"There's a fog upon LA...."
If those words sound familiar, then you've heard "Blue Jay Way," the Beatles' song about being stuck on a tiny cul-de-sac in the Hollywood Hills.
On August 1, 1967, George Harrison was staying at a rented house on the street. He penned the song while awaiting the arrival of former Beatles publicity man Derek Taylor, who had gotten lost. Shortly thereafter, the piece was recorded by the Beatles for the Magical Mystery Tour film and soundtrack record.
It all began when the Beatles' U.S. attorney Robert Fitzpatrick received a phone call from manager Brian Epstein, who asked him to lease a house for George to stay in during a forthcoming visit to Los Angeles. Mr. Fitzpatrick pursuaded an associate of his, another entertainment attorney named Ludwig Gerber, to make his L.A. residence available while he vacationed in Hawaii. (At least one book lists Mr. Fitzpatrick as the owner, but that is incorrect.)
According to realtor Saundra Renard, who has handled the property in recent years for Desert Connection Realtors, Mr. Gerber, who died a few years ago, had an amazing life: U.S. Army colonel during World War II, singer Peggy Lee's manager for many years, movie producer, graduated from the N.Y. Bar at 19. In short, "A brilliant, well-read, man."
The house was on a small hard-to-find street in the Hollywood Hills, just above the Sunset Strip, where nightclubs like the Whisky A Go Go were in their heyday. As if the winding streets weren't confusing enough, George pointed out in the opening line of "Blue Jay Way" that there was also fog.
As luck would have it, there was an organ in the house. George Harrison was not known as an organist - he played lead guitar with the Beatles - but within the simple harmonic structure of the Indian music he was interested in at the time, an entire song could be built around a single chord. He probably just held his fingers down on a few notes while improvising some lyrics.
As the years went by, Ludwig Gerber reportedly "outlived his money" and ultimately decided to sell the house. Saundra Renard said, "He took great pride and always wanted me to tell people how George Harrison wrote the song there and that it was a famous house, etc." Unfortunately, she said, "I sold his house during the real estate downturn," and that it later sold again for a much higher price. "He always said it was worth over $2 million, and he was right. Timing was very off."
Our virtual sightseeing tour includes lots of pictures. To ease the download, the presentation has been broken into several pages:
- HOW TO FIND BLUE JAY WAY
- Follow the route from the Sunset Strip into the Hollywood Hills. As the street signs pass by, try to guess where Derek Taylor may have taken a wrong turn. This segment ends at the foot of Blue Jay Way.
- WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE (The Short and Winding Road)
- Follow Blue Jay Way to the top of the hill and see why the houses are so expensive there (it's the view).
- INSIDE THE HOUSE WHERE GEORGE STAYED
- Photos by Saundra Renard take us inside the house where George Harrison wrote "Blue Jay Way."
- THE ORGAN THAT GEORGE HARRISON USED
- Amazingly, the organ that George Harrison used is still there. Here's what it looks like today. Thanks to Saundra Renard for the photos (made especially for this Web page), and additional thanks to the current owner for his assistance.
- AERIAL VIEW AND MAP
- Here's what the neighborhood looks like from the air, with images adapted from Los Angeles CityROM, courtesy of The Small Blue Planet Atlas Company.
Saundra Renard said that for a long time the house where George wrote the song "was lost in a 60's time warp - no granite, no marble, aluminum sliding doors, formica counter top - a fixer-upper for Hollywood tastes." According to a listing on her Website a few years ago, the abode now boasts a new kitchen and a "THX Sound Media Room." Not to forget: "Views from Downtown to Ocean." Paul Simon leased the house after George, and he wrote the first two verses of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" there. Also, the percussion track for the Simon & Garfunkel song "Cecilia" was recorded there. We were hoping to get a sound clip of the organ, but sadly the instrument is no longer playable. The last time someone plugged it in, it started to smoke. Derek Taylor died of cancer on September 7, 1997. Even during his illness, he continued to serve the Beatles, and was heavily involved with the preparation of the Anthology project.
BLUE JAY WAY
- Wikipedia: Blue Jay Way
- Ludwig Gerber is mentioned on these pages by Derek Lamar:
- Mystical Journey: Eyes Wide Open - page includes a small photo of Mr. Gerber (see below)
- ->Ludwig Gerber: full-size photo from above page
- Mystical Journey: From Hollywood Blvd. To Blue Jay Way
- Thane Walker: A Man On A Journey
- Perception vs. Reality: Prologue - more background on Ludwig Gerber [archive copy of defunct page]
- Ludwig Gerber, 91; Attorney, Western Regional Head of VA - 2002 obituary from Los Angeles Times
- "Blue Jay Way" lyrics and musician credits [archive copy of defunct page]
- Simon and Garfunkel quotes - Paul Simon talks about writing "Bridge Over Troubled Water"
- Handbill for a 2004 "Blue Jay Way" benefit show in New York
MORE BEATLE LINKS
- TheBeatles.com - official site
- Breakfast With the Beatles - America's longest running Beatles radio show:
- breakfastwiththebeatles.com [official site]
- MySpace.com/AppleScruffCentral [official MySpace page]
- KLOS-FM page
- Beatles-A-Rama - streaming Beatles (and Beatle-related) music 24-hours a day
- Yahoo! links to Beatles-related sites
- Beatles Timeline
- The Beatles' England - Liverpool and London (also Hamburg and New York)
- Some Beatle Sites in Hamburg, Germany - commentary with snapshots
- Magical Mystery Tours to Liverpool/London - includes photos of trip
- Recording the Beatles - book gives complete description of equipment and recording techniques
- How Math Unraveled the 'Hard Day's Night' Mystery - the opening chord decoded!
- Roy Young interview - friend of the band talks about playing in Hamburg
- PaulMcCartney.com [official site]
- NASA: Paul McCartney concert for the space station (12/2/2005)
- Instant Karma! - "The John and Yoko Magazine Since 1981"
- Ringo Starr [official site]
- Abbey Road Studios
- Abbey Road crosswalk - a live Webcam view
- Domenic's Accordion Beatles Page
(And before you ask, the answer is NO,
I do NOT know which house it is.
And if I did know I wouldn't tell YOU!)
This page established: July 28, 1997 Last updated: February 17, 2023
Most of the photos were taken on June 29, 1997
© 1997-2023 Earl P. Reinhalter. All Rights Reserved.