A series on some of London's best walking tours. This time, we speak to Richard Porter from London Beatles Walks.
Tell us about London Beatles Walks!
I have been guiding Beatles Walk of London for over 30 years. They are basically walking tours that visit major Beatles places in London, with me telling stories of the things that happen at each stop. My Beatles Magical Mystery Tour is around Soho and Mayfair, and my Beatles In My Life walk is around Marylebone.
If you had to choose one stop from either of your walks?
Both tours end at Abbey Road — it is the 'must see' Beatles site in London. Everyone wants to walk across the famous pedestrian crossing, just as the Beatles did on 8 August 1969. I'm often asked whether the crossing has moved at all since the Beatles crossed over. The answer is no.
What else do you get asked a lot?
Whether Paul McCartney is dead! There was a rumour that spread in 1969 that he had died in a car accident. The Beatles were worried their fame was going to be affected, so employed an imposter to take his place. The rumour went on to say that the other Beatles felt guilty about doing this, so put 'clues' on album covers that Paul was dead. The Abbey Road cover is supposed to be Paul's funeral procession, with George the grave digger, Ringo the undertaker and John the preacher. 'Paul' is supposedly wearing an old suit and is bare foot — how bodies are buried!
People have come up with so many 'clues' and it became an international pastime to find them. It's also often thought the Beatles sparked the whole thing, when actually the rumour was started by students in the US.
You must have been across Abbey Road a fair few times?
I must have been across Abbey Road tens of thousands of times.
On 8 August 2019 I organised a special tour that crossed Abbey Road exactly 50 years to the minute. I hired a Beatles lookalike band to lead us across, and they arrived in a replica of John Lennon's psychedelic Rolls-Royce. Well over 1,000 people from all over the world turned up to celebrate the anniversary. The event went viral and was on TV around the world and made the front page of the Guardian.
Is there any singing on your tours?
I don't sing on the tour — but sometimes people on my tours do.
Which Beatles have you met? And what were they like?
Over the years I have met three Beatles: Paul, George and Ringo. Well, four, if you count their previous drummer Pete Best. I've met Paul the most. I once got my photo taken with him, and went back later to get the photo signed. He remarked "Oh aren't we a lovely couple".
Controversial question - what was the most important city for the Beatles - Hamburg, Liverpool or London?
I have a new book out called The Beatles Fab Four Cities - Liverpool, Hamburg, London and New York, which I wrote with my tour guide friends David Bedford in Liverpool and Susan Ryan in New York. We did Hamburg together. I would say all four places played a significant role in the development of the Beatles.
What's your favourite thing about doing these walks?
I have turned my passion for the Beatles into my living and I meet like minded people from all over the world.