Baby, You’re a Rich Man. Yes, I am a wealthy man right now. I am in Liverpool, birthplace of the Beatles.
After my flight arrived in Manchester, I took the bus to Liverpool, arriving around noon. The weather was sunny and warm with a few clouds and I was relieved. I had been watching the recent weather in Liverpool and it had seemed to rain every day. Actually, I wasn’t upset over that fact. I was looking forward to a break from four months of heat and humidity in Italy, Morocco, the Middle East and the Balkans.
I disembarked from the bus and pulled out my map. The streets seemed to jut off in every direction. I determined my coordinates and immediately started walking to Mathew Street, location of the seminal Cavern Club, the holy grail for Beatles fans such as I. It was here, in the grimy, sweating walls of an underground live music venue that four blue collar lads with knife-sharp guitar riffs began their ascendancy into worldwide domination.
I began walking. Occasionally I would pull out the map, backtrack and start walking again. It didn’t take long to find Mathew Street. Along the way I marveled at the beauty of Liverpool. In my devourings of Beatles history I had always read that Liverpool was a dirty blue-collar port town.
Perhaps it was in the past. Perhaps there are still vestiges of it now. But what I saw as I made my way through the winding streets were modern office buidlings, medical research facilities, numerous English pubs and wonderful English architecture. The streets were clean and the buses moved with the precision of German public transit. I knew I would enjoy my time here.
I became convinced my trip was a personal gift from God when I started seeing posters advertising an international Beatles celebration taking place during my stay in Liverpool through September 1–the day I leave. Now, understand I had only made the decision three days ago to go to Liverpool this weekend. How could it be so perfect that there is a Beatles celebration during my visit?
Donovan will be performing. So will the Ruttles. May Pang will be present, as will Pattie Boyd, George Harrison’s first wife and the inspiration behind Eric Clapton’s impassioned masterpiece “Layla”. There will be memorabilia and auctions, movies, seminars. If anything breaks my bank account, this will be it. I’ve been enraptured since I got off the bus. The postings of the Beatles celebration sent me into the stratosphere.
As I made my way around, I found myself nearing Mathew Street. One must understand, I am a Beatles fan from way back. I remember watching the Beatles cartoon series. I remember the first time I heard “She Loves You”. I thought it was so cool that a song had that inimitable “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” refrain. I had never heard such lyrics on my parents’ Jim Reeves LP albums.
I especially remember the first time I heard “Eleanor Rigby”. Even for a grade schooler, I could understand the imagery of an elderly woman wasting away in the loneliness of her flat. “Penny Lane” used to make us giddy with laughter with the line “Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes”. We would always cackle and sing “Penny Lane is in my nose and in my butt”. Ah, childhood.
Again, though, the imagery was so powerful, so eloquent and yet so simple that even an eight-year-old could appreciate its brilliance. The song’s references to “fish and finger pies” and how “the banker never wears a mac” were fascinating to unsophisticated American kids who had no exposure to the “exotic” life of English lads. We had been listening to Bobby Vinton.
Now, here I was, at the entrance to Mathew Street. Tourists abounded. Street performers sang “Dear Prudence” and “Hey Jude”. I found myself singing along, unable to contain my enthusiasm. Was I really in the midst of a former slum that had become a worldwide tourist attraction? Was I really walking the on the same cobblestones as the Beatles?
I know, I know. This does not compare to walking the streets of Jerusalem, Rome and Moscow where Jesus Christ, Caesar or Josef Stalin once trod. The Beatles were “only” a rock band who captivated the world–and continue to do so to this day. They are the most fussed-about, obsessively written-about, worshiped, cossetted, understood and misunderstood and, inarguably, the most influential performers of the relatively young rock era–of popular culture even. They’ve had some type of impact, directly or indirectly, on thousands of bands, performers, singer-songwriters and artists and are studied in every way imaginable.
Newly found photos of the Beatles find their way into best-selling pictorials. Their relationships and chance meetings with people turn into permanent income-generating professions for those fortunate enough to have breathed the rarified air of Beatledom.
Am I waxing poetic? Rhapsodic? I think not. It’s no secret I hold their music in high regard. I’m not a musicologist but when I study their music for my own private consumption, I am amazed by what I consider an almost otherworldly blessing and convergence of once-in-a-millenia talent.
So, I walked down Mathew Street with video camera poised. I didn’t want to miss anything. Stores sold Beatle memorabilia. A Lennon shop featured John’s statements along with the lyrics to “Imagine”. Posters and window art of the Fab Four adorned buildlings.
And then…there it was…The Cavern Club. And then…my video camera stopped–memory filled up. The irony was not lost on me.
Despite my frustration, I continued my trek. Admission into the Cavern Club is five pounds. I was still dragging my luggage around because my Airbnb host wasn’t ready for me yet so I opted to wait before entering. I wanted to be able to be unencumbered as I soaked in the atmosphere.
Indeed, I didn’t enter any of the businesses and venues, preferring to wait until the next day when I would immerse myself in something from my culture. Something that rocked the world.
I had been awake for nearly thirty hours from my travels, save for forty winks on the flight from Munich. My feet were killing me and I was starving. I went to the Lobster Pot for fish ‘n chips and decided to call it a day, opting to make the next day my first full day of Beatlemania.
Of course, Tomorrow Never Knows.
You know I had to do it. You know it will keep coming…