The Beatles Story, situated in two locations at the Albert Dock and Pier Head, is not free. It is in fact quite pricey, but if you grew up during
Beatlemania or are a more youthful fan, the two or three hours you spend here will give you an historical, if somewhat sanitized and homogenized, walk (more on this later) through the story of four Liverpool lads who started at a church fete and went on to capture the world. If you are a true Beatlemaniac, or if you just want to learn more about the musical phenomenon, this museum is a must for you.
The museum provides lots of information about each of the Fab Four and
Pete Best, whose mother started the Casbah Coffee Club where the Beatles played before ever getting a gig at the better known Cavern.
A good audio tour and lots of artifacts help illustrate a well-organized story. I grew up with this story, lived the places shown and was often at the Cavern. Full disclosure ... I went to the Cavern to hear traditional jazz before ever the Beatles played there, but I loved my visit to this museum.
I mentioned that parts of the story are somewhat sanitized. On your tour you "visit" the Cavern. You enter past where the hat-check girl sat (Cilla Black had this position before becoming a top British singing star in her own right). You see the small stage at the far end, and the bare brick walls of what was in fact a cellar.
In reality, I'm not sure that in all my visits to the Cavern I ever saw the stage or for that matter the walls. You entered down the stairs into a small, low-ceilinged room that was absolutely thick with cigarette smoke. You may have seen videos and photographs of the Fab 4 smoking. Well, back then, so did at least 95% of everyone else who played, listened and occasionally tried to find space to dance at the Cavern. You knew there were walls because if you got close to one of them your body and clothes got soaking wet from the condensation!
So suspend your critical faculties and simply enjoy the genuine memorabilia included in the Beatles Story. Visit the Casbah, the Cavern, the Kaiserkeller and Star Club in Hamburg, and the Abbey Road Studios. Experience the British Invasion of USA and Canada. Meet John, Paul, George and Ringo, Pete Best and Stu Sutcliffe, Astrid Kirchherr of Beatles haircut fame, George Martin, Brian Epstein, Rory Storm, Gerry Marsden and a whole cast of characters, some of whom you may know, others who will fill in any empty spaces in your Beatle history. Don't, however, expect any serious analysis or exploration of the darker side of the Fab Four and how their creative disagreements,
drug use or romantic relationships may have contributed to the group's demise.
After rewarding ourselves with a large latte and snack in the Starbucks café, we stroll over to the second location of Beatles Story at the Pier Head to view photographer Paul Berriff's recently re-discovered collection of rare black and white photographs taken during the Beatles 1963-4 tour just before Beatlemania really took off and such unrestricted access to the Fab Four ceased. Seen through the lens of Berriff (at the time a 16 year-old editorial assistant on the Yorkshire Daily Post) as they rehearsed, smoked, drank and snacked, John, Paul, George and Ringo look impossibly young!
Retired after teaching more than 45 years at the elementary, secondary and post-secondary levels as he lived and travelled in England, Ireland, Canada, U.S.A., West Indies, Central and South America, John is an indulgent grandfather, an avid reader and an obsessive soccer fan (Liverpool Rules !) who continues extensive studies in Theology. He can be contacted at:
The Beatles Story: http://www.beatlesstory.com "Beyond the Beatles" provides a useful interactive map and relevant information on other Fab Four Liverpool sites such as the legendary Cavern and the childhood homes of John and Paul, now owned by the National Trust and open to visitors between March and October.
Before you go:
Watch Nowhere Boy (2009) a film that chronicles the tumultuous adolescence of the young John Lennon, his relationship with his beloved but strict Aunt Mimi (who raised him) and with his recently re-discovered absentee mother Julia, as well as his meeting with a very young Paul McCartney.