ABBEY ROAD 40TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS - a take on it all by your webmaster
Strangely enough, having lived only 10 minutes or so away from the "shrine" at Abbey Road back in the early 70’s, I hadn’t actually been to the famous zebra crossing until Saturday 8th August 2009. In those early days from our abode on West End Lane, West Hampstead, it was the action at The Roundhouse and various live music pubs in Islington and Camden that took the fancy. So it was with almost child-like excitement that the good wife and I took a number 139 bus (yes that one is still running!) from Marylebone to the stop just outside the Abbey Road studios on the Saturday morning. (London Transport had decided to stop some of the underground services including the Jubilee Line to St John’s Wood on this day!).
Already at just after 10 am, the excitement was building and I could see John and Paul from the band being lined up for interviews by the gathering camera crews. Sgt Pepper’s Only Dart Board Band had been especially invited to the occasion to lead fans and Beatles walkers across the "shrine"’ at smack on 11.35am, 40 years to the minute after the original crossing by The Beatles. Ninety minutes earlier camera crews were scampering about in search of interviews.
What followed approaching 11.30am can only be described as manic. When John Lennon’s replica roller approached the crossing, the world’s press and camera’s converged, not to mention fans from a host of different countries en masse. There appeared to be just a few seconds of opportunity from the time when the roller ground to a halt before the crossing and Richard Porter of The British Beatles Fan Club and Beatles Coffee Shop appeared to have to conduct an orderly opening of the doors like a commissary in the old days. How the band members managed to get out of the roller and make it to the crossing remains a mystery, perhaps until their invitation (if they get one) arrives for the 50th anniversary for a repeat performance.
I thought the timing of the London bus (a 139 again it so happens) in arriving at pole position at the crossing was absolutely superb (London Transport do get some things right!). I wonder how much the passengers paid the driver for such good positioning and timing. Somebody remarked that the bus driver also had his camera focused on the proceedings; his shots will probably appear in Hello magazine or somewhere similar, such was his prime position!
You will see what I mean with my photographic attempts but, hey, I was there soaking it all up as well! And, my position on the top of a wall was very precarious to say the least. You may be able to catch a glimpse of members of the band somewhere near the front of the bus, which we were told had broken down - some excuse! I sort of knew that driver was working for Hello!
We were told there was something like fifteen different television crews there plus a huge assortment of the world’s press. One of the film crews was the very friendly one from Reuters. They said they had seen nothing like it before, even state occasions could not generate such world-wide interest. The band were interviewed by numerous TV crews. There were also side-shows going on, none more so than the ad-hoc singing group lead by wannabees on guitars positioned immediately to our left from my precarious position on the wall. We had rousing renditions of Abbey Road songs and a good selection of other songs from the Fab Four catalogue but when the wannabees tried Give Peace A Chance, it was, surprisingly, met with silence by the massed ensemble. Clearly, this was a day for the songs from Abbey Road.
Perhaps this video from our friends at Reuters will recap the morning’s proceedings. The happy atmosphere, the vibe, the close-up interviews and the songsters. The event will happily stick in my mind as an outstanding memory and I know it will too in the minds of the guys from Sgt Pepper’s Only Dart Board Band, who said they were honored to have taken part.
That was the morning - but hey, the evening gig was still to come at Peter Parker’s Rock 'n' Roll Club at London’s Denmark Street. This was to prove to be the place to be for some real live action from the UK’s most entertaining Beatles tribute band. But before that we went to the Beatles Coffee Shop to get our "Magical Mystery Tours" book written by Tony Bramwell signed by the erstwhile author. Bramwell, whose book is all about his life with The Beatles, had been close friend and road manager for the Fab Four. I guess he must have said "To?", in between drags on his fag, hundreds of times before signing off his name on page 3. He duly obliged in my copy. Bramwell had also been at the crossing earlier and was being interviewed by a TV crew.
Lovely Rita (my wife) and I later caught an aforementioned No 139 to West Hampstead to look over our old stamping ground to find our old 'local' had been replaced by a Pizza Express! Later, a walk around Hampstead itself set us up nicely for the evening Abbey Road session. Well, at least I was set up, as Rita had decided to return to her sister’s abode in Surrey. It has to be said that Rita has never been a lover of live music venues but I was heartened to see her singing along with the masses at the crossing in the morning, so we live in hope!
The Gig at Peter Parker’s Rock "n" Roll Club
On entering Denmark Street the first ‘thing’ to catch my eye was the replica roller which was now parked neatly almost opposite the club. The multi-coloured, psychedelic roller, a copy of Lennon’s original, certainly took pride of place in what was the famous Tin Pan Alley of the 60’s and 70’s. No 4 Denmark Street, the site of the club, first came to prominence as The Regent Recording Studio where The Rolling Stones cut their first album and where The Kinks recorded “You’ve Really Got Me”. It was pleasing to see the Regent sign was still emblazoned on the front of the building
Inside, the club was already steaming and atmospheric. Not a large venue, it reminded me of The Cavern a little bit, but without the brickwork all around. Peter Parker, the young owner of the club and himself a rock musician, had got his seat in prime viewing position. He had in fact been at the crossing as well for the morning’s proceedings. Richard Porter announced that the band would play two sets; one in Sgt Pepper costume, and the second, a tribute to Abbey Road, changing back into their Abbey Road costumes.
We waited, getting more steamed up and hot for the band to arrive, and then they did, almost having to attempt the Abbey Road crossing again from the rear of the club through a packed audience to the stage. The band soon got the crowd going and performed two storming sets, with a great rock edginess I thought. Their tribute to the Abbey Road album was spot on – the guys were obviously up for this gig and, although undoubtedly fatigued by the days activities, came through with flying colours. It was difficult to get good photos in the club with loads of cameras and arms flailing about, but hey, I hope these shots give some impression of what was happening. All in all, a great night for us music purists.
I think all said and done we had experienced a somewhat unique and historic day, one which all came about from a young bunch of guys in the 60’s who shaped and carved out a niche in pop music history over a 10 year spell. They have left an indelible mark which will probably still be there in another 40 years time. The music is still fresh and we have the advantage of it now being played live by a band like Sgt Pepper’s Only Dart Board Band with much more advanced equipment in this high-tech age than the Fab Four had in the 60’s.