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


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

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

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.

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 His book, Guide to the Beatles London, is available at

An Interview with Rod Davis of the Quarrymen

From the archives of the London Beatles Fan Club Magazine: Rod Davis of the Quarry Men remembers the day that John Lennon met Paul McCartney

  • How did you meet John Lennon for the first time

I met John when I was about four or five years old – I lived in Woolton and if you were church of England you would go to St Peter’s Sunday School. In the same class was Pete Shotton, Nigel Whalley, Ivan Vaughan, Geoff Rhind – about 15 or 20 kids. John and Shotton were always the ones chewing gum or doing something


  • They were the bad boys from the beginning?


Yes they were pushing the limits right from the word go. I lived on the lower part of the hill and they lived on the other side so we weren’t playmates by any means. –


  • Did you always regard John and Pete to be the bad boys?


Quarry Bank was fairly academically oriented so any boy that didn’t pull in the same way as the others stood out a bit. In a comprehensive they wouldn’t have stood out at all. They weren’t desperately wicked but in the context of Quarry Bank they were rebels. To get on in this society you have to conform but John was very lucky that in later life his non-conformity was rewarded.


  • How did you get started in music?


When I was 4 my mother (who I think wanted a daughter) enrolled me in dance classes doing tap and ballet – which is why I’m such a lovely mover now! In the same class was Rita Tushingham. When I was about 6 my sister was born, thank god! – so I hung up ballet shoes. I started playing the piano but it never really inspired me. My brother and I gave up lessons when I sat my 11 plus. I also played the recorder. Then it came to skiffle and my mother and father played the violin and when Rock Island Line came out I tried to find an instrument and they weren’t cheap and I had an uncle that played a fiddle and saw and his brother played the banjo and guitar. Unfortunately for me and maybe fortunately for The Beatles he’d sold the guitar by the time I got there. I came back with a banjo that cost £5 in 1957 which was a lot of money then. I bought it on Sunday and on the Monday morning I went into school and saw Eric Griffiths. I told him about the banjo and he asked me if I wanted to be in a skiffle group. I said yes and that was it!


  • This was the early Quarry Men?.

Yes. I asked who was in it. Eric said ‘well it’s John Lennon, Pete Shotton on the washboard and Bill Smith on the bass. I knew Lennon Shotton and Eric Griffiths very well because Quarry Bank was divided into ‘houses’ and although I wasn’t in the same class we were in the same house. We were together half an hour a day. We think it might have been in march. My dad had a book he kept his mileage in. Eric used to shout out to me which chords to play and eventually some musical talent somewhere took over and I could do it. We went down to John’s mother’s place to practise she would say ‘A banjo! a real banjo – give me that – its better than a blinking guitar’ and she would grab my banjo and show us how to play things. We had great tuition.


  • What did you think of Julia?

Well, my mum and dad were positive towards the music, but she was nice friendly happy person. Especially when we went to Julia’s we used to practise standing in the bath because you can hear yourself in the bathroom better.


  • Do you remember your first gig?

One of the first gigs was at Childwell Golf Club but we may have played at St Peter’s before. I remember it well because our stage uniform was supposed to be white shirts and black jeans – which was where the Black jacks name came from – but lot of parents didn’t allow Jeans -including mine. I went to my friend Mike Rice and he sold me a pair. Zip flies were just coming in and as we were tuning up the zip split so I hung the banjo extremely low and hoped for the best!! I don’t remember anything else about it. The club still have some records from those days so I’m hoping to find out the date. I don’t know how long we were the Black Jacks for. Nigel Whalley’s dad was a member of the club and Nigel became a golf professional. We were asked to play and we changed to the Quarry Men came from the Woolton quarry and from the fact we were from Quarry Bank.


  • Is Quarry Men one word or two?


I was never quite sure – I write it as one word and John Lowe writes it as two. I tend to err on the side as one. The problem with a band is that promoters often get it wrong anyway


  • The Quarry Men had been going a few months before St Peters Church.


Yes. I also want to get in touch with people who have the Quarry Bank school magazine because it would record the dates we played there.


