“Here you’ll find the school that John and George attended – but they never knew each other at the time, mind you,” Steve, enthusiastic Liverpudlian retailer, and apparent Beatles nut, points out as he feverishly sketches the most impressive scratch map I’ve ever laid eyes on.
“And this is where Ringo performed in a skiffle band in the late ’50s before The Beatles, and this here, well that’s the shelter in the middle of the roundabout mentioned in Penny Lane.
“Here is the hall where Paul and John were introduced by a mutual friend after a Quarrymen gig in 1957 Ö”
I’ve known Steve for only 10 minutes, but he’s already given me the location of more sacred Beatles sites than I thought possible – or, to be perfectly honest, cared about – along with his mobile phone number in case I have any trouble finding them.
I’d only asked if he could point me in the direction of Penny Lane, but by the time our brief but informative encounter is over, I have what could only be described as a quintessential Beatle’s A to Z of Liverpool, listing every and any place that John, Paul, George and Ringo lived, performed or visited.
I didn’t quite make it through the entire pilgrimage Steve mapped out for me. There are varying degrees of ‘fandom’ and a stop at the clothing store that used to be the site of the shop where John bought his first guitar seemed excessive but it’s there if you want to see it.
For the lesser fanatic, here are the essential Beatle’s stops – with love from me to you.
The Cavern Club
10 Matthew St, L2
The hallowed ground where it all began for the Fab Four. They first played their infectious ‘Merseybeats’ here on February 9, 1961, and for the last time on August 3, 1963. In between, they racked up 275 performances, and established themselves as the city’s premier rockers. Since the ’60s, the club has been closed, reduced to rubble, excavated, rebuilt and remodelled, but has remained one of the most famous music venues in the world. Paul McCartney launched the club’s new persona when he performed there in December 1999. Music still rocks the place most days of the week. See www.cavern-liverpool.co.uk.
Matthew Street and the Cavern Quarter, L2
Home to the Cavern Club (and the Cavern Pub directly opposite it), Matthew Street and the streets around it are the central hub of all that was, and still is, The Beatles in Liverpool. Just down from the Cavern Club in Matthew Street is The Grapes, also known as The Beatles’ pub, because it was here that the boys drank before and after their gigs at The Cavern. A little further up, you’ll find Arthur Dooley’s famous Beatles sculpture, dedicated in 1974 to the Four Lads Who Shook The World”. There’s also Cavern Walks, a mall opened in 1984 above the site of the original Cavern Club, which houses the From Me To You Beatles Superstore, a life-sized Beatles Statue and the Beatles-themed café Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. The street is also decorated with the Cavern Wall of Fame, which displays the names of 1801 bands and artists who performed at the club between 1957 and 1973 (including Eric Clapton, Queen, The Who, The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix, to name a few), and the Liverpool Wall of Fame celebrating all Liverpool artists who have had No.1 hits. Last, but not least, a statue of John Lennon, replicated from the cover of his 1975 Rock’n’Roll album, leans casually against a doorframe outside the Cavern Pub.
Penny Lane, L18
Made internationally famous in 1967, Penny Lane is a small, unassuming road that can be easily missed, but it’s still there beneath the “blue suburban skies”. The barbers, the bank and the bus shelter referred to in the lyrics of the song, are at the top of the lane, in the area officially known as Smithdown Place. Forget about any ideas you may have of souveniring a street sign – so many were taken in the years following the song’s release that the name is now painted on the walls that line the lane.
Beaconsfield Rd, L25
A modern building has replaced the Victorian mansion that once housed this Salvation Army children’s home, but the grand original gates of Strawberry Fields are still standing – and if Beatles fans have any say, they will do so ‘forever’. As a child, the highlight of John’s year was attending the annual garden fete held here.
The Yellow Submarine
Chavasse Park, L1
This is the largest piece of public art dedicated to The Beatles in Liverpool, and it’s hard to miss. Honouring the song and animated movie, the Yellow Submarine first emerged at the 1984 Liverpool International Garden Festival, but was restored and relocated to its present waterfront site in 2000.
Magical Mystery Tour
Serious Beatles fans can climb on a big yellow bus, a replica of the one used in the 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour for, you guessed it, the Magical Mystery Tour of Liverpool. The two-hour tour takes in all the Beatles landmarks mentioned above and more. It departs daily from The Beatles Story museum in Albert Dock and ends at the Cavern Club. It is popular, so book ahead to avoid being left standing there. For tickets and information, call 0151-236 9091 or visit any tourist information centre in the city.”