Wednesday, September 09, 2009

An Apple a day... every day

Cross purpose: A rare break between photo-ops in Abbey Road, July 2009

The Beatles were never really a rock band, whatever today's video game release and its attendant hoo-ha might have you believe. I'm with the late Ian Macdonald on the Fabs' attempts to rock out. He nails Helter Skelter in Revolution In The Head, his essential chronicle of their music and times: Macca makes for an unconvincing bellower as the band slog through 'the requisite bulldozer design but on a Dinky Toy scale'. There's no question Macdonald loved The Beatles; he simply accepted their limitations.

It's that human fallibility – that The Beatles were 'just four lads from Liverpool', if you draw your sentiment from the mawkish end of the pond – that makes their achievements all the more remarkable. And by setting the Rock Band TV ad in Abbey Road, the makers of the Rock Band TV ad have got something right. There's no Beatles landmark – no British pop landmark, really – like it.

Sure, The National Trust will take you for a nose around John and Paul's childhood homes. You can pose with the statues in Liverpool's 'Cavern quarter', but the original venue is long gone. There are city tours and museums. It's just all so, well, laid on. The closest counterpart to Abbey Road in the north-west isn't on Merseyside at all, but in Salford, where the Lads' Club is an enduring destination for Smiths fans bent on recreating the inner sleeve of The Queen Is Dead.

If Abbey Road is inevitably far busier, the appeal is the same. The dense graffiti on the walls outside the recording studios is testament to that: from dawn to dusk, you'll often see groups waiting for their go on the zebra crossing. But hold the traffic for a few minutes, and you get to be a Beatle. Apple Corps doesn't get to control this part of the band's legacy. In Abbey Road, every day is Beatles day. The studios even operate a webcam.

If The Beatles had stuck to the original plan and given the album the almost parodically rocktastic title Everest, it would all have been very different. But they were barely talking by then, and a trip to the Himalayas seemed a continent or two too far. Too bad for the tradesmen and couriers who navigate this particular stretch of St John's Wood.

No comments: