Yes, it’s true that Liverpool Football Club won its sixth European Cup last year and attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the world every year. There are also many lovers of modern art who drop by the Tate Gallery of the renovated and spectacular Royal Albert Dock in Liverpool. Others prefer more classical museums, such as the World Museum, the Liverpool Museum or the Merseyside Maritime Museum.
You can put together all these tourist attractions to see in Liverpool and yet nothing can overshadow its most important asset: the most famous band in history, ‘The Beatles’.
On October 5, 1962, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison released their first single, ‘Love Me Do’, under the name of ‘The Beatles’ and, unknowingly, forever changed the history of music and of their beloved city, Liverpool.
Almost six decades later, I landed in the city bathed by the Mersey River for the first time in my life. And, as could not be otherwise, when I waited in the passport control queue I smiled and moved my feet slightly to the sound of the chords of the song that sounded in my headphones: ‘Twist And Shout’… Shake it up Baby!, because we are going to discover together the Liverpool of ‘The Beatles’.
If you are in Liverpool and would like to experience The Beatles Story, you can buy your ticket early here:
Living the experience of ‘The Beatles’ Story in Liverpool
Under a warm, late September sun, we walked through the beautiful Royal Albert Dock – a vital part of UNESCO’s designation of this area of Liverpool as a World Heritage Site – to the building that houses The Beatles Story exhibition.
The original constructions of the quay were built in red brick in the middle of the 19th century and, after being completely abandoned in the 50s and 70s, they were reformed in the early 80s. Today, Royal Albert Dock is the most visited multipurpose area in the UK (excluding London), and the main attraction in Liverpool.
So, almost without realizing it, we arrived at the entrance to The Beatles Story. We went down some stairs and went to the counter where the ticket is bought. With it, they give you a complete audio guide.
Next to the reception desk begins a tour that takes you through almost thirty stops in what is a total immersion in the world of ‘The Beatles’. Original objects, lyrics of handwritten songs, musical instruments, unpublished photos, perfect recreations of the places that marked the history of the band, recorded testimonies of representatives, producers and the Beatles themselves… And all this narrated by the sweet voice of Julia Baird, sister of the mythical, and mourned, John Lennon.
In the initial part of the route we knew the origins of the band. Where they were born, how they spent their childhood, how they became interested in music and, of course, the pub where it all began. Most people – I include myself on that list – think that ‘The Beatles’ started playing at the famous bar ‘The Cavern’. It’s not like that, though.
It was ‘The Casbah Club’ the first bar ‘The Beatles’ played in. The place was owned by Mona Best, the mother of Pete Best, who was the group’s first drummer. Mona let them play there in exchange for painting the place. Paul McCartney relates, in the audioguide, the affection they had for that place.
After recreating the important passage of ‘The Beatles’ through Hamburg, where they would develop musically speaking, it was time to meet their first representative, Brian Epstein, and producer George Martin, both great figures related to the great success of the band. When they recorded their first studio album (on Abbey Road, of course), the group replaced Pete Best with Ringo Starr on drums.
Consecration and Beatlemania
Listening to this part of the story, we come to what, for me, is the best recreation of The Beatles Story: the pub ‘The Cavern’. On stage were the band’s instruments, giving the feeling that at any moment they would come out and start playing. That same night, when we went to ‘The Cavern’ for a pint, we could see how faithful the replica was.
The following halls represented the great phenomenon of the ‘Beatlemania’ – which would spread throughout the United Kingdom and the United States, first, and the world, later – and the most successful stage of the band, highlighting the eye-catching costumes that would wear on the cover of the album ‘Sargent Pepper’.
Dissolution and solo careers
But all good things come to an end. The end of the journey to the heart of ‘The Beatles’ begins with the story of the break-up of the band and the different solo careers of each of its members.
The visit had been so intense that I came to feel real sadness in this part of the exhibition. Sitting in each of the corners destined for each of the four Beatles and listening to how they followed their careers – until their death, in the case of John and George, and to this day for Paul and Ringo – broke my heart. I, like so many millions of other people at that time, wished, at that time, that the group had never been dissolved. But who knows if that’s part of his greatness today.
In any case, The Beatles Story had achieved its goal: to thrill to the core someone who wasn’t even a big fan of The Beatles before descending the stairs to the reception.
A unique experience you can’t miss.
The footprint of ‘The Beatles’ in Liverpool
With an international airport named after John Lennon it is normal that the spirit of ‘The Beatles’ possesses you as soon as you arrive in Liverpool so as not to abandon you for the rest of your stay in the city.
In addition to the brilliant and complete permanent exhibition of the history of the group that is the acclaimed tourist attraction ‘The Beatles Story’, there are many other places in the city that you can visit to feel closer to those four young boys who changed the history of music forever.
That same night we had a good pints of Guinness in the mythical pub ‘The Cavern’. Although the exhibition ‘The Beatles’ Story reproduces the place with spectacular precision, the truth is that live wins a lot more. You get goose bumps when you think that in that same place ‘The Beatles’ played almost 300 times between 1961 and 1963.
As I sipped the blackish liquid from my pint, I looked at the stage and saw the group in turn playing, wondering how it is that the time machine has not yet been invented to be able to experience a concert of ‘The Beatles’ right there, at that very moment. That’s too bad.
Strawberry Fields, Penny Lane and ‘The Grove’ – the pub located a few meters from ‘The Cavern’, in which they did serve alcohol (not so in ‘The Cavern’) and was the band’s usual stop before and after their performances -, are other places related to the greatest rock.
Finally, no one leaves Liverpool without having their picture taken with the statues of the ‘Fab Four’ at Liverpool Pier Head, looking out over the waters of Mersey.
Donated in 2015 by ‘The Cavern’, they were created to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the last performance of ‘The Beatles’ in Liverpool, which took place at the Liverpool Empire Theatre.
At dusk, the waters of Mersey darken and I wonder how many times those rebellious and creative Liverpool boys who would form the most famous band of all time would have watched that same picture. Simple kids with lots of dreams. I wish they were worth the trip. The rest of the world will be eternally grateful.