Des, the man of many walk leading talents, had a walk in London which was themed on Rock n Roll and the Beatles. I’d struggle to say that I was a music expert, but this was a handy introduction to the main sites in central London which are related to the Beatles, so I decided to honour Des with my presence. I thought it was a six mile walk, but it was actually five miles, but either way, it was an interesting little urban adventure. I can’t say that I can bring Beatles stories to life in this post, but I’d recommend instead waiting until Des leads this walk again to get the professional edge.
We started off, during the only slightly wet part of the walk, going by the BBC’s Maida Vale studios. The building was opened in 1909 as the Maida Vale Roller Skating Palace and Club, but was gutted inside in 1934 when it was repurposed for the BBC. The BBC Symphony Orchestra have been based here since 1934 and, importantly for this walk, the Beatles recorded here in 1963. The BBC was hoping to flog the building off for development, but this plan has gone a little awry as Historic England have just gone and listed the building. The frontage of the building is original and quite intriguing, but the roof is hardly noted for its architectural merit.
Des in full flow.
Next was the Abbey Road Studios, where the Beatles recorded numerous albums. There are signs up noting that the public aren’t allowed into the car park, as I can imagine how many people would have otherwise flooded in to investigate the area.
Along with the Beatles claim to fame, the building was also where Edward Elgar conducted the London Symphony Orchestra.
And outside Abbey Road Studios is the famous zebra crossing used on a Beatles album cover. I’ve meant to come here for many years, given it’s a London tourist destination, but this is the first time that I’ve actually managed to get here. It’s not immediately obvious that it’s the right crossing and Des mentioned normally it would have been much busier with tourists wanting their photo taken. At least drivers at the moment are saved the inconvenience of people walking onto the road and then faffing about with photos. As with many things at the moment, this was a good time to visit such a tourist hotspot.
I decided that I should take a suitable photo….. As an aside, there were some wonderful people on the walk, such a variety of different backgrounds and stories. One lovely Italian lady is a tour guide and she mentioned a free walk she’s leading next week, that I shall be going to.
The walk then looped into Regent’s Park, always a beautiful area to walk by.
After a quick sit down in a mini lunch break, the tour started again.
After walking by Baker Street station, we arrive at this building which I’ve walked by many times, but never known the significance. The plaque notes that John Lennon and George Harrison worked here, but there was more to it than that.
Today, the building is used by Marsh & Parsons, but it was once the Apple Boutique. This story was entirely new to me, so much praise again to Des for pointing this out (although I assume every Beatles fan already knew about it, and indeed, probably nearly everyone, but these things pass me by). The shop opened on 7 December 1967 and there was a plan to launch a national chain of these Apple Stores. Things didn’t quite go to plan and the enterprise wasn’t the highly profitable venture that was hoped for and in the end, it was just decided to give the entire stock of the shop away. That caused some rather heated scenes and some big financial losses.
We moved to our next location on Savile Row, where everyone along the street was impeccably well dressed. Well, I wasn’t obviously, but I mean the locals were. All a bit decadent and fancy for my liking. The relevance here is that the Beatles final live performance took place on the roof of this building.
The plaque on the building, noting that the unannounced performance that took place on 30 January 1969. The band was able to play for 42 minutes before the Metropolitan Police came along and told them to quieten things down.
The tour miastro continues.
Our final stop worried me slightly, I thought Des had taken us to a gym. This definitely wouldn’t have been in the joining instructions, but it was an opportunity for our highly esteemed walk leader to tell us about his youth and musical experiences. This was another rather lovely walk and I’m pleased to have had my knowledge improved substantially, so now I’ve done mini tours of Beatles related locations in Liverpool and London. And I can now say finally that I’ve walked across Abbey Road zebra crossing.