The bloke and I visited Liverpool on the weekend before Christmas. I really like the Beatles, and I have been wanting to do a tour of the Beatles' historical locations. This post covers photographs from previous trips to Liverpool as well as the mentioned tour. There's still three places that I have yet to visit: the Casbah Club, which was Pete Best's house (I've tried to visit it twice, but no one is around or answers the phone) and the houses of Paul McCartney and John Lennon (both owned by the National Trust), and I've also still not been to the Beatles museum in Albert Dock. Keep an eye open on this blog for those visits as I do hope to get to Liverpool at some point this year to finish off the Beatles Tour.
The Beatles in front of the Liver Building, Liverpool. Photo by Les Chadwick.
We were picked up at our hotel near Albert Dock by Eddie in his taxi cab dubbed "Penny Lane" from Fab Four Tours (http://fab4tours.co.uk). We had selected the three-hour tour (known as 'Lennon'), and although the day was cold and windy, the rain managed to stay away and we had a nice day for the tour. Our first stop was outside the impressive and imposing red-stoned Liverpool Cathedral. The size of this building is unreal, and it is one of the world's largest cathedrals. We were given a short history of it and told to visit it and climb the tower for good views. (We'll have to do this next time.) The cathedral did play a smart part in Beatles history. A young Paul McCartney failed his audition to become part of the choir here, but he did perform at the cathedral after becoming famous.
Our next stop was not far away; it was located just down the road from the Radio City Tower. We stopped at a common-looking three-floor Georgian building. This is the Mount Pleasant register office, where John Lennon married his first wife, Cynthia Powell in August of 1962. We were told that the Beatles manager Brian Epstein purchased the building to avoid word getting out that Lennon was married. The Beatles were starting to become famous then, and they were well-known in Liverpool by this time, and Epstein did not want any harmful press circulating that he thought may alienate fans of the group. John and Cynthia met at Liverpool Art College, and she ended up pregnant with their son Julian, which prompted John to propose.
John's legal guardian (aunt Mimi) did not approve of the wedding, so she did not attend. George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John's married aunt/uncle, and Brian Epstein were in attendance; Epstein was best man. Although Ringo Starr had recently joined the band, they did not know him well enough to allow him to attend. No photographs were taken of their wedding because Epstein did not want the word to get out about the wedding. After the wedding, they walked up the street to Clayton Square and had their wedding meal at Reece's restaurant, which was the same place where John's parents had had theirs. The wedding was kept secret. John had to perform with The Beatles in Chester that evening.
As no photographs were permitted, Cynthia later drew an image of her wedding day in the register office. In the drawing, a man on a road drill is outside the window and behind the registrar. The wedding day was extremely noisy with these roadworks going on outside that no one could hear what was being said.
Mount Pleasant register office and Cynthia's drawing of the wedding day
After John and Cynthia were married, Brian Epstein gave them the keys to one of his houses to use so that the wife and baby were kept secret. Previously, the house was used by Epstein for his encounters with male friends. It was not in a nice area of Liverpool, and the riots happened near to here. However, it is now one of the most attractive streets in Liverpool. It is a cobble-stoned street, and it has been used in films, television, and commercials. The house is 36 Falkner Street, and in the photograph below, it is the one with the red door. Cynthia and John were very happy here, and she had her baby Julian here. John wrote some of his early songs here, including "Do You Want To Know A Secret".
Just before we went to 36 Falkner Street, we had a quick stop at John Lennon's birthplace, a Liverpool Maternity Hospital (located at Cambridge Court), which is now a part of Liverpool University. Yoko Ono, John's second and last wife before he was murdered in new York City, had the plaque put up. In these years, German World War 2 bombings were common in Liverpool, but on the night when John was born, the bombings ceased. John's mother's name was Julia, and her husband Alf (John's father) was always at sea. John did not know his father well as he always decided to stay away. His mother eventually got tired of him being away and had affairs and fell in love with other men, and John actually had a secret half-sister from one of his mother's relationships. The half-sister (named Victoria) was born when John was very young, and Julia's father made her give the baby up for adoption. Later and when Julia eventually remarried, John's aunt Mimi made Julia give her John to take care of so that he could have a stable life.
