A Magical Mystery Tour… of Westminster

The Rough Guide to the Beatles - and other books22 March 2013 is day that all popular music fans should be celebrating for it is the 50th anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ first album Please Please Me, last year voted 39th in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Everyone knows the cover – the Beatles leaning over a stairwell – but did you know that the picture was taken in Manchester Square in Westminster, at EMI’s headquarters?

This is one of many links between the Fab Four and Westminster – here are just a few of them:

1. Number one on any list of London Beatles locations has to be Abbey Road, in St Johns Wood, home of the famous recording studios and where that album cover was photographed. Check out the Abbey Road webcam and see if you can spot fans recreating the iconic image.

2. On 11 September 1967, a coach arrived at Allsop Place, just behind Baker Street Station, to pick up Paul McCartney for the start of the Magical Mystery Tour. Sadly the TV film got a mixed reception at the time and it was years before fans got to see it in glorious, restored Technicolour.

3. Westminster Register Office has been the venue for no fewer than three Beatles weddings. Most recently Paul married Nancy Shevell there. Iin 1981 Ringo Starr wed actress Barbara Bach there, and in 1969 Paul married his first wife, Linda Eastman. You can check out newsreel footage of this and many other Beatles-tastic events at the British Pathé site, and have a look at contemporary newspaper reports about the Fab Four by logging in with your Westminster Library card to our online newspaper archives.

4. Just round the corner from the Register Office is 34 Montagu Square, site of a  plaque to John Lennon, ‘Musician and Songwriter’ who lived there in 1968 and was photographed, with Yoko Ono,  for the cover of Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins (too saucy to show here!). His landlord was none other than Ringo Starr.

5. A few blocks away is 94 Baker Street. Number 94 was the home of the Apple Boutique and just last weekend the original plaque to John was replaced by one commemorating both John and George.

6. Only one address has been home to all four Beatles – 57 Green Street, Mayfair – which they shared for a while in the Autumn of 1963 and where, presumably, they were perpetually under siege from adoring fans. Check out its interior in this short film.

7. The Bag O’Nails, just off Carnaby Street, was once a popular meeting place for musicians and their fans. It was here that Paul first met Linda in 1967 and here, allegedly, that John and George both first took LSD.

8. On the 13th October 1963 a new word entered the language with the first sighting of ‘Beatlemania’ (“addiction to the Beatles and their characteristics; the frenzied behaviour of their admirers” as the Oxford English Dictionary has it). On this day the Beatles appeared for the first time on the legendary variety show Sunday Night at the London Palladium. The Palladium, one block from Oxford Circus, is one key Beatles location that you can see inside – currently it’s home to A Chorus Line.

9. Beatlemania in action can be seen in the opening sequence to A Hard Day’s Night where Marylebone Station does a very good impersonation of Liverpool’s Lime Street as crowd of teenage girls chase the boys onto the train.

10. And finally you can end your tour at the world-famous Beatles Shop at 231 Baker Street. If the address looks slightly familiar, it’s because it’s next door to a museum devoted to another former resident of Westminster, who can certainly compete with The Beatles in the fame stakes: Sherlock Holmes.

[Nicky]

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