If any fact could be designed to make you feel really old, consider this: on 26th September 2019 it will be fifty years since The Beatles released the Abbey Road album. Fifty years! And here’s me thinking it’s still relatively new. And to celebrate, The Beatles: Hornsey Road with Mark Lewisohn seemed like the perfect event. And so did many other people, if last night’s packed rows on all three levels of the Royal Theatre have anything to go by.
Historian, researcher and all-round Beatles aficionado Mark Lewisohn has put together this fascinating insight into Abbey Road (the album, not the zebra crossing, although that features heavily), relating it to the personalities of the individual Fab Four, their lives and wives, their writing output, their inspirations and the machinations that went into creating this landmark work. No stone is unturned in delving deeply into the creative process, which also includes a unique opportunity to hear the songs from the album as you’ve never heard them before – split into the various (eight) parts that were mixed on the studio’s state-of-the-art technical hardware, as well as highlighting the contributions of George Harrison’s all-important Moog Synthesizer.
A major delight of this show – which you could consider to be a multimedia lecture – is the constant supply of quirky facts, irresistible photos, and background information; and if I tell you about them, it will spoil a heap of surprises for you. So I won’t. Suffice to say, amongst the entertaining and informative content, you’ll discover that the Daily Mail hasn’t changed its spots, how much George Martin was paid to orchestrate up some of the tracks, to what extent they enjoyed recording Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, what happened to John and Yoko in Scotland, learn the true identities of Mr Mustard and Polythene Pam, why the last note of Her Majesty is missing, the tantalising recently released news about why the group went Cold Turkey on the next album, and how Abbey Road was nearly called Hornsey Road.
Mr Lewisohn delivers his extraordinary material with respect, authority and humility, leaving all the fireworks to John, Paul, George and Ringo. If you ever feel that you’ve wasted your life, it’s incredible to think how much they achieved at such a young age; take a second to think that by the time the group split, George, the youngest, was still only 26. The pressure to succeed, the overwhelming adoration, followed by, in the latter days, the media’s desire to knock them down (à la Tall Poppy syndrome) must have been unimaginable for four young men, and it’s no wonder that they occasionally fell foul of the law and got themselves into trouble.
You might think that this show is only for Beatles geeks. Not true. Such geeks (of whom I’m possibly one), will get a whole lot of satisfying information which will send them home with a full brain and a contented heart. But, provided you like the Beatles to at least some extent – and that’s surely 99.9% of the population? – you’ll be impressed by the research, the passion, the history and the human insights into what Mr Lewisohn considers (and I agree with him) the finest creative team of the 20th century.
This was the first night of the tour, and between now and 4th December Mr Lewisohn will be sharing his discoveries in 23 more venues all over the country – and in Dublin. A memorable and highly rewarding show. You must go!