Sunday, 30 October 2022

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


A recap: On Saturday 8 October 2022, I travelled down to ‘That London’ [1] with my fellow Beatles historian Steve Bradley [2] 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 [3], 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 we managed to see quite a lot of them. 

And so, without further ado, here's part three:

 

Howland Street (at Clevland Street) W1

The BT Communication Tower is a grade II listed communications tower located in Fitzrovia, London, owned by BT Group. 

Originally named the Museum Radio Tower (after the adjacent Museum telephone exchange), it became better known by its unofficial name, the Post Office Tower. It was later officially re-named the Telecom Tower. The main structure is 176.8 metres (581 ft) high, with a further section of aerial rigging bringing the total height to 189 metres (620 ft). It was completed in 1964 and remained the tallest structure in London until 1980, when it in turn was overtaken by the NatWest Tower. 

The 34th floor Top of the Tower restaurant was a popular location for parties and press events. As with St John’s Beacon in Liverpool, the floor slowly revolved, giving diners a bird’s eye, 360 degrees view of the city.

Paul and Ringo attended the Melody Maker pop awards held here on 13 September 1966 and were photographed with Tom Jones and Dusty Springfield.

On Thursday 13 February 1969, a party arranged by Apple Records was held here to celebrate the launch of Mary Hopkin’s debut album ‘Postcard’. 

Guests included Paul McCartney, his new girlfriend Linda Eastman, Donovan, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Eric Clapton and a number of other music stars, as well as members of Hopkin’s family and her future husband Tony Visconti.




Hopkin would later tell the Daily Telegraph that in the throng of people they lost her 80-year-old grandmother, Blodwyn. When the crowd parted, we saw her in the corner talking to Jimi Hendrix. Afterwards she said she had been talking to ‘a nice little boy’ who had been asking about milking the cows and feeding the chickens. I think he was fascinated by this funny little Welsh lady.


Paul had first visited the tower restaurant shortly after it opened. He was still living at the Asher’s house in Wimpole Street (see previous blog) and Dr Asher decided he wanted the full guided tour and arranged for the entire family to go, including Paul. Shortly before the ‘Postcard’ launch, Paul and Tony Bramwell (above) paid the restaurant a visit to ‘scout the location’.  As Tony recalls in his book, we had a smashing time, and suitably oiled, Paul and I decided to have a race down the stairs to the door. It was a very stupid idea, especially after a big lunch. There are some photos somewhere of us lying at the bottom gasping for breath and probably trying to light a cigarette [4].

 

363-367 Oxford Street, W1

Another important building in the Beatles’ story, this was, for many decades the site of HMV, the EMI-owned, self-proclaimed world’s largest record store. This first shop was opened in July 1921 by the British composer Sir Edward Elgar.


On 6 February 1962, Brian Epstein travelled down to London carrying with him a reel-to-reel tape copy of the Beatles’ Decca audition. He spent the next few days making his way through every record industry contact he had in his address book, desperately hoping that one of them would listen to the tape and give the Beatles a deal. On 7 or 8 February, he visited HMV and met with the store manager, Robert Boast.  While Boast didn’t have the power to give Epstein a contract, he could give him friendly advice, suggesting Brian have acetate discs cut from the reel-to-reel tape, as not everyone had a tape deck in their office. He directed him upstairs to the first floor of the shop where they had a small studio that could cut 78 rpm discs. 

So began an important chain of events. Jim Foy, the disc cutter, made positive comments about the tape and Brian proudly told him that three of the songs were composed by the group. Foy asked if they had a publisher. Epstein said no, and Foy suggested he meet with Sid Coleman, general manager of Ardmore and Beechwood, an EMI music publishing company who had an office on the top floor of the shop. Coleman was summoned, listened to the tape, liked it, and suggested Brian accompany him upstairs. While Coleman wanted the publishing on the three Lennon-McCartney songs, Epstein wanted a record deal and Coleman said he’d see what he could do. Through the efforts of Coleman, and his music-plugger Kim Bennet, the songs came to the attention of EMI record producer George Martin… and for the full details you need to read Mark Lewisohn’s Tune In[5]


 

The shop moved across Oxford Street in April 2000 and remained there for the next 13 years. On Friday 18 October 2013, Paul McCartney attended what HMV termed their ‘homecoming event’, which completed the move of their flagship London store back to its original location at 363 Oxford Street. McCartney spent an hour in the store signing autographs for emotional fans who had queued since the early hours, and reportedly scores who simply walked in off the street by-passing those who had been waiting (no wonder they were emotional). Allegedly the security guards were taking back-handers - the more you gave them the quicker you got to the front of the queue...   

Sadly by 2019 the music industry which the Beatles had revolutionised was in trouble. As a result of the decline in sales of physical music, HMV was facing collapse. They were rescued by a Canadian music entrepreneur but at a cost. 27 stores in prime locations were closed including the flagship store on Oxford Street.

On 26 April 2000 Sir George Martin unveiled a plaque celebrating ‘the world’s most famous music store’ which helped shape the way people bought music for nearly a century. It’s now an American sweet shop.

  

52 Maddox Street, W1

You would never guess that this was formerly Chappell Recording Studios.  Managed by John Timperley, who also acted as engineer, the studio opened in 1967 and was closed in 1979.

The instrumental ‘Catswalk’ was one of Paul McCartney’s earliest compositions. Although a Beatles’ demo exists from December,1962 they never recorded it for record release. Five years later Paul offered the tune to band leader Chris Barber, who played trombone with his trad jazz group, The Chris Barber Band. 

