“We’ve got two girls here from Dublin in Ireland, so we’ll be expecting them to lead the sing-song”. Paul, the tour guide had memorised everyone’s home cities. And suddenly, at that moment, it was a dangerous time to be Irish…
As the bus departed the Albert Dock it was as if our resident Beatles expert had hit the rewind button. Modern-day Liverpool rolled away and we were immersed into the history and sounds of the late 1950s when four local lads first joined musical forces…
First Stop: Penny Lane, L18
This unassuming suburban road was immortalised in the 1967 song of the same name. Most of the locations named in the song are very much in evidence and still can be found at the top of Penny Lane in the area known as Smithdown Place. John, Paul and George passed through Penny Lane every day on their way to school which is why it was very much “in their ears and in their eyes”, as the song goes…
This was one of the most surprising revelations – I (and I assume I’m not alone here) always thought Strawberry Fields Forever was an abstract, trippy piece of whimsy dreamt up by John. But it’s an actual place. When John was a child, Strawberry Field was a Children’s Home that belonged to the Salvation Army. The old Victorian mansion used to host an annual summer fete and it was the highlight of the young John’s year. His unstable upbringing meant he empathised with the orphan children who lived there. When Yoko Ono visited Liverpool in 1984, Strawberry Field was one of the first places she took their son, Sean.
10 Admiral Grove L8, Toxteth/ Home of Ringo
Richard (Ringo) Starkey lived here until his career as a Beatle catapulted him to London in 1963. Ringo’s mother and second husband continued to live in the house until 1965 but were forced to move to a quieter suburb when ‘Beatle Mania’ exploded and fans and press became increasingly intrusive.
12 Arnold Grove L15/Home of George
The youngest Beatle, George was born at 12 Arnold Grove and lived here until 1950 when the growing family relocated to a bigger house situated at 25 Upton Green, Speke. George’s father Harold was a bus driver and George got to know Paul when they both travelled on the same bus into school at the Liverpool Institute.
20 Forthlin Road L18/Home of Paul
The McCartney family moved to 20 Forthlin road in 1955. It was while living here that Paul formed a close friendship with John (who lived quite nearby) and the house became a venue for Paul and John to rehearse and write music. In November 1995, 20 Forthlin Road was bought by the National Trust. The house is only open to the public on set dates during the year.
251 Menlove Avenue L25 ‘Mendips’/Home of John
The house known as Mendips is where John Lennon lived with his aunt Mimi and uncle George between 1944 and 1963. In 1957, Mimi bought John his first guitar. However, she disapproved of his musical ambitions and only allowed him to play guitar in the porch of the house. John and his wife Cynthia lived here until after the birth of his son Julian. They moved to London in 1963. In 2002 Yoko Ono purchased the house and donated it to the National Trust.
The Cavern Club, 10 Mathew Street
Finally, no trip to Liverpool (or indeed Beatles Tour) should be considered complete without a visit to the club where it all started, The Cavern. The Cavern first opened its doors as a jazz club in January 1957. In August 1957, John Lennon’s skiffle group, The Quarry Men first appeared here. The Beatles made their debut in The Cavern on February 9th, 1961 and last appeared together on stage in the club on August 3rd 1963. Over that period they performed an impressive 292 times. Their ‘lunchtime’ sessions were widely regarded as their best performances. It was during one of these shows that Brian Epstein witnessed them for the first time and approached them with the intent of becoming their manager. The rest as they say is history…
Listening to the tour guide reel off stories about their path to glory I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if John had gotten a ‘proper job’ like his aunt always wanted or Paul and George had never met on the school bus or if Ringo hadn’t taken over those drums from Pete Best… it seems some things just happen for a reason.