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Beatles fans flock to Abbey Road studio 'eight days a week'

Fourteen years after the fact, the Beatles still can't escape the spotlight. A legendary London landmark, the studio at No. 3 Abbey Road where the Beatles worked (and often slept) while recording their 1960s hits, is to throw open its doors to the public for the first time. It was the release in 1969 of the Beatles' last and perhaps their greatest album, ''Abbey Road,'' that secured the studio's place in pop legend.

And ever since, the faded Victorian building in the leafy London suburb of St. John's Wood has been a Mecca for Beatles fans from all over the world. Fourteen years later, their enthusiasm still shows no sign of trailing off.

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''They come by the coachload and beg for a chip of paintwork or even a tuft of carpet a Beatle might once have walked on,'' says Kathy Varley, an employee of Thorn-EMI, the recording firm that owns the studio.

Local residents frequently complain of the traffic jams outside the studio and the sound of screeching brakes.

''It's daft,'' one said. ''At any time of day or night you'll find some fan posing for a photo on the zebra crossing, just like the Beatles did on the Abbey Road album cover.''

Now the fans will get the chance to see inside their idols' one-time musical home. But they will have to move fast: It will be open to the public only from July 18 until Sept. 11.

The building's owners are arranging visits to Studio No. 2 where the ''Fab Four,'' a then unknown bunch of Liverpool lads, made their first commercial recording test in 1962, and soon after, their first hit, ''Love Me Do.''

The studio itself is not much to look at: a drab, cavernous room in the basement, with quaintly old-fashioned equipment and walls lined with bags of seaweed - a device much favored in the '50s for ensuring acoustic quality.

Twice a day EMI will run an 80-minute show with film clips of the Beatles during recording sessions, interviews, and a soundtrack that includes original Beatles material that has not been heard before. It is part of more than a thousand hours of Beatles tape recently unearthed by a sound engineer in the studio archives.

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A spokesman for EMI said: ''Until now, we had no idea these recordings existed. Most of them are unused takes of famous Beatles songs with different musical arrangements. There's 26 versions of 'Strawberry Fields' alone.''

''We're thinking of releasing them, they've got a good commercial sound,'' says EMI public relations spokesman Brian Stouthall. ''But we won't put them on the market without a go-ahead from George, Paul, and Ringo.''

EMI has taken steps to make sure no one beats them to it. Said a spokesman: ''We've issued a warning that we'll come down very heavily on pirates; and any visitors this summer will have to leave their tape recorders at the door.''

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