After ditching an earlier version, recorded at London’s Marquee Club in July 1967, the track was re-recorded at a session held here on 20 July 1967.  



Retitled ‘Catcall’, the tune was given an over-the-top arrangement complete with a chorus of catcalls: McCartney and Jane Asher were among the people taking part in what was evidently a riotous session. Despite this it failed to chart when it was released three months later. 

With EMI studios booked up, the Beatles spent 22-23 August 1967 at Chappell, recording ‘Your Mother Should Know’. Brian Epstein popped into the studio on the second night of recording, sitting quietly at the back. Four days later he was dead.


Paul was back again on Tuesday 21 November 1967, to assist Cilla Black in the recording of another of his give-away compositions, ‘Step Inside Love’, written especially for her television show. A 25-minute tape of Paul and Cilla rehearsing the song, overseen by producer George Martin circulates as does film of the session, a few seconds of which appeared in the promotional film for the Beatles’ own ‘Lady Madonna’ (Paul getting up from the piano, grabbing his guitar and coat and walking out of the studio). 

On 18 September 1967 the then unknown music hall-comedy-psychedelic Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah band were filmed performing on stage at the Paul Raymond Revue bar in Soho for the striptease sequence of the Beatles’ ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ film. We'll see the Revue bar in the next part of this blog. 

10 months later they recorded their UK top 4 hit ‘I’m The Urban Spaceman’ at Chappell studios. The song was co-produced by Gus Dudgeon and one 'Apollo C Vermouth', better known as Paul McCartney.   

 

Aeolian Hall, 135 New Bond Street, W1


This fine building began life in 1876 as the Grosvenor Gallery, built by Coutts Lindsay who was an accomplished amateur artist. In 1883, he decided to light his gallery with electricity. An outhouse became a substation, and equipment was installed in the basement, which upset some of his neighbours, and caused others to buy electricity from him. Thus began the system of electrical distribution in use today. 

By 1903 the whole building was taken over by the Orchestrelle Company of New York (the Aeolian Company). As manufacturers of musical instruments, and especially the mechanical piano-player known as the pianola, they converted the space into offices, a showroom, and a concert hall.


George and John, 24 May 1963, outside 135 New Bond Street.

After the destruction of their St George's Hall studios in March 1943, the BBC took it over the building for the recording and broadcast of concerts and recitals. The studios were on the first and second floors at the rear. 

The Beatles recorded seven music sessions here for the BEEB, between 24 May 1963 (the first episode of their Pop Go The Beatles series) and 25 November 1964 (their final appearance on Saturday Club), with several tracks later being released on the 'Live At The BBC' and 'On Air – Live At The BBC Vol. 2' compilation albums. 

 

35 New Bond Street, W1


Just over the road from the Aeolian Hall is Sotheby’s, founded in London in 1744, and now one of the world's largest brokers of fine and decorative art, jewellery, and collectibles, including, inevitably, a great many Beatles related items. 

Between 3 February and 2 May 1969, Ringo filmed his scenes for the ‘The Magic Christian’ movie, co-starring Peter Sellers including sequences shot on the staircase and in the main viewing room inside Sotheby’s, and on New Bond Street outside the building. 


165-169 New Bond Street, W1


Before the 2021 relocation to their current address in Bruton Street [6] this was the premises of Asprey Jewellers. The most exclusive and expensive goldsmiths in London, Asprey has supplied crowns, coronets, and sceptres for royal families around the world and, as of 2013, holds a Royal Warrant from the Prince of Wales. Asprey’s designed the Heart of the Ocean necklace that featured prominently in the 1997 James Cameron blockbuster ‘Titanic’.


In the film 'Help!' the Beatles visit Asprey’s where a jeweller attempts to remove Ringo’s sacrificial ring. While John and Paul look on, he tries to cut off the ring with a blade, which just snaps in half.  Ringo utters one of my favourite lines in the film – ‘there’s a certain amount of hurry up involved here. My life is in danger’ – which prompts the jeweller to produce ‘the wheel’ - ‘even the Royal House of Hanover had the wheel, sir’ - which breaks almost immediately. All the jeweler's attempts to remove the ring are futile, prompting another favourite line, John declaring, 'Jeweller, you've failed!'  


While all this is going on, keep your eye on George in the background. He’s busily inspecting the display cases and while everyone is focusing on Ringo's predicament, he takes a few items and hides them in his jacket. He’s not the only one. When Paul checks the time on his watch, notice there are several new rings on his right hand.


In reality, Asprey’s was probably thrilled to have the Beatles on their premises. John reportedly spent £600 while filming the scene.  That’s £13,730.41 today!







Notes:

[1] As we Northerners habitually refer to the Capital. It's a phrase from a 1990s comedy sketch show by Harry Enfield. One group of characters were called “The Scousers" and were a mashup of Liverpool stereotypes, and while their main catchphrase was “ay, ay, calm down" (sigh) there was a one-off sketch where they took a trip to London and constantly used the phrase “going down to that London". For some reason the phrase stuck.

[2] Steve’s website: Link

[3] By Mark Lewisohn, Piet Schreuders and Adam Smith (2008 edition) Link

[4] Magical Mystery Tours, by Tony Bramwell. Link

[5] In short, they got a record deal and were signed to EMI’s Parlophone label.

[6] Birthplace of Queen Elizabeth II (at No. 17)

All Beatles era photographs remain the copyright of their respective owners.







1 comment:

  1. Thank you. Very nice series and great photos. Looking forward to part 4.

    ReplyDelete