Friday, October 19, 2012

Danger, Danger: Crossing Abbey Road

City of Westminster, London, UK

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Why did the Beatle cross the road?

To make history.

Abbey Road was the Beatles's 11th studio album and, as everyone knows, it came at a time when they really weren't the functioning group they had been only a few years earlier. You'd think that, under the circumstances, they wouldn't cross the street to make another album together. Well OK, but would they cross the street to make another album cover? See, thinking out of the box, or maybe, out of the studio, or in Paul's case, out of his shoes, won the day. The rest is history.

The cover photo was taken on an August morning in 1969 by Iain Macmillan who stood on a small step ladder while the police kept traffic away.

The studio is in the St. John's Wood neighborhood of the City of Westminster.

Abbey Road was once a lane that led to the ancient Kilburn Abbey, which has since disappeared into history along with the actual forest that it once presided over. St. John's Wood is now one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the world.

Note, on the lower left of the map is the Maida Vale underground (tube) stop. Maida Vale is the neighborhood attributed to the scene of the crime in Alfred Hitchcock's, "Dial M for Murder," which I saw on my flight home.

Starting from the St. John's Wood tube stop and walking west on Grove End Road, 

I came across early signs of Autumn.

And this trio in their early autumn clothing. It was actually warm and the perfect temperature for walking around in a light jacket or fleecy. Her camera tells me they had come fresh from THE crosswalk. 

Funny, I'd wondered if I would actually find the crosswalk once I got there.

No problem finding it. Look at all of the activity.

Everyone wants to be a Beatle. But only the Beatles seemed to have the good sense to stop traffic for their photo. Reportedly, there have been many pedestrian accidents in the past 43 years and there is talk about removing the cross walk altogether.

And while they were crossing, this is what the Fab Four saw in front of them.

In the middle of all this photography, there were the locals coming home from the grocery store and such, with traffic trying to get through. London is so clogged with traffic that every street in heart of the city seems very busy.

And you know how these things go, maybe before crossing, they could have said, forget it, let's take the photo of the bus instead and call the album "Oxford Circus."

What of the studio itself? Originally a 9 bedroom Georgian townhouse built in the 1830s, it was known as EMI Studios before the famous album was released.

Next door, a taller building, was this where the roof-top concert from the movie, "Let it Be" took place? No, that was on top of the Apple Studios building on Savile Row. More about that later.

Look at the graffiti on the studio walls! Reportedly, this is painted over monthly. I couldn't bring myself to deface this icon. 

Reminds me a of story about a great concert pianist visiting Beethoven's home in Bonn and seeing a tourist one-fingering the opening of the 5th symphony (da-da-da-dum) on Ludwig's own piano. Asked if he would try the piano, the great pianist said he couldn't bring himself to touch it. I'm remembering that story from a long time ago and can't find a reference.

Even the No Entry sign was defaced. 

For some, crossing the street alone wasn't enough. But the woman taking the photo had the right idea about getting close to her subject in the twilight. Hard to focus otherwise. But dangerous, as this was a busy street.

The statue nearby seems like it can't bear to see another pedestrian accident. 

Back to the icon
The Volkswagen Beetle (no pun intended) on the left, is parked right in front of the studios.

Having seen all sides of Abbey Road, it was time to move on. You can see the statue in the background behind the blue car.

3 weeks after the Beatles released Abbey Road, jazz guitarist, George Benson released his, "The Other Side of Abbey Road," which is a classic unto itself. And since then, there have been many, many record albums and photos copying the original.

For example, recently, a spoof of the Beatles's cover was used in the Daily Jumble.

So, where was the roof top concert?

Well, a short 3 or 4 mile walk later, I found myself in front of the old Apple Studios studio at 3 Savile Row.  I actually wandered down Baker Street on the way made famous by Arthur Conan Doyle's "Sherlock Holmes" as well as Gerry Rafferty's hit song from the 1970's. Ask your grandparents. BTW: Rafferty recorded with United Artists, and therefore, not at Abbey Road studios.

On Baker Street, I found this building...

With this "Musical Heritage" marker on the side. This was the site of the Apple Boutique, which resided in a building that has long been demolished. 

Yes, THAT Savile Row of expensive tailors fame. Maybe John and Paul got tired of ordering their suits over the phone and wanted to work on the same block as their tailors. I couldn't find a source to confirm that. :-)

BTW: see St. James's Street in the lower left of the map? That's the home of Bustopher Jones ([who's] not skin and bones/in fact he's remarkably fat) the St. James's Street Cat.

Anyway, there it is. the third building, next to 1 and 2 Savile Row, with the lamp in front of it and the wooden construction cover over its first floor. 

 Another close up. To the left of the building with the flag.

Start at about 1:50 to see the street scene below.

 7 doors down, a tailor's. Here is where you buy your $10,000 suit. I'll take 2.

Not far away is Old Bond Street which really is the Shop Street of London. That's an inside joke with a few friends.

No comments:

Post a Comment