Not only are taxi drivers’ brake pedals kept busy on the zebra crossing outside, but it seems Beatles fans are also responsible for keeping the decorators at Abbey Road Studios in constant employment. Every month, the walls are repainted white after they fill up with fans’ written messages. This year, though, to mark 50 years since the band’s iconic album, the renowned London recording studios has decided to give the job to a roster of several artists, who will be adorning the walls with different creations each week, inspired by themes from the album.
The first was Luke Embden, and last Friday (6 September) it was the turn of illustrator Mikey Burey, whose work channels psychedelic aesthetics, and whose ideas for the mural stemmed from reading about Timothy Leary, the psychologist/drugs aficionado for whom Lennon wrote the song Come Together.
“The brief was fully open,” Burey explains to It’s Nice That. “I was asked to reimagine a song from the album so my first thought was to choose one I’ve always treasured, like Sun King or Because, and create something superfluid and personal. But then I looked into the story behind Come Together and it totally changed my view on the song. If you haven’t already, I’d definitely recommend reading an article on it. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to expand on my usual process and work on something with more of a narrative.”
The artwork is a mirrored portrait of Timothy Leary, on the left depicted as himself during the years that he was active in the advocacy of psychedelics, and in the running for governor of California. On the right, he’s a lot closer to Lennon’s portrait of him in the song, says Burey.
“It’s a combination of aesthetics I’ve tried to mush together – hippie’s utopian LSD trip meets over-optimistic politician’s campaign poster. I wanted to get the colour and energy of Leary’s whole thing but also keep some of Lennon’s dry sense of humour in there. It’s a very British take on a Californian campaign song so I’ve tried to find a balance between those two worlds.”
Used to working in a square or A-size format, taking on the Abbey Road wall was a big shift in process for Burey, whose final piece has been printed onto a vinyl wrap which is then set onto the wall. “It was a bit intimidating to imagine filling such a wide and unusual space so I ended up just drawing what felt right without paying much regard to anatomy or the rest of the small stuff that I can get hung up on easily. After I got some first drafts jotted down the rest fell into place pretty neatly!”