Andy Johnson is the film maker who filmed Alfie’s Inside Out programmes back in 2007; the piece below has been re-blogged from his website.
Ten minutes. That’s all it took.
To snap what’s become arguably the most recognisable album cover of all time.
Iain MacMillan got on a pair of step ladders 45 years ago today and got into the middle of the road. He took six pictures as a friendly bobby held up the traffic.
Abbey Road has never been the same since.
The famous recording studios has a crossing cam.page on its website – even though the original crossing was moved more than thirty years ago – to capture the tourists who continue to irritate motorists in St John’s Wood to this day.
It’s even been given Grade Two listed status. All because four hairy musicians who changed the world spent a few minutes on a sunny August morning parading across in unison, in between recording sessions for what became their last studio album.
I was lucky enough to film there in 2007 with the opera singer Alfie Boe. He was already a Tony award-winning Broadway star when we met. But his career hadn’t become quite as stratospheric as it is today.
Alfie even let me be John to his Ringo as we paid our homage to the most famous bit of street furniture in the western world.
What was far more exciting was to go inside Studio Two at Abbey Road where the Beatles recorded. It sent shivers down my spine to think of all those incredible songs written and rehearsed where we were standing.
There was a slightly surreal element to the day too. Gene Simmons, he of the extra-long tongue and penchant for heavily applied eye-shadow, was also there recording a programme for US TV. Without his blusher and mascara he was quite difficult to recognise.
Come to think of it, what a duet that could have been. The lead singer of Kiss with Britain’s finest tenor.
Back to Alfred Giovanni Roncalli Boe. I’m glad he shortened it to Alfie. He was born in Fleetwood, Lancashire and, corny as it undoubtably sounds, his really is a rags to riches story.
He was spotted – or rather heard – by a customer as he worked on the production line at the old TVR car plant. The man, who had links to the music industry, recommended that Alfie should go to London to audition with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. His car factory days were soon over.
We strolled along Fleetwood beach and had a lovely dinner with Alfie’s mum as his career was about to really take off.
His performance as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables won him further acclaim. I caught up with Alfie four years later in London, when he was reprising the famous role at the Queen’s Theatre.
Like those four lads on the zebra crossing in 1969, Alfie was sporting longer hair and a beard. That was partly down to the role, but also to a change in musical direction.
He’d recently duetted with his idol Robert Plant and was wanting to expand his horizons and move away from opera.
As he told me: “I don’t want to say I’ve closed the door to opera, but at the moment I want to try out and discover new genres.”
He’s certainly done that. The next addition to the Alfie Boe catalogue will be Serenata, a collection of romantic Italian songs, that’s released in November.
He’s already enjoyed four top ten albums and three sell out UK tours. No doubt we’ll be talking about numbers five and four by the time he’s back home for live dates in Liverpool and Manchester before Christmas.
In those four years between the two films I made with him, Alfie’s life had changed beyond recognition. He was a star with a capital ‘S’.
What was so heartening was that although his fame, wealth and album sales had rocketed, his feet remained firmly planted on the ground.
He said: “I don’t try to be something else because I’m working at the Royal Opera House or anywhere else.
“I can’t be anything else but Alfie.”
I am lucky enough to live near Abbey Road and it is absolutely true that there are always tourists waiting to have their photo taken on the iconic crossing…at all hours of the day and night! This photo seems to be unusually quiet – someone must have been keeping the usual hordes away I think!
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