Thursday, I went to the homeland of the Beatles – Liverpool. Anyone who is a Beatles fan and ever finds themselves in England must make it to Liverpool, at least for a day. You will be in Beatlemania heaven.
I decided to book a tour because, as I’ve found, to get the most out of something like this, a tour is usually ideal. I like to know what I’m seeing. Also, a lot of The Beatles sites are spread out and require some kind of vehicle to get around. So Magical Mystery Tour I did.
London to Liverpool is about a two and half hour train ride. Waking up at 5am to catch a 7am train was surprisingly not that hard- maybe the excitement of seeing iconic Beatles sites was enough to wake me up. Once I got to Liverpool I tried to find Mathew Street because, as the tour told me, there’s a Beatles store and gallery there (something I would not have known unless I did this tour). Finding Mathew Street proved easier said than done. I’d like to think that multiple people just gave me bad directions but I’m sure it had more to do with my complete lack of any kind of sense of direction and inability to read maps. “Oh, it’s really easy, just go up 3 streets and then turn left and you’ll see a sign” is what I was told the first time. Then, “just go up around and left, take another left and there it is”. After walking in circles (literally- I passed the same shopping center twice) someone finally gave me directions I understood (turn left right before the glass building- I’m all about landmarks when it comes to directions) and I realized I had passed the street at least once before. I honestly don’t think I could find my way out of a paper bag. I should really learn to read maps. Whatever I got to see the outdoor mall in the center of Liverpool, which is already decorated for Christmas.
After I found Mathew Street I had no problem locating The Beatles Store, which as you may have guessed, sells everything Beatles. But the cool thing about this store is they have the biggest inventory of Beatles wear along with original posters, postcards and pictures, and the entrance and ceiling are covered in pictures of the Beatles. I may or may not have bought some Christmas presents here but I don’t want to give anything away.
Liverpool loves The Beatles and is really milking it for all it’s worth, but I mean who wouldn’t want to take claim of them? And throughout the city are Beatles statues and pictures along with stores and hotels names after some of their most famous songs. I came across an Eleanor Rigby Hotel, Eleanor Rigby statue, John Lennon statue, multiple Beatles pictures on the Liverpool Wall of Fame, a bar named after John Lennon, and like I said, many stores with “The Beatles” in the name. Even the sign on Mathew Street said “Birthplace of The Beatles”.
Walking up Mathew Street I found the Cavern Club and across from it the Cavern Pub. Most people will know that the Cavern Club is where The Beatles played a lot of their shows before becoming internationally famous. A ton of other well known artists like Eric Clapton, The Who, Elton John, Stevie Wonder and BB King, to name a few, also played there but The Beatles made it famous. And it does claim to be “The Most Famous Club in the World”. You walk down a few flights of stairs and enter a dimly lit room that’s made up entirely of brick and has pictures of the famous musicians who played there. It closed in 1973 but reopened in April 1984, with Adele performing there most recently. Seven days a week the club has live performances. A band called The Two of Us (two brothers) plays Beatles covers, and they play them really well. After the tour I went and caught some of their performance and they do bear a musical resemblance to John and Paul.
After soaking in the Cavern Club I made my way to Albert Dock (this only happened smoothly because there were signs pointing me in the right direction) where you can see some boats and Liverpool’s version of the London Eye. But no one really cares about that because it’s significantly smaller than the London Eye and doesn’t have anything to do with The Beatles…as far as I know.
In the big shopping square that makes up Albert Dock is The Beatles Story Exhibit. By far the coolest museum/exhibit I’ve been to so far, probably because it’s about something that actually interests me. The Beatles Story is an exhibit that takes you through the early years when The Beatles were still the Quarrymen and Pete Best was still the drummer, through their rise to fame, their peak of fame, their break up and a brief overview of their solo careers. That’s the short version.
It took me close to two hours to get through the whole thing because there are so many pictures and original costumes and guitars along with plaques and plaques of information on top of the audio tour that goes along with it. I won’t bore you with details of everything I learned but did you know that before Brian Epstein managed The Beatles a man named Allan Williams was their manager and didn’t like dealing with them so he told Brian he could have them? He’s forever known as “The Man Who Gave The Beatles Away” and according to him Paul still owes him 15 quid he lent him for clothes or something. Talk about stupid career moves.
I know I said I wasn’t going to bore you with facts, but did you know that John got one of his band mates from the Quarrymen to ask Paul to join because at the time John was still teaching himself how to play guitar and wanted to be surrounded by people who knew what they were doing (like Paul)? He also would play popular songs and make up his own lyrics because he didn’t know the words. Also, John originally didn’t want George in the band because he was 3 years younger than him and didn’t want his reputation tarnished by being associated with someone so young (George was 14 at the time). He changed his mind when he heard George play and realized how freaking great of a guitar player he was. I’m full of these random Beatles facts now but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum here.
