Magical Mystery Tour: A Beatles Bonanza in London
A self guided walk for all Fab Four Fans!
A short walk from St John’s Wood Underground station is the most famous black and white section of road in the world: Abbey Road zebra crossing. Immortalised in 1969 on the cover of the Beatles’ 11th studio album, Abbey Road, the image of the Fab Four using the crossing has become one of the most imitated in history – we would hate to be a motorist in this area, there are constantly people posing in the middle of the road! The crossing was given grade II listed status in 2010 for “cultural and historical importance”, as was Abbey Road Studios.
Abbey Road Studios are just over the road at number 3. The building itself is Georgian, dating from 1931, and the recording studio was founded in 1931. Upon opening, the studios were used by Edward Elgar to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra, and have been home to so many music legends including Ella Fitzgerald, Cliff Richard, Cilla Black, the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, David Bowie, Adam Ant, U2, Kylie Minogue, Oasis, Amy Winehouse, and Adele.
The long white wall out front is covered with graffiti, drawings and Beatles lyrics. It is repainted regularly to make room for more, so be sure to leave a message of peace and love!
Once you’ve finished peering through the studio fence and dodging traffic on the crossing, it’s time to hit up some other famous Beatles sites in London :
· Paul McCartney’s House – 5 minutes walk from Abbey Road Studios, 7 Cavendish Avenue has been Paul McCartney’s London home since 1966.
· Now walk 20 minutes to Marylebone Station - head to Boston Place on the eastern side of the station to run in the footsteps of the Beatles, like they did at the start of the A Hard Day’s Night film.
· Just up the road at 231-233 Baker St, Marylebone is the London Beatles Store, the go to place for Beatles merch. They have EVERYTHING from postcards and badges to real collector’s items. A must for all Beatlemaniacs looking for souvenirs.
· 5 minutes further down Baker street at number 94 is the former site of the Beatles short lived (8 months!) failed business enterprise, the Apple Boutique.
· 5 minutes walk from here at 34 Montagu Square is Ringo’s former flat, which he rented out to Paul, John (and Yoko) and Jimi Hendrix. It has a blue plaque, unveiled by Yoko Ono in 2010, saying “John Lennon lived here in 1968”
· Not far is 57 Wimpole Street, the home of Jane Asher’s (Paul’s then girlfriend) family in the 1960s, where I Want To Hold Your Hand was written, and where Paul woke up with the tune for Yesterday in his head.
· Time for a 15 minute walk to Oxford Circus and the London Palladium. It was here that Beatlemania was born, when the boys took to the stage in 1963 and Britain was stunned by the hysterical reaction of their fans. Just next door at Sutherland House, look out for a blue plaque marking Brian Epstein’s office. It was here in 1966 that John Lennon told the Evening Standard that the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus”.
· 8 minutes away at 17 St Anne’s Court is Trident Studios where Hey Jude was recorded, as well as several White Album tracks and solo material by George and Ringo.
· Just 2 minutes away at 1 Soho Square is the headquarters for MPL or McCartney Production Ltd. Complete with recording studio in the basement, this is Paul’s London office for his business empire, handling his post Beatles work and his massive music publishing company.
· 5 minutes away at 63 Old Compton Street is where Dougie Millings & Son used to stand, known the world over as The Beatles’ Tailor, and creator of their famous collarless suits. Fans used to camp outside to watch for the boys coming to collect their clothes. It’s now a (non Beatles themed) café.
· Walk 4 minutes to Leicester Square and the Prince of Wales Theatre, where during their performance at the 1963 Royal Variety Show, John Lennon famously asked audience members not in the cheaper seats (including the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret) to “rattle yer jewellery.”
· A hop, skip and a jump brings you to 1 Piccadilly Circus. Now hosting the Bodyworlds exhibition, (and until recently the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum), the London Pavilion was a cinema from the 30s until the 80s and saw the premieres of four out of five Beatles films: A Hard Day’s Night, Help!, Yellow Submarine, and Let it Be.
· Walk up Regent’s Street and turn left on Vigo Street until you reach 3 Savile Row, the former home of Apple Corps Headquarters. On January 30th 1969, the Beatles gave their last ever public performance on top of this building.
· From here, walk 7 minutes to 6 Mason’s Yard. Now home to James Hyman Fine Art, the basement used to be the site of the The Indica Art Gallery, where in 1966 John first met Yoko at an exhibition of her work.
· Retrace your steps back to Piccadilly and walk for 15 minutes along Green Park until you reach the Hard Rock Café. This was the first HRC in the world, and is home to the Vault Rock and Roll Museum. The Vault is found in the shop, and free tours run every 15 – 20 minutes -just ask a member of staff. There is so much rock treasure downstairs, but Beatles-wise you can see John Lennon’s glasses, hand written lyrics, and in a neat coming full circle of the day, the original piano from Abbey Road Studios used to record All You Need is Love and Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.
From here, your nearest tube stations are Hyde Park Corner and Green Park. If you have any walking left in you, why not cross Green Park to Buckingham Palace where the Fab Four received their MBEs from Queen Elizabeth II in 1965?
What's your favourite Beatles song? Let us know in the comments!