Credentials: Smack bang in the middle of Beatlesville — otherwise known as Mathew Street in central Liverpool — the Cavern Club opened in 1957 as a jazz venue, but it wasn’t long before serious aficionados were being shoved out of the way by the new amplified exponents of Merseybeat, of which The Beatles soon became the leading lights.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney played at the Cavern in the late ’50s as part of the Quarrymen, and The Beatles graced the stage at the underground club almost 300 times between 1961 and 1963.
It was during a lunchtime session that Brian Epstein saw the Fab Four perform. He signed them, secured them a recording contract, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Re-live it: OK, so today’s Cavern ain’t exactly the same as it was during the Beatles’ reign, but you can still rock out under the same famous arches. The club is now a leading tourist destination and music venue with two stages for live music and a fully equipped bar. You can drop by for a drink during the day or shake it up (baby) to the bands that play here virtually every night.
Details: 10 Mathew Street (0151-236 1965; www.cavernclub.org).
Casbah Coffee Club
Credentials: This basement club out in Merseyside was where the Quarrymen made their debut in 1959, and is otherwise chock full of Beatles history, trivia and memorabilia from yesterday. Owned by former Beatle Pete
Best and his brother Rory, whose mother Mona founded the club, it was the site of many firsts for the Fab Four — way back when they were John, Paul, George and … Pete. They were also, somewhat randomly, involved in the interior design of the club.
Re-live it: The Casbah is now an English Heritage grade II-listed building, due to its historic importance. You’ll need to make an appointment to visit, but the half-hour trip out of the city centre is well worth it, especially if, like me, you get Rory Best as your tour guide. Here you’ll not only see the ceilings Paul McCartney and John Lennon painted, but you can also get up close to the guitars, mics and amps used by the Beatles in those early days.
Details: 8 Haymans Green, West Derby, Merseyside (0151-280 3519; www.casbahcoffeeclub.com). By appointment only.
The Beatles Story
Credentials: This purpose-built museum at Albert Dock has no particular link to The Beatles, which is fine seeing its aim is to recreate the places that do. The Beatles Story goes back to the beginning and charts the journey of four young lads who were propelled into the dizzy heights of worldwide fame. Their story is told on an audio guide narrated by John Lennon’s sister Julia, and begins at Woolton Village Fete where Paul and John first met. From there it’s onto the Casbah before walking down the cobbled streets of Hamburg where The Beatles honed their craft, and heading back to Liverpool. Then we board the Yellow Submarine as it calls in at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London and steams on to the USA.
Re-live it: Possibly not authentic enough for ultra-serious Beatles fans, but the Beatles Story is a bit of a fun, and a great way to get an overview. There’s also memorabilia galore, including Lennon’s iconic round spectacles.
Details: Britannia Vaults, Albert Dock (0151-709 1963; www.beatlesstory.com). £12.50.
And finally: The same mob who run the Cavern Club also run the daily Magical Mystery Tour of Liverpool, which takes in a whole host of sites including Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane, the real inspiration for the songs, as well as other sites of Beatles mythology.
More of a Stones fan?
Don’t worry, there are plenty of other non-Beatles things to do in Liverpool, especially this year.
» Named as a European Capital of Culture for 2008, Liverpool boasts a jam-packed calendar of events from concerts and exhibitions to performances, theatre and cultural festivals. Liverpool’s distinctive 10,000-seat Echo Arena down at Kings Dock on the River Mersey is always worth a look.
» If football is more your thing don’t miss Anfield Park, home of the mighty Liverpool FC. As in so many towns in England, football is virtually a religion in Liverpool, so be ready to talk about it in the pubs. Diss the mighty Reds at your peril.
Liverpudlians, or Scousers, as they’re commonly known, are renowned for their friendliness, although for the uninitiated it can be hard to make head or tail of what they’re saying because of their strong local accent.
The name comes from a local stew, lobscouse, usually made with lamb, which materialised in Liverpool in the 18th century as a dish for sailors.