The Lost History of The Beatles House on Precita

The Beatles House (1982)

Beatles House, 1982

This is a tale of The Beatles, a house on Precita Avenue, a mural, an artsy kid, domestic terrorists, classic punk rock, and a lost moment of Bernal Heights bohemia…

For almost two decades, the former “Beatles House,” at 191 Precita was covered by a colorful mural of the Fab Four. The mural became a local landmark and tourist attraction; so much so that the Beatles House was used to represent a rehearsal studio in the film “Living on Tokyo Time,” while also garnering mentions on local TV, CNN, and in local newspapers.

Today, the mural is gone… vanished without a trace.

I live down the street from the former Beatles House, so the neighborhood lore about the mural piqued my curiosity about it. Eventually, I found an old black-and-white picture of the house from 1978:

"Beatles House," 1978

The posting triggered a lively discussion in the photo comments that attracted both past and present residents of the property, and soon the woman who actually created the mural chimed in to tell her tale.

The Beatles mural was first painted in 1974 by Jane Weems, a young woman who lived in the house during the 1970s and 1980s.

In high school, Jane was the drummer/songwriter for a punk band called The Maggots. The band had a local underground hit with their song “Let’s Get Tammy Wynette.” Stereo Sanctity explains:

Formed around the nucleus of drummer Jane Weems and bassist Robert Mostert in ’78, it seems The Maggots proceeded to get through a veritable bus-load of additional members in their short existence, all arriving and departing from within SF’s high school-age punk milieu, raising merry hell in some parental basement and swiftly developing into the kind of band just as concerned with pasting together fake biographies and press releases for themselves and developing their own brand of icky goofball humour as they were with finding shows to play or recording songs.

The Maggots

You can listen to some vintage Maggots here. (Good stuff!) Jane still looked the part in 1982, and apparently she had a favorite Beatle:

Jane Weems

And here’s Jane, hard at work repainting the Beatles House, also in 1982:

Jane Weems, Hard at Work

So what inspired the Beatles House? In an email to me, Jane explained:

“I painted the house in 1974, when I was still in junior high school…. I had painted the walls of my bedroom inside the house, first with yellow submarine, then, I did the Elton John “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album cover really big on one wall, and other paintings of the Beatles & Elton John on my walls… they were pretty much covered… so, I asked if I could paint a mural on the house, and my parents said yes… so, I started to draw out what I wanted to paint, with a pencil, all freehand, in the low parts that I could reach… after painting that, my mom rented a scaffold, so I could go up higher to get the whole front done… in the middle of this, I had to go to school every day, so progress was slow.

The S.L.A. ‘s Emily Harris [of Patty Hearst kidnapping fame] lived secretly in a safe house down the street, and used to come by to “watch me paint” and talk to me about the Beatles.

It was fun, both times I painted it… lots of people would stop & watch, or talk to me when I was up there… when I was finished, for years folks would come by, take pix, ring the bell and see what kind of folks lived inside… : ) the SF Bay Guardian gave me a blue ribbon award once for being voted “The best SF remnant of the psychdelic 60′s” even though it was painted in ’74…

Basically, I was just an artistic kid who ran out of room inside, and started on the outside.

And finally, the Where Are They Now? Today, Jane lives in the Midwest, and Beatles House looks like this:

Former "Beatles House," 2007

IMAGES: Vintage photos courtesy of Jane Weems

About these ads

8 thoughts on “The Lost History of The Beatles House on Precita

  1. This is just a great SF story…did Jane tell you what her house looks like today, there in the midwest? Just curious…is all that creative juice still overflowing onto her walls?

  2. I feel sorry for anyone who missed this during its time. Jane, come back.. you can paint our house! Uh.. maybe I ought to get Carol’s permission first.

    I remember that after it was painted over the first time, there was still a little oval inside the doorway and to the left that was not covered over.. I think it was John Lennon’s face. But that’s gone now too.

  3. Pingback: Beatles in SF | Postcards from San Francisco

  4. Wow, I used to walk by this house almost daily on the way to my sister’s place at 29th and Mission and we lived at Presita Park on Treat and Presita. Didn’t know it was painted over. But, it’s just so cool that things like this in life stick w/you and remind you of a time or moment(s) in life. The mural is ingrained and has significance, reminding me of a kind of continuous Buzz, not substance instigated, that I had all the time then and in recalling it, it kind of returns to me now, today. Like I’m buzzing like I did back then. Feels so good. This, for lack of a more thorough word, is nestalgia. This is nastalgic. Art in this case does what good, affective art stands the chance to do; it affects me. And it’s good. Thanks for your painting Jane. So cool to learn it was placed their by a teen, encouraged by parents who supported her vision. -Steve, SF/CA/USA. O’Connell Tech High School Class of ’86.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s