As a hardcore fan who as a child first glimpsed the Fab Four on The Ed Sullivan Show, I visited this industrial city two hours north of London back in the ’90s. But with all the attention being paid to the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ U.S. debut and having a free day during a trip to London, I decided to return.
To pack in as much Beatlemania as possible, I opted for the popular Magical Mystery Tour, which offers several outings each day.
The two-hour experience provided the perfect overview of the boys’ hometown. The dayglow-colored bus –– painted to look exactly like the one in the Magical Mystery Tour movie –– looked ridiculous, but we true devotees were proud to be seen in it.
Our guide, a down-to-earth local with plenty of Liverpool’s trademark “scouser” humor, waved to various townspeople as we tooled around. The ride came complete with piped-in Beatles songs to correspond with the plentiful related sights.
Some were of the slow-down-and-get-a-quick-glance variety –– the childhood homes of Ringo Starr and John Lennon; the Empress Pub featured on the cover of Ringo’s first solo album –– while others were full-fledged photo-op stops. The latter included Penny Lane, Strawberry Field, George Harrison’s very modest childhood home and Paul McCartney’s more middle-class one, which is now part of the National Trust. We also learned about their upbringings –– Ringo and George came from rather poor families; “Working Class Hero” John Lennon, raised by his Aunt Mimi, had the most well-to-do family.
Our guide kept things lively with plenty of anecdotes, pointing out, for example, the former department store where George Harrison worked briefly before getting the boot for absences after late-night gigs.
The tour even included free admission to the most hallowed spot of all for Beatlemaniacs, The Cavern Club (left), where the boys first gained a following and were discovered by manager Brian Epstein.
From the Cavern Club, which had a stage area even tinier than I imagined, I strolled back to the Albert Dock. There, I whiled away a few more hours wandering through The Beatles Story museum, which has two locations with different exhibits in each one. The many displays replicate important places and experiences in the Beatles’ history –– like the Mona Best-owned Casbah Club, where the-then Quarrymen practiced and performed early gigs with original drummer (and Mona’s son), Pete Best.
But I found more intriguing original artifacts, such as a soulful, mysterious love note George Harrison wrote to a post-Beatles era girlfriend.
The next time I visit Liverpool –– and there will be a next time –– I plan to continue this day in the life exploration of one of my favorite bands.