Stairwell to pop history heaven

The Beatles posed on it and now the famous backdrop is moving. Robin Stummer reports

AS stairwells go, it's, well, a stairwell. Seven levels of wood, steel and glass - anonymous, even by 1960s standards. In fact, the only striking thing is that part of the first-floor handrail and glass screen is missing. But add four mop-tops from Liverpool and all becomes clear. Yes, it's that stairwell. The one pictured on millions of Beatles album covers, and its most famous section - the one the Fab Four leant over to be photographed - was last week unscrewed, prised apart and taken away.

But the removal of one of rock's holiest relics from EMI's ageing headquarters at 20 Manchester Square, London, was no act of architectural vandalism, for the next day it reappeared three miles away as the focal point of the company's new offices at Hammersmith.

The Beatles were photographed twice on the EMI stairwell. The first shot, of the baby-faced fabs fresh from Liverpool, was taken in February 1963 by Angus McBean and used for the cover of Please Please Me, the group's first album. Years later, McBean, who died in 1990, recalled that during the shoot he had asked John Lennon how long he thought the Beatles would stay together. "Oh, about six years I suppose," retorted Lennon, "Who ever heard of a bald Beatle?"

Six years later, in May 1969, the group returned to Manchester Square to recreate their pose, but their faces had started to show the strain. As a working entity, they had all but broken up. That shot, also taken by McBean, was originally intended for a new Beatles album entitled Get Back, but amid increasing rancour and business disagreements, it never appeared. Both photographs were used for the two greatest hits double albums, released in 1973. EMI's debt to the Beatles is enormous; the group recorded on the company's subsidiary label, Parlophone, and later, Apple (the band's own venture whose recordings were distributed by EMI). The company's decision to move the stairwell to its new building is an uncharacteristic display of sentimentality in a hard-nosed industry. "The Beatles' working career was centred on 20 Manchester Square," said David Hughes, an EMI vice-president. "The group was responsible for launching British pop as a world export, and we were lucky enough to have them signed to EMI. Commercially, the Beatles are as important to EMI in 1995 as they were in 1962."

But to many Beatles devotees, the EMI stairwell's dismemberment is yet another heartbreaking loss of a landmark associated with the group. "It's sad, but inevitable," says Richard Porter, who takes up to 7,000 tourists a year on tours of the Beatles' London. "It's 25 years since they split and most of the places associated with the group have changed in some way. But there's still a lot around."

In the early Seventies, Liverpool's Cavern Club, the subterranean "birthplace" of the Beatles, was demolished to make way for a ventilation shaft for an underground car park. Another site, the former RAF station at West Malling in Kent, where scenes for the Magical Mystery Tour film were shot, is due to be replaced by a business park.

But while the sites disappear, collectors are willing to pay huge sums for Beatles relics. Two weeks ago, a metal stud from the pedestrian crossing at Abbey Road fetched pounds 380, while parts of the old Cavern Club have soared in value. "In the early Eighties the going rate for a brick from the Cavern was about pounds 5," says Richard Porter. "But now they are selling for around pounds 200. It's big business."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
Passing on: George Washington died alert, aware and in his own bed. This is the kind of of death most people would like to have
health
Life and Style
fashion

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tv
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Brendan Rodgers as a manager, writes Paul Scholes
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Extras
indybest

Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
Arts and Entertainment
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Financial Sales Executives

£19000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to our clients continuing s...

Recruitment Genius: Tyre Technician / Mechanic

£15000 - £16800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Tyre Technician / Mechanic is...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Internal Sales - Technical Solutions - £26,000 Basic

£26000 per annum: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Reading , Southend, Aldershot, Luto...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Manager - £30,000 - Manchester City Centre

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This forward-thinking agency works with ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game