It all began in Abbey Road. When we visited London for the first time, I just had to check out the zebra crossing in front of that iconic scene on the cover of the Beatles’ last recorded album. So we left our hotel early in the morning on the far side of London Town which was in Canary Wharf, took the Tube all the way to St. John’s Wood station and walked 500 meters along Grove End Road then turned right and bam! – there was Abbey Road with the studio and the zebra stripes right smack on the corner.
Trying our Abbey Road Walk – couldn’t shoot from the middle ’cause there was always traffic.
I can just imagine them bounding up this staircase to record in the studio inside.
Surprisingly, no people were around yet and so we had the whole place to ourselves and we walked back and forth taking shots of each other. There was traffic every now and then with the ubiquitous double-decker buses almost sideswiping us on the narrow street! It was quite amazing to be right there in the very place where your idols were and it took a while to imagine the spectacle of John, Paul, George and Ringo walking across the lane a couple of times as their photographer took several shots with a Hasselblad perched on a stepladder while a policemen held up the traffic. The fifth take was what Paul selected for the album cover showing the four of them walking in time and made Abbey Road world-famous from thereon.
In front of the Beatles Story Museum
The Albert Dockyard.
Entrance to the Museum.
Then it was off to Liverpool which we drove for about four hours on the M6. There, we visited the “Beatles Story” museum in the redeveloped Albert Dock which now has a big mall. Inside were exhibits showing their days in Hamburg, Germany as a struggling house band that played clubs every night. This was back in early 1960. On display were Pete Best’s (before Ringo joined) drumsticks and their collarless shirts as well as several of their guitars. There were also faithful replicas of the Cavern Club (where they found fame) and the Abbey Road Studios (where they recorded their hit songs). It was a good primer about the band’s early days before they hit the bigtime.
Gate of the Strawberry Field orphanage.
We took the “Magical Mystery Tour” bus (with guide) that brought us around Liverpool sites that mattered to the band for after all, this was the place where they grew up. So it was off to Paul’s house, then John’s, Ringo’s and George’s. They all fairly lived in quiet neighborhoods contrary to some stories that they lived in impoverished places.
Not far away was St. Peter’s Parish Church where John with his band The Quarrymen met Paul for the first time and a songwriting partnership blossomed. Close to John’s house was the Salvation Army orphanage Strawberry Field that was his inspiration for the song Strawberry Fields. Why it became plural, no one knows. You have to ask John that, I guess. There was a lot of graffiti on the gate and most of them were inspirational messages written in different languages. It struck me that the Beatles really had universal appeal judging from its millions of fans around the globe. In our tour alone were several Japanese, some Americans, a Russian couple, a group of Brazilians and others. I think the lyrics of their songs resonated all throughout and that was what made them unique and great at the same time.
“Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes….”
We passed by Penny Lane, Paul’s visually stimulating song. Well, there was a bank – Lloyds TSB Bank – there alright (“the banker never wears a mac in the pouring rain, very strange”) and a hairstylist shop which I think was that line about “In Penny Lane the barber shaves another customer”. Well, go ahead, sing the song now!
The Magical Mystery Tour bus painted like the one in their Album. Outside the Cavern Club.
The 2-hour tour ended in the Cavern Club, the place where the Beatles played from 1961-1963. It’s no longer the original one because many changes were done but it still functions as a real honest-to-goodness pub with a house band playing every night in the subterranean basement. It was here where they met Brian Epstein, their future manager who became the genius behind their act. There is a plaque honoring the Beatles at the entrance and we could hear “Twist and Shout” playing. This was here where it all began before the Fab Four exploded and conquered the world! The rest, as they say, is history.