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Despite the heavy fog that was blanketing the Explorer this morning Liverpool was a pleasant surprise to us. We had breakfast in the room and then boarded the tour bus for a Beatle experience called Walking in the Footsteps of the Beatles. Driving away from the ship we heard that the area of the terminal and many beautiful buildings were all built on fill in the early 1900’s. Previously the waterfront came to the road we were driving on and you could see that the church and other buildings, formerly warehouses accepting goods, used to be fronting the Mersey River.
The 60’s music scene was setup by seeing the Mersey Ferry building. Remember that great song by “Gerry and the Pacemakers” called Ferry Cross the Mersey? There it was! This area was a hotbed of emerging music styles in the 50’s and 60’s starting with “Skiffle” which itself emerged from jazz, blues and American folk music. It was played using very basic instruments including banjo and washboards, became popular in the 20’s in the US and then took off big-time in the UK in the late 50’s. Who would have thought that the Beatles were inspired by that?
The story of the Beatles is pretty well known so I won’t dwell on it a lot. But it was a lot of fun to see some of the key places in their history. This included the areas that John, Paul and George grew up around and John and Paul’s childhood houses. John’s father worked as a waiter on a cruise ship and was seldom home. When his mother decided to move out with her boyfriend John’s grandparents thought that was unseemly so John moved in with his aunt Mimi. Both of these houses were acquired by the historical trust and can be toured. John penned several of the Beatles early songs in his upstairs bedroom and it is said that 30 some of their songs were written at Paul’s house.
One song that I had always loved is Penny Lane which is a street near John’s house. We stopped at a well documented spot on Penny Lane to take pictures and then drove through “Behind the shelter on the round-a-bout” which is a round short-ish structure in the middle of the round-a-bout that is now a restaurant called “Seargent Pepper’s Bistro”. Across the street was the barber shop where “In Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs” and “In Penny Lane the barber shaves another customer”. Across the street was the banker where “On the corner is a banker with a motorcar”, the same “banker that never wears a mac (rainproof coat) in the pouring rain, very strange”
Next we stopped at the red gates to Strawberry Field(s), which was a home for children where John used to hang out.
We were then dropped off at the Beatles Museum where we were given headsets and did a self-guided tour of the Beatle’s history. Many original items were there as were many videos showing their early days through their breakup in 1970. Also referenced were the death of their manager Brian Epstein at 32 and John’s death at 40.
The museum was very well done and it left me pretty emotional for some reason. I guess the Beatles were pretty influential in my life since I was about 10 when they came of age. But it was also that Epstein and John died so young, the Beatles rose to great fame and then flamed out very quickly and it was so clear that their lives were greatly changed as they lost their innocence and private lives. They were just normal kids from Liverpool turned into international stars overnight.
Next Margaret and I walked along the waterfront where there was a huge ferris wheel (think the Eye in London and a similar one we saw in Melbourne a few years back) and many nice restaurants and hotels. We met our group in the Beatles gift store, loaded on the bus and drove downtown to a fairly exact re-creation of The Cavern, a former underground storage made into a bar where the Beatles got their start, having played over 300 times just before they rose to stardom. The original was destroyed when a new building was constructed but the architect insisted on building The Cavern underneath. A young guy was singing songs of that era on the small stage.
From there we walked through the very nice downtown area back to the ship. Along the way we stopped to get a picture with 8 foot statues of the early Beatles that are adjacent to the Mersey Ferry building referenced above. Back on the ship we had a (big) lunch at Prime 7, went to the 12th floor deck to play ping pong and settled back in our suite to work on this blog, take a quick nap and get ready for dinner at Sette Mare. The ship set sail at about 4, making a quick dash down the Mersey River into the Irish Sea. We are sailing tonight South to Cork.
In the end, we found Liverpool to be a very influential city in the history of England and the world. There are many incredible old and new buildings, many museums and, on a beautiful day like we had after the fog cleared, a great place to visit.
Pictures coming later.