The Beatles recorded their music more than 50 years ago, but their appeal goes far beyond the Baby Boomers whose childhood and teen years they shaped. Liverpool estimates it’s attracted more than four million Beatles fans of all ages, just since they started counting 30 years ago.
For fellow Boomers, Liverpool is a pilgrimage. Music of the Beatles (and bands that they helped usher in) was the soundtrack of our lives. Most of us have distinct memories wrapped around a particular Beatles song. This is why my husband, Tom, particularly wanted to include Liverpool as part of our English holiday this year.
When John, Paul, George, and Ringo were growing up, Liverpool was a gritty, industrial port city. Today the Mersey Riverfront sparkles with parks, museums, shops, restaurants, and attractions. One of the most popular is The Beatles Story, which takes visitors on a journey through their lives, culture, and music. We spent a long afternoon wandering through the many exhibits, seeing equipment from the original Abbey Road studio, album covers brought to life, a walk-on Yellow Submarine, George’s guitar, and the recreation of the famed Cavern Club and more. (Sadly, the original Cavern Club no longer exists.)
The next morning we met Eddie, our driver and guide from the Fab Four Beatles Taxi Tour, for a personalized trip around Beatles sites. Eddie was full of Beatles lore and trivia: A lifelong resident of the city, he knew more than just the textbook facts and his love for sharing it with visitors was evident.
For about three hours, we traversed the city, seeing where John was born and the church hall where John and Paul first met—which was across the street from an old cemetery that contained the graves of the real Father McKenzie and Eleanor Rigby—who, as all Beatles fans know—”was buried along with her name.”
We stopped at the unassuming homes where John, Paul, and George grew up and at the tiny row house where Ringo was born. John’s and Paul’s homes are owned by the National Trust but Ringo’s and George’s are privately owned and occupied, as odd as that seems.
Perhaps what meant the most to Tom and me were our stops at Strawberry Field and along Penny Lane, where there really is “a shelter in the middle of the roundabout,” just as Paul described. There are no historical “The Beatles were here” markers, but it’s easy to imagine them as young boys, perhaps riding their bikes down the lane. Strawberry Field, once home to an orphanage, is today just an empty field but the massive stone and metal gate still stands—and for visiting fans, serves to record their heartfelt memories.
There are many ways to experience the Beatles in Liverpool; the Magical Mystery bus tour, with passengers plastered up against the windows taking snapshots, passed by while we sat listening to Eddie’s stories outside Paul’s house; and of course you can drive yourself to the best-known sites. Did we think visiting Liverpool and taking the tour was the ultimate trip for these Beatles fans? Yeah, yeah, yeah....
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My husband, Tom, rarely travels without his violin, and on this trip he had his small Cricket travel fiddle, which gave him the perfect opportunity to play “Eleanor Rigby” at her grave. It was a very moving moment for the lifelong Beatles fan.