  • On to St Peter’s did you regard it as a big thing?


Yes, it was a different audience you were playing to. Normally we’d only play for a youth audience and its always a difficult thing to play for an audience that you don’t know whether there going to be receptive to what you are doing. We were a bit concerned by it because it was in front of our friends and relations but I don’t remember agonising over it


  • Do you remember much about the day itself?


I remember going around the village on the back of a lorry. I was reading Jim O’Donnell’s book and it came back to me that when the lorry started moving down the hill the lorry jerked and that feeling came back to me. We went down Church Road and Kings Drive and the real problem was we didn’t have a microphone so I don’t know how much we put into the performance on the back of the lorry. The real thing that saddens me is that nobody anywhere seems to have pictures of us on the back of the lorry. I find it astounding because my father later took the official photos for the fete. I’ve got loads of photos from 1958 and 1959 and nothing from 1957. My own dad who photographed every tree, every blade of grass never took a single photograph. I’ve been looking through the negatives I have but there is nothing!


  • Then you went to the church hall where the historic meeting took place.


Well, I have a problem with this. I gather that sometime during the day McCartney saw us playing and Colin Hanton remembers 2 guys turning up. Eric also remembers someone turning up too. Then in the evening we went over to the hall. All of us, was the exception of Len Garry, lived within ten minutes so its quite likely that between the end of the afternoon and the start of the evening I might have gone home for my dinner. I don’t remember anything about the meeting so I’ve starting saying to people for a laugh that I must have gone for a pee! However being more serious I might have gone for my dinner. Also ultimately I was going to out and McCartney in so I might have been the last one to be told. The only thing I’ve got is negative conjecture. That is John and Eric both played guitars right handed with banjo tuning. The idea of Paul showing John things on Eric’s guitar is difficult as that even if he picked up Eric’s guitar and retuned it the problem is he couldn’t have played anything on it as you were either left handed or right handed. You had to be a great musical talent to do that. I asked Eric and he recalled the meeting where Paul impressed them with his guitar playing took place later at Paul’s house – that makes sense to me but it ruins a beautiful story!


  • Many different dates have been put forward for the St Peter’s Church Fete…


The first time I knew what was happening was 1983, I think, when an ad appeared in the Liverpool Echo saying ‘Where are John Lennon’s Quarry Men?’ My aunt sent me this and said ‘Why don’t you get in touch?’ As a result we went to the Beatles Convention at the Adelphi – Colin Hanton went, Len Garry was there but Pete Shotton was in the States promoting his book. We were talking amongst ourselves and Colin was convinced we played at St Peter’s twice. A guy was standing a foot or two behind us and came over and said ‘It was once – on July 6 1957 – my name is Mark Lewisohn and I’ve got all the newspaper cuttings.’ We thought ‘Oh my god – somebody else tells you what you ought to know!’ Mark was an absolute revelation.


  • You also played at the Cavern Club…


I played at the Cavern three or four times. I had an argument on stage with John about playing rock.


  • Was it because you were a ‘folk purist?’


No, its like playing heavy metal to a group of new romantic fans. It was the fact that you’d be torn limb from limb for playing the wrong music to the wrong crowd. Rock music and trad jazz were poles apart and the Cavern was a jazz cellar. I don’t know why John was so keen to be torn apart! We’d had a few narrow escapes before this. It wasn’t that I wanted to be a purist – I wanted to save my skin!


  • Paul McCartney is always telling the story of being told to stop playing rock at the Cavern..


He wasn’t there! It was a rock venue when Paul first played there. When the Quarry Men played he was away at scout camp. I remember arguing with John and Colin remembers about the note coming. John thought he had a request >from the audience but it was a note from the manager saying ‘Cut out the bloody rock!’ John was keen on rock music and every time he was there he wanted to play it. I will admit I was probably less keen on rock than John. Later on I became more interested in folk and country.


  • What did you do when you left the Quarry Men?


My brother and I bought guitars and in Sept 57 there was a jazz pianist at school called Gerald Greenwood and another called Les Brough who had a snare drum and we had a jazz trio.


