When I was growing up, I didn’t have any friends with whom I could share my Beatles obsession. It wasn’t until 2012, when I started university, that this changed. I still remember the exact moment. I was sitting in a tutorial in a computer lab when I casually mentioned The Beatles to Adele, the girl sitting beside me. In the conversation that followed, I discovered that not only was she also a massive fan, but had been to the same two Paul McCartney concerts as me. The minute she started showing me pictures of the Beatles places she’d visited in Liverpool, it was obvious that we were on exactly the same wavelength. From that tutorial onwards, we were friends.
We’ve shared various Beatle-related experiences over the past few years. We presented a Beatles radio show on our university’s student station, which was great fun. But by far the best experience of all was the time we went to Liverpool for a few days during Beatleweek in August 2014. It was something I’d wanted to do for years but had never managed to get around to. Adele had been to Liverpool before, as I’d found out during that first conversation we had. One day, during a particularly boring lecture, we discussed how great it would be to go for Beatleweek and started investigating the logistics. Within a few days our flights were booked, hotel and festival packages sorted. We were going to Liverpool.
The fateful weekend in August arrived and we landed in Liverpool in the early hours of Friday morning. Although our packages entitled us to entry for events from Saturday through to Monday, we had booked an extra day to allow us to fit in all the sightseeing and exploring (Beatles themed, of course). Adele, fortunately, already knew her way around the city and was able to lead us straight to the famous Cavern club. I can’t even explain how I felt when I caught sight of the place for the first time. It seemed so familiar and yet it was like the stuff of dreams. It was about eight o’clock in the morning so the street was more or less deserted. The perfect time to take some pictures.
Seeing the Cavern was the moment when it really hit me that I was in the birthplace of the greatest band of all time. I couldn’t wait to actually go inside! In the meantime we had a few hours to kill before our bus tour started, so we headed back down to Albert Dock and visited the Beatles Story museum, which was just brilliant. So brilliant, in fact, that I had to plonk myself down on an original Shea Stadium seat for a rest.
There were two particularly emotional moments during the visit. One was seeing a pair of John Lennon’s glasses up close. The other was seeing the piano on which he wrote ‘Imagine’ while the song itself played on a loop. Strangely, it’s not a song that usually makes me emotional, but something about seeing the piano while I heard it made me well up a little.
By the time it got to 2pm, we felt like we had been awake for about two days. But there was no time for resting, because the Magical Mystery Tour was coming to take us away! The bus brought us to most of the key locations in the Beatles story, and we were able to disembark at many of these for a closer look. Two of the most exciting stops were the ones directly responsible for two classic Beatles songs: Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields.
It’s probably the first time in my life that I’ve been so excited about having my picture taken with a road sign! It’s funny to think that, had Paul never written those lyrics about his childhood route to school, Penny Lane would just have been another inconspicuous road in Liverpool. It doesn’t even look that interesting as a place, but it’s such a significant part of the band’s history.
The part of the tour I’d been most looking forward to was seeing the band members’ childhood homes. George’s birthplace, 12 Arnold Grove, could only be viewed from a distance to protect the privacy of the current residents. Ringo’s first home, 9 Madryn Street, is sadly boarded up now and due to be demolished. We managed to get a close-up look at John’s house, 251 Menlove Avenue (Mendips) where he lived with his Aunt Mimi, and Paul’s house, 20 Forthlin Road. Both houses are owned by the National Trust, and you can actually go inside, but unfortunately being Beatleweek — and therefore one of the busiest times of the year — all the house tours were fully booked.
My second emotional breakdown of the day occurred while standing right outside Paul’s place at 20 Forthlin Road. I was suddenly overcome with an intense feeling of, “Oh my god — I’m at Paul McCartney’s house!” and very nearly cried right then and there. This was a house where teenage Paul and John played their guitars together and wrote their early songs in the front room. It was overwhelming.
Later that evening, after grabbing a bite to eat, we spent quite a while browsing the Beatles shops. I spent ages trying to decide between four different t-shirts before eventually settling on all of them. Why not? We also bumped into an old friend:
Afterwards it was time to go inside the Cavern and sample some of the live music of the weekend. The first band we watched was Johnny & The Moondogs, who I had seen before at the Dublin Beatles Festival the previous year and really enjoyed. We also caught all-female tribute band The Beatelles. I was really pleased about this as they’d been on my list of bands to watch for quite a while, but I just kept missing them for various reasons.
By the end of the day we were both completely exhausted, having been up since about 5am for our journey to the airport. We had no problems falling asleep at 10pm, especially as we had another busy day ahead of us on Saturday with our festival activities properly kicking off. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the story to see what we did next!