The Long and Winding Road: The Beatles Story

Britannia Vaults
Albert Dock, Liverpool

Reviewed by Danielle Wynne

Walking through the streets of Liverpool is always an interesting experience. Whether it’s during a night out and a marching band suddenly appears from nowhere as you’re bar-hopping (true story) or spying the new Liverpool additions of the cast of Desperate Scousewives clattering round town in their rollers. But when it’s 2011 and you feel like you’re in 1960’s Mathew Street, this excitement is at a whole other level. The Beatles Story on Liverpool’s Albert Dock is definitely something to see. If you didn’t already know everything there is to know about The Beatles, their childhoods and their personal lives then you will after walking through here.

I’m tootling through The Cavern, not the ‘Cavern’ that’s taken up residence after the travesty of the original being knocked down, but a fantastic recreation of the original place. The place where The Beatles really hit their stride and, thinking about it now, it’s insane to think they played here every lunch time for the girls that worked in the nearby offices. Liverpudlians have a reputation of being insanely protective of where they’re from, so an homage to their most successful export on such a grand scale is only fitting. I wasn’t sure if wearing some teeny-tiny headphones and your own personal tour guide – all the way round the museum – would be worth it. I’m too lazy for things like that to be honest, but the blasting rendition of Twist and Shout sounding out as soon as I walk into the place makes the entire effort worth it. The place is so crowded anyway, even on a random Tuesday not during school holidays, that headphones are a must when you’re not patient enough to wait your turn to read the plaques surrounding the cases of gold records and 1960’s super fan collections.

The whole place is just a buzz of excitement and a complete embodiment of the Beatles era. The patterned walls, the sleek, stylish haircuts (even in their silhouette form they’re instantly recognisable) the skirts, the suits. I love it all even in 2011. And it makes me genuinely jealous when I look through my Nan’s Dream Boats and Petticoats book and she tells me one of the ‘acts’, a singer called Susan Maughan, mainly known for the single Bobby’s Girl, borrowed her comb in the toilets of the local dancehall in our hometown of Runcorn. This is the same dancehall that The Beatles themselves actually played in (like I said, jealous – we’re lucky if we see the cast of Two Pints... around Runcorn nowadays) but my nan’s disgust is still clear on her face and in her voice when she talks about the fact that the ‘regulars’ couldn’t get in on that fateful night because so many other ‘non-faithfuls’ from around the area gegged in.

Now I am a renowned film buff so looking at colours and talking about the way they make me feel just by looking at them is an everyday occurrence. But walking into an actual Yellow Submarine, with rainbow fish swimming around in the walls, bubbles floating through the air and a telescope to show you a cardboard underworld completely takes me aback. It is a constant barrage of colours around every corner, of course this is the embodiment of the sixties and The Beatles themselves and it works so well.

I know many people just call it ‘The Beatles Museum’, but once inside you realise why it’s actually called The Beatles Story. It is a genuine narrative, travelling from the early carnation of The Beatles – The Quarrymen – through to the early days when they played continuously in Hamburg, then made it to the big screen countless times, and eventually into their untimely demise. Each part of the building creates a sort of chapter, if you will, and the whole thing is all tied up with each one of The Beatles’ own personal stories post-band. A room sectioned into four separate booths of music, photography and projects that ends the story on quite a sentimental note.

There is also a lovely life size picture of Abbey Road that you have to genuinely queue up to get a look in on. Obligatory ‘walking’ photos ensued. I insisted on being Paul (my favourite Beatle, and when I’m asked why, I merely reply ‘Paul is for girls!’)

To my absolute glee, the last section of The Beatles Experience is one for the kids. It definitely caters to them – and those of us with an infantile sense of humour. There are miniature Sergeant Pepper outfits, lots of games involving Yellow Submarines and I myself coloured in a fetching picture of Paul McCartney. Aside from this, I found it hard to imagine children being an appropriate accompaniment in a museum like this, I would’ve originally gotten annoyed that I couldn’t concentrate throughout the entire main ‘grown-up’ part of the story, but The Beatles are firmly fixed on the National Curriculum now. I thought this was absolutely amazing and was determined to find out how on earth this has come about. Apparently, it is now Unit 20 in Key Stage 3 History that revolves around ‘recent history’. You learn something new everyday. Any self-respecting Northern teacher would teach about The Beatles, but for it to be an official part of school life is mind-blowing.

