Pilgrimage to Abbey Road

8231The St. Johns Wood neighborhood of north London was a quiet, stately residential neighborhood of elegant homes and well manicured gardens – hardly a place you’d expect “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road. ” to be recorded. Eventually we spotted a white metal sign posted on a curving stone wall. It read: Abbey   Road – City of Westminister and I got goose bumps.

My first impression of the Beatles was in third grade. Scotty Jones invited me to his house after school to show off his Dads new stereo system. I sat on the couch while Scotty sneaked into his sister’s bedroom down the hall. He returned with an album. I watched him straddle it over the little pole in the middle of the turntable. After it fell, he carefully placed the needle on the shiny disc of spinning black vinyl. After a few seconds of soft crackling, the speakers exploded with the sound of guitars and drums which consumed everything in the room – including me. My heart pounded. I’d never heard music that loud and rich. I grabbed the album cover – Meet the Beatles.  Those four faces staring at me seemed super human. I was captivated. Ever since then I have loved this band.

In that two-dimensional square foot photo known as the cover of Abbey Road, walk four Beatles across a presumably quiet little street lined with lush green trees under a blue sky.

This was not what we found.

Did that guy from the Beatles store give me bad directions? I was about to curse him out when I noticed a crowd milling about, taking pictures, so indeed we’d been directed to the right place, but on this cold, gray morning under dark skies and bare trees Abbey Road looked and felt very different from that image portrayed on that album cover. The “zebra” crosswalk was much wider that I thought and the street bustled with constant traffic. Donna offered to take a photo of me and the kids walking across. To properly mimic the album photo, we’d need to start from the other side. Once there we took a few moments to look at the studio – a former mansion where the magic was made. I was hoping to see a gift shop or some other way to get inside. I was disappointed to read a sign posted on the iron fence explaining how Abbey Road Studios were not open to the public. How I wished somebody would have stepped outside, looked my direction, noticed me as the guy that cooks on TV, reached into his pocket for his key ring, then unlocked the gate. “Step aside please, step aside …very important people coming through…American cooking show hosts get private tours – even daft ones that can’t pronounce Worcestershire…make way everyone.”

That wasn’t going to happen.

The Beatles recorded most of their albums here, not just the last one. Years before its focus was orchestra music before the record company decided to capitalize on the pop music craze. When the Beatles first arrived to record a demo, they had to wear ties and abide by tight restrictions on where they could go. They probably felt about as welcome as we did standing on the sidewalk.

The stone base of the fence was covered with fan scribbling. A woman standing near us pulled out a flair pen, knelt down and started in.

“Dad, are you going to write something?” Alex asked.

I paused for a moment before replying: “Not today.” It had nothing to do with my disdain for graffiti, or not getting a studio tour. I was delighted to be at Abbey Road and see where my favorite music in the world was recorded. Bringing my kids here felt good and I was hoping something would rub off on them so they’d find the same appreciation for the band that I’ve adored most of my life.  I should have been writing on that wall without hesitation, yet wasn’t feeling it.

And I wasn’t quite sure why.

NEXT: Don’t Let Me Down

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3 Comments

  • Sara says:

    First of all, thanks for visiting my blog, Meet the Beatles…for real! While I was in awe of Abbey Road and the zebra crossing myself and I sure wrote my name on the wall, I was disappointed that I could not take a peek inside of the studio and I I saw other people coming and going. And like you, I wanted someone to see me and say something like, “serious Beatles fan out there….write a popular Beatles blog on the web….let her in!” And still it was a magical moment for me.

    • admin says:

      Hi Sara, Let’s you and I fly to London and storm those studio gates. Thanks for your comment. As a true Beatle lover, I think you’ll like today’s post.
      Jeff

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