Quick! Name the pub on the cover of Ringo Starr’s Sentimental Journey album (at right). Or, the venue where Ringo played his first official gig with the Beatles. Thanks to a recent trip to Liverpool, I know the answers—although it would have been cheaper to stay home and do an Internet search.
But then I wouldn’t have experienced the most important music city in the world. People debate the so-called “Fifth Beatle”—George Martin? Billy Preston? Neil Aspinall? But I would posit, a little poetically, that the Fifth Beatle is Liverpool herself. As Mecca is to Muslims, so is Liverpool to discerning music fans. Only after walking the streets, soaking in the atmosphere, taking a ferry ‘cross the Mersey, and trying to decipher Scouse, etc., etc., can one begin to understand the essence of these working class kids.
Some pilgrims—especially those on drive-by bus tours—will inevitably get the wrong idea and romanticize the Fab Four’s humble beginnings, forgetting that Liverpool was a war-torn wasteland in the ’40s and ’50s (and a socio-economic disaster zone in the ’70s and ’80s). Thanks in part to Beatles-related tourism, it is now a fairly interesting town by modest English standards. But I’ll bet John and Paul were kicking themselves for not writing “We Gotta Get out of this Place.”
Ringo has made no secret of his disdain for the Liverpool myth. I wonder why. What’s not to love about terraced housing and outhouses?
George Harrison didn’t have it much easier.
John and Paul had better digs in the nicer suburbs of Woolton and Allerton, respectively. Their well-preserved childhood homes, separated by a 25-minute walk along the golf course, are managed by the National Trust on behalf of the British people. It’s no exaggeration to describe Aunt Mimi’s Mendips and the McCartney residence on Forthlin Road as two of the most significant buildings in rock ‘n’ roll—in England, even. Attendance is compulsory. Book an official tour with the National Trust. There is no other way to get inside.
No photos are allowed in the houses, so you’ll just have stand in quiet solitude in John Lennon’s bedroom overlooking Menlove Avenue and imagine how he plotted world domination. Over at the home of Jim, Mary, Paul and Mike McCartney, sit in the living room where John and Paul wrote many of their early songs. I appreciated the austere childhood homes of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, but 251 Menlove Avenue and 20 Forthlin Road are simply sacred.
NOTE: Since you made it this far, reward yourself with my gossipy rock bio Strange Days: The Adventures of a Grumpy Rock ‘n’ Roll Journalist in Los Angeles, available here. For more info, go to strangedaysbook.com
Copyright © 2019 by Dean Goodman. PLEASE DO NOT CUT AND PASTE THE WHOLE THING