The Beatles are the best-selling band in history and – with 17 No1s – hold the record for the group with the most No1 singles in UK chart history. The Fab Four shot to fame in 1963, the year they left their native Liverpool in the north of England for the nation’s capital London, which was to play a major part in the band’s career over the following seven years until their break-up in 1970. Below are 10 facts about the Beatles in London, facts that can be brought vividly to life through a London Beatles Tour with a Blue Badge Tourist Guide.
1. The cover of the Beatles album ‘Abbey Road’, which shows the group walking in single file over a zebra crossing outside the Abbey Road studios, gave rise to the rumour that the band’s bass player and co-songwriter Paul McCartney was dead and that a look-a-like had been put in his place. The photo was said to represent a funeral procession, with Paul as the only bare-footed Beatle (supposedly a sign that he was in his grave) holding a cigarette pointed downwards (supposedly a symbol of a coffin nail). According to the rumour, John Lennon – in a white suit – represented a priest; Ringo Starr – in black – was the chief mourner; and George Harrison – in denim – was the grave-digger.
2. Just five minutes’ walk from the Abbey Road studios not far from the famous Lord’s cricket ground, lies Cavendish Avenue, a quiet street of well-appointed detached houses. In 1965, while still living at the Ashers’ house in Wimpole Street, Paul bought no 7 for the then tidy sum of £40,000. After he moved into the property in August 1966, the house was frequently used as a place of relaxation by the Beatles both before and after recording sessions. Paul still owns the house.
London Rock N Roll – Abbey Road Studio. Photo Credit: ©Pixabay/Alexandria.
3. In 1963 the UK had only two major TV channels, BBC and ITV, and millions of people used to watch the top entertainment shows. It was the Beatles appearance on the most popular of these show, ITV’s Sunday Night At The London Palladium, in October 1963 that catapulted them to nationwide fame, ushering in the era of Beatlemania.
4. Paul’s Beatles song ‘Yesterday’ has been covered by over 2,200 artists – more than any other song in the history of recorded music. He wrote the song in 1965 while living at 57 Wimpole Street in Marylebone, the home of the parents of his then girlfriend, Jane Asher. With 60 gold discs and sales of 100 million singles in the UK alone, Paul is listed in the Guinness World Records as the ‘most successful musician and composer in popular music history’.
5. The outside of the Beatles Apple boutique at 94 Baker Street, which opened in December 1967, was painted with a psychedelic mural. However, Westminster Council had not given permission for the mural and, following complaints from local businesses, the council issued an enforcement notice ordering it to be painted over. It was replaced with the word ‘Apple’ painted in white cursive script. The boutique – John hated the word, but it stuck – was a commercial disaster, and it closed on 30 July 1968, having lost more than £200,000.
London Rock N Roll – Abbey Road. Photo Credit: ©Nigel Rundstrom.
6. Two of three-times-married Paul’s weddings took place at Marylebone Register Office on Marylebone Road. The first was when he married Linda Eastman in 1969, and more recently his third marriage – to Nancy Shevell – took place at this venue in 2011. A second member of the Beatles, Ringo, also got married to Barbara Bach here in 1981.
7. During the shooting of the opening sequence of the Beatles’ first feature film, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, just outside Marylebone train station, George stumbled and fell as the group ran down Boston Place hotly pursued by a horde of screaming fans. Although the fall wasn’t intended, and George ripped the suit he was wearing, the scene was included in the film’s final cut.
8. In December 1961 the Beatles had an audition with the London-based record label Decca. The four – including then drummer Pete Best – stayed overnight at the Royal National Hotel in Woburn Place, Bloomsbury. To their eternal embarrassment and regret, Decca rejected the Beatles, and the band later signed a record contract with EMI’s Parlophone label.
9. The site of the Beatles Apple office at 3 Savile Row in Mayfair is famous for the band’s impromptu rooftop performance in January 1969 – the group’s last live show. After the police ordered the band to stop playing, John quipped, ‘I hope we passed the audition’. The building is now a branch of US outfitter Abercrombie & Fitch.
10. Hungry? Some foods mentioned in Beatles songs include cornflakes, truffles, honey, octopus, turkey, marshmallows, strawberries, eggs, peppers and pies. ‘Semolina pilchard’ in the song ‘I Am The Walrus’ is a reference to Detective Sergeant Norman Pilcher, the officer who led the police drugs bust on John and Yoko Ono’s flat at 34 Montagu Square, Marylebone, in October 1968. As a result of the raid, John was fined £150 for possession of a small quantity of cannabis.