The year is 1961. Yuri Gagarin has become the first man in Space. John F Kennedy is president of the United States. Construction of the Berlin Wall has begun in Germany. Meanwhile in London, it’s New Year's Eve and whilst everyone is celebrating out in the streets, four young guys from the North-West of England are just arriving in town after a long drive down to the south.
The next morning, whilst most are still lying in bed with a hangover, the boys get up and make their way to Broadhurst Gardens, a narrow street beside West Hampstead tube station. They walk into the studios of a renowned record company and perform an audition of 15 songs within an hour. But they are rejected and told
Guitar groups are on the way out.
Just three months later, they sign a record deal with another company and go on to become the best selling band in history, selling an estimate of over 800 million albums worldwide. Those boys were The Beatles.
I used to drink in the bars on Broadhurst Gardens for a long time without knowing that Decca Records - the company that made this gargantuan mistake - used to be based in the little red-brick building I always saw.
Broadhurst Gardens is a good place for an evening drink. Nowadays though, when I come here at night, I sometimes imagine a young John, Paul, George and Ringo arriving at this modest building, now a dance studio for the English National Opera, and leaving with disappointment on their faces. Little did they know what would become of their lives. The men at Decca records had made an enormous error that they would live to deeply regret; The day they turned down The Beatles is widely regarded as the biggest mistake ever made in the history of the music business. They had missed out on an almost incomprehensible fortune.
I come to this street - Broadhurst Gardens - for the bars. The first is the Railway pub, which is on the corner and closest to the tube station. This pub also has its own place in music history; huge artists such as Cream, The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix all performed here. What’s surprising about that is that it’s a pretty ordinary British pub. For me it’s always been a place where I go to watch football and have a couple of pints. What on earth was Jimi Hendrix doing in a place like this?
Just a few metres further down the road, you have The Gallery, opposite the old Decca studio. This is a trendy type of bar with a good selection of London ales on tap. Just next door is The Gardens bar, a quieter, less crowded option. Ironically, Broadhurst Gardens - where The Beatles were rejected - is just around the corner from Abbey Road, the street they famously immortalised.
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