Roll up, roll up for the Magical Mystery Tour. Did you ever see the TV special The Beatles made of the mystery tour? Don’t, unless you are a real fan like me. I even have it on Blue Ray. Basically, The Beatles got on a multi-coloured coach and winged it with a camera. A couple of people on the coach were professional actors, but most were mates and mates of mates. Each evening after the day’s shoot, The Beatles would huddle and write up what they wanted to do the next day. Parts were scripted. And if the Beatles needed anything like military tanks, they got them. Watch it and see what I mean.
Thus it came to pass in the land of Scousers, a second pilgrimage. On a coach that was painted to resemble the original coach, complete with rainbow. Did I feel like a tourist? I would have if the tour had been cheesy. But it wasn’t. Both the driver and the tour guide were Beatles fans. I wish the tour guide had worn the white coat and white captain’s cap like in the film, but you can’t have everything.
45 of us assembled at Albert Dock to catch the 11am tour. A rather quiet bunch, except for 5 younger people who spoke one of the Eastern European dialects. There were other languages too, French, Dutch and Chinese. The couple in front of us were Scottish. I’m not sure how many of the group understood our Scouser guide. It took all my concentration, but we all had one thing in common….an emotional bond to the lives of 4 Liverpudlians who had taken the world by storm over 50 years ago.
I had read Philip Norman’s book about John Lennon some years ago. I’ve felt some kind of affinity with the man’s rebellious, anti-establishment views on life. I don’t like authority in any form and the older I get, the less I like the way it is used. John Lennon’s home, Mendips, in Woolten, south Liverpool was on the tour as well as the other Beatles’ homes where they grew up and lived when they met each other and eventually formed The Fab4. Lots of history and lots of stories. Our guide knew them all. Truly, this was to be a Magical Mystery pilgrimage for me.
As we pulled away in the coach, the guide put on ‘Magical Mystery Tour’. Appropriate indeed. We wound our way, the intrepid 47 (includes driver and guide), through the streets of Liverpool central out to the burbs to the south. First stop was Ringo’s old haunts in Dingle. Ringo of Dingle. Has that ring. Then on to George’s home for the first 6 years of his life. His Beatles days home was in Speke further to the south. It was too far for the Magical Mystery Tour Bus in the time slot allowed. Instead, we focused on John’s and Paul’s homes. After all, most of the Beatles songs were written by Lennon and McCartney at Paul’s house, in the front room.
Mendips on Menlove Avenue (left) is John’s home where he lived with his Aunt Mimi and Forthlin Road where Paul lived.
John’s mum, Julia, was run over by an off duty provisional police officer just down the street from Mendips. John was not at home at the time. He was waiting for Julia at her place not far away. She was buried in a pauper’s grave in Allerton Cemetery, down the road and around the corner from Mendips. Cilla Black was buried there last year. The guide played Lennon’s ‘Julia’ as we drove on to Paul’s house. The Allerton golf course separates John’s house from Paul’s. Paul lost his mum, Mary, to breast cancer 8 months after the family moved to this much nicer part of town. The guide played “Let it Be’. ‘When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me….’
I felt a great sadness come over me at this point. All that success and accomplishment mixed with tremendous loss and sadness. It didn’t subside when we passed Brian Epstein’s house. I became quite reflective. And I saw Paul and John leaving Mendips, crossing the Allerton golf course to Cleveley Road, along to Mather Avenue, crossing and left a few feet to Forthlin Road and Paul’s house. John first heard Paul at the local St Peter’s church hall. John was sold. They teamed up almost immediately.
Across the road is St. Peter’s church. Eleanor Rigby is buried in the cemetery.
And, along with all the rest is Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields. The Beatles earlier songs were about young love and holding hands and breaking up. Their later songs began to reflect their pasts, their homes and the places that meant something to them while growing up. Before the madness.
Our coach stopped at the quiet end of Penny Lane for photos. It felt like we were in the country. I began to wonder how The Beatles got their lyrics from this lane.
But the real end of Penny Lane was a hub of activity. It’s where the Fab4 met to go into the city and The Cavern Club. The area is called Penny Lane. I tried to capture elements of the song. You’ll have to listen to it as you view….
Hope you enjoyed the Penny Lane experience. I wish we had stopped at all the sites.
John’s Aunt Mimi, who virtually raised John, didn’t like some of her nephew’s antics. She detested his guitar playing, telling him to get a proper job as he’d never make any money with a guitar. John liked to get away from the house and sat in a tree behind Mendips in the larger garden owned by an orphanage. It was called Strawberry Fields. John sat in his tree girl watching. Aunt Mimi told John that they hung people for what he was doing in that tree. ‘Strawberry Fields. Nothing is real, and nothing to get hung about.’
We floated by their schools, their churches, their gig venues and the rest. We all sang along to ‘Yellow Submarine’ and ‘Penny Lane’ and more. The driver had his tambourine with him. More stories and then this pilgimage came to an end. 2 hours seemed like a lifetime. How to follow this? Ferry Cross the Mersey.