I’ve known Rod for many years, and met up with him at the 40th Anniversary Celebrations for the Cavern Club. Rod told me all the original Quarrymen were coming, and that I should stick around. I therefore got the first pictures of the Quarrymen together for 40 years!!

Rod Davis, Eric Griffiths, Len Garry, Pete Shotton, Colin Hanton and John 'Duff Lowe' at the Cavern Club
Rod Davis, Eric Griffiths, Len Garry, Pete Shotton, Colin Hanton and John ‘Duff Lowe’ at the Cavern Club


Author Richard Porter is a professional London Beatles Tour Guide – for more info on his tours, see

Me with Gene Simmons in Abbey Road Studios

I’ve been lucky enough to be featured on TV a number of times on my Beatles Walks. The best time though was very special, when I did a tour INSIDE Abbey Road Studios for Gene Simmons and his family, for their TV show ‘Gene Simmons Family Jewels’.

For the show they are ‘on holiday’ in the UK and I gave them a tour of Studio Two at Abbey Road – where The Beatles recorded nearly all their songs. Normally it is impossible to get into the Studios – but Gene’s crew hired Studio Two for the morning. Even though I’d been in Studio Two many times I still get a thrill being inside the place where The Beatles recorded so many songs. I’d also never done a tour inside the Studio, so I knew it was going to be an unforgettable experience.

I was expecting the family to be rather weird and the whole experience very daunting. In Kiss, Gene was known as ‘Demon’ and supposedly spitting blood on stage, however, in real life he is a real gentleman. He is also an enthusiastic and very knowledgeable Beatles fan – something that surprised me as Kiss are know for their heavy rock.

The day of the tour saw London’s first snow of the winter and was freezing cold. I was glad most of the morning was going to be spent inside.

I left for the studios early as I was worried transport would be affected but luckily the buses weren’t too bad and I arrived in good time. When Gene and his family arrived I was asked by their TV crew to meet them on the famous steps of the Studios and lead them inside. They greeted me very courteously and any nerves I had about the occasion disappeared.

We first entered the control room in Studio Two where I told them a bit about The Beatles recording history in the Studios. I was surprised that Gene knew the name of Andy White, the session drummer that played on Love Me Do. Gene told the story of how he met Ringo at a party at literally picked him up. He then demonstrated on me!

We then went down into the Studio itself and I pointed out the various instruments in there which the Beatles used on their sessions, including the piano used on Lady Madonna. Nick played some very nice tunes on the piano. We were amazed to see that the piano had cigarette burns all over it – including on the piano keys! Gene expressed surprise that smoking was allowed in the studios – it seems the whole family are against smoking (another surprise!)

The two hours went by much too quickly. Gene and his family were some of the nicest people I’ve had on a tour. The experience obviously meant more to Gene than the rest of the family, but they all treated me with great respect and listened with interest. They were also just as nice when the cameras were switched off. I told Gene about my book ‘Guide to the Beatles London’ and Gene asked me for a copy, and for me to sign it for him! I was going to ask for his autograph. 

Here is that episode:

For more details on my London Beatles Walks see

Me with Gene Simmons and his family in the control room of Studio Two, Abbey Road Studios
Me with Gene Simmons and his family in the control room of Studio Two, Abbey Road Studios

Give My Regards to Wimpole Street – Where Paul McCartney Lived with the Ashers

Give My Regards to Wimpole St

In an extract from his book ‘Guide to the Beatles London’ Richard Porter tells of the London street where Paul McCartney lived with the Asher Family, and dreamed the tune of ‘Yesterday’

Wimpole Street is a very quiet street in the centre of the medical quarter of London, close to Harley Street – most of the houses are divided into consulting rooms for specialist doctors. It also has literary connections – Elizabeth Barrett lived at number 50 Wimpole Street. She married fellow poet Robert Browning at St Marylebone Church after being kept virtual prisoner in the house for most of her life.