But, of course, there always had to be some sort of chain exploitation. The presence of a Starbucks at the end of the 1960s Liverpool, personally, I feel just ruins the whole experience. I did buy a muffin and a coffee, I’ll admit, but I highly doubt older generations, who haven't been conditioned to expect a Starbucks on every corner, would appreciate it. However, the shop filled to the brim with Beatles products is definitely pleasing to the eye, even if it’s not so nice to your bank account. I felt myself going around in a frenzy, wanting to buy Penny Lane road sign fridge magnets (baring in mind I live with my parents, and I highly doubt that my mother would appreciate the addition to the family home). There were also John Lennon classic glasses in various colours, not to mention limited edition remake replicas of the famous round lenses that he was shot in, locked in cases and being sold for around two hundred pounds. I was staring at them for a while. I don't even wear glasses.

I couldn’t resist buying myself yet another t-shirt with the Hard Days Night cover on it. And another mug, but this time with the Revolver cover on it. I also now know that my friends spotted several of my birthday presents in here as I received a lot of Beatles memorabilia for my birthday....

Included in the price of your ticket is a visit to the recent extension of The Beatles Story, which occurred between 2008 and 2009, at Pier Head. So I’m hurled outside into the beating wind of the Albert Dock and buffeted down the dock, past the new Liverpool Museum (that also includes an entire Beatles section; the influence seems never-ending) and the various Lambananas. For future reference, standing within proximity of these statues, a mixture of a banana and a lamb if you havn’t already guessed, can be one of the most entertaining experiences ever. It seems that these current representatives of Liverpool are also the metre sticks of masculinity. As I watch for about five minutes three men climb up, slide back down and fall hilariously off the side, whilst whinging when small children manage to clamber up, or are put up there by their parents.

Once in The Beatles Experience my childish mind rejoiced at the inclusion of a ‘4D film’ called ‘Fab4D’. Even standing waiting for the doors to open, behind an overly dramatic red curtain, there’s a ridiculous tingling sensation. I’d hate to think how excited actual kids get when stood there. After being shown into a tiny cinema theatre by a very kind lady and handed the biggest 3D glasses ever, I’m sat in a massive leather chair with my legs dangling drastically off the floor. The story consists of following a Beatles fan as he’s taken by the ghost of Sergent Pepper so he won’t be late for a date...or to go and get his date to go to a gig... to be honest, once the fish started zooming out of the screen into my face I got completely sidetracked. It was an excellent show.

John Lennon is a complete icon and has inspired young people to this day to pick up a guitar. Exploding forty years before I was born, The Beatles are one of my favourite bands, and still get on the regular playlists in various clubs. The death of Lennon happened in such a tragic fashion that it is understandable why he is put up on a pedestal more than the late George Harrison. As you can imagine, my Nan was absolutely distraught after the assassination and attended every candlelight vigil she could in Lennon’s memory. Now that's staying power X Factor contestants. So John having his own exhibition is neither surprising nor over the top.

Part of The Beatles Story includes a space for rotating exhibitions, which at the moment is a special tribute to the bands’ special relationship with Elvis Presley. I was very pleased that the Imagine exhibit was open during my first visit to The Beatles Story. As you can guess, this is John’s tribute. It was beautifully designed with open spaces and white walls. The Beatles have far too many phases of their career to make a seamless transition round the whole main museum, the flow of it is as good as it could possibly be, but Imagine is a genuine walk of John’s life. Whether it is video installations, voice clips of him reading poetry or photographs of him as a teenager, each part works flawlessly.

At the end of it all there is a wooden tree with branches covered in single white postcards. After contributing one of my own, I nosed at a few and only then did I realise the impact of The Beatles on others’ lives. There were messages from Florida, along with tributes from people who had come from China and Indonesia. It amazed me that I have lived twenty minutes from this attraction which inspires so many people from around the world and it has taken me twenty- one years to fully appreciate it. Suffice to say, I felt humbled.

Printer friendly page

Sorry Comments Closed