“And in the end, The Love you take, Is equal to the love, You make”. The Beatles
One wet and windy afternoon as I ran through Otterspool Park, in the South of Liverpool, I bumped into a very nice old fella called Keith. Keith was getting treatment for cancer and he would find out the next day if the treatment had done the job. Jumping forward a few days, I saw Keith sitting on the Bombed out Church (St Luke’s) steps and he waved and gave me the thumbs up. Anyway, on the day in question, one topic led to another and I asked the question which I had asked of every elderly person I met in Liverpool.
“Did you ever see the Beatles perform live?”
Keith suggested that he had gone to the same school as Ringo Starr in Toxeth (post Starr’s attendance) and when he sat at a desk, he saw scratched into the desk, ‘Richard Starkey’. Whether this story is true or not, I was entertained.
He also suggested that as a boy his Dad took him to one of the Beatles arrivals into Liverpool and Lennon waved to him. He shouted to his Dad, “Dad! Dad! John Lennon just waved to me!”
When his father passed away, his Ma asked him to clear out the loft and he found some vintage Beatles LPs which sold, (back then) for around £600, a few bob in the early eighties.
As I wondered along to Calderstone Park up Menlove Avenue, the same street Lennon was born on, I felt privileged to spend this time in a City that has such musical pedigree. Not only does it have this wonderful chest of historical treasures in the entertainment industry, but the diversity of Liverpool, because of some very bleak times, makes for a mixed culture that will ensure a modern day ‘Constantinople’ for years to come. Ships, tales of the sea, it’s all here in Liverpool. Famines thrust the Irish into the mix.
As I sat on the docks, next to the black plaque which has been erected in memory of race riots and particularly the death of Charles Wootton in 1919, it was challenging to imagine a Liverpool so divided then in comparison to this modern-day city of inclusion. No place may ever be free of conflict (well not in my lifetime) but music helps to brings people together. No matter what colour skin, the Beatles were loved by millions from all walks of life.
Eventually, I moved to Kelvin Grove for the final months of my stay in this great city, a stone throw away from Starr’s place of birth. I passed the Empress Pub on my way into town most days along what is now the trendy Welsh Streets.
One afternoon, I saw that the pub was open and being the inquisitive soul, I ventured into the legendary bar, with cove ceilings and paintings of the iconic foursome. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to get a seat here at the bar during the peak of the Beatles fame. They all looked so young on the paintings, alive and in some ways innocent. I closed my eyes for a few seconds and revisited the screaming ladies, fainting in the vast audiences. Hysteria for four fellas who I suppose was symbols, the sons of Liverpool, sons of the world. Ordinary young men who were eventually unable to walk the streets of any city without approach.
Calling out, I raised the builders and they were kind enough to let me snoop around upstairs. Fresh paintings of McCartney, Lennon, Harrison and Starr decorated walls in four different rooms, the smell of drying paint inoffensively in my nostrils. The black and white depictions were explicit but it was the eyes. I just stood there, mesmerised by the eyes.
On many occasions over the seven months of my stay in Liverpool, the replica of Lennon’s psychedelic car would be spotted making its rounds, especially on High Park Street where the Empress Pub is situated. I got chatting to a man who lived a few doors down from Kelvin Grove and he told stories about Starr’s son visiting Liverpool and having to show him around. Again, I presume the story has some validity because Liverpool is such a connected city once you start immersing yourself within the community. The city was still in the grip of Covid, so whilst the odd busker could be found on the docks, along Matthew Street, in Liverpool One or in the Baltic Triangle, even the legendary Beatles and their merchandise was somewhat on pause. Liverpool is a city which is best served warm, hot, roasting. I enjoyed this time without the tourists, I discovered many interesting little details which I might not have had bundled around by the regular hype.
One of my favourite evenings was the first night that the NHS received the public claps. I went onto the pier as I was living on The Strand at the time and buildings were lit up in NHS blue, so too were the infamous Beatles statues which in peak times are surrounded by tourists to such an extent that you have to wait a while to get a photo. There I met a busker originally from Europe but a huge Beatles fan. He had settled in Liverpool and made a pretty penny from busking, but during Covid, he was lucky if he took £15 a day home. Eventually, I stopped seeing him.
On 9th October 2020, Lennon would have been eighty years old. I wondered down Lark Lane and the Amorous Cat Gallery displayed memorabilia in recognition of a musical genius. My favourite Lennon song, of course, ‘Imagine’, although ‘In my Life’ is my all-time Beatles favourite. Sometimes, it is all we can do to imagine a world more tolerant, kind, loving and peaceful. Yet, I believe that we can be the very peace we desperately look for in external things and impact positively as a result. Why wait for the world to change for us? The Peace on Earth for the Conservation of Life Monument which sits at the Docks near the M&S Building in honour of Lennon speaks volumes. People pass this statue every day, tucked away there; I wish it was in a more striking location as it is a wonderful reminder of our individual responsibility to our Brothers and Sisters.
Wondering Jamaica Street toward The Baltic Triangle, I spotted another vibrant painting. I love the street art in Liverpool. The Beatles, a trademark, a shift into an era of music that would change Liverpool forever. It wasn’t just the fact that three of the group particularly were so talented (sorry Starr); it’s what they left behind which to this day is still played again and again, millions of times, every day. Not forgetting the composers/writers and Pete Best who are often overlooked because of the ‘frontmen’. The influence of this musical conglomerate will live on, for as long as music continues to exist. This my friends, is what I believe is spirit.