John and Yoko were big fans of the Brownings. Yoko wrote Let Me Count the Ways based on a poem by Elizabeth and John wrote Grow Old With Me, based on a poem by Robert. John apparently saw him and Yoko as re-incarnations of the Brownings. For Christmas 1980 John bought Yoko an original handwriting of Elizabeth Barrett with a portrait framed next to it – he was never able to give them personally to her though…

The quietness of Wimpole Street was interrupted in 1962 when gun shots rang out in nearby Wimpole Mews. 17 Wimpole Mews was the home of Dr Stephen Ward, a society osteopath. Ward had many female friends he liked to introduce to his high society male friends. For instance, he introduced Christine Keeler to John Profumo, Minister of War and also to Major Ivanov of the Russian KGB. Keeler had simultaneous affairs with these two men – at the height of the cold war.

On 14 December 1962 a spurned lover of Keeler, Johnny Edgecombe, arrived at Wimpole Mews with a gun and started shooting. The story was all over the press the next day and finally led to the uncovering of the ‘Profumo Affair’ which led to the resignation of Profumo, the ultimate downfall of the Government and the suicide of Steven Ward. It was alleged by Philip Norman, in his book ‘Shout!’ that the press saw Beatlemania as an antidote to the revelations around the Profumo affair.

Number 57 Wimpole Street is now a private clinic. It just also happens to be where Lennon/McCartney wrote their first US number one and Paul dreamt the tune of the most covered song of all time. The house was bought by the Asher family in 1957 when they moved from a flat in Great Portland Street. Dr Richard Asher was an eminent doctor who specialised in mental health. His wife Margaret was professor of music at Guildhall School of music. She taught a young man called George Martin how to play the oboe. They had three children: Claire and Jane were both actresses and son Peter was a singer.

Jane Asher started acting when only 5 years old and made her film debut soon afterwards. Later, at aged 14, she was the youngest actress to play Wendy in Peter Pan. By 1963 she was a regular on the TV show Juke Box Jury – where celebrities reviewed the records of the week.

On 18 April 1963 Jane did a photographic assignment for Radio Times at a concert called ‘Swinging Sounds ’63’ at the Albert Hall. She sat in the audience with a reporter and a photographer who recorded her reactions. When the Beatles came on stage she screamed. Jane met all four Beatles backstage – apparently all four were very impressed by her – especially George, it was alleged later – but she got on better with Paul. They were seen in public together for the first time shortly afterwards and from then on Paul was continually asked whether he was going to marry Jane. Paul even made fun of this in ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ when answered ‘No, we’re just good friends’ even before the question was asked.

Paul got on very well with the Asher family and jumped at the chance when the Ashers asked him if he would like to make their family home his London base. Paul was given a room at the top of house at the back – it was almost a self contained apartment with its own bathroom. Paul once compared it to an artist’s garret. It had a bed, easy chair, record player and small piano. Under the bed Paul kept his gold records and his MBE! Peter Asher had the room next door and Claire and Jane’s rooms were below. Even though Paul and Jane had separate rooms they regularly slept together – the Asher’s were a very liberal family.

Paul and Jane were often apart. Paul, of course, was often on tour with The Beatles and Jane was often away on acting assignments. Paul seemed to resent that Jane wasn’t there all the time. Jane certainly inspired Paul to write songs: Here There and Everywhere, And I Love Her and Every Little Thing were all about Jane. However, the relationship wasn’t all champagne and roses, he also wrote I’m Looking Through You, For No One and You Won’t See Me about her.

Mr and Mrs Asher were very protective of Paul. Paul’s fans heard where he was living soon after he moved in, and fans camped outside the house almost continually. To help Paul get in and out of the house Dr Asher devised an elaborate escape route for Paul. He had to climb onto a foot wide parapet along to the right and into the flat of a retired colonel at No. 56. He then went right down to the basement flat of a young couple who used to let him through their kitchen window and into their garage. Then Paul went out of the street door by 10 Browning Mews and did a left through an archway into New Cavendish St.

Mrs Asher offered to teach Paul how to read and write music notation but after a few lessons Paul gave up. He still can’t read music notation to this day. However, Mrs Asher did succeed is teaching Paul how to play the recorder. Paul can be heard playing the instrament on Fool on the Hill.

