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Beatles ‘come together’ in Wallingford mural

Posted by Kate Bergman on February 7th, 2012

By AMANDA AUSTIN

UW News Lab

For three years, the exterior wall of Golden Oldies in Wallingford was home to five musical icons spanning just as many generations. Elvis, Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, Debbie Harry and Kurt Cobain were immortalized in a graffiti-style mural until 2010. Early one morning in August, the driver of an SUV, presumed by police to be texting behind the wheel, plowed through the record store. Casualties included 3,000 records, 2,000 CDs and hundreds of 8-track tapes.

Store-owner Dean Silverstone was heartbroken, he told Seattle P-I reporter Casey McNerthney. Since then, time, good music and an outpouring of community support have helped to mend his distress. Soon, the store’s west wall will be graced with musical greatness once again: The Beatles are slated to take to the figurative stage next, thanks to mural artist David Heck.

Photos by Amanda Austin

Heck, a well-known local artist with more than 23 years of experience, is going to recreate the album cover of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” on the 45-foot-wide space. Heck has made a name for himself creating everything from murals to business signs, automobile sideboards to restaurant logos. He’s left his artistic signature on interiors and exteriors, on wood, metal and canvas.

This won’t be the first time the artist brings an album cover to a grand scale. The first album Heck painted as a mural was Michael Jackson’s “History” on the Tower Records building on Fifth Avenue North and North Mercer Street, back in 1995. He painted over those murals with new album covers every six to eight weeks for 12 to 15 years, he said. The best part, Heck added, was getting to meet many of the bands whose covers he had created when they were in town touring.

“Abbey Road” will be the third or fourth Beatles’ mural that Heck paints, he said. The cover art was chosen through a survey sent to members of the Golden Oldies Rebate Program, better known as GORP. Of the group’s 11,000 members, 1,700 responded, and the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” was voted No. 1.

This album cover is a perfect fit; the photo of the four Beatles has been consistently imitated, satirized, distorted and honored over the years, and is easily recognized by almost any age group. It was important that the reputable neighborhood fixture be decorated with cover artwork worthy of the honor. After all, Golden Oldies is recognized at the national level. In 1989, the independently owned franchise made it onto U.S. News and World Report’s radar, heralded as “one of the best sources” to find old records.

“Abbey Road” was recorded during the summer of 1969, just months after rumors that the group might break up terrified a nation of fans. Despite widespread doubt that the artists could collaborate and create a successful record in light of their personal differences, “Abbey Road” was a huge hit. Its songs include “Come Together,” “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” “Octopus’s Garden,” “Oh Darling” and “Here Comes the Sun.”

Today, Rolling Stone Magazine ranks it the 14th greatest album of all time and adds that it is “their most polished album: a collection of superb songs cut with an attention to refined detail, then segued together … with conceptual force.” Heck says he is excited about the project because “it’s fun to work on” and it’s been great to watch everyone else enjoy it.

“It’s such an iconic image,” he said. “Everyone will be able to recognize it.”

The mural, just like the original image, will depict progression—movement portrayed in both a literal and figurative sense. Life-sized illustrations of the four famed musicians will march forward in synchrony across what is now, arguably, the most famous crosswalk in the world.

This triumph lends itself to Golden Oldies’ story. The private company marched on in the face of a devastating accident, and it continues to prevail in the struggle to remain relevant to a technology-obsessed culture that has all but written off anything that can’t be plugged into an iPod.

Silverstone hopes the mural will help his business “continue to flourish as it has for the last four decades” (the store will celebrate its 40th birthday this year). He envisions the completed mural will be something the patrons of Dick’s Drive-In across the way will be able to enjoy as they stop by for their burger fix.

Wallingford resident Meika Hubbard, 26, who lives right down the street from the record store, thinks it sounds like a cool project. “I support local art in all its forms and murals are a great way to bring uniqueness, color and life to the side of a building,” she said.

“I think the mural will add another bit of originality to the already fun and exciting Wallingford neighborhood.”

After the west wall is completed, Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced” and the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds,” ranked No. 3 and 4 by GORP members, will grace the exterior of the east wall. The album ranked No. 2 was by Janis Joplin, but isn’t being made into a mural. Heck estimates that the mural will be completed within the next month, as long as the weather doesn’t keep him from his work.

In the meantime, here’s a message to any text-happy SUV driver who might be driving through the area: Let it be.

AMANDA AUSTIN is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.



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  • Heidi Berg

    I have a suggestion. ** You could include one OLD picture from the area — every now and then.   (Like National Geo. does that, and LOOK or LIFE magazines used to do that — on the back page).  Thanks for your fantastic site. I'm in NY area, but grew up in the area and return every year …. it's nice to be able to see home sweet home. Thanks!  — Heidi