The exhibit was possibly my favorite part of the day. Oh, except for a woman arguing with the tour guide whether or not Flying is really a Beatles song, but more on that later. In one section of the exhibit were video screens with footage of screaming Beatles fans freaking out and being held back by police. I’m sure lots of people have seen some of this footage, or maybe you were there in person for it, but I couldn’t believe how insane these girls were. Justin Bieber fans need to step up their game. Regardless of your opinions on The Beatles, you can’t deny that they made an impact on the musical world. You don’t see that kind of fan-dedication anymore. Not to that extent. They were the original “boy band” and I don’t believe they’ve ever been matched in terms of popularity. Sorry N*SYNC.
The exhibit ends with a brief theory on why The Beatles broke up. Ok, I’ll tell you the theory, because that’s all it is- a theory. No one is really positive as to why the band broke up, but, contrary to popular generalizations that “Yoko Ono broke up The Beatles”, they were having problems before she entered the picture. After Brian Epstein died the band had to figure out what to do with their finances and such, which they had never had to deal with before. They spent a few months controlling things themselves, which caused tension because they weren’t used to being in control of anything besides their music. They were also starting to go in their own directions musically- John was influenced by Yoko but Paul was also influenced by his wife Linda, and George was getting fed up with having little to no input in songwriting and deciding which songs would make it to the albums. So all these factors contributed to the demise of The Beatles. After they broke up Ringo once said that he would have been happy staying with the band. Poor Ringo. Anyways, as we all know each member went on to have their own solo careers, but I don’t think a lot of people realize how successful George and Ringo were on their own. They were kind of overshadowed by Paul and John, but George Harrison’s album All Things Must Pass is the best selling solo-record by a Beatle. Ringo also went on to collaborate with a lot of well known artists and won grammys on his own. Poor guy doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
After some more Christmas present purchases the Magical Mystery Tour began. On a vintage bus painted to resemble the Magical Mystery Tour album. Complete with wooden paneling and seats covered in velvet ’70s fabric. We saw the house that Ringo grew up in, the house George was born in and the house John spent most of his youth in. We saw the house Paul spent most of his youth in, and where over 100 of the Beatles songs were written. They wrote a lot of the songs in the bathroom because it had better acoustics.
John’s aunt’s house where he lived most of his early years. His aunt told him when he was young that he should stop playing around with the guitar so much and focus on school because he wouldn’t make a living playing guitar (joke’s on her). After he became famous he bought her a house & framed her “you won’t make a living playing guitar” quote.
The whole time we were driving around Liverpool our tour guide was playing Beatles songs on his iPod, from Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields to Here Comes the Sun. I was smart enough to sit near the front of the bus and got to witness this exchange between the tour guide and a woman on the tour: *insert British accents* Woman: “Can you play some Beatles songs?” Guide: *Stupefied look* Well…I’ve been playing Beatles songs the whole time. Woman: But this one is really slow (it was the song Flying from the Magical Mystery album). I want to hear ones like Let It Be and Hard Day’s Night and Five Days a Week…wait a minute…5 Days A Week? I’d like to hear this song 5 Days A Week too! Why haven’t I heard this?! Man, our tour guide really was slacking. Clearly this woman knows her Beatles. So the conversation went back and forth with the woman convinced that what he was currently playing was not “real” Beatles music. He tried telling her it was from the Magical Mystery Tour album but she would not hear any of it. “I want to hear the Beatles from the ’60s! The Beatles I grew up with! Not this slow stuff!” What are we five? So the tour guide says “well we’ve listened to a lot of songs. We’ve heard Strawberry Fields and Here Comes the Sun and now we’re listening to this. Which is a Beatles Song. One of their last ones”. She then proceeded to ask if he was “having the piss with me” or some kind of British expression like that, completely convinced that he was pulling her chain and lying about Flying being a Beatles Song. Once she realized he wasn’t going to change the song for her she walked away in a huff saying “well I guess you’re not going to play The Beatles”. And I got to witness ALL of this. British accents included. Highlight of the tour.
Anyways, I was talking about something. Right. We saw also Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields. The sign on Penny Lane was taken down a long time ago and painted on the wall because it kept getting stolen. Recently signs were put back up because they figured people were over stealing it- the sign was just replaced Tuesday. We also saw the house Brian Epstein lived in which is where Paul celebrated his 21st, and the church Paul’s brother was married in, where he delayed the wedding for an hour because fans were blocking the building.
The Adelphi Hotel where John’s mom worked for a while and where the band stayed every time they performed in Liverpool was one of the last sights on the tour. Apparently there are about 90 other places related to The Beatles that we didn’t see in our tour. Basically Liverpool is one big museum dedicated to the Beatles. I wish I had taken another day to see everything but I didn’t realize just how much of a print the Fab 4 left on Liverpool.
We ended at the Cavern Club where, as I mentioned, I saw the cover band Two of Us, and they happened to play my 2 all time favorite Beatles songs in their set- In My Life and And Your Bird Can Sing. Awesome end to a freaking awesome day.