The height of Beatlemania was before my time. But the story endures: four regular teenagers who rose to megafame through their charisma and talent — and a lot of luck.
Behind every star is a place, and Liverpool continues to be a pilgrimage site for those obsessed with John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Yet the city holds wider appeal to folks who, like me, have been touched by their music and look back with fondness on the unique brand of swinging creativity and free living the group came to represent.
April marks the 50th anniversary of “From Me to You,” the Beatles’ very first number one hit in the U.K. It would take another year for the group to make its legendary appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and subsequent “invasion.”
Dave Jones of Cavern City Tours (Liverpool’s leading tour operator) grew up with the music of the Beatles and hung out where they did. “It was like you were living in the center of the Earth in 1963,” he said. “Girls would ask to hear my voice just because I sounded like Paul or John.”
While Liverpool has been described as gloomy, grim, and industrial, Jones maintains that the seaport has more to offer the world than its prodigal sons. (It’s “more cosmopolitan than perhaps any other city in Britain besides London,” he says.)
Beatles fan or not, if you’re planning a trip to Liverpool, don’t miss these places and experiences that provide insight into the Fab Four and the city that produced them:
The club where the Beatles were famously discovered by Brian Epstein closed its doors in 1973, but a replica was built on the site in 1984 using bricks from the original building after John Lennon’s untimely death brought a renewed interest in preserving the Beatles’ Liverpool legacy.
While the club continues to serve as a live music venue, it’s also the jumping-off point for the most popular Beatles-themed offering in the city: The Magical Mystery Tour. The two-hour tour includes stops at dozens of sites with direct ties to the Fab Four, including their childhood homes (the proximity of which is, as Jones noted, “hugely coincidental…as that wasn’t how they met”), Penny Lane, Strawberry Field, and, naturally, the Cavern Club. Opposite the club is the Cavern Pub, another place to listen to live music and see artifacts and memorabilia.
This weeklong festival (August 21-27 this year) brings thousands of die-hard fans — along with more than 500 musical acts from 23 different countries, guest speakers, and unique exhibitions — to northern England. As 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the group’s first chart-topping hit, this year’s festival, put on by Cavern Club Tours, promises to be epic. As the festival’s website says: “New, long-lasting friendships await you here in Liverpool, the birthplace of the biggest cultural phenomenon of all time.”
Albert Dock provides the backdrop for the main “Beatles Story” experience, which takes visitors through the life and times of the Fab Four — from growing up in Liverpool to becoming a worldwide phenomenon. Interim Director Martin King describes the space as a living museum, a place where you can “talk to people that lived and worked with the Beatles” and see items like John Lennon’s glasses, George Harrison’s guitar, and contracts signed over the years.
Make advance reservations to see John Lennon’s childhood home, “Mendips,” and the former home of Paul McCartney and his family located at 20 Forthlin Road. While you can see the outside of their homes on other tours, this is the only one that takes you inside. The National Trust, which oversees the tour, offers tickets at £20.00 per adult for a guided look at both homes (including transportation between the two).
This boutique hotel, which claims to be the world’s only Beatles-inspired hotel, is adjacent to the Cavern Club, in “the heart of Liverpool’s ‘Beatles Quarter.'” All 110 guest rooms are all decked out with Beatles-related artwork, but true fanatics can always upgrade to the Lennon or McCartney suites.
Beyond the Beatles:
One of the four Tate museums in Britain, Tate Liverpool displays an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art. Other Liverpool museums include the Museum of Liverpool for an in-depth look at the city’s history, and the World Museum Liverpool, which covers natural history and science and boasts a planetarium and aquarium.
You might think the largest cathedral in the U.K. would be in London, but it’s here in Liverpool (it’s also the fifth largest in the world). Although it doesn’t have an ancient history (it was completed in 1978 after more than seven decades of work), the Anglican place of worship is open year-round and is quite a sight to behold.
This immense open-air complex offers more than 160 options for shopping and dining, attracting a crowd every night. Be sure to check out the calendar to see if there will be any special events taking place while you’re in town. If not, you can always hit the on-site cinema or 36-hole adventure golf course.