A short drive away, we drove past the pub Ye Cracke, located on Rice Street near Hope Street. This pub was frequented by students at the Liverpool Art College. John, Stuart Sutcliffe, and Cynthia frequented the pub, and it was a busy place. Inside the pub are meant to be photographs of the Beatles. We were shown a photograph of John standing outside the pub, and the door design, window text ('Houldings Beacon Ales') and tiling has not changed.
Our next stop was at Liverpool Institute, where Paul McCartney and George Harrison went to school. The building was meant to be demolished, but Paul McCartney and producer George Martin managed to save it. It is now the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. Paul does often visit the institute (and Liverpool), and he shakes the hands of graduates. Next door to this was the Liverpool Art College building where John Lennon attended. They did not know each other at the time. The Liverpool Art College is currently under scaffolding as it was recently acquired by McCartney to expand the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts.
Outside of the institute is a sculpture by John King, called 'A Case History'. It was placed in 1998 as it won the competition. The artwork features several pieces of luggage, and some of these contain plaques with the names of famous people who studied at the institute. The names include the Beatles and former Beatles, but a couple of the items from the sculpture have been damaged or stolen.
'A Case History' by John King
We then headed to another part of Liverpool (Welsh Streets, Dingle), where the council have decided to force people to move out so they can gentrify/regenerate the area with new housing. In the middle of this is grafitti "European City of Culture?" on a wall amongst the abandoned houses.
Welsh Streets - Dingle - Liverpool
The abandoned buildings have been used in television programmes. Around the corner of this and on Madryn Street is Ringo Starr's childhood home at number 9. And at least one resident on this street has resisted and not moved out. Apparently, the council have now claimed that some of the buildings will be kept as is and some of the buildings will be torn down and new homes will be built. Apparently Ringo did not have any memories living at this house, and he did not live here for too long. Although boarded up, Ringo's house is covered in doodles left by fans. Apparently the resident who lived across the street from this house before being forced out, was a big fan of the Beatles and had 'Beatles' put into the brickwork (pictured below).
Ringo's childhood home
Ringo's house above had six rooms, but his father and mother separated when he was very young. The house was too large for the family, and Ringo's mother found another family who wanted to swap from a smaller house to a larger house. This resulted in Ringo and his mother moving to a smaller and cheaper house, 10 Admiral Grove, which is basically around the corner from the old house. We were told that the lady who lives in this house is a fan of the Beatles and has many Beatles items in the front room. She also has many stories about the Beatles and those who visited the street.
10 Admiral Grove
Around the corner is where Ringo went to school, and we were also told that many celebrities went to the same school. On the corner of Admiral Grove is the pub immortalised as the album cover of Ringo's album "Sentimental Journey". In the photograph below, you can see Admiral Grove just to the right of the pub where the fencing is. Houses did exist where the fencing was at one point, but they have been torn down and the terraced housing and Ringo's childhood home starts on the other side of the pub in this photo.
Our next stop was a little bit of a drive away, and this was a visit to Penny Lane, the road made famous by the Beatles' song "Penny Lane". We started at the top of the road first, where we got a photograph of the Penny Lane road sign. Some of the signs have been replaced as the council was getting fed up with fans stealing the sign. To deter this, they painted on the walls. This has become a magnet for fans to doodle on.
We drove to the other end of Penny Lane where the lyrics in the song make sense - "the shelter in the middle of a roundabout", the bank, the barber where Paul and his brother had their hair cut, and the fire station.
