Thursday 13 October 2022

Walking The Beatles' London - October 2022 (part one)

On Saturday 8 October 2022, I travelled down to ‘That London’ with my fellow Beatles historian Steve Bradley [1] to attend Evolver 62, Mark Lewisohn’s one-man show at the Bloomsbury Theatre.

The show didn’t start until 7.30pm so we agreed in advance that it would be too late to travel home afterwards and decided to make a weekend of it. Armed with The Beatles London [2], the indispensable guide to the 467 Beatles’ sites in the capital, Steve drew up an itinerary and we decided to try and visit as many as we could.

Of course, we didn't get anywhere near the magic 467, but I discovered that if you are prepared to spend two days walking 23 miles [3] around the streets of London, powered primarily by Guinness and wine gums, you do manage to see quite a lot of them.

Some of the sites we visited are extremely familiar to Beatles' fans the world over, but having only previously seen them in videos, films, books and record sleeves at times I was genuinely excited to see them in the context of their surroundings. I realised what it must be like for the thousands of visitors who visit Liverpool every year to see some of the Beatles' locations I sometimes take for granted, because they are part of the backdrop to my everyday life.

I’ve not walked around London in years, and at times I felt like I was seeing it properly for the first time. Every street we walked through seemed to have a blue plaque or something of cultural interest. It occurred to me that you could easily spend an entire weekend doing a musical-history-themed-walk through London, without including any Beatles’ sites. As you’ll see in this blog and the follow ups, we did manage to squeeze a few notable non-Beatles locations in.

We also had fun creating some Then and Now type comparison photographs, which I’ll post at the appropriate points.

And so, in the order we visited them, here's part one:

24 Chapel Street, SW1

From December 1964 this was the London home of Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager.

One can only imagine the sense of immense pride that Brian, a gay, Jewish, shopkeeper from Walton, must have felt living in a house where the rear wall of Buckingham Palace is visible at the end of the street. If Epstein wanted an address to impress, he couldn't have found a better one.

Of course, the Beatles visited often to discuss their business and personal matters and attended several of his memorable parties, most notably on 19 May 1967 when the launch party for the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album was held here. All four assembled for a meet and greet with specially invited journalists and photographers – among them Linda Eastman, Paul’s future wife. The Beatles were photographed outside on the front steps of the house, and in the drawing room, posing with a copy of the record sleeve while the disc itself played in constant rotation.

Sadly, just three months later, Brian died here, aged only 32, on 27 August 1967 while the Beatles were away in Bangor. [4]

Having visited Brian's birthplace in Liverpool, and the various homes he lived in during his time there, visiting the house where he spent his final days was quite a poignant moment.

7 Groom Place, SW1

The Horse and Groom public house is tucked away in a beautiful mews set directly behind Brian’s house. Unsurprisingly, it was his local and the Beatles are said to accompanied him on occasion.  Given the exclusivity of the surrounding properties this cosy little pub has enjoyed a clientele ranging from Beatles to bankers, plumbers to personal assistants, diplomats to dentists, and everyone in between.

We retraced our steps towards Hyde Park Corner. I paused to take a photograph of the Wellington Monument, which figured prominently in the recent funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.  Only three weeks on, it struck me how quickly life had returned to normal, with the greatest display of pageantry this country will likely ever see already consigned to the history books.

Hyde Park (southern section) W2

Briefly entering Hyde Park, we stopped at Rotten Row. Unseen you might be imagining something 'dead grotty' but in fact it's rather lovely, the strange name being a corruption of the original 'Route du Roi', French for 'Kings Road'.
For the life of me I couldn’t remember what the Beatles’ connection was. Steve had to remind me.

On the morning of Saturday 24 October 1964, the Beatles arrived in their own cars and parked up on the adjacent South Carriage Drive with their friend and photographer Robert Freeman.

Walking into Hyde Park along Rotten Row and staying within running distance of the cars in case they needed to escape quickly, Freeman positioned the Beatles in front of some autumnal trees and his resulting pictures were used for the front and rear cover of their next album, Beatles For Sale, released 4 December 1964.

They parked here again on 18 May 1967, this time arriving in John's psychedelic Rolls Royce for a photo session in the park, primarily around the Serpentine, with Marvin Lichtner of Time magazine. Mal Evans was also present, taking photographs for the monthly magazine The Beatles Book.


Hamilton Place (at Park Lane), W1

The Intercontinental Hotel (left of picture) was formerly called the Inn on the Park. John and Yoko stayed here during the Summer of 1969 while Tittenhurst Park, their new home in Ascot, was being renovated. There's another Beatles' site right next door...

