name for the Beatles Coffee Shop, will be opening in a few days. I’m glad to say they have retained the Beatles heads by the door :>) I will be acting as a consultant on all things Beatles for the new owners. The shop will be at St John’s Wood Underground Station, the nearest to Abbey Road Studios and the Abbey Road Crossing. We will be visiting the new shop on my London Beatles Walks http://www.beatlesinlondon.com
When it comes to possessing a thorough knowledge of the movements of the Beatles, there are few who can surpass Richard Porter. Dubbed the “Beatles Brain of Britain,” his personal kinship with John, Paul, George and Ringo makes the London tours he conducts for London Walks some of the most popular in the city. After more than 20 years and guiding around 150,000 visitors, Richard’s lead is the one to heed. His personal knowledge adds an element of credibility that is unavailable elsewhere. – USA Today
One of the biggest kicks I get out of doing my London Beatles Walks is meeting people with Beatles connections and hearing their stories. Some highlights include the day some of the original Apple Scruffs turned up. Amongst them was Gayleen Pease, who one day was outside Abbey Road Studios when Paul McCartney came out and said, “Can any of you sing?” Gayleen and her friend Lizzie said yes. Then Paul said, “Would you like to come inside and sing with us?” The Beatles were recording Across The Universe and wanted some female singers to do backing vocals. It was late at night and there were no professionals around. Therefore they asked the fans instead. It was great hearing this story from someone who was actually there.
Another such occasion happened recently. A guy from Sweden on the tour and he told me he sang on the video of Hey Jude in 1968! He kindly sent me an account of his wonderful day, plus the invite he received from Apple. Here is his story.
“I was 19 years old travelling in Europe by car, at this time I was staying in my car at a parking place located at Trafalgar Square.
I was invited by a girl from Apple, whom I met on Oxford Street, to perform Hey Jude together with the Beatles on 4th September 1968. Of course my answer was YES!
I had to sign an agreement saying that I’m not going to be paid (See picture)
We were a group of ordinary people asked to perform the last part of Hey Jude standing besides The Beatles for the BBC. David Frost was the host. There was a symphony orchestra playing too.
They recorded the song about five six times for the TV show and in the meantime they sang a lot of classical songs like Tea for Two, Tom Dooley etc. This went on from about 6pm to a couple of hours after midnight. They seemed to have very fun together and played and sang and joked a lot together. They talked to us now and then. Paul was gave a lot of hugs to young girls and George went around talking to people, as did Ringo. John was more quiet and very tight together with Yoko, except when he was performing Hey Jude.
Earlier they performed Revolution for TV without any audience, but they were watching and discussed the result of the video when we were there. I was standing close to John, watching the video for Revolution. He made many positive comments to us. (I still have my clothes, which have been touched byJohn. Crazy, but a big thing for me). George was smoking a lot (Kent). George gave his phone number to a guy from US who asked for an interviewfor his schoolwork. George was saying he was very occupied with an album at the moment but told him to call later.
I also met George Martin years later and he have signed the agreement.
Here is a great film about the Abbey Road Crossing – made by Chris Purcell, and narrated by the great Roger McGough, with a little help from me! I narrated a couple of lines too – that’s me saying the line about Neil Armstrong :>)
I love the way the film captures people doing weird things on the crossing. “Somebody spoke, and I went into a dream”
I’m often asked on my London Beatles Walks where and when the Beatles first played in London. I wish there was an easy answer! It looks like it was in the early hours of December 10th 1961, but how many of the Beatles actually got onstage, and where it was, remains something of a mystery to this day!
The Beatles came down to the south of England on December 9th 1961, to play at the Aldershot Palais. The Beatles were looking to get a recording contract but could not encourage any record company people to travel from London to Liverpool to see them. Therefore, a good friend of theirs, Sam Leach, who was also a concert promoter, decided to book them into a club in the London area and invite some record company people along. Sam’s geography was not very good – the place he booked them into, the Aldershot Palais, was some 30 miles from London. No record company people would even travel that far to see them, so that idea didn’t work.
The Beatles’ problems didn’t end there. Due to a mix up between Sam Leach and the local newspaper, the advert that Sam sent them for the concert was not printed. When the Beatles arrived at the Palais that night, there was no one there at all because no one knew about the show.
