Bonding with The Beatles in England
There are a few things that come to mind when people hear about Britain: London, the Royal family, tea, Gordon Ramsay, Manchester United, and – my favorite – the legendary bands and artists. This past Friday I had the fortune of making a day trip to Liverpool on a rain-absent day and immersed myself in the folklore surrounding the most legendary rock and roll band in history: The Beatles.
Before I dive into the details of my visit, I must make a confession. I would not consider myself that big a fan of The Beatles. In fact, I would only have them just grazing my own list of the top five British groups ever, sitting behind the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Queen and Led Zeppelin. But, really, does my opinion matter at all? Nope.
So why would I take a tour of The Beatles then? Answer: because the group is wedged right into my favorite era of music. Growing up listening to music from the 60s to the 80s, I’d have to be crazy to pass up on an opportunity like this.
Now, with that of the way, we may proceed.
My journey began at Albert Dock where I received my ‘ticket to ride’ the cleverly titled Magical Mystery Tour bus. As the group came together to step into the bus I peered at its groovy yellow paintjob with rainbow lettering and shooting stars. Upon entrance into this yellow time machine I immediately knew that this tour would be a little something different as the stereo horned out the tunes of the Fab Four.
The journey began with a long and winding road down to Ringo Starr’s childhood home, an area of town that’s actually going to be mostly demolished. And just down the road from his home was a pub called The Empress, which was pictured on the sleeve of Ringo’s first solo album.
After we visited Mr. Starr, the tour guide-while his companion gently drove the bus-passed on much more information on the band than I could ever absorb. After a few moments the bus stopped at one of the most famous streets in history, Penny Lane. After we quickly stepped off to take pictures, we toured the bus route from where the lyrics originated and the bus stop where George Harrison and Paul McCartney met. Well, they actually met on the bus, where George just happened to bring his guitar and Paul immediately fell in love with his talent.
With the bus route over, and after passing Sgt. Pepper’s Bistro, we stopped by the road to pay a visit to George’s birth place. I didn’t exactly expect to visit a 20 bedroom villa, but I was perplexed that I saw a tiny red brick place standing there attached to two equally small homes.
Back on the bus a very familiar song played, one giving almost an ode to a very popular fruit. Conveniently after the song concluded we stopped by an ornate red gate with colorful words written next to word, both literally and figuratively. We made it to Strawberry Field, home to one of the most famous Beatles songs. Beyond the red gate lay a vast space of brush where John Lennon would play when he was a little kid. But, according to Mr. Tour Guide, this boy would be ordered by his Aunt Mimi to go home because he would always spend too much time there and he would tell her that it’s nothing to get hung about. Obviously, he later drew from this memory to create the song.
Continuing with the theme of Mr. Lennon, we slowly drove by the house most associated with him, where he grew up (we weren’t allowed to stop or step out of the bus). This house is unique from the rest of the group in regards to its plaque on the outside wall. These are only displayed to incredibly famous people who have been gone for 20 years or more.
We quickly made it to our next stop: 20 Forthlin Road.
This address belonged to Paul McCartney in his younger years, and is the site where over 100 Beatles songs were written, including “Please Please Me,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” and “She Loves You,” among 97 others. The band began meeting eight days a week and fetched ideas here since their fledgling years as The Quarrymen. According to my tour guide, they mostly tested the songs in the bathroom because they acoustics were superior.
No, we didn’t get a chance to go inside. It’s incredibly difficult to even step foot into Paul’s home or John’s home. Tours are only available for a few months a year, holding up to only 15 people per tour. The tours are sold out nearly six months in advance.
Our final stop was just down the road from the historic Cavern Club. The Beatles would twist and shout at this home away from home, performing 293 times in just two years. But this club wasn’t graced by The Beatles alone. Outside the Cavern Club is the Wall of Fame, with bricks dedicated to each artist that performed here. The etchings range from Jimi Hendrix to The Who to the Arctic Monkeys.
After basking in the music-laden club I got back to Albert Dock to visit The Beatles Story, an exhibit entirely dedicated to the Fab Four. I stepped into the equally colorful museum and re-learned many of the things I heard from the tour, especially since I needed help retaining everything.
I walked around the site soaking in the history of the group, from their foundation all the way to their break up and their solo careers. Now, the average and ultra-pumped up Beatles fans may have been shaken from the break-up portion of the exhibit, but I felt fine (I’m not a fan, remember?).
And that was my day. It’s difficult to believe that’s only about half of what I learned on my journey. It was a quick hello goodbye to the most influential band of all time. And on the bus ride home I began wondering what a day in the life of The Beatles is like. That one time, some 50 years ago, George and John met on the same bus route that I just took. Or that they were writing songs at 20 Forthlin Road together or performing on Matthews Street at the Cavern Club.
It’s incredibly difficult to comprehend all of that. And, using as many references to the group as I could (I counted over a dozen) I did my best to write down this time-travelling experience for you.
Kyle Fitzgerald is the Torch Online Editor. He is currently studying abroad in England and writing a weekly column about his adventures.
We miss him though.
He can be reached [email protected]