5 Hamilton Place, W1

Les Ambassadeurs private club and casino was used for two sequences in A Hard Day’s Night. The Beatles first came here on Tuesday 17 March to shoot the scene where Paul’s grandfather, played by Wilfrid Brambell is found sat a gambling table in ‘Le Circle Club’.  In between takes John Lennon was interviewed for the BBC radio programme Today by Jack de Manio, talking about the imminent publication of his first book In His Own Write. It was broadcast the following morning.

Exactly one month later the Beatles returned to Les Ambassadeurs, filming the discotheque scene where they are seen dancing to ‘Don’t Bother Me’ and ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ in a room known as the Garrison Club.

On the same day the Beatles took part in a filmed interview in the walled garden with Ed Sullivan for his TV show (broadcast 24 May 1964).  

Promotional photographs taken this day show the Beatles posing with bagpipes (John, Paul and George) and a marching bass drum (Ringo, naturally).

Something I only discovered when writing this blog was that the bass drum featured in these photographs is the same bass drum that appears on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band! 

The décor of the Garrison Club featured military paraphernalia, and the bass drum formerly belonged to the Essex Yeomanry. How the Beatles came to be photographed with this very same drum three years later is unclear – it’s even been suggested that it might be the same marching drum used by Mal Evans during the recording of the song Yellow Submarine!  Could it have fallen into the back of someone’s taxi at the end of the day’s filming?

Three Beatles were back at Les Ambassadeurs for a third and final time on 4 May 1969. Paul, Linda, John and Yoko were in attendance at a private party held here to celebrate the completion of principal photography for the film The Magic Christian, starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr. Both stars were among the guests which included the actors Richard Harris, Stanley Baker, Christopher Lee, Sean Connery, and future 007 Roger Moore.

Speaking of Connery, a replica of Les Ambassadeurs was built at Pinewood Studios for the initial James Bond film, Dr. No in 1962. It’s the scene where ‘Bond, James Bond’ introduces himself for the first time in the franchise.

Quite an interesting little location all-in.

72 Park Lane, W1

Our next stop was The London Hilton Hotel.   

This was the home of Rolling Stone Keith Richards in 1965. Only 21 years old, ‘Keef’ was paying £28 a night for a fully serviced suite overlooking Hyde Park. [4] No doubt a Beatle or two were among those who visited. Keith bought the Redlands Estate the following year. 

Ringo was certainly here on 22 January 1965, attending a lunch held by Playboy magazine in honour of the American billionaire Paul Getty.

On 24 August 1967, John, Paul, and George, accompanied by their wives, partners and various siblings attended a lecture on Transcendental Meditation given by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, each paying 7s 6d (about 38p) for the privilege. After the lecture they were given a private audience with the guru who quickly persuaded them to travel with him that weekend to Bangor where he was running a 10-day seminar on the Spiritual Regeneration Movement.

6 Green Street, W1 

This was the flat of Decca promotions executive Tony Hall who befriended the Beatles in 1963 when they moved in directly opposite – more of which in a moment. They came here on several occasions, one being 28 January 1964 when Hall hosted an all-night party for the Phil Spector and the Ronettes, with a smitten John and George in attendance.

57 Green Street, W1

Flat L on the fourth floor of this rather lovely building was the only place where all four Beatles lived together, Help! style. They moved in during the first two weeks of September 1963, with the realisation that they were now spending more time in London than Liverpool.

On Wednesday, 16 October 1963 all four Beatles took part in an ‘at-home’ photo session for The Beatles Book monthly magazine. Photographer Leslie Bryce snapped them opening fan mail and clowning about the apartment, standard fan-magazine fare at the time. Most notably all four were photographed leaning over the banister of the interior staircase and the resulting shot was given away to members of the Official Beatles Fan Club, complete with printed autographs.   

Always the most independent, Paul didn’t stay long, moving in with Jane Asher and her family around October 1963.  We’ll see their house shortly. A few weeks later, John took a flat in Emperors Gate and moved Cynthia and baby Julian down from Liverpool to join him.

George and Ringo then moved down a floor to Flat I, living there until February 1964 when their landlady asked them to leave because the constant presence of fans had become a nuisance to the other tenants.

Part 2 coming soon. 

All photographs of London in 2022 (c) Me
Photographs of The Beatles and Keith Richards remain the copyright of their respective owners.

[1] Steve’s website: LINK

[2] Piet Schreuders, Mark Lewisohn and Adam Smith (2008 edition)

[3] FACT. I have the blisters to prove it.

[4] Which I visited in my blog here: LINK.

[5] About £1,930 a night now. Crikey.

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  1. 28 Pound?? Wow Keith....

    1. £28 in 1965 is worth around £1,930 today. That's a ridiculous amount of money.

    2. Not 602,60 ?