A little over a month ago I had the opportunity to complete my lifelong dream of visiting Liverpool, the birthplace of The Beatles and where the seeds of the British rock invasion of the 1960s were first spread. I was immediately amazed and also impressed by how great a part they still play in the city's cultural and social life.
One would think that a city that is historically rich in its own right as one of the main ports of the Industrial Revolution, among other things, but which for the past 50 years has been irrevocably tied to The Beatles' name, causing the other aspects of its history, including its two legendary soccer teams, to float away from mainstream and non-local conscience would have stirred just a little bit of resentment and annoyance towards the legend of John, Paul, George and Ringo. This could not be any farther from the truth.
In Liverpool, one finds a city that truly embraces, is proud of, and recognizes its responsibility to the role of being the birthplace of The Beatles, and thus of British rock. Immersion into The Beatles' history begins the moment one lands in Liverpool's airport, named after John Lennon. Also, right outside the airport one will find its own version of a Yellow Submarine, yet another sign of the band's importance and presence in the city.
The Beatles are Liverpool's greatest and better-known ambassadors. Therefore, it would only make sense for their presence to be felt in the airport as well, whether it is in its name, in large posters around the terminal, or with this representation of a Yellow Submarine.
If you go to Liverpool, you will find that Ringo, George, Paul and John are here, there and everywhere. One may find them at the Pier Head, where there's a joint exhibition on Elvis and the Fab 4, detailing the King's influence on the awesome foursome from Merseyside. There is also The Beatles story, one of the world's most important Beatles-exclusive exhibitions, which contains unique material.
They even have their own section at the Liverpool Museum, with its highlight being the stage on which The Quarrymen (John Lennon's band before it became The Beatles) performed on July 6, 1957, the day that John met Paul.
The world-famous Cavern Club is also an important hub, both in Beatles history and in the current cultural scene in Liverpool. Widely regarded as the birthplace of Beatlemania, the Cavern currently serves as a place where local bands showcase their talents hoping to make their big break, but also every evening there is some kind of Beatle-related activity, whether it is a tribute band dressed up as each of the four, or another type of group that invites members of the audience to stand in the same spot as George, Ringo, John, and Paul to sing their hits, its different every night.
To truly understand what The Beatles mean to this city, however, it is almost a requirement to take one of the many Beatles tours offered, of which there are many varieties. There are the "greatest hits" types of tours for casual fans, or the more in-depth ones for the bigger fans or those who have the time and energy to dedicate a full day in their lives to The Beatles.
Since my journey to Liverpool was basically a pilgrimage, I of course took the longest, most intimate, and most detailed tour that I could find. The tour lasted almost eight hours. It included all of the common sights, such as Penny Lane, Strawberry Field, the Eleanor Rigby grave, and other similar places, and it ended unofficially at the Cavern Club.
The tour had three highlights that made it especially unique: a visit to the Casbah Club, as well as private tours of the childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. If the Cavern was the birthplace of Beatlemania, then the Casbah was the birthplace of The Beatles.
It was and is still owned to this day by the Best family. Pete Best, as some may know, was The Beatles' drummer before Ringo replaced him, and his mother Mona Best was their unofficial manager in the early going with the Casbah serving as their base of operations. Rory Best, Pete's younger brother, gave the tour, meaning that he's someone who was around at the very beginning and can provide valuable eyewitness account of The Beatles' rise to immortality.
The visit to the Lennon and McCartney childhood homes, however, was surreal. In the present day, people visit Mark Twain's house in Hartford, the site of Henry David Thoreau's cabin in Concord, or Beethoven's house in Bonn, to get a grip on the people they were before they became famous.
In the future, people will do the same with the Lennon and McCartney homes in Liverpool. Currently managed by the National Trust, both are preserved to look just as they did in the 1950s when the two former Beatles lived there, which allows visitors a glimpse at how their childhoods and teenage years were before they became world-famous.
This was my first visit to Liverpool, but I will definitely return at some point in the future. This is a city that has accepted its role as the birthplace of four of the most influential people of the previous century, and that share them with the rest of the world without a single ounce of resentment. That is because, while The Beatles and their music may now belong to the world, they will forever be tied to the city that gave birth to them.
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