London and Liverpool
Magical Mystery Tour
August 19, 2005
*First, I'll explain the pictures to your right. The main picture shows the danger of tights. It's a photo of God Save The Queen performing at an outdoor festival in Liverpool. They're a spot-on Queen tribute band from South America. The London Underground photo is shows some of my sleepy tourmates. This was at the stop waiting to get on a train and go back to the hotel after a long night of dancing to Beatles songs. The hardwood floor photo shows the spot where John Lennon met Paul McCartney. We were let inside the church hall where they met in Liverpool. On to the account:
While the hurricane hit, I was in Liverpool wrapping up my 12 day group tour of the city and London. Visiting Beatles-related sites was just the beginning. The Beatles-focused tour was composed of 30 Americans that were huge Beatles fans. There were newlyweds, older married couples, and singles who wanted to meet people with a similar interest. I fit into the last category. Psychologists, professors, CPA's, DJ's, computer programmers. The spectrum. These people were beautiful Beatle freaks. They were the kinda people who listen to a specific Beatle album over and over and over again for a whole week. And, when the week is over, they move onto the next album. They knew all the songs. Some middle-aged people who were teenagers when The Beatles came to America had waited their entire lives to visit Liverpool and see Strawberry Field and Penny Lane. I was a little too young for that kind of devotion, and frankly, at points I was jealous of the amount of love they had for The Beatles. I wanted to be as flaberghasted as they were when we rolled up to Paul McCartney's house. I wanted to be alive when The Beatles had their day, broke up, and tried in vain to match the quality of their solo work with their combined work. I strangely wanted to know the loss of John Lennon's death. I had to often ask the older ones, "What was that like?" The two biggest fans were Dave and '60's Jim, a Queens resident that wore a jean jacket every day that was covered in pins from '60's bands. His accent, along with his exaggerated, animated, and loud way of speaking, made him an instant character. He and Dave's lust for music was endearing. They roomed together because they were the only ones who cared enough to argue about release dates or open-ended philosophical quandaries. They had both been on the tour for four years in a row. At this point, I think they knew it was best to say their individual piece and then agree to disagree. Dave made Beatles collages and mixed CD's for everyone on the tour. '60's Jim was actually at The Beatles Shea Stadium concert in '66. But, he'll be the first one to tell you he was a Stones fan and that he was one of many Stones fans that protested outside the stadium that day. He'll also tell you, with amazement in his voice, that even though he liked The Stones better, he HAD to see The Beatles. He climbed over a fence to do it. The tour was a wonderful celebration of The Beatles' music. What The Beatles mean to these people, and me, is hard to put into words. Only because I'm not sure why I like The Beatles' music so much. I was born after they broke up, and many of their songs are dated or specific to that era, but their impact remains. Sure, I can try and deconstruct the songs, but I'll never really understand how four people created such vibrant, creative music when in the same room together. I imagine it was the same sort of chemistry that The Meters have. It's just there. It just happens. It will be interesting to see how timeless The Beatles' music is--if when baby boomers start dying out, interest for the music will, as well. I don't believe this will ever happen. The music is timeless, and we're lucky to live in a time where two of them are still alive, along with many other people associated with them.
In London, we drove around in a tour bus visiting Beatles and '60's-related sites. The first place of interest was where Jimi Hendrix died. It was his girlfriend's apartment. The tour guide said that often someone in the Beatles camp would tip off the fans. So, the fans knew where The Beatles were gonna be before they did. The guide also told us that The Beatles' "Live at The BBC" CD was 75% bootlegged. For some reason, all of the BBC tapes weren't available, so the BBC had to rely on tapes from people who had taped songs off the radio. The BBC Studios looked like a greenhouse. I saw a Ramones tribute band last night at Dublin Castle. They're called The Pinheads. They were pretty good, but they stumbled here and there. The vocals were's present at times. They got the people dancing and excited. They did their job, but they weren't overachievers. It wasn't an inspiring performance. We saw Paul's house. He wasn't there. He was in Scotland. He's had the house since '65. He used to walk to Abbey Road from there. Cars come across fast the Abbey Road crossing. The photographer on the Abbey Road album cover shoot shot the four from high on a ladder above the street. Instead of shooting outside, the band originally had an idea to shoot the cover on Mt. Everest. We saw manager Brian Epstein's synagogue.
Trivia: "Love Me Do" used three different drummers.
We saw Jane Asher's place, where Paul lived with the Asher family from '63 until '65. Paul wrote "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in the basment nose to nose with Lennon. Paul also wrote "Yesterday" in that building. The father of the family killed himself in the music room years later.
Trivia: There was a 95% tax on the wealthy during The Beatles' reign, so that's what Harrison is singing about in "Taxman" when he says, "1 for you, 19 for me...should 5% appear too small, be thankful I don't take it all."
Hendrix and Ringo lived in the same aprtment at different times. So did John and Yoko. We visited the apartment, where they took their naked photo shoot for the cover of their first album. It was also where Paul and Ringo took off from to get their MBE's. We went to the train station where The Beatles filmed "A Hard Day's Night." We saw Twickenham Studios, where The Beatles attempted to film "Get Back." After this, went to the pub and had a pint where Ringo filmed a part of "Hard Day's Night" in. We saw the row of apartment doors from "Help!" Like, oh my God, they all touched those doorknobs! FYI: Ringo's apartment is for rent. We saw Olympia Studios, where among many other things, Led Zeppelin recorded I, II, III, and IV. Talk about a historic place.
