The Long and Winding Road: The Beatles Story
Albert Dock, Liverpool
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.
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
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.