Abbey Road review (May 2014)
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I have two great passions in life: The Beatles, and zebra crossings. I love them both equally. So a trip to Abbey Road is the perfect day out for me. And it's also the perfect place to see a bit of road rage too, and watch some tourists getting shouted at by the London cabbies, which is always fun. You will witness more beeping horns and furious hand gestures around here than in any place in London. The Beatles famously sang that "All You Need Is Love", but come rush hour in Abbey Road and all that is forgotten. They have inadvertently turned this road into a battle-zone between the buses, bikes and Beatles fans.
But first of all you've got to find the right zebra crossing. If all you've seen is the album cover then good luck trying to find it -- you'll have to look about ten times before you focus on the right one. It's changed a little bit since The Beatles first crossed the road in 1969. There are actually three different crossings just fifty-feet apart (plus another one further up the road), and the orange Belisha beacons make you think you've got the wrong one (they aren't shown on the cover). They've also decided to add some stripy white zig-zag lines around it too, so the road markings are totally different these days. If you're lucky then you'll find a big group of tourists snapping away on their iPhones to guide you to the right spot.
Here are some clues: Look out for the pointy stone monument in the centre of the road, and then look straight down Abbey Road. That is the same view as on the cover. The old Volkswagen has long gone now of course, and the black taxi is missing too. And there's an extra bus-stop behind it. But you can still see the leafy green trees and the white wall of Abbey Road Studios. But it's a busy main road these days. In fact, if The Beatles had tried to snap the same shot today then they would have been run over in ten-seconds flat.
As I'm writing this I'm watching about fifteen camera clickers queue up on the pavement, waiting for their turn to march across. They wait for the briefest of lulls in the traffic and then off they go, out of their starting traps, striding across in fours with their arms and legs at 45 degrees, like a row of paper dolls. When they have got halfway across they all pause and grin for ten seconds whilst their accomplice takes a pic from the pavement (or standing in the centre of the road, if they're feeling brave). That is when the road rage takes place. The cars will start steaming and bucking like broncos, impatient to get away. The drivers will have their hands hovering around their horn, ready to deliver a quick blast of trumpet if they take too long. But then reinforcements will arrive from the pavement -- four more fans will take their place in line. And then four more, four more, and a lone one this time... then another young quartet. And this goes on and on until the end of days. Some of them don't have anyone around to take a photo and have to grab a friendly passerby (all of whom seem happy to oblige), whilst others are too shy to ask and just march across alone; just to tell their friends they've done it.
A little farther down the path is Abbey Road Studios. You can't go inside but you can take a little peek through the gates at the famous front door. Check out the graffiti strewn posts too, which are festooned with bazillions of lyrics and "I love you John!" and stuff like that, left by forty years worth of music fans. (Just make sure that no one's looking when you leave yours.) Most of it is peoples' names and song lyrics, like "Here Comes The Sun" and "Let It Be". There are also quite a few people quoting their last-ever line: "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make." (Has there ever been a better last line to end a career on?) And then you've got a few scallywags who have subjected us to their wit ("Suck my ****!" and "The Beatles are ****!"). There are also quite a lot of phone numbers too, for some reason, and pictures of the Yellow Submarine. But my favourite one is by the guy who wrote "I woz here, Paul McCartney 2014".
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