When the nearby Post Office Tower was being built Dr. Asher watched the building’s progress from his bedroom window. Just before it opened he wrote to the owners, the GPO, asking if he could visit the tower with his family. He turned up with Peter and Jane and Paul McCartney! The owners were amazed to see two world famous pop stars and a world famous actress in their new building.

Paul immediately struck up a friendship with Peter and his friend Gordon Waller who sang under the name Peter and Gordon and wrote A World Without Love especially for them. It reached number one in the UK charts. Peter also became involved in a project to start an art gallery and bookshop with two friends Barry Miles and John Dunbar. Paul was also very interested in the project and donated money so it could open. It was called the Indica Art Gallery and was where John met Yoko in November 1966.

Mrs Asher’s music room was in the basement of the house. John Lennon was a regular visitor to the house and he and Paul regularly used the music room to write songs. It was not long after Paul moved in that they wrote I Want to Hold Your Hand down there. Gordon Waller remembers that John was on a pedal organ and Paul on a piano. John later remembered they wrote the song ‘eyeball to eyeball’. They had the ‘you’ve got that something’ line when Paul hit a key on the piano and John looked up and said ‘That’s It!’ – they had the link that made the song.

Early one morning Paul woke up in his bedroom with a tune in his head. He went straight over to the piano he had by the bed to play it. He called the tune Scrambled Eggs. Paul initially thought he was remembering the tune from someone else’s and went around his friends asking if they recognised it. No-one did so Paul finally realised that he had dreamt the tune and wrote some proper words to it. He called it Yesterday.

When Paul actually had this dream seems to confuse him; in two different authorised biographies Paul gives different dates. In Yesterday and Today he said it was late 1963 – in Many Years From Now he states it was 1965.

In 1965 Paul bought a house in Cavendish Avenue, St John’s Wood, just around the corner from Abbey Road. Paul took some time to do it up, with Jane’s help, and they both moved in a few months later. However, they started to drift apart – especially when Jane went on tour to America with the Bristol Old Vic touring company. When Jane came back, Paul was heavily into drugs and Jane didn’t join in.

Paul and Jane announced their engagement on Christmas Day 1967, but broke up in May 1968. Paul wanted Jane to give up her acting career and start a family but she refused.

Tragically, Dr Asher committed suicide at 57 Wimpole Street in 1969. Not surprisingly, the Asher family moved out soon afterwards.

Jane is continuing her very successful acting career and also had her own lifestyle TV programme on the BBC called ‘Good Living’. She is married to cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, who made a satirical papier mache model of The Beatles that was shown on the front cover of Time magazine in 1967.

Peter Asher worked for a time as A and R man of Apple records. Allegedly, when Paul broke up with Jane he stormed into Apple the next morning to sack Peter as an act of revenge – Paul later changed his mind but soon after Peter left Apple with his discovery James Taylor and masterminded his career, along with that of Linda Rondstadt. Peter is now a top record company executive in America.

A few years ago I had the unique opportunity of visiting the house with a reporter from the Times newspaper, who was writing an article on it. The house, at the time, was owned by John Carlotta, who was the former manager of Deep Purple. Throughout the house were many gold records for songs like ‘Smoke on the Water’.

57 Wimpole Street was sold for about two million pounds in the early 2000’s and is now a private clinic.

Richard Porter

57 Wimpole Street is one of the places visited on Richard Porter’s London Beatles Walks. For more information see

Richard’s book ‘Guide to the Beatles London’ is available at the Beatles Coffee Shop, St John’s Wood.

Paul's escape route from his bedroom at 57 Wimpole Street
Paul’s escape route from his bedroom at 57 Wimpole Street
Paul's bedroom at 57 Wimpole Street
Paul’s bedroom at 57 Wimpole Street

An Interview with Robert Whitaker

Robert Whitaker was the official photographer of The Beatles from 1964-1966 and went on many tours with them. His most notorious picture appeared on the US Album ‘Yesterday and Today’ – the infamous ‘Butcher’ cover. 

Here, Bob tells Richard and Irina Porter about  touring with the Beatles, and how the ‘Butcher’ cover came about.

