Jeanie climbs the stairs of the school bus and her long, perfectly straight blonde hair sways from side to side. With one hand she holds onto the text books propped against her forearm. Her other hand grasps a stack of baseball cards featuring the latest rage. It’s the Beatles, individually and together, in black and white. John, Paul, George and Ringo pass from one ninth grader to the next.
In 1963, the national pastime wasn’t baseball. It was Beatlemania.
Liverpool has two places to relive the Beatles era. There’s the Cavern Club, the place where the Fab Four played in their early days. The other is The Beatles Story, a museum dedicated to their history.
The Cavern is not the original. It was closed in 1973 to make way for an elevator shaft for the subway. Ten years later, the shaft remained on paper. It was never built. When the rubble that filled the original Cavern was removed to revive the club, engineers discovered structural damage and the club couldn’t be rebuilt in the same spot. Instead the original entrance was preserved and the Cavern was rebuilt a few yards away in a new location.
The Cavern’s walls are covered with memorabilia from the Beatles and other bands of the British invasion. There are posters, too, of stars from the early days of rock ‘n’ roll in the USA, Chuck Barry and Little Richard, as well as London’s Adele.
At The Beatles Story, another facsimile of the Cavern and a display recall how the club became so crowded and hot that condensation formed on the walls and drenched the performers, the fans and the instruments. Anyone who stepped out of the club and walked down the street could be identified by the stench of beer, sweat and the disinfectant used to clean the walls.
The Beatles Story covers the band’s history from John’s initial group, The Quarrymen, to his untimely death. His sister Julia narrates the audio tour that features interviews with John’s first wife, Cynthia Lennon, and music producer, Sir George Martin, among others.
The museum is not a one-man show by any means. The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, gets his due as an impresario. He shrewdly accepted only $10,000 for the Beatles to perform three times on The Ed Sullivan Show when the going rate was $25,000 for a single appearance.
Four listening pods feature the post-Beatles history of John, Paul, George and Ringo. Each carries an earmark of the performer. George’s pod has colorful silk pillows to sit upon and a photo of the Maharishi. John’s has bed pillows; Ringo, a drum head. Paul’s pod has footage of Wings performing “Live and Let Die” as the Bond film plays on a nearby monitor.
Liverpool has much to offer for a one or two-day excursion. The revived waterfront area includes a maritime museum featuring the city’s connection to the Titanic and an International Slavery Museum. There are shops galore along several pedestrian malls that are noticeably free of litter.
Currently the Lezovi crew is cruising by land through Europe and has house sitting assignments in Belgium, England and France. S/V Happy Times lies safely in Rio Dulce, Guatemala, awaiting our return in May 2013.