5o years! Where did they go? I vividly remember the early days of The Beatles and buying all their records growing up. I remember buying the 45′s of all their big hits, the LP’s and even the EP’s. What days they were, growing up in the suburbs of Adelaide, card games, Monopoly, sports in the street and playing all those records on our record-player! So it was a fantastic opportunity for Jenny and me to be here in the place where it all began, Liverpool, 50 years on.
We weren’t the only ones here though. They have been having these Beatle Week Festivals in Liverpool for some 25 years now and people come from all over the world, many every year. Liverpool was ‘booked out.’ Not only was it the 50th anniversary year, but it coincided with the Mathew Street Festival, which features great bands, all genres, on five stages in the streets of Liverpool. It’s the Bank Holiday weekend and it’s even more popular than all the Beatles stuff. The people of Liverpool… apparently some 300 000 of them, crowd the streets for one massive street party. Lots of people dress up, kids wear face paint, the women come out in their high heels and skimpy dresses and almost everybody gets pissed.
But back to The Beatles. The festival goes for a week but it is concentrated around the Long Weekend. There are some incredible Beatles cover bands in town for the festival. We were impressed by every one of them! On the Saturday we went out to Hulme Hall at Port Sunlight (across the Mersey.) They were having their own festival there, with heaps of stalls, an outdoor stage, dog show, food and demonstrations. But the hall itself was where the iconic four (John, Paul, George AND Ringo) played together for the first time, in August 1962.
So we were privileged to stand, sit and mingle on the same floor, in the same hall, 50 years later and hear a series of brilliant cover bands do their stuff! There were two stages, one in the main hall and an ‘acoustic’ stage in a back room. Every hour for six hours the performers rotated. And they were all good! Some dressed up and some didn’t, but the quality of the music was consistently excellent. There was even a full orchestra of 26 musicians from Brazil!! Sensational.
And that night it was back to the Cavern Club and the Cavern Pub for more of the same.
On the Sunday we had a ticket to the Adelphi Hotel which covered us for 12 hours of Beatles, from noon until midnight! They had four stages operating in different areas of the hotel, with the feature acts in the main ballroom. They had another room going with film clips and yet another with guest speakers. And up from the foyer they had all sorts of stalls with every imaginable piece of Beatles memorabilia imaginable. With so many Beatles fans here, the prices were sky high, so we didn’t buy any of the photos, records, models, portraits, souvenirs, gold records or autographed stuff. The cases are already full and we don’t have a home currently. But it was fun browsing. Note to Mal MacKenzie… many original Beatles albums were selling for 40 pounds!
We spread ourselves around through the day and even popped out for a couple of hours to soak up the Mathew Street Festival. Meanwhile, Liverpool soccer team was playing Manchester City at home, so another 50 000 were probably getting smashed out at Anfield stadium. All the pubs were full of Liverpool fans as well. We popped into one but we could barely move for the people, so we left without fighting our way to the bar for a drink. The subsequent roars indicated Liverpool had scored twice, but so did Manchester City. 2-2 draw.
Back at the Adelphi, we secured a couple of seats in the ballroom for the evening bands and we weren’t disappointed. Five hours with five bands, through to midnight and they were all sensational. One group of four Swiss guys have been playing together in an unchanged line-up, for the entire 50 years. Another, Hocus Pocus, played the Sergeant Pepper album faultlessly. So many lead guitarists did perfect renditions of While My Guitar Gently Weeps. And this one Brazilian guy, Andreas Kiss, just inducted into the Liverpool Wall of Fame, must be right up there with Rob Sheedy among the greatest guitarists alive!
As you can probably tell, we loved it. Being British summer, the final day of the Mathew Street Festival was washed out on the Monday, but there were plenty of bands still playing in many of the pubs around town. We managed to share a lunch table with a couple of English ladies at the Panam Hotel down at the Albert Dock. Two metres away The Cheatles entertained us with two one hour sets of Beatles music, one at one o’clock and another at three o’clock. Another great afternoon. By this stage we were all Beatled out, but as I type this there are songs by a particular band constantly popping into my head. Penny Lane in particular!
While in Liverpool there was even time to jump on ‘The Magical Mystery Tour’ to see the houses where the Beatles first lived and then on to such sights as Penny Lane, Eleanor Rigby’s grave, The Beatles’ Museum and Strawberry Fields Forever.
If you are a Beatles fan and plan to travel to Great Britain one August, make sure you include a visit to Beatle Week.
The fans are old, but they remember the words!
And the atmosphere is dynamic!