The Beatles in London | Part One
Of course The Beatles will always be associated with their home city of Liverpool but after they moved to London in the summer of 1963, their working and social lives were firmly based in and around the capital.
After a couple of months at the Hotel President in Russell Square the four of them moved into a flat at 57 Green Street, just off Park Lane, and for once they actually lived in something like the scene from ‘Help!’, where they all arrive home together through separate front doors. I wonder who did the washing-up? Both of these buildings still exist but the flat at 13 Emperor’s Gate SW7, into which John soon moved with his secret wife Cynthia and son Julian, has been replaced by an office-block.
While they were moving around London their whole lives and the British music scene were being turned upside down. The first rush of rock and roll had run out of steam by 1959 with the death of Buddy Holly, Elvis joining the army, Jerry Lee Lewis in disgrace for marrying his 13 years old cousin and Little Richard turning to religion. Between 1959 and 1962 the British charts generally aped the American, with lots of cover versions, and the two biggest stars were Cliff Richard and Adam Faith. Until The Beatles first minor hit in late 1962 with ‘Love Me Do’ songs by all male British rock-based groups, with the notable exception of Johnny Kidd and The Pirates, weren’t given much of an airing outside of local dancehalls on Merseyside and other large cities. But with the success of ‘Please Please Me’, which went to number one in early 1963, followed by ‘From Me To You’, ‘She Loves You’ and ‘I want To Hold Your Hand’ which all hit the top spot, the floodgates were opened for a whole new kind of music. Suddenly dozens of groups emerged to fill the charts, many of them coming from Liverpool and Manchester, and The Beatles were the undisputed leaders.
It had certainly not been an overnight success. Their new manager Brian Epstein had touted the band around London in vain in his attempts to get them signed. On New Year’s Day 1962 they had recorded a demo for Decca Records at their studios just next to West Hampstead Tube Station but they got the thumbs down, and of course Decca famously lost a fortune. However, in February 1962 Epstein was in H.M.V. Records at 363 Oxford Street (there’s a blue plaque on the site today) getting some acetate discs made from the reel-to-reel Decca demo, which led to him being given the name of George Martin at E.M.I.’s studios in Abbey Road NW8. The rest is history.
They were given a big boost by appearing at two nationally-broadcast T.V. shows filmed at London theatres. At that time Sunday Night at the London Palladium was a hugely popular variety show – we’re talking singers, dancers, comedians, jugglers and even performing animals – and The Beatles appearance one Sunday night in October 1963 propelled them to the top. At the Royal Command Performance at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Coventry Street broadcast shortly afterwards John made his famous crack, “the rich ones at the front can rattle their jewellery.”
Late in 1963 Brian Epstein moved into the top-floor flat at Whaddon House in William Mews SW1 near Harrods and was soon joined by George and Ringo. Meanwhile Paul, who had met his future girlfriend Jane Asher at a Beatles broadcast at the Albert Hall early in that year, left the Green Street flat to move into the top-floor of her family home at 57 Wimpole Street W1. It was in the basement music-room here that he and John wrote ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, while it was also here that Paul dreamed the tune to ‘Yesterday’.
As Beatlemania accelerated Brian Epstein established the first London Beatles office at 13 Monmouth Street in Covent Garden but in 1964 he moved operations to the much swankier Sutherland House next door to the Palladium in Argyll Street W1.
Click here for part two of The Beatles in London
Guest Post by Ian Mole