Walking around Liverpool reminds you just how synonymous the city is with the Beatles. Locations like Penny Lane, the Cavern Club and Strawberry Field are known the world over for their association with the band. There is however another English city which could also claim to be the home of the fab four. During the height of “Cool Britannia” in 1963, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr decamped to London, initially staying in the Hotel President located in Russell Square. The hotel has since been renamed the President and undergone extensive changes, but it still celebrates its connection with the band, mentioning the distinguished guests on its website.
The boys had first become familiar with the area the year before, while staying at the nearby Royal Hotel which was round the corner at Woburn Place. The purpose of that visit on New Year’s Eve 1962 was to audition for the Decca record label, having travelled through the night in driving snow. They failed the audition and were allegedly told that the days of guitar bands had been over. The same label later rejected Jimi Hendrix, too.
By the summer of the next year, the boys were back in town again, and had taken up residence in the President, where they stayed until the autumn of 1963. The hotel really did become a home from home for the band, with many friends and family from Liverpool coming to visit during their stay.
After leaving the President, all four band members moved into a flat at 57 Green Street, close to Hyde Park. This was to be the only true home shared by them all, Lennon moving out shortly afterwards to join Cynthia and baby Julian in their own place on Emperor’s Gate. Later, a seminal moment in the band’s history was to take place when Lennon met Yoko Ono at an art gallery located in Mason’s Yard, off Duke Street. The gallery still stands and is now home to Guy Peppiatt Fine Art.
Brian Epstein had moved into a top floor apartment at Whaddon House in late 1963 and he was soon followed by Harrison and Starr, who shared their own apartment in the building for over a year. Whaddon House was an ideal location, being situated in a small, private street close to Harrods. Starr moved on again in 1965, buying a property at 34 Montagu Square. However, he spent less than a year in the house and later rented it out to Jimi Hendrix, amongst others.
Several Beatles songs, including ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’, were written in the basement music room of the Wimpole Street home, which McCartney shared with Jane Asher. In the mid-60s, Lennon, Harrison and Starr all chose to relocate to the county of Surrey, leaving McCartney as the only London-based Beatle. He later bought a house in St John’s Wood, close to Abbey Road, and the band would frequently gather here after sessions in the studio. Abbey Road would prove to be an inspirational home for the group and many notable songs were recorded there, including ‘All You Need is Love’ and ‘Love Me Do’.
The legacy of the band lives on in the plethora of walks and guided tours which exist in the city today. A quick look on the internet will give you lots of information on the different types of tours available. Although with a little planning, you could easily devise your own “ticket to ride” using the underground system, starting at Hyde Park Corner on the Piccadilly Line and taking in St John’s Wood and Baker Street along the way.
94 Baker Street used to be the site of the former Apple store, a short-lived venture by the band. The store itself was looked down upon by other retailers in the area for its garish psychedelic colours, and when it began to struggle financially, all the stock was given away. Opened on 7th December 1967 and closed on 30th July 1968, the shop was one of the first business ventures by Apple Corps, and the aim, according to McCartney at the time, was to provide “a beautiful place where beautiful people can buy beautiful things.” The ground floor of the building is now home to a recruitment agency, while the upper floors have been converted into plush apartments.
The former home of the Apple record company at number 3 Savile Row is well worth a visit, too: the band performed the famous rooftop session here in 1969. The appearance was featured in the 1970 documentary film “Let It Be”, and it turned out to be the last time the band would perform live together. You can’t actually enter the building itself unless you have business there and any recording facilities have long since disappeared, but you can take photographs outside.
Although a lot has changed in the intervening years, the legacy of the band lives on. One of the best places to recapture the flavour of the time and make some new memories is The Beatles Coffee Shop, based at St John’s Wood Underground Station. The owners, Richard and Irina Porter, are lifelong Beatles fans and qualified tour guides. Liverpool might well be the original home of the Beatles, but for fans of the band London can also provide a true “Magical Mystery Tour”.