Thursday 26th September 2019, saw the 50th anniversary of the release of the iconic Beatles album “Abbey Road” – and, with it being an album that was named after a London street, London Shoes felt it only right to cover-off its own tribute to commemorate this musically famous piece of recorded work.
Abbey Road itself is just a normal street located in the wealthy St. John’s Wood district of north-west London.
However, Abbey Road is far from being just any old London street, because at No.3 Abbey Road stands a large old 1830’s built Georgian townhouse – that has become probably the most famous music recording studio in the world.
In 1931 this large detached property was bought by the ‘Gramophone Company’ and converted into recording studios – famous for the recording of prestigious classical works, and also for producing recorded propaganda material throughout WW2.
As the years past, the studios were bought and owned by the powerful EMI Company – and today they are owned by Universal Music.
Today, the reason as to why the Abbey Road Studios are probably the most instantly recognised and well known studio name throughout the entire world – can be attributed to one thing…….the ‘Beatles’ – who adopted the studio as their recording home from between the years of 1962 through to 1970.
The artist that actually paved the way for the Beatles using Abbey Road as a home base, was in fact Cliff Richard, who in 1958 recorded his first big hit ‘Move It’ there in its Studio 2, and it has become the home of popular music recording ever since.
From that day onwards and right up to today, anybody who’s anyone in popular music, from Pink Floyd to Kanye West will have at some stage recorded material at Abbey Road Studios.
But it is the ‘Beatles’ who are responsible for putting Abbey Road studios well and truly on the world map of music.
The Beatles music recording journey started at Abbey Road way back in 1962 with the recording of their single ‘Love Me Do’ which peaked at no.17 in the UK singles chart – and the rest, as they say, is history.
Fast forward to 1969, and the 4 Beatles, John-Paul-George & Ringo, converged on Abbey Road Studio to record their 11th album – which would turn out to be their very last recording as a group.
Technically their ‘Let It Be’ album, was their 12th and last album as a group, however, the material for that album was in fact recorded ‘prior’ to the ‘Abbey Road’ sessions.
At the time, back in 1969 – relationships between the 4 Beatles had become fractious to say the least, and the band were very close to breaking up.
However, Paul McCartney approached their legendary record producer ‘George Martin’, (often referred to as the 5th Beatle) – with a suggestion that they all get together one last time and make a record in the way that they used to in the old days – a suggestion that everyone involved eventually agreed to.
Throughout the summer of 1969 the Beatles worked on tracks that would eventually become the album entitled “Abbey Road”.
The album contained compositions from all 4 Beatles – all recorded in stereo on an 8 track reel to reel set-up – and the record consisted of the following tracks:-
*Maxwell’s Silver Hammer
*I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
*Here Comes the Sun
*Medley (16mins) consisting of:- You Never Give Me Your Money > Sun King > Mean Mr. Mustard > Polythene Pam > She came in through the Bathroom Window > Golden Slumbers > Carry that Weight > The End > & ending with the extremely brief ‘Her Majesty’ ditty.
The album was going to be called ‘Everest’ after a brand of cigarette that was smoked by one of the chief engineers working on the record – and even a photo shoot of the Himalaya mountains had been arranged for the front cover – however, at the last minute, it was decided to simply name the album “Abbey Road” after the street and studio in which it was made.
The cover for the Abbey Road album, is again, probably one of the most instantly recognised and globally known album covers in history.
It is just a simple photo of John-Paul-George & Ringo walking across the zebra crossing located directly outside the entrance to the Abbey Road Studio – nothing more, nothing less – but the album cover photo created and caused an interest that went a lot deeper than that – I will explain.
Back at the beginning of 1969 a rumour had started in the US claiming that Paul McCartney was actually dead, having been killed in a car crash on the M1 Motorway – and he had been replaced in the Beatles by an stand-in. This rumour created a massive conspiracy theory around the Beatles hiding the fact that Paul was simply no more.
The ‘Paul is Dead’ theorists claimed that the ‘Abbey Road’ album cover contained many subliminal ‘clues’ that clarified the fact that Paul was now deceased and replaced by a look-a-like.
Clue 1 – the Beatles attire
John – in an all-white 3 piece suit – was the preacher
Ringo – in an all-black 3 piece suit – was the undertaker
George – all in denim – was the grave-digger
Paul – wearing a blue suit, was completely out-of-step with his other 3 bandmates, and was also barefoot, a Buddhist symbolism of the dead.
Also, Paul’s eyes were closed, symbolising that he had ‘passed’ and he was holding a cigarette in his right hand – even though he was totally left handed.
Clue 2 – the Volkswagen Beetle car.
The VW Beetle car parked next to the zebra crossing on the far left of the photo, displayed the number plate registration ’LMW – 28 IF‘.
Conspiracy theorists believed that ‘LMW’ stood for ‘Linda McCartney Weeps’ – symbolising Paul’s wife Linda’s grief at his passing (in reality – Paul hadn’t even met Linda at this point in time).
Theorists claimed that the clue in the ’28 IF’ part of the VW’s number plate, signified the age that Paul would have been ‘IF’ he had lived.
Clue 3 – The Police van
The Police van seen in the photo was the type that was used to attend road traffic fatalities – and the theory was that the Police were very much involved in the cover-up of Paul’s death – and they were present at the photo shoot to ensure that the secret of his death was not uncovered.
Clue 4 – the back cover of the album
A simple photo of an Abbey Road street name sign – but the letter ‘S’ in the word Beatles, is cracked – which conspiracy theorists claimed was a deliberate subliminal sign that the Beatles were a broken unit following Paul’s death.
Clue 5 – the back cover of the album
In the photo of the wall there are a series of dots, which – if they were all joined up – would for the number 3 – the remaining number of Beatles following Paul’s death.
Clue 6 – the back cover of the album
In the shadow on the wall, it was said that an image of a skull can clearly be seen – depicting the fact that Paul was there, but in skeletal form.
Looking back on the above conspiracy theories, then it all seems a bit silly today – but at the time of the ‘Paul is Dead’ rumours , the allure and the power of the Beatles as a world force and influence, was so great that I guess you couldn’t blame some people for being sucked in to believing the ‘evidence’ put before them. It certainly makes a good story though and all adds to the legacy and myth of what was, and to some still is, the greatest band in the world.
Statistically – the Beatles ‘Abbey Road’ album was no.1 in the UK album charts for 11 consecutive weeks – and spent a total of 92 weeks in the album charts.
It sold 4 million units in the first 6 weeks of its release – and today over 43 million copies of it have been sold.
Today – the Abbey Road Studio location and particularly the zebra crossing outside are visited by thousands upon thousands of sightseers from all over the globe – all wanting to have a photo of them walking across the zebra crossing.
Also, every conceivable inch of the exterior street walls of the studio are covered in Beatles related graffiti, caricatured etchings, lyrics & messages from fans paying homage to the Fab Four – so much so that it is claimed that these walls have to be re-painted every couple of months – well worth going to see, even if you’re not a big fan of the Beatles.
The photos accompanying this London Shoes piece were accumulated from 2 previous visits I’ve made to Abbey Road. The first being in Feb 2017, just 1 month into my retirement where I put together only my 2nd London Shoes blog entitle ‘The Beatles-London’ – and the second visit was in June this year (2019) when my cousin Robert was over, visiting from Perth-Australia, and wanted me to take him to the ‘shrine’.
So – here’s wishing you a very Happy Anniversary “Abbey Road” – and long may your legacy of fine music continue to be enjoyed by current and future generations.
Below are a summary of the photos accompanying this
“Happy 50th Anniversary-to the Beatles-Abbey Road album”