It was February 1998 and it caught up on me unawares. I had gotten off the tube at St John’s Wood Station and walked down Acacia Road. I had no preconceived thoughts or anticipation about what was about to happen. 

I was thinking about the fact that I was here to be part of a film about the late great Rich Mullins, a Christian songwriter that I had had the privilege of spending some time with.  Rich’s friends were making a tribute film and because of Rich’s love for Ireland thought I might add some nuance about that love. He had stayed with us in Dublin and called an instrumental track, 78 Eaton Wood Green, after the house. I was excited about meeting Jimmy Abegg, Rick Elias and Ben Pearson who was making the film. Rich had passed away just five months before and being with his friends was still part of the grieving.

I was also mindful that my wife was pregnant with our first child. It was due in a week’s time. I was hoping she didn’t go into labour until I got back home again!

Anyway, minding my own business I turned a corner and there it was. Wow! My body physically reacted. My emotions fired. There in front of me was the zebra crossing… THE zebra crossing. It was like looking at something almost sacred. Now it isn’t and if you are theologically squeamish don’t quote me and abuse the hyperbole, as some have in the past. I am using sacred poetically but poetically sacred seems the correct word.

I knew this zebra crossing. It was a part of me. It was part of the culture. I had just turned into Abbey Road. Abbey Road! The name of the last album that The Beatles recorded. A classic album even by Beatles’ standards. Come Together, Something, Here Comes The Sun. That amazing medley. Iconic and this cover was the icon on the cover. The Beatles walking across the Abbey Road zebra crossing, exactly where I am walking now.

I fell in love with The Beatles as a fifteen year old boy in 1976. I have spoken about how finding Jesus out of a love for this band did influence my faith. I go off and listen to many other bands, bands that I love, but I always come back to The Beatles. As I listen to their records I feel the feelings of my teens and twenties and thirties and… 

Now, it must have been that, in February 1998, I was not listening as much as I had. Walking into this space took me by too much surprise. I wasn’t considering them as I had walked down Acacia Road.

Now I was in the space. A few tourists were around about me. They stopped to look at the wall outside the studio I was heading towards. Abbey Road Studios where most of The Beatles’ records were recorded. Fans sign the wall outside. I stopped for a moment and joined the fans, checking out the names.

Then I had work to do. I walked through the gates and through the door of the Studio. I suddenly started to think that there was no way that they would let me in here. The Beatles (broken up almost 30 years earlier) might be there or some other big band. I wasn’t getting in. A couple of fans were turned away. I approached the desk, gave my name and was told that I had been expected and pointed in the direction of Studio 2.

It was now getting crazy in my head and heart and soul. Studio 2. That was where they did it. The Beatles used this “office” to change the entire world. I opened the door and Jimmy Abegg came over, gave me a hug and introduced me to the others.

The console space is reasonably small and immediately I was at the recording desk. Now it was bigger than any The Beatles had in the sixties but it was where their desk sat. Breathe. Then I looked to my left and there was the window that looks down into the studio. Two steps and I was at that window looking in. Oh my goodness me!

As well as filming the tribute video, Jimmy and Rick were recording the orchestral parts of an album that Rich was working on before he died. It later came out as the Jesus Album. I watched, mesmerised at where I was and what had happened. Later I got to walk down the steps and for a moment stand on the floor where The Beatles stood to make Please, Please Me, A Hard Days Night, Revolver… 

So, there I spent the day. People I knew came in to see Jimmy and Rick and to just stand and bask in the historic space. It was a special day. The film worked out great and I was honoured to be in it alongside Amy Grant, Michael W Smith and a host of star names.

As I headed back up Acacia Road to catch the train to Heathrow. My head was full of The Beatles. I thought about all those records, the photos I had looked at of that studio. What an amazing day I had had. Maybe if the child  we were expecting was a girl (she was) we could call her Abbey. Road seems not appropriate. It was only years later that I thought of Abbey Rhoda. Maybe Caitlin’s lucky it took me a little time.


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