I believe you first met the Beatles in Australia on their 1964 tour. How did that come about?

  • I had to photograph Brian Epstein for a newspaper. There weren’t that many photographers who wanted to photograph Brian Epstein. So all of a sudden I am in the hotel, all of a sudden I met the Beatles.

In Australia they had thousands of people outside the hotel.

Two hundred thousand people.

What was it like getting into the hotel?

  • I cannot remember now, but I think there was a barrier, there was access to the hotel for the guests. You had to have a permission to go. The concierge would know that you had things to do. They knew we were coming, so we got in.

You met the Beatles soon after you met Brian, did you?

  • Yes, the same day. No, the next day.

Then Brian employed you as a photographer after that.

– He wanted to manage me. I said, ‘I don’t want to be managed’. Then six months later I thought, maybe, I do. So I came to England.

You were with them for nearly 2 years.

1964 to 66. Two and a half years.

You went on quite a few tours, did you?

Yeah, I went to America round England, I photographed them in studios here. Then we went to Germany and Japan. That was the end.

This exhibition is on the Japan tour. How different that was compared to, say, America, the year before? Was it more restrained?

  • I think it was the most elegantly promoted exhibition of their work, their music, that was prepared for them. America’s pretty rough and ready – ‘You are here, sing!’ Japan, they really seem to have great respect, so they had a beautiful hotel, nice cars to drive to and from the hotel. Budokan was a nice place. The promoters were very good. And the concerts were fairly restrained because I do not think Beatles fans in Japan knew quite how to scream like in Europe and America. So the Beatles could hear themselves singing. And they realised they were not singing in tune.

They were not used to it, were they?

  • No, they were not.

Were you aware, although the security was very tight because of the death threats, playing in the Budokan, the big martial arts place.

Yes, I’ve just been told it was a judo place, not sumo. I always thought it was sumo.

The Beatles were not allowed out of their hotel.

  • It was not so much a question of not being allowed. I think what the promoter and the security had thought, which is probably bullshit, that they might be mobbed, they might have somebody walk up and blast them

  • As they did eventually, kill John.

In the Anthology they talked about how the Beatles were regimented, how they had to be at a certain place at the certain time to the minute. Were you aware of that at the time?

  • It is evident in some of the photographs around the corner and in the window. They had to be there by the second. Of course, they did not adhere to that. They had to go on stage at a certain time, and it did not actually matter what time they arrived. They knew they were going on stage. I cannot really answer all these questions because I am not a Beatle, in fairness to them.

Was it evident to you at the time that they were fed up with touring?

  • When we got to The Philippines. Then again the whole thing changed again. They’d never been spat at or shoved around, – ‘pick up your own amplifiers, who the hell are you?’. I remember being in the aeroplane and them being very upset what had happened – and it wasn’t really their fault.

You had exclusive access to them in their hotel rooms. Did you become good friends of theirs?

With John – we’d see each other before and after – we were always good friends. Paul in Anthology I thought wrote very well about the ‘butcher sleeve’. George was always a bit against it. Ringo was always good fun. We all got on – we were all close in age. I was about 6 months older than John.

There are some very good photos in your book of The Beatles painting together. Was that their idea?

Pretty well, yes, what happened was that because they were impounded in their hotel, Paul had asked for some paints and started painting all sorts of things. The promoter suggested they all did a piece of artwork together that could be given away to charity. He provided all the paint all the brushes beautiful paper and we stuck a lamp in the middle of this paper – it was the only source of light I had to work with. It took two nights and days to do it. Whilst they were doing it they were playing an acetate of Revolver and deciding on the order of the tracks.

I wanted to ask you about two people who passed away recently that I’m sure you knew – Alf Bicknell and Alistair Taylor.

Alistair’s dead? I saw Alistair in Liverpool last year and he was very sad he wasn’t mentioned once in Anthology even though he did do a great deal of work for The Beatles. He was in Brian’s office and they didn’t see what output that Alistair put in.