To try to get some sort of crowd at the Palais it was decided that all the local clubs and pubs in the area should be visited to persuade people to come along. No one had to pay to get in, but only 18 people showed up – surely the lowest ever attendance for a Beatles concert! After the show the concert hall owner refused to pay the Beatles as no one had paid to get in. They were extremely broke at the time and couldn’t afford a hotel room in Aldershot. They messed around in the concert hall for a few hours until the concert hall owner, keen to go home for the night, called the police, who not only escorted the Beatles out of the hall but out of Aldershot too!
Rather than have an overnight trip back to Liverpool, the Beatles decided to make the far shorter trip into London. According to Sam Leach, they remembered that an old friend of theirs, Brian Cassar, who used to belong to a group called Cass and the Cassanovas, had moved from Liverpool to London and opened a club called the Blue Gardenia. Luckily, the club stayed open all night and so they headed straight there. When they arrived Brian asked them to get on stage and sing a few songs. It was the Beatles’ first performance in London.
Or that is one version of the story. Regrettably, the location of the Blue Gardenia remains a mystery to this day. As the club was illegal it didn’t register with any local authorities, so there are no official records of its location. In fact, there is now some doubt to whether the club even existed, and Sam Leach confused it with another club! In his extensive biography on the Beatles ‘Tune In’, Mark Lewisohn now thinks that the Beatles actually went to the ‘All Nighter’, in Wardour Street, which is the name the Flamingo Club changed it’s name to after midnight. He also states that only John and Paul got onstage, with the band that happened to be playing there that night.
I have been trying to get to the bottom of this story for years, and had no luck. However, a few years ago, a lady came into the Beatles Coffee Shop and said that she knew where the Blue Gardenia was! She said she used to go there, and that it was in Wardour Mews, just off Wardour Street, in the same building as another club, called the ‘Take Five’. I have since found reference to the Take Five club, but still none of the Blue Gardenia, though maybe it did exist after all. There is also a reference to it on Bill Harry website at http://www.triumphpc.com/mersey-beat/a-z/cassanovas-earlymemories2.shtml – though, regettably, no address.
One person who could throw some light on this is Brian Cassar. After the Blue Gardenia club, he changed his name and formed a band called Casey Jones and the Engineers. The lead guitarist was a young man called Eric Clapton (whatever happened to him!). They played a few gigs in Liverpool, at which time Eric saw the great power trio, The Big Three, and though it would be a great model for a band. The Big Three were actually formed when Brian Cassar left Cass and the Cassanovas to come to London, and the rest of band carried on as a trio. Brian Cassar (Casey Jones) then moved to Germany, and then seemed to disappear. However, at the last Beatles Convention in Liverpool, Mark Lewisohn interviewed Johnny Hutch, formerly of Cass and the Cassanovas and the Big Three, who said he knew where Brian Cassar was. Hopefully he can be tracked down, and the mystery forever solved!
Guide to the Beatles London by Richard Porter is now available in print, on Amazon Kindle, and iBooks Store!
It has been fully revised since the print version, with many more places, stories and photos!
The sixties were a fun time when everything came together, and London was fab – it really was then, … it was really jumping. And there were The Beatles and the pirate radio stations and all that, and a general loosening up. Of course the war had gone by then and rationing had finished so people started throwing their legs in the air and having a good time. It was a good place to be, around London, in the sixties.Kenny Everett, DJ and producer of the Beatles Christmas records
About the Book
walking tour of Beatles sites in Central London and also details of sites further out from the centre
maps and directions how to get there
an essential souvenir of the London Beatles walking tours, plus an independent guide to many more Beatles places in London not visited on the tours
scores of previously unpublished and rare photos, including The Beatles at their homes and in Abbey Road Studios
stories from people who worked with the Beatles, including Alistair Taylor, Brian Epstein’s personal assistant, top record producer Alan Parsons and top DJ Kenny Everett
written by Richard Porter – professional Beatles tour guide, former editor ‘Off the Beatle Track’ magazine and renowned Beatles expert
unique content and professional design make it an ideal momento of your trip to London, or a special present for your Beatle fan friend!
Contents: The book is divided into the followings sections
The Story of The Beatles in London. A chronological history from their first visit to London to their break-up.
A walking tour of The Beatles London. A three hour walking tour around major Beatles locations in Central London.
Drive My Car. Other Beatles locations in and around London.
Further Information for Beatles Fans. More information of use to Beatles fans coming to London.
Places included in the book include Abbey Road Studios, the former Apple building at 3 Savile Row, the Beatles homes, offices, recording studios and many others. However, the book is more about the people that frequented the buildings, rather than the buildings themselves.