Opening its doors in 1931, Abbey Road Studios has become an institution, known the world over for being the home of The Beatles recording adventures. Over the years, I have paid a few visits to the magical road which began life as a nine bedroom Georgian townhouse that was built in 1831. When purchased by The Gramophone Company (soon to become EMI), the Georgian facades were left out the front where they have remained predominantly to this day. Cliff Richard was the first rock’n’roll artist to record there in 1958 which began a procession of artists heading up the famed steps and into the studios ever since.
Now, enough of the history.
In 2017, May 17 to be precise, I made another pilgrimage to Abbey Road so I could take in the wonders of the Sgt. Peppers mural that was in place to celebrate 50 years since the albums initial release on June 1 1967. The first time I had heard the album itself was during the 20th anniversary celebrations of 1987. My brother had received a special re-issue gatefold copy (which he later sold for drugs) for Christmas and I remember sitting around with the rest of the family listening to it in full for the first time. A cherished moment from my youth and perhaps, an important part of my musical education? I often wonder if young children today are still introduced to Sgt. Peppers as a part of their musical development? I was 10 years old at the time and remember it like it was yesterday.
The tube ride to St John’s Wood which lets you out with a 10 minute walk down to Abbey Road is always packed full of fellow travelers and tourists in search of the studios. It’s a nice walk down a leafy street and by the time you reach the main intersection, you can spot the swarms of tourists mulling over ways to get their photo taken on the famous crossing that embodied the cover of the album of the same name from 1969. The zebra crossing has moved since the 60’s and the traffic build up hosts a lot more hustle and bustle but the thrill remains the same.
You can spend a good deal of time wandering around the outside of the studios and and watching fans trying to take their pics on the crossing. A good tip if you do fancy a photo on the crossing is to head down there at around 4 am in the middle of summer when the light is on the verge of arriving for the day and the traffic, crowds and thrill seekers are few and far between. Otherwise you can expect to spend a great deal of time waiting for your photo op. There is always a stream of graffiti covering the walls and surrounds. You soon realise fans from as far as Argentina, Japan and Australia make the pilgrimage to Abbey Road. In my time visiting the area, I have seen 90 year old ladies and 18 month old toddlers having their photos taken. It’s a beautiful sight and sometimes people will even share their Beatles stories with you when you get chatting.
With the Sgt. Peppers mural up, I decided to jump atop one of the pilons for a photo op and slipped on the moss that had gathered and promptly fell off. Somehow, I failed to break a bone. Just a bruised ego as a handful of tourists had a chuckle at my misfortune. Thankfully, I recovered and hopped back up to take a kooky photo with the help of a German lady behind the view finder of my phone.
It’s a truly wonderful experience when you visit Abbey Road. Even people who aren’t really that big into The Beatles make their way down and I can’t emphasis enough the importance of visiting one of England’s truly great landmarks.