Alf and I were in a car together in Manila and I’m screaming away and I’ve got a gun stuck in my neck. Guns don’t bother me and they weren’t going to shoot me – but Alf was panicking. I was very fond of Alf and I saw him last year and spoke to him about 3 weeks before he died because he asked me for some photos of him with The Beatles and they are not that easy to find. I’ve got one or two with him. There’s one of him on a plane with them.

I’m very sad to hear of Alistair – really liked him.

Do you ever see Paul and Ringo?

I haven’t seen Paul since 1966. I saw Ringo at the Genesis book launch recently. I hope to see Paul one day as I hope to congratulate on all the good things he’s done since.

I wanted to ask about the infamous ‘Butcher Cover’. The picture was your idea, to show they were human….

To show they were flesh and blood – which is what they are. Some people would saw them as saints, which they weren’t. I also found that every time we got off the stage girls would have ripped them to bits, had they got the chance, torn them to pieces – that was something to do with the meat. The dolls are really little girls screaming away. There are a lot of false things there like false teeth, false dolls eyes. It was never meant to be the cover.

What is John’s idea to have it as the cover?

No, the images were snatched as soon as I had finished them and sent to America without asking me how I wanted to see it. The sausages are meant to be an umbilical chord coming out of a woman and the whole thing would be put inside the womb of a woman. All you would have had on the record cover was a breast, nipple and big tummy. Inside the tummy is The Beatles holding the umbilical chord. Around all of that would have been transfers of little people blowing trumpets, as they do in frescos. There is another picture of George banging nails into John’s head – he would have had wood grain put over his head so he would be a piece of wood – George would be banging nails into a piece of wood. Another of Ringo being unpacked from a box. Written on the box is ‘2 million’. He would have been a piece of alabaster plaster. The whole thing would have been falseness, dummies, unreality. The back cover would have been the butcher picture, about 2 inches square and the rest of it would have been gold, like a Russian icon that canonises them. I was thinking of Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments and finding people worshipping the golden calves – like people did to The Beatles, treating them like gods, but they are not.

What was your reaction to the furore around the sleeve?

I thought it was not my fault! If they had asked me what the artwork was I don’t think it would have been that frightening. I don’t blame people for being upset about it. But as it turns out it actually released John to say that they were pissed off looking like pretty little boys all the time and that they were human beings. It gave them a release.

There is a lot written about the ‘butcher’ sleeve and very little I’ve said about it. I’ve never written anything by hand. It’s nearly 40 years ago since I did it and it’s hard to recreate the train of thought when I did it.

You were involved in Oz magazine later

Yes, I knew Martin Sharpe and we did the D’Isreali Gears cover together. Martin came to England and we lived together in a studio. Richard Neville then came over and we all knew each other and we decided to start Oz here. It was a whole new episode, but a great one – it was great fun, pioneering satire, taking the piss out of the British Empire.

From 1966 to 1970 I went around the world about 15 times doing various assignments, like Mick Jagger in Ned Kelly. I lived with Salvador Dali. The Beatles were a strong 2 ½ years out of 10 years of work. They fill up a third of my archive.

How do you feel about being associated with The Beatles and your other work not so well known.

I did an exhibition where we put some Vietnam pictures next to Beatles ones, Cream, Jagger etc. For the first time I was actually asked questions about being a photographer and not about The Beatles. I get very upset when I give an interview and all I’m asked is what did The Beatles think – as I am not a historian or a Beatle.

What was the most memorable thing about working with The Beatles.

To be able to answer that and pick out one thing I like is difficult as I’ve never done anything I didn’t like. To say is this picture better than another one is hard. I enjoyed photographing Salvador Dali better than The Beatles because he was more humorous. Although I learnt about photo journalism because of my time with The Beatles and recording what they did.