Penny Lane - shelter in the roundabout
Paul McCartney, who wrote the song, had fond memories of his childhood here. John Lennon also knew the area well as it was not far from his home. John would have also used the same barber. The barber shop was run by an Italian, but it's changed since then. Visitors can go inside the barber shop and have a look around; a small charitable donation can be made, and this goes to a Linda McCartney cancer charity. Images of the Beatles and old photographs of the shop and Penny Lane can be seen in the barbershop. We were also shown a child's 'seat' (wooden board) that belonged to the shop in the older days when the Beatles would have been children.
Penny Lane barber shop
I took a photograph of the cab we had, "Penny Lane", on Penny Lane!
On the way away from Penny Lane, we passed the fire station, which is also referenced in the song lyrics.
Penny Lane fire station
The next stop was Paul McCartney's childhood home, and this was not too far away. This is located at 20 Forthlin Road. The property is now owned by National Trust, and it can be visited. The road does get quite busy in the high season, but it was not too busy when we visited. Apparently our taxi driver just missed seeing Paul McCartney drive to his childhood home and speak to visitors outside the window, though he did say that he had taken Paul's brother on taxi journeys around Liverpool.
The house has been refitted to look like it was when Paul lived there. Luckily, Paul's brother was interested in photography, so many photographs of it were taken so that they could make it look like it did when Paul lived there. Paul's bedroom was the one above the door. The house is only open from March and closes for the winter months, so we did not visit it on this trip.
This house was a sad one in a way. Paul's mother had wanted to move into a new house for awhile, and she finally was able to move into this nice house but died a few months later.
The house was purchased by the National Trust because of the important history in song-writing that was made here. John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote some of their songs together here, and Paul wrote songs here as well. "When I'm 64" is one of the songs that Paul wrote here.
Paul McCartney's home
After visiting Paul's childhood home, we rode over to "Strawberry Fields", which John Lennon wrote a song about. The fields may have been used for strawberries at one time, but a gothic-style mansion used to exist beyond the red gate. The mansion was an orphanage when John Lennon was a child, and he did not live far away from here. This was one of the places that reminded him fondly of his childhood. Unfortunately, the mansion/orphanage burnt down. Fans of the Beatles stole pieces off of the red gates, so fake ones have been set up in its place. There are plans to create a visitor's centre here so that visitors can easily park in the area as this is just off the road at the moment and is not easy to access.
Apparently John was so besotted with this mansion from his childhood that he was drawn to an exclusive apartment building in New York City because it looked similar and reminded him of home, so he worked at getting an apartment there with his wife Yoko Ono. This was the building he was later shot outside of.
After the visit to Strawberry Fields, we drove a few blocks away to the house (Mendips) where John Lennon grew up with his aunt and uncle, after he was placed in their care. The house was placed onto the housing market, and Yoko Ono purchased it and gifted it to National Trust to keep John's memory alive. Also, song-writing history was made here as John did write some songs in this house. Many of John's friends lived in the houses around here, but the area has also been built up. John would have been able to see the top of Strawberry Fields from this house.
Unfortunately, John's mother was hit by a car not far from this house. She was on her way to see John and John had gone out. She stayed to have tea with Mimi and later in the evening happened to meet one of John's friends who lived around the corner. He walked her to the crosswalk to cross the road, which was not busy in those days. Unfortunately, a driver who was drunk hit her as she was crossing the road and she was killed. We were shown where this happened, which was not far from the house.
John's house has a blue plaque because he has been gone for twenty years. Like Paul's house, it is owned by National Trust and not open in the winter months.
Lennon's house - Mendips
The next photograph is of George Harrison's childhood home (12 Arnold Grove), which I went to see in last summer on the way home from Liverpool. I was interested in seeing this house because George Harrison is my favourite Beatle. I have read online that the person who lives at the house currently does not like the publicity and the distractions caused by Beatles fans visiting at all hours and even trying to enter the house, so I was careful that we parked a couple of blocks away, and I quietly made my way to this small street and got a photograph. A few children were playing in the street, but it was a quiet cul-de-sac, and the front door was wide open.
