Like most of my generation I am a Beatles fan. So I was delighted to find out from my fellow tweeter @EamonnMallie that the iconic zebra crossing at Abbey Road in St John’s Wood, London has received listed status, albeit Grade II. The Liverpool lads recorded most of their output at the studios in Abbey Road. Their final album as a group was recorded there in April 1969. ‘Abbey Road’ became their best selling album and the front cover consisted of a picture of the four members of the group crossing the road at the zebra crossing beside the studios. Zebra crossings in Britain are usually distinguished by belisha beacons on either side, named after a former Transport Minister who introduced them in 1934. These are the flashing amber globes on top of poles with black & white stripes.
Since the Abbey Road photo was taken, zigzag lines at the kerb and in the centre of the road have been added to all zebra crossings to indicate the no-stopping zones on either side. The band Shriekback’s album Sacred City contains an entire song, “Beatles Zebra Crossing?”, about the famous zebra crossing and its status as a tourist attraction (Wikipedia).
The scene is still very much a tourist attraction. When I visited it four years ago I met a group of Japanese visitors waiting to take their turn crossing the road at the same spot and also taking photographs.
There is also a live webcam accessible on the Abbey Road studios web page.
The initiative to list the crossing came from the studios who approached the Department of Culture, Media & Sport. They say the crossing is the first of its kind ever to be listed, reflecting the cultural and historical importance of the crossing and the studios. Some 41 years after the photograph of the Beatles on the crossing outside the studios was taken, it continues to be a must-see destination, attracting thousands of music fans all over the world. Artists have also paid tribute to the iconic image, from the infamous Red Hot Chili Peppers’ album art to Kanye West and Seal. In a statement the general manager of the studios Jonathan Smith said when the Department listed Abbey Road Studios in February, the zebra crossing had been excluded from the listing. As an important cultural landmark and icon of British culture, he said they believed the crossing should receive the same protection as the studios and were delighted this has now been granted.