Friday, April 1, 2016
The Fab Four
So here I am in Liverpool, on my Beatles pilgrimage. It certainly isn't hard to find references to the Fab Four in the city of their birth. There are Beatles cafes, Beatles shops, Beatles tours and Beatles statues. And why not? Although Liverpool was a vibrant shipping center and musical nexus even before they came on the scene, when the vast majority of people on the globe hear Liverpool, they think John, Paul, George and Ringo.
I myself took one of the aforementioned tours, with a likably garrulous taxi driver named Alan who regaled me with tales of the Beatles (and lots of other tangential stories) for almost four hours.
We certainly didn't miss anything. For example, we went to Penny Lane, which is an actual street, and we saw the bank, the barber shop, the nearby fire station and even the "shelter in the middle of the roundabout." You could get fish, and presumably finger-pies. Every lyric in the song came to life!
Beneath the "blue suburban skies," we visited childhood homes of all four Beatles. Ringo's birthplace is looking a little rough these days...
...but Paul's tidy childhood home is owned by the National Trust.
John's house is in good shape, too -- Alan, my guide, said it's still owned by Yoko Ono, though it is open to the public. George's is rather nondescript and still lived in by some poor inhabitants who have to put up with a bunch of nosey tourists.
We saw the church social hall where John and Paul first met...
...and in the nearby graveyard, the resting place of one of their most famous muses. (Apparently Paul McCartney has described other origins for the name in the song, but my guide thinks he's simply trying to protect this woman's peace and quiet.) There's a tombstone for a McKenzie, too, although there's no indication that he was a clergyman.
Strawberry Fields is a real place, too -- once a grand old house and then an orphanage, it burned down and was rebuilt as a rather bland-looking institution. And now it's closed completely. Beyond the gate are lots of weeds and a shuttered building.
After my tour, I had to go find the Cavern Club myself -- I suspect because the club owners are somehow associated with a competing tour. I didn't go in. Apparently it was demolished after the Fab Four played there and later rebuilt, allegedly with the same bricks.
It's not a Beatles song, but I just have to point out that there really are Ferries 'Cross the Mersey!
In the evening I went for a walk down by the waterfront, which is built up with a combination of elegant old wedding-cakey palaces devoted to shipping and industry, and sleek, modern museums and entertainment complexes. I found a pub and had a pint, and then found another pub where I intended to order dinner -- but despite large signs out front that said "FOOD," they did not serve food in the evening. So I had another pint, and then embarked on what proved to be a fruitless search, at 8 p.m., for a pub with food. I stopped in four or five before finally giving up and eating a sandwich from Tesco in my hotel room, watching an episode of "The Good Wife."