That night, we went on a very rainy and wet tour around London with Richard, our guide. We saw Clapton's new place, Jagger and Richard's old place, and the place where the Sgt. Pepper's costumes were made. We had a sing-along among all the tour members in the hotel lobby. Three guys had guitars. I played table drums. We did "Dear Prudence" and "Happiness is a Warm Gun" twice. "Isn't It a Pity" was nice. One guy had a mandolin, which was kick-ass, but we didn't all know the words, unfortunately.
At Buckingham Palace, we saw the guars do a parade. We went across LOndon Bridge. We also saw a Scottish walking parade with bagpipes. It was the anniversary of William Wallace's execution. We went to the gardens where they did the "Rain" and "Paperback Writer" promotional videos. WE also sat on the tree where the "Nowhere Man" cover shot was taken. We went to the riverside area where Ringo had his walkabout in "A Hard Day's Night." Next, we went to the gallery where John met Yoko, and we stood outside the former Apple building at Saville Row, where The Beatles held their rooftop concert. Dammit, we couldn't get on the roof.
We drove to Liverpool on the bus. I felt a chill as we entered Liverpool listening to "Rain," "Paperback Writer," "A Day in the Life," "Sgt. Peppers," and "Penny Lane." To realize that I was going back to the beginning, to the place of their innocence--Liverpool had definite history. People's accents weren't as bad as I thought they would be. A London cabbie said he could barely understand Liverpudlians.
Went to The Cavern last night. It's the club where The Beatles played more than 200 shows. It was torn down but then rebuilt recently to resemble the original club. It was about two flights below ground, and it was so friggin' hot. If you don't wear a black t-shirt, people will see your sweat stains. Saw Hal(forgot his last name) from Canada. Just him, his acoustic, his wife-beater, and his drummer. He performed "She Said, She Said," and "Hey Bulldog." He pulled it off, but he normally doesn't do it because he doesn't have someone else to do the high harmony parts with. The Spanish Beatles were next and good, but it always helps if the band's can actually speak English, not just sing Beatles tunes in it. There are Beatlles cover bands from all over the globe here for Beatles Week. Everybodu made such a big deal about Neil Innes, the guy who wrote The Rutles music. He did his original stuff, and he thought he was funny, but he wasn't. He was trying to show people how clever he could be. The hecklers atrted up--"Play some Beatles." The Rutles stuff he did the next night was almost as bad. His Beatles parodies didn't sound similar enough to the originals, and it's hard to catch all his jokes at a live show since some of them are subtle. Not well done.
The best bands I saw that week were The Norwegian Beatles, The Prellies, Instant Karma USA. and The Fab Faux. The Faux had the guitarist from Conan O' Brien's band and the bassist from Letterman's band. They were so technically proficient. They were attentive to evn the smallest percussive detail. Easily the best band there. The first night they did all Beatles solo material, and then another night they did all Beatles stuff. "helter Skelter," "She's So Heavy," and "hey Bulldog" were out of control. They rocked hard and weren't so concerned with dressing like The Beatles, as many of the other bands were.
On the day before we left, we went on a tour of Liverpool with Julia, John's half-sister. We saw the registry where John and Cynthia and John's parents were married. We saw the maternity ward where John was born. Julia said John was born during an air raid. They had to put him under the bed. John and Cynthia lived on Stuart Sutcliffe's floor before they lived in Epstein's place/John got into the Liverpool Art Institute on the strength of his portfolio alone. We passed Rosebury Street, where The Quarrymen(pre-Beatles skiffle band that John, George, and Paul were in) played outside of #78. Julia went to this concert as a kid. She said that day, since John had a "magnetism for fighting," there was a gang out to get John. John ran right through the house to hide. The police escorted him right out of the area. We went to Woolworth's, where Cynthia worked and John got his combs from when he came back into town from London. When the band was still called The Silver Beetles, the venues where they played were determined by which ones were on the bus line. That's how they went to gigs. John lived with his aunt across from a golf course. Julia said she and John would run out to fetch golf balls from the course and sell them later.
We got to go inside of the church hall where John met Paul for the first time on July 6th, 1957. John met Paul on the side of the stage where The Quarrymen were playing. Paul played a little, and John later decided to let him into the band. It was 5 minute walk from Paul to John's house in Liverpool. John used to get the cane--he'd wear two pairs of pants because he knew he was gonna get a whipping, Julia said. We got to see a plaque unveiled at the place where The Quarrymen made their first recording, "That'll Be The Day." Two of the surviving Quarrymen were there.
The Prellies at The Carlisle Theater were great. They had so much energy--jumpin' around. They rocked in a modern way, but they still had respect for the older material. They did a lot of Caven club cover songs that The Beatles would play. The Australian Beatles were cool. They did the 1964 Australian Adelaide show to a tee. The Beatlemaniacs were cool--they did a lot of older stuff. Instant Karma USA did "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except For Me and My Monkey." They rocked hard and well.
We went to Strawberry Field. It was crazy I was in the same place where John played. The playground equipment(slide, see-saw, etc) was still there. There was a soccer court, and the lonh expanses of grass were so green. The bushy trees that bordered the place set it apart. it's not that they were bigger or more beautiful than other trees. There was just something about the way they grew next to one another. They were majestic. Very calming. It's no wonder why the field was close to John's heart.
On this trip, I met many friends. They know how fun it was. I'm tired of writing. Rock and roll.