“So, are you a Beatles fan?” Normally, this would seem an easy enough question to answer. Sure, I like their music. Yes, I burned through a cassette tape of their greatest hits as a teenager, twisting and shouting as I tootled around town in my second-hand wheels. But when you’re talking to a man who carries a British Beatles Fan Club Card in his wallet, displayed with pride of place in the little plastic window typically reserved for a driver’s license, it comes across as rather a loaded question.
This is Liverpool, after all—the Beatles hometown, a Mecca for Fab Four aficionados—and I’d bet the contents of my own wallet (expired receipts, a few empty gum wrappers, and a video rental card for a chain that’s gone bust) that half the tourists in town are carrying similar Beatles-branded ID.
So if you say, “Yes, I’m a fan,” then you’d better be prepared to go toe-to-toe on band trivia. For instance, did you know that Paul McCartney used to play a right-handed guitar strung left-handed, because it was cheaper–or that George Harrison was actually born on February 24, 1943, NOT February 25, as noted on his birth certificate? Nope, me neither.
Beatlemania reaches epidemic levels in the city every August during International Beatleweek, when fans from across the universe—or at least around the world—come together for exhibitions, memorabilia sales, guest speakers and live music by Beatles tribute bands.
If you’ve got the Beatles’ bug, read on for a list of five fabulous attractions you can rock up to year round.
The Beatles Story
This exhibition traces the band’s stellar trajectory from Liverpool’s underground clubs through to their post-break-up endeavors. Displays are theatrically arranged in rooms that represent key points in their career and are packed with memorabilia, such as Paul McCartney’s first guitars, John Lennon’s glasses and one of his mohair suits.
In one of these rooms, we learn about the Beatles’ late manager, Brian Epstein, in a recreation of NEMS record store, where he was working when he first heard about the band. Epstein suited and booted the Beatles and took them to the US in 1964, where they appeared on “The Ed Sullivan” show. From there, they went on to appear around the world, as well as on buttons, stockings, TV trays and lunchboxes, which are also on display here.
The Casbah Club
At the Casbah Club, Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and original drummer Pete Best, along with bass guitarist Chas Newby, performed as the Beatles for the first time in Liverpool in 1960.
The band played 90 gigs here and helped paint and decorate the club, located in the basement of Best’s mother, Mona.
Fans can arrange visits and see the band’s original artwork, with one of the Best family leading the tour.
The Beatles Childhood Homes Tour
You can’t get much more personal than a tour of the childhood homes of Lennon and McCartney. 251 Menlove Avenue, where Lennon was raised by his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George, is like a mid-20th century time capsule.
The walls are filled with old photos and Lennon’s childhood drawings, and copies of his report cards are displayed on Mimi’s desk in the drawing room. “He has too many of the wrong ambitions and his energy is too often mislaid,” a (misguided) teacher wrote at the bottom of one.
Next, you’ll visit McCartney’s old two-story red brick terraced house, where he and Lennon wrote about 100 of the Beatles early tunes. Photos taken by McCartney’s brother, Michael, catalog some early private moments here, providing a poignant perspective on these budding musicians on the cusp of superstardom.
The Magical Mystery Tour
Get your ticket to ride for a two-hour bus excursion that covers key Beatles landmarks, with photo stops at Penny Lane, Strawberry Field, and in front of the boyhood homes of McCartney and Harrison.
You’ll also pass by Lennon’s childhood home, through Ringo Starr’s old neighbourhood, and along Church Road. It was here, at St. Peter’s Church hall, where Lennon first met McCartney on July 6, 1957, changing the course of musical history.
Music seems to pour from every doorway on Mathew Street, a lively avenue flanked by bars. Pop into the Hard Day’s Night Shop for Beatles souvenirs and a free map of Beatles attractions. Keep your eyes peeled for a statue of Lennon leaning against a wall of bricks engraved with the names of every performer who took the stage at the Cavern Club, the Beatles’ old stomping…er, strumming…grounds.
The original Cavern Club, where the Beatles played nearly 300 times, closed in 1971, but a replica has sprung up across from Lennon’s statue. For anyone who wants to see, hear and smell the sweaty enthusiasm of Beatlemania, this is as close as you can get. The Cavern Club Beatles, who look and sound amazingly like the Fab Four, play here every Saturday.
Further down Mathew Street, pop into The Grapes for a pint at “the Beatles’ boozer,” which offers live entertainment “eight days a week.” A photo in one wood-paneled room shows the quartet drinking in a cozy niche where you, too, can grab a seat if you’re lucky.
WHERE TO STAY:
The Hard Day’s Night Hotel, a chic Beatles’ themed property around the corner from Mathew Street. www.harddaysnighthotel.com
The Adelphi Hotel Liverpool, where several key Beatleweek events are held. https://www.britanniahotels.com/hotels/the-adelphi-hotel-liverpool/
The Titanic Hotel, located in the historic Stanley Dock complex, is sleek and modern, yet retains intriguing structural elements from the old warehouse in which it’s housed. www.titanichotelliverpool.com
Liverpool International Music Festival, www.limfestival.com