Richard Porter is author of the book ‘Guide to the Beatles’ London’ conducts regular Beatles tours of London. For more information please see


The infamous 'Butcher' cover - as photographed by Robert Whitaker
The infamous ‘Butcher’ cover – as photographed by Robert Whitaker

October 5th 1962 – The Beatles Release ‘Love me Do’

On October 5th 1962, the Beatles first single ‘Love Me Do’ was released. On the Parlophone ‘red label’, it featured the Beatles recording made on September 4th 1962, with Ringo Starr on drums. This was significant, as originally, the Beatles producer George Martin wasn’t happy with Ringo’s drumming that day, and had the Beatles remake ‘Love Me Do’ on September 11th with session drummer Andy White on drums. Ringo was given a tambourine to bang, much to his ever lasting chagrin.  When it came to the original release though, Ringo’s version was chosen.

Things became confusing months later when Parlophone changed its record label to a black one, and at the same time, substituted the Andy White version of  ‘Love Me Do’ as the single. This led to a big mistake decades later. On October 5th 2012, EMI were due to re-release  ‘Love Me Do’ on its 50th anniversary, in an identical packaging and recording to the original release. We were sent copies of the new single to sell in the Beatles Coffee Shop. However, just 2 days before the release date, we were send an email from EMI to say the release had been cancelled to a ‘production problem’ and that we should send the singles back. Curious to what the problem was, I took a copy home and played it. The ‘problem’ was obvious right from the first few seconds – it was the wrong version of  ‘Love Me Do’! They had used the September 11th with Andy White on drums.

Because of the problem, the re-release of  ‘Love Me Do’ was delayed for several weeks, so missed the 50th anniversary. Rather than send all the copies we had of the rejected version back, I kept a couple. (shhh, don’t tell anyone!)

There have been some more succesful celebrations of the release of ‘Love Me Do’ on its anniversaries.  On the 30th anniversary, I was invited to a special party in Studio Two at Abbey Road. As well as celebrating the anniversary, the British Council launched its new Beatles exhibition, including a video that included a section of me and members of the London Beatles Fanclub having a meeting at the Liverpool Beatles convention.

At the party, Apple MD Neil Aspinall, and reps from EMI, cut the 30th anniversary cake, which had been baked by Paul McCartney’s ex, Jane Asher!

Paul McCartney at Abbey Road Studios, October 5th 1982, the 20th anniversary of the release of Love Me Do
Paul McCartney at Abbey Road Studios, October 5th 1982, the 20th anniversary of the release of Love Me Do
The cake to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Love Me Do - as designed by Jane Asher!
The cake to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Love Me Do – as designed by Jane Asher!

October 4th 1963 – The Beatles on Ready Steady Go!

October 4th 1963 – The Beatles made their debut appearance on Ready, Steady, Go!

Broadcast on the ITV network, initially just in London, RSG! was British television’s leading pop music show at the time. The 4 October 1963 episode was broadcast live, with the performers miming to their hits, a typical situation for the time.

The show was recorded at Television House on London’s Kingsway. During the afternoon The Beatles rehearsed for the cameras, and recording took place from 6.15pm onwards. The Beatles mimed to Twist and Shout, She Loves You, and I’ll Get Tou and were interviewed by guest host,  Dusty Springfield, and host Keith Fordyce.  Also, Paul McCartney judged four teenage girls miming to Brenda Lee’s ‘Let’s Jump the Broomstick, choosing 13-year-old Melanie Coe as winner. Three years later, after Coe’s disappearance from her family made the front page of the Daily Mirror.  McCartney used the article as the basis for ‘She’s Leaving Home’.

The Beatles with Dusty Springfield, Eden Kane, Keith Fordyce, and Helen Shapiro on Ready Steady Go
The Beatles with Dusty Springfield, Eden Kane, Keith Fordyce, and Helen Shapiro on Ready Steady Go


3rd October 1964 – the Beatles on Shindig

On this day in 1964, the Beatles filmed a special live performance for the American TV show ‘Shindig!’ at the Granville Theatre in Fulham. The songs included Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey and I’m a Loser, from the forthcoming ‘Beatles For Sale’ album, which wouldn’t be released for another month.

The Granville Theatre, in Walham Green, Fulham, was opened in 1898 and designed by Frank Matcham, who designed many other theatres, such as the London Palladium. It was knocked down in 1971.


The Granville Theatre, one of Frank Matcham's most gothic designs.
The Granville Theatre, one of Frank Matcham’s most gothic designs.