Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Magical Mystery Tour is waiting to take you away

On my last day in Liverpool I'd booked to take the Magical Mystery Tour, a 2 hour coach tour showing key locations in the Beatles lives and from their music. It collects at Albert Dock, and was obviously very busy with it being Beatleweek! We started by going to the Dingle where Ringo grew up, then on to Penny Lane where we got out to take pictures of the road sign, then on to George's childhood home, Brian