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Love Me Do, in Liverpool: Celebrating 50 years of the Beatles in the city they called home

By Dana Huntley 
Originally published by British Heritage magazine. Published Online: November 08, 2010 
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Anyone with a shopper's eye will have trouble dragging themselves away from Liverpool

Just adjacent to the city's expansive new Liverpool One shopping and entertainment neighborhood and just a few blocks from Albert Dock and the riverside, the Cavern Quarter grew from the fame of the Cavern Club. And the Cavern Club's fame grew from the fame of the Beatles. It was 50 years ago, in the autumn of 1960 that the group began its unprecedented series of 296 appearances over a period of several years at the Cavern Club. Here, they became the rage—the king of the local hill among more than 200 bands in musical Liverpool. It was from this venue that the Beatles' fame and worldwide success was launched.

"I Want to Hold Your Hand" was the band's first number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart
"I Want to Hold Your Hand" was the band's first number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart
Today, a visit to the shrine is absolutely required on the Beatles pilgrimage. Yes, the Cavern Club is still rocking with Beatles music—and full of visitors from around the world on their third beer in the middle of the afternoon. In the evenings, it's jammed. There's no doubt the place has the "vibe" of genuine, but it's a far cry from the smoky coffeehouse of the early '60s that featured not only the Beatles but many other Liverpool bands that created what became known worldwide as the Mersey Beat.
I opted to take my evening pint or two just a few doors down at The Grapes, a classic and venerable city pub also known as "The Beatles Boozer." It was here that the lads used to take a pint or two themselves before and after a performance. The Cavern Club itself had no license then. The pub was bustling in the evenings, but there was always a congenial company of locals and visitors gathered. And there's plenty of memorabilia around.
In fact, the several blocks of the Cavern Quarter are a veritable warren of pubs, clubs and restaurants, most of them nightly venues for live music. Liverpool is still a city with a vibrant live, local music scene, and this is its epicenter. The narrow, pedestrianized streets are teeming nightly with a good-natured mix of tourists and locals until the early hours. Over it all hangs the essence of the Beatles. On Mathew Street, just a few doors up from the Cavern Club, a life-size bronze sculpture of John Lennon lounges against the dark, red brick wall. On the other side of the neighborhood, a similar Eleanor Rigby sits unobtrusively on a Stanley Street bench.
Naturally enough, Liverpool is proud of the Beatles—the local boys that made good—and happy enough for the attention, and the millions of pounds, their "brand" continues to bring to the city. At the same time, so much of Liverpool lies beyond its musical legacy. It is the city's great architectural heritage—the Royal Liver Building and its waterfront neighbors, St. George's Hall, World Museum Liverpool, the Walker Art Gallery and those Albert Dock warehouses—that made Liverpool a World Heritage Site.
Take the Yellow Duckmarine for an amphibious tour of the Mersey and the famed Liverpool  waterfront
Take the Yellow Duckmarine for an amphibious tour of the Mersey and the famed Liverpool waterfront
I spent several hours in the Maritime Museum, absorbed in the impact that now touristy waterfront had on world commerce and colonization. The dark part of that maritime history is told in the International Museum of Slavery, which occupies one floor of the Maritime Museum. "Write not that we were slaves," implored one proud African in shackles, "but that we were strong." I also walked through the restored Piermaster's House nearby—furnished in detail as it was during the bombings of World War II.
It was an uphill walk from the waterfront through several blocks of unattractive warehouses, housing terraces and pubs (most touting live music) to the urban mesa of Liverpool Cathedral. Lost in the luster of its popular medieval counterparts, the city's modern diocesan throne is elevated in one the 20th-century's great ecclesiastical buildings, the masterpiece of architect Sir Gilbert Scott. It is the largest Anglican cathedral in Britain, houses Britain's heaviest peal of bells and its largest organ. Besides the majesty of its soaring spaces, the cathedral offers lunch on the back terrace, and spectacular views over the riverfront.
Anyone with a shopper's eye will have trouble dragging themselves away from Liverpool One. The new, three-level pedestrian complex of shops and eateries weaves around a grassy hillside on which folk lounge, lunch, take the sun and wade in the fountains. I lunched at an outdoor café on scouse, the city's signature dish (a beef stew). Another evening I had a late dinner at the Red Hot Buffet. It was either be late or stand in the queue. The maitre d' told me they serve 2,400 people a day. And it was good.
Alas, you cannot do justice to a world-class city like Liverpool in just a few days. No, I didn't make it to Liverpool's galleries and art museums, or ride the Mersey Ferry, let alone see a Liverpool football match. It is pretty easy to conclude, though, that even without the Beatles or any interest in them, Liverpool makes one of the best major city visiting experiences in Britain. Somehow, though, for everything that I did miss, the Beatles pilgrimage provided a real "feel" for the distinctive culture and friendly people of the historic northern city. Let it be, Liverpool; I'd love to come back.


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2 Responses to “Love Me Do, in Liverpool: Celebrating 50 years of the Beatles in the city they called home”

  1. 1
    Brian Wilks says:

    Thanks for the interesting article.

    Just a couple of corrections, though. The current Cavern Club is not the original – that was bulldozed and filled in to make way for a car park many years ago. The present club is a good facsimile, but the Beatles never played there. And the anthem 'Ferry Cross The Mersey' was by Gerry and the Pacemakers, not Gary.

    • 1.1
      Mick Cook says:

      Brian is correct. The song "Ferry Cross The Mersey" was by Gerry and the Pacemakers, not Gary. If memory serves, it was Gerry and the Pacemakers who also recorded, "You'll Never Walk Alone" now the anthem of Liverpool FC. Not mentioned in the article, but equally a Liverpool songbird is Cilla Black OBE, real name Priscilla Maria Veronica White.

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