A Day In the Life: Liverpool, England
Liverpool is a rite of passage for any Beatles fan
Sometimes it’s fun having a husband who doesn’t pay that much attention. Case-in-point, our recent travels to Liverpool meticulously planned by yours truly, the Beatles fanatic. Full disclosure: I have been to Liverpool many times, am marked with an Abbey Road tattoo on my left tricep, and am on a first name basis with tour guides (shout out to my favorite: Ms. Jackie Spencer!). I am *that* kind of fan.
In The Town Where I Was Born
While the city is developed and modern, it feels like the Beatles just left. Liverpool keeps their relics so well preserved, helpful plaques will even tell you what’s not here anymore, like the maternity hospital where John Lennon was born. It’s now a college dorm.
The live music scene adds an important element to the atmosphere. Have a stroll down Mathew Street to encounter buskers on nearly every corner. Pop into any bar or restaurant and you’re likely to find someone performing. It’s no surprise that Liverpool continues to act as a muse to the local troubadour. Musicians from this city have produced 56 number one singles, more than any other city in the world. Liverpool's status as a port city explains the origins of rock ’n roll, as those working on the docks brought records to trade from America and the rest of world, which, at that time, were not widely available to those across the sea.
I’m Only Sleeping
A Beatles-themed hotel might sound super cheesy, but The Hard Day’s Night Hotel, located on the edge of Cavern Quarter, is a tasteful and classy joint. Each room is decorated with photos and memorabilia, generally geared towards a particular mop-top. The fact that I was given a “John” room on each visit without request was either a glorious stroke of luck or maybe just highly probable given I had a one in four chance. A yellow submarine houseboat down by Albert Dock is also available for rent.
Magical Mystery Tour
The Jacaranda Club started out in the ‘50s as a coffee bar where teenagers would hang and listen to music, both live and on the jukebox. Today there’s a coffee and record shop upstairs with comfy booths equipped with turntables. The main level is a bar, and the basement is where the magic happened. There’s a rehearsal and performance space where the Silver Beetles, as they were then known, played about a dozen of their earliest gigs. You can still see John Lennon and Stu Sutcliffe’s paintings on the wall. I wanted to have my picture taken backstage, which turned out to be a tiny, cramped cave. Despite the hand-painted sign to “watch your head fred” I still managed to scratch my scalp on a nail on the way in. The Jac is a short 10 min walk from Mathew Street and is surrounded by a thriving restaurant scene.
The Cavern Club is the most famous location associated with the Beatles. It’s funny to think about some of their shows here, lunchtime rock shows with no alcohol. Paul’s dad would occasionally stop in on a break from work to drop meat on the Cavern stage with cooking instructions. It’s also funny to think that Sir Paul was once a carnivore. Built in a former WWII air raid shelter, the original was closed decades ago and when plans were set to re-open, it was found to be structurally unsafe. The modern incarnation is just a few doors down built with some of the original bricks. It’s an exciting feeling, walking down the stairs into the club. Danny is currently taking guitar lessons and has a goal of playing here one day. Without David Cassidy fronting the band, I don’t know if I see this happening.
Nothing To Get Hung About
Strawberry Field was a Salvation Army children’s home not far from John’s home in the Woolton area. John used to come here for the summer garden parties and to play with the kids. At the moment, the only thing to see here are the gates, which are replicas. If that sounds underwhelming, it’s not. Standing here on this special spot on Earth is magical and one of my favorite things about Liverpool. The grounds are currently under an extensive renovation project which will involve opening the illustrious gates to the public for the first time later this year, a thrilling prospect for fans.
For £25, the National Trust offers the incredible opportunity to tour the restored childhood homes of John and Paul. Tour groups are small which allow for a more personal experience and room to ask questions of the knowledgeable guides, a married couple who actually live in John’s home. (When I asked what it was like living in a time capsule, the answer was that it was difficult although they did disclose that there’s a modern washer/dryer stashed in a back room.) Taking photos inside is strictly prohibited, a rule I like because I felt present sans iPhone.
John’s home, known as Mendips, is easily the poshest of the four in a middle class neighborhood. His Aunt Mimi kept the home in pristine condition and the National Trust has done a beautiful job recreating it all down to the last detail. In the kitchen, there are 1950s-era cooking and cleaning supplies and period appliances. The front entryway was found to have the best acoustics, so this is where John and Paul liked to practice.
Paul’s home on Forthlin Road includes an audio greeting from Macca himself upon entry. Photos taken by Paul’s photographer brother Mike are hung throughout — he was given the room with the larger closet for his darkroom. The drainpipe in back was how teenage McCartneys would sneak into the house after staying out too late.
Located in the working class neighborhood of Allerton, the McCartney home has more of a family feel and less formal than John’s. This home is often known as “the birthplace of the Beatles,” as it’s where Paul and John penned some of their first songs. The only way into these homes is through the National Trust’s prearranged tours.
As 12 Arnold Grove, George’s first home, is not on the National Trust tour you can’t go inside. The modest “two-up two-down” meant close quarters for the Harrison family of six. When the spiritual Beatle discussed his early life, George often lamented on a single coal fire being the only heat source and the discomfort of the family’s sole bathroom being an outhouse. The current owner is very private, so it’s best to keep a low profile and make yourself scarce after taking a few quick photos.
Born at 9 Madryn Street, Ringo lived here the first 3 years of his life. The home and street have not faired well and last I heard was set to be condemned. 10 Admiral Grove was where he lived for 20 years until the Beatles hit the big time. It’s not part of the National Trust tour, but on my first visit to Liverpool years ago I was invited in by then-owner Margaret Grose. She was a warm and funny woman, proud to showcase her tie to the Fab Four. Margaret has since passed and the home sold for £70k a couple years ago. I’m actually dying to invest in a property with Beatles provenance, but it wasn’t me this time. Although not exactly the best song I’ve ever heard, Ringo name-drops both Madryn Street and Admiral Grove in his song “Liverpool 8.”
And In The End…
On this adventure, we also drove down Penny Lane, visited Eleanor Rigby’s grave and statue, and popped into the lads’ various watering holes. It’s true, the popularity of the Beatles vastly contributes to Liverpool’s standing as a tourist destination, but Liverpool is also a significant cultural center with museums, galleries, shopping, architecture, nightlife, and a rich history.
Choice of favorite Beatle says a lot about you. I’m a John person.
Who’s your favorite?