Despite the hatred of and embarrassment by being an official tourist, sometimes you just don’t get a choice, and I had booked tickets for the tour of Lennon and McCartney’s homes for 11am. However, I was up early, so there was time to fit in some more locations. I didn’t go back into the city centre though – I went here:
Yes, I know, but you can’t go to Liverpool for the first time and not do the ferry, and anyway, it was too early for there to be commuters to tut at me for taking photographs.
In the early seventies, there wasn’t really such a thing as Saturday morning kids TV – Tiswas and Swap Shop didn’t arrive until the mid seventies. There was usually a mish mash of old dubbed shows like White Horses and Robinson Crusoe, and the occasional weird central European cartoon. We did have The Banana Splits, which was fun, albeit punctuated with other dubbed European shows like The Flashing Blade (which of course we now look back on with complete adoration). But at some point in this period, one of the TV stations decided to broadcast weekly old sixties music films like Billy Fury’s ‘I’ve Gotta Horse’ (featuring the Irish folk group Bachelors), ‘It’s Trad Dad’ (featuring everyone from Helen Shapiro to Acker Bilk), the Dave Clark Five’s aforementioned ‘Catch Us If You Can’, and, most importantly, Gerry and the Pacemakers’ ‘Ferry Cross The Mersey’. I just loved that film, more than A Hard Day’s Night – it was a much better portrait of the Mersey Beat era, featuring the likes of Cilla Black and the Fourmost (like the Pacemakers, both Brian Epstein acts). And that song, it’s just so universal. So if you go on the ferry, it sings itself in your head whether you like it or not. Sadly the film is completely unavailable on DVD in the UK, but it seems it can be had from the US.
When I caught sight of the ferry coming back from the other side of the river, I sighed – it had been painted in pop art colours. Is nothing sacred?! The Mersey ferry should be black and white:
But this one was all coloured-in!
But it was OK – it turned out it had been painted by Sir Peter Blake, commissioned to commemorate the centenary of the Dazzle Ships, those bizarrely ‘camouflaged’ warships of World War 1, designed to confuse German U Boats.
In 2015, Sir Peter turned the Snowdrop ferry into a floating piece of art, and entitled it ‘Everybody Razzle Dazzle‘. He is, of course the artist who created the cover for ‘Sgt. Pepper’. There, and you thought there wasn’t a Beatles connection. Oh, OK, here’s a gratuitous photo of the boys on the ferry.
And here are a couple of gratuitous shots from it:
But when you get back, the song fades in your head, and you get a reminder of whose city it is, in case you were beginning to think it was Gerry Marsden’s.
But now it was time for some breakfast at the nearby Albert Dock, which is basically wall to wall cafés, bars and restaurants, and with quite a nice view.
And then it was time to board the minibus, next stop, Mendips, on Menlove Avenue, Woolton, Lennon’s childhood home, with thirteen other middle-aged Beatles fans from everywhere from Stockport to Brazil – and my long-suffering daughter of course.
That’s actually her going into McCartney’s house, but more of that tomorrow.
The minibus driver was good. He said he wasn’t supposed to talk to us while he was driving, but he did anyway, and he knew the lot. He said he’d first seen the Beatles before they went to Hamburg, and thought they were rubbish. Then he saw them after they came back, and instantly became a life long fan. Many locations were pointed out as we passed them, from Ringo’s house, not yet in the hands of the National Trust, to Strawberry Field (no ‘s’) and Penny Lane, where he stopped the minibus for a few minutes. He said he wasn’t supposed to, but I suspect this was all part of the tour.
On the right, the partly developed old bus shelter – “Behind the shelter in the middle of the roundabout…”. In the centre of the picture, on the corner of Cronton Road and Church Road, is a former bank – “On the corner is a banker with a motorcar, and little children laugh at him behind his back, and the banker never wears a mac, in the pouring rain, very strange.” There are five banks in this location, so it might not be the bank, but it is on a corner, so there is a good chance it is.
Next to Penny Lane News is a barbershop, currently owned by one Tony Slavin. According to the driver, this is the actual barber shop – “Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs, of every head he’s had the pleasure to know.”
And then it was on to Menlove Avenue, and Mendips.
We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the house, for copyright reasons apparently, only the outside. Again, had to be done – if you’re going to have to be an official tourist, you may as well do it properly…
Just in case you don’t get the reference…
I’ve known the outside of that house for fifty years or so, and sadly the tour guides knew exactly why I was having my photo taken leaning on the gate. Put Lennon and Mendips into Google, and you’ll see I’m not exactly the first to have done it. Even Paul Weller couldn’t resist it seems, although he was obviously far too cool to recreate the pose exactly.
That porch is the very one that John’s Aunt Mimi made him stand in when he was practising his guitar, and the window above is his bedroom. Now, however, we were heading into no photo territory. Not even the brochure has photos of the interior, in case you had an idea to scan them. Fortunately, there’s this new thing called the internet.
An old photo of Mimi in her front room, with glorious sixties furniture. This had to have been taken soon after the Beatles made it, because not long afterwards John bought her a house in Poole.
Yoko on her first visit to the house since its restoration. I prefer Mimi’s furniture!
John’s recreated bedroom, from a BBC piece on the National Trust’s restoration…
…and this is the view from the bedroom window, no different, apart from the vehicles, from the view John would have had as a boy. How many times I wonder must he have stared out of this window, desperately dreaming of escape, and stardom.
Don’t tell anyone, but this photo was taken by me. I suddenly found myself alone upstairs, and I just had to take it, a little piece of middle-aged rebellion.
I think John would have approved.