This house had small rooms, and George Harrison's parents had four children. George was the youngest, and he was born during the bombing in 1943.
George Harrison's child home - Arnold Grove
Getting back to the taxi tour, the next place that we visited after Mendips was the third house that George Harrison lived in. (The second house that he lived in is in the Speke area of Liverpool, but it is quite rough and it was also not a nice place when he lived there and his parents tried for awhile to get to move to a new location.) The house below is also lived in by someone who would rather not be associated with the Beatles.
George Harrison house
After this visit, we were taken to Woolton. This is where John Lennon and Paul McCartney visited the cinema.
We stopped a little further along in Woolton where there's a picturesque church (St. Peter's). In the cemetary here are references to lyrics in the song "Eleanor Rigby". John and Paul would have hung out with their mutual friends in this church yard. Although Paul said that the name "Eleanor Rigby" was made up, it is thought that it actually referenced the lady buried here. Perhaps he did not want the place to become a Beatles pilgrimage and destroyed by this fame. Although Eleanor Rigby was married, she kept her maiden name and was known by both names in the village. the "Father McKenzie" may have been a name on another grave.
Across the street from St. Peter's Church is the church hall. John Lennon and Paul McCartney met here at the church's garden fete. They were introduced by a mutual friend. John was a member of the Quarry Men band, and the mutual friend mentioned the fete to Paul and asked him to bring his guitar. By the end, Paul and John were friends and respected each other's music ability. A plaque on the hall commemorates this event. Our driver gave us a CD with information about this meeting.
Woolton church hall where John and Paul met
This concluded our tour. However, we had been to Liverpool before, so the remainder of this post will be photographs of other places with Beatles fame that I have visited. The photographs below show the Cavern Walks shopping centre, where there is artwork and sculptures dedicated to the famous band. Outside in the street (Mathew Street) is the pub district of Liverpool. The pub called 'The Grapes' is where the Beatles would have a drink before playing at the Cavern Club across the street.
The original entrance to the Cavern Club was next to the entrance to where this shopping centre is today. The artwork and statue of the Beatles in the shopping centre were created by Cynthia Lennon.
We went into the Cavern Club. I've been a few times before, but I had never seen the Beatles guitars and drum and the contract with the Beatles signatures. This display contained information about the instruments.
Cavern Club - Beatles display
We visited just before mid-day, and a band was practising. They were singing Beatles songs, which was appropriate. We had been the first people in the club, but a small crowd turned up to listen to them practice while we were there. This bit of the Cavern Club is what the stage would have looked like at the time of the Beatles, but the Cavern Club is only a quarter of its original size. The area where the Beatles performed no longer exists as it was torn down. Actually, the club is more popular now than when I visited in 2007, and one area is a large gift shop with Beatles merchandise.
The walls and ceiling were filled with grafitti from Beatles fans or simply tourists wishing to leave their mark. Other bands have played here, and there's a wall of bricks outside with the names of other musicians who have performed.
Cavern Club stage
I have a few shots of the exterior of the Cavern Club, and a statue of John Lennon is located across the street from the entrance.
It may have been a little too early for cocktails before mid-day, but we decided to have one anyway. The Cavern Club serve Beatles-themed cocktails; each one of four cocktails is named after a Beatle. The one that appealed to me was the one named after my favourite Beatle, George. The cocktail "My Sweet George" contained Vodka, Triple Sec, orange juice, and Archers. The bloke had the "Ringo's Rum Drum", which contained rum and orange juice. "Lennon's Long Island" and "Macca's Magical Mystery" were also on offer.
The following photograph shows Mathew Street as it currently looks (summer 2014).
This concludes the Beatles post for now, but check back for an update as I still want to see the National Trust Houses, the museum, and Casbah (if they ever answer their phone/emails). I plan to see them at some point this year.
Note that this post is not an endorsement.