On Wednesday 21st August 2013, I visited London and went on a Beatles sites tour, as well as visiting a few other places in the capital along the way.
BBC Television Centre
First up on our trip around London was the BBC television centre. After arriving in the capital city, we got on the tube and headed to White City station. A short distance from the station we saw the iconic and easily recognisable building. Opened on June 29th 1960, it was the headquarters of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for nearly 53 years, right up until its closure in March of this year. Much of the building is listed and the television centre is still one of the most recognisable facilities of its kind in the world.
Loftus Road, home of Queens Park Rangers
Just around the corner from the television centre is Loftus Road, the home of Championship club Queens Park Rangers. The stadium has been the home of the Hoops since 1917, having originally been occupied by Shepherd’s Bush FC since its opening in 1904. QPR have spent three separate spells at the ground, between 1917 and 31, 33 to 62 and 1963 to the present day. It was also temporarily the home of Fulham FC as well as the home of London Wasps Rugby Club in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Obviously, we were unable to get inside to take photos but it was still nice to get a feel for the outside of the stadium – spending some time walking around and also having a look in the club shop. Certainly a place I will return to for a match at some point!
6 Denmark Street, former home of the Sex Pistols
We came across our next location after heading back into central London. 6 Denmark Street, now Vintage Guitars Shops, was in the mid-70’s the home and place of rehearsal for the Sex Pistols. Malcolm McLaren, the bands manager, acquired the room from rock group ‘Badfinger’s manager Bill Collins and the Pistols rehearsed here for around 2 years, recording their first demos and also making recordings with their first producer Dave Goodman.
The Cambridge Pub
Another Sex Pistols location is just around the corner from Denmark Street. The Cambridge Pub is where the band often drank and is most notable for being the place where bass guitarist Glen Matlock came up with the idea for the song “Pretty Vacant” from their first only album.
Berwick Street – Oasis “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory” album cover recreated
One of the main places on our list for this trip was Berwick Street. This is the place where the album cover for Oasis’ second studio album “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?” was shot. The cover famously shows two men passing each other on the street, those men being London DJ Sean Rowley and album producer Owen Morris. Berwick Street was selected as the location due to it being a popular place for record shops at the time and once we had found it, we of course attempted the recreate this iconic photograph. You can view my efforts in the photos below.
McCartney Production Ltd. (MPL)
After spending the morning looking at some other locations, we met up with our tour guide outside the Dominion Theatre and headed off on the Beatles Walking Tour. First up was the London offices of McCartney Production Limited (MPL). Located in Soho Square, this is the headquarters of the Paul McCartney empire. MPL owns the rights to over 100 years worth of music, which includes all of Buddy Holly’s catalogue. Remarkably, McCartney does not own the rights to the Beatles songs as they were famously bought by Michael Jackson in 1985. There is also a recording studio in the basement of this building which is an exact copy of the Abbey Road studio 2, where the Beatles often recorded.
Trident Studios is a famous recording studio in London, used by many famous artists including the Beatles. Unlike the Abbey Road studios, Trident used an 8-track machine rather than just 4-track. The Beatles recorded ‘Hey Jude’ on 31st July 1968 at these studios and the band also recorded White Album tracks ‘Dear Prudence’, ‘Savoy Truffle’, ‘Honey Pie’ and ‘Martha My Dear’ here. Other artists to record here include Queen, David Bowie, Elton John, Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, Rod Stewart and many more. The song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen was also recorded at this studio.
John Lennon’s “ad lav” toilets
These gentleman’s toilets on Broadwick Street are where John Lennon performed a sketch called “Not Only But Also” with comedian Peter Cook in November 1966. Notably, this was the first time that Lennon appeared in front of the media wearing his now legendary small round framed glasses.
90 Wardour Street was the site of the Marquee Club from 1964 to 1988. Almost every major rock band played on this famous small stage during these years – including the likes of Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Rolling Stones. The Stones played their first ever live show at this club on 12th July 1962. Keith Moon, the legendary drummer of ‘The Who’ has a blue plaque outside the site of the club recognising that he performed here in the 1960’s.
Spirit of Soho Mural
This mural, completed in 1991 as a dedication to the people of the Soho community, was inspired by and done in the style of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album cover.
Bag O’ Nails
Situated on 9 Kingly Street, the Bag O’ Nails club was a music venue in the 1960’s . It was a popular meeting place for Paul McCartney, Neil Aspinall and roadie Mal Evans. Paul met his future wife Linda Eastman in this club on 15th May 1967, while it was also an early venue played by Jimi Hendrix. There are plaques in the clubs entrance recognising both these events. In 2013, the club re-opened with this name and is once again an exclusive members club.
3 Saville Row, rooftop concert location
3 Saville Row was the location of the Apple offices, the Beatles’ business, from 1968 to 1975. The final ever live performance by the Beatles, known as “the rooftop concert”, was held on top of this building on 30th January 1969. The group played for 42 minutes and it was filmed for the ‘Let It Be’ documentary. The performance was ended by the police and the final words were famously spoken by John Lennon, saying “I hope we passed the audition.”
Abbey Road had probably the biggest impact on the history of the Beatles. The group first visited Abbey Road studios on 6th June 1962, when Pete Best was still their drummer, for an audition with George Martin. Martin gave the group an EMI recording contract, but before their first single ‘Love Me Do’ was recorded at the studios, Ringo Starr had replaced Best on drums. However, Starr in fact didn’t play on the first ever single, Martin instead choosing session drummer Andy White to play on the recording.
The Beatles’ first album ‘Please Please Me’ was recorded in the studios, incredibly in just one day! All 12 other Beatles studio albums were subsequently recorded in these studios, including the album named after them – ‘Abbey Road’, released on 26th September 1969. The cover of this photo is one of the most famous of all time and has made Abbey Road the tourist attraction it has now become, depicting the group crossing the zebra crossing outside the studio.
The idea for the cover was first sketched by Paul McCartney and the photographs were taken by photographer Iain Macmillan on 8th August 1969. He was given only 10 minutes to take the photos, stood on a stepladder whilst a policeman held up traffic. Six photographs were taken and the image selected for the cover shows the group crossing from left to right, led by Lennon with Starr, McCartney and Harrison following. The person stood by the black police van in the image is Paul Cole, an american tourist who appears in the background and did not realise he had been involved in one of the most famous album covers of all time until months later!
Today, the crossing has become a major tourist attraction and it was the final stop on our Beatles walking tour. Tourists from all over the world attempt to recreate the photo, often holding up frustrated on-coming traffic in the process! We managed to get a few photos on the crossing which can be viewed below. I was delighted to visit Abbey Road, one of the most iconic places in the world and a must-see for every Beatles fan.
With the Beatles tour completed, it was almost time to head home. However, there was still time for a quick stop off at Piccadilly Circus, one of London’s most famous locations, to get a couple of photographs! This is the second time I have been here having previously visiting in 2006.