Tuesday, March 24, 2009


The Beatles' London:
Abbey Road Studios and 3 Savile Row

Today I decided to play tourist and fulfil a long-time ambition by visiting two Beatles landmarks: Abbey Road Studios and 3 Saville Row.

Abbey Road Studios

Finding Abbey Road is easy. Leave the London Underground at St. John`s Wood Station. You'll find Grove End Road directly in front of you.

Walk for about seven minutes and you come to a war monument in the middle of an intersection. Turn sharp right and gasp! there you are! face to face with the most famous road crossing in the world.

You must be either insane or a confirmed Beatlemaniac - not that there's any difference - to be excited by a road crossing. But I must admit I was quite overcome with emotion for a minute. In fact tears streamed down my face as I stood on this spot.

It's no exaggeration to say that - musically and culturally - The Beatles have meant everything to me and changed my life in ways I cannot begin to describe. They represent one of the premier cultural experiences of my life and have given me more pure joy than any other performer or artist.

There are those who will scoff at that, but there it is.

Thus it was that - trying to pretend I wasn't silly - I walked across the famous crosswalk a few times to convince myself I was really there.
Just a few yards past the crossing is the legendary Abbey Road Studios where The Beatles cut most of their classic songs. This was the crucible which produced There's a Place, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, She Said, She Said, Day in the Life, and Hey Jude. Those songs are almost holy writ to a fan like me, as they are to millions of others.

Together with a few other Beatlemaniacs I stood and gaped at the nondescript white building. Seeing it is something like visiting Picasso's studio or Shakespeare's birthplace. I recognized the steps leading up to the studios from old interviews I'd seen with Lennon and McCartney.

Unfortunately there are no organized tours of the studios and entry is forbidden. Too bad. What I would have given for ten minutes in Studio One, where the band recorded.

As I left Abbey Road I had a lump in my throat and I gave thanks for the huge effect The Beatles had on my life. When I was five years old their debut album made a cataclysmic impact on me. Now I'm pushing fifty and perhaps the last music I ever hear will be a Beatles song. The circle will be complete and that'll be fine by me.

Savile Row

There isn't much to see at 3 Savile Row, but this was the original headquarters of Apple Records, background to Allen Klein's hostile take over of the Beatles in 1969 and the point where the split between McCartney and Lennon/Harrison/Starr became final. If you want to know all the grisly details, read Peter McCabe and Robert D. Sconfeld's superb Apple to the Core.

The building's frontage has hardly changed over the years, and will be familiar to viewers of The Beatles Anthology series since it features prominently in the episode dealing with the group's breakup. Assorted 'Apple Scruffs' can invariably be seen hanging around outside Number 3 in the hope of catching a glimpse of their heroes.

3 Savile Row is of course the location of the famous rooftop concert which is the band's final live performance and the highlight of the depressing Let it Be movie. The Beatles, Mary Hopkin, Badfinger, James Taylor and others all recorded in the building's basement studio.

Naturally you can't mention Savile Row without referring to tailoring. This is where The Beatles had all their famous suits fashioned by Nutters, the first shop to pioneer 'open' windows. John, Paul and Ringo are all wearing Nutters' suits on the cover of Abbey Road.



Fanny said...

Very touching Shiffi. I haven't been here for a while, but I see you have been busy.

Ringo'sMum said...

I'd be interested to know why or how the Beatles mean so much to you. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan too, but a glimpse into the psyche of a Beatelmaniac might be revealing?

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, like the cavern club, it isn't the same zebra crossing. It's been moved :(