Down and out with the Beatles in Liverpool

Welcome to the world, John! An unexploded bomb in a Liverpool garden, two miles from the home of John Lennon’s Aunt Mimi, November 1940 — a month after he was born. Courtesy: Merseyside Police.

Who was the “Fifth Beatle” — George Martin? Billy Preston? Neil Aspinall? I would posit, a little poetically, that the Fifth Beatle is Liverpool herself. As Mecca is for Muslims, so is Liverpool an obligatory pilgrimage for discerning music fans. Only after walking the streets of the most important music city on the planet, soaking in the atmosphere, taking a ferry ‘cross the Mersey, and trying to decipher Scouse, can one begin to understand the essence of these working-class kids who changed the world forever.

Poor bastards taking photos of John Lennon’s childhood home on a quick drive-by tour. Avoid at all costs. Use yer legs.

Some visitors—especially those on 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). If there’s one song John and Paul should have written, it surely must have been “We Gotta Get out of this Place.” But thanks in part to Beatles-related tourism, Liverpool is a rather buzzworthy burg.

This house in the Childwall district was less than a mile from Aunt Mimi’s place. Liverpool, a vital port city, was the second-most-bombed UK target. Courtesy: Merseyside Police.


Ringo has made no secret of his disdain for the myth of romantic Liverpool, although he has sung about it quite a bit. What’s not to love about terraced housing and outhouses?

Ringo was born at this now-derelict rental flat (door closest to the camera), at 9 Madryn Street, Dingle. All the homes on both sides are boarded up. The area was bombed during WWII.
No. 10 Admiral Grove, Dingle. Ringo lived in this “two (rooms) up, two down” with his mother and stepfather for 20 years until 1963. It’s a 2-minute walk between the two homes, via the Empress, where Elsie Starkey worked as a barmaid for a dozen years.
The Empress, still a bustling hotel, conveniently adjacent to a mosque. It also appears on the cover of Ringo’s 1970 solo debut Sentimental Journey.
A Ringo bonus, in the nice part of town. Ringo played his first official gig with the beatles at Hulme Hall on Aug. 18, 1962, two days after Pete Best was fired. The venue is in the Port Sunlight model village of Wirral — across the Mersey from Liverpool — and hosts an important Beatle archive.


George Harrison didn’t have it much easier.

No. 12 Arnold Grove, Wavertree. George Harrison was born in this “two up, two down,” and lived here with his parents and three older siblings for the first six years of his life. The toilet was in the backyard.

No. 25 Upton Green, Speke. George Harrison and his family moved to this new council estate near the airport in about 1950. Still bleak.


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 have to 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.

The McCartneys relocated to this council estate from a less-favorable one in Speke, in 1955. There are three bedrooms upstairs, a bathroom, and a toilet—a new luxury for the family. They also had a telephone, which was a rarity. Paul moved his widowed father to a new house 15 miles away in 1964. Forthlin Road was bought by the National Trust in 1995 and restored to its mid-century glory.

View from the front garden
The McCartneys’ living room, depicted on the cover of the National Trust souvenir booklet. Photo: Dennis Gilbert.


The semi-detached house was built in 1933 with art deco, art nouveau and Olde English trimmings; it takes its name from the Somerset countryside. John’s maternal aunt Mary “Mimi” Smith and her husband George moved here after they were married in 1939. John joined them in 1945. He and Paul often practised in the porch, which was enclosed in 1952. The house was sold in about 1965, after Mimi retired to Dorset, where John bought her a bungalow.
John’s bedroom! He looked out these windows! John lived at Mendips until 1963. After moving to New York, he never returned to Mendips. Yoko Ono bought the house in 2002 and donated it to the National Trust


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


Apud McCartney. “Keep a knockin’ but you can’t come in.”
Underneath John’s bedroom.

Copyright © 2019 by Dean Goodman. PLEASE DO NOT CUT AND PASTE THE WHOLE THING

Dean Goodman