Welcome to my new blog. I am Richard Porter. I am a full time Beatles tour guide in London, and also own the Beatles Coffee Shop at St John’s Wood Station, the nearest to Abbey Road.
I really became a fan in 1976 when I was 13 years old. EMI re-released all the Beatles singles and they all reached the top 100 of the British charts at once. Of course, they were played on the radio a lot, and I thought they were great. My first Beatles record was The Red Album and I went on to buy all the singles and albums in 2 years – not bad when I just earned pocket money from my parents.
At first I was very isolated in my Beatle fandom. My interest coincided with the punk rock boom and all the other boys in school were in to the Sex Pistols and the Clash. Being a Beatles fan was not regarded as hip! Also I didn’t really realise there were so many other fans around.
All that changed on that awful day in December 1980. John’s death really devastated me and I didn’t have anyone to share my grief with. I therefore put an ad for penpals in Beatles Monthly and was amazed by the number of replies I received. It was through a penpal that I heard about the Beatles convention to be held in Liverpool in August 1981. I was amazed that such a thing existed and arranged to go.
That convention was a real revelation to me. There must have been over 1000 like minded fans there – I was not alone! The abiding memory of that convention is when Victor Spinetti unveiled a statue of John and everyone sang Give Peace a Chance. It was a really moving moment.
A few months later another penpal told me he’d met Paul McCartney regularly outside a recording studio in Oxford Street, London. Now Oxford Street is the busiest shopping street in London, and I didn’t even know there was a studio there. Of course, I later found out it was AIR Studios, which was owned by George Martin.
One weekday evening I arranged to meet my friend and several others outside the studio. I’d only been there 10 minutes when the unmistakable figure of Paul McCartney emerged from the building. Paul chatted to us for several minutes and I got him to sign my Paul McCartney and Wings book. Paul was at AIR for many months during that period and I got to meet him several times.
I started writing for Beatles fanzines and when those fanzines ceased publication I decided to start my own fan club with two old friends. The London Beatles Fanclub was born in November 1988.
As Editor of the magazine I got to meet and interview many Beatles-related people, such as Kenny Everett, Alan Parsons, Alistair Taylor, and Alf Bicknell.
I also started corresponding with Beatles fans around the world. One was Irina Dyomkina, who ran the Moscow Beatles Fanclub. Irina moved to London in the early 1990s and became the secretary of the London Beatles Fanclub. We married in June 2004. Irina is now a fully qualified London ‘Blue Badge’ guide.
After a while members of the club started asking me where various London Beatles landmarks were. Obviously, I knew the major ones, but started researching some more obscure sights. I discovered someone was actually guiding tour of London Beatles sights, so I went along on one. The guide seemed very impressed at my knowledge and asked me to guide the tours for him. Of course, I said yes. I just did Sunday tours to start with, but after leaving University decided to take up guiding full time. I’ve now been guiding tours for well over 20 years.
In those 20 years I’ve met Beatles fans from all over the world. It never ceases to amaze me how universal the appeal of the Beatles is. Just last year I did a tour for two guys from North Korea. Despite the huge risks involved, they had managed to escape across the border into South Korea. They immediately became Beatles fans and had a dream to come to England to see all the main Beatles places. They were very emotional when I showed them places like the inside of Trident Studios, where the Beatles recorded Hey Jude (normally we don’t go inside on tours, but this was a special occasion!) and the Abbey Road Crossing.
On August 8th 2009, I organised a special tour to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road for the famous album cover picture. I want to cross exactly 40 years to the minute since the Beatles. I asked a Beatles tribute band ‘Sgt Pepper’s Only Dartboard Band to dress as the Beatles were on the album cover and lead us across. Just before the day, a realised that ‘Ripley’s Believe it Or Not’ in London owned a replica of John Lennon’s psychedelic Rolls Royce, so we borrowed it for the day for the Band to arrive at the crossing in the car.
Word spread fast what we were planning, and a few days before I started getting calls and emails from TV companies wanting to cover the event. In the end, we had at least 250 people turn up for the tour, (luckily I had a couple of other guides to help!) and there must have been well over 2000 people around the crossing. In the end, the police closed Abbey Road to traffic and there was an impromptu party around the crossing. The event was carried live on BBC News and on stations in the US, Russia, Australia and many, many others.
I have also got to go to some great places. One day a German TV Station rang me to ask me for my help. They were filming in Studio Two at Abbey Road and the roof of 3 Savile Row – and they wanted me to act as technical adviser – and pay me too! Of course I said yes. These places are normally out of bounds for fans and I felt really privileged just being there.
For a long time people kept on asking me when I was going to write a book on The Beatles, and I finally got around to doing it. I found I had so much material on The Beatles’ London haunts, I was only using a fraction of it on the tours. Also I had lots of material from interviews I did for The London Beatles Fanclub, – the book virtually wrote itself. I was very glad when Jeff Jarratt of the Abbey Road Cafe decided to publish it. Jeff worked with The Beatles on the Abbey Road album, and is now a successful producer in his own right.
In 2006, Jeff rang me up, completely out of the blue, and said he was retiring, and would I like to buy the Abbey Road Café! Luckily I had the cash available and Irina and I bought it, and changed its name to the Beatles Coffee Shop. It is situated at St John’s Wood Underground Station, the nearest to Abbey Road Studios and the crossing.
Now I have TWO Beatles-related jobs. It can be very tiring at times – but never boring! Thank you John, Paul, George and Ringo, for giving me this Fab life!
For info on Richard’s London Beatles Walks, please see http://www.beatlesinlondon.com
For info on the Beatles Coffee Shop, please see http://www.beatlescoffeeshop.com
On this blog, I will keep you up to date with news about Beatles-related events in London, and around the world. I will also include some archive material from the London Beatles Fanclub Magazine, that I edited for over 10 years.
If you would like to contribute a news story, or would like to comment about the blog, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope you will enjoy the show!
Richard at Apple