Two of the most iconic pop culture sites in the world are the Rocky steps in Philadelphia and Abbey Road in London. Tourists run up the Rocky steps in a practically 24/7 rotation while fans emulating the Beatles are constantly holding up traffic on Abbey Road.
One of the reasons they’re so popular is they took someplace ordinary and made it extraordinary. Movie fans thrilled when Rocky sprinted up the steps, he was finally ready for his match with Apollo Creed. For Beatles fans, the Abbey Road album cover created a spot where they could literally walk in their heroes’ footsteps.
What also makes these two places unique is that you can actually do something there. Even mere mortals can take part in the event: crossing a street or running up a set of steps becomes something special. The activity can even translate to other places.
We were walking through the ruins of Pompeii when we spotted four teenagers replicating the album cover. Due to the Beatles, four people can have their picture taken crossing any street in the world and onlookers will know what they’re doing. Rocky gave any set of stairs the potential to be the Rocky steps. When I was in high school we’d run bleachers for track practice and hum the Rocky theme.
The universality of Rocky became clear to us in Malaysia. It was another oppressively hot, sticky day in Kuala Lumpur. The heat and the humidity were locked in mortal combat to see which could reach 100 first. We had just climbed the legendary 272 steps to reach the summit at Batu Caves, a Hindu holy site. This feat was so arduous it was a task in The Amazing Race where the competitors had to tell the person at the top the correct number of steps or start over. We lost track after about a dozen so fortunately no one was waiting for us to deliver this information.
As we stopped to catch our breath and impress each other with our fitness level we heard the unmistakable sound of a young man blaring out the Rocky theme. Fortunately we had our Little Rocky statue with us. Patrick was the ringleader of a group of four friends from Brazil who had just climbed the steps. He said the theme song just came to him while he was climbing. We took a few photos of Patrick and his entourage with Little Rocky. Who thought that in southeast Asia we’d hear the Rocky theme?
In a perfect world, the Beatles would have run up the Rocky steps. Since that’s not possible we decided to have Rocky cross Abbey Road. In a strange mish-mash of cultural icons, we met a group of students from Indiana who were also remembering the Beatles. One of them, the musically named Dylan, is such a huge Rocky fan that his dog is named Rocky Balboa. He’s the kid in the black shirt in the video below.
How to visit Abbey Road
Take the Jubilee Line on the London Underground to the St. John’s Wood stop. It’s about a 10-minute walk from there. At the entrance to the station is the “Beatles Coffee Shop” which sells snacks and Beatles merchandise. (Extra points to anyone who knows which Rolling Stones song mentions St. John’s Wood.) NOTE: There is another Underground stop called Abbey Road but that is a different Abbey Road and is way across town from where you want to go.
If you’re having a slow day there is even a web cam to watch people dodging cars and crossing Abbey Road.
Click the link to read more about the Rocky Steps in Philadelphia.
Can you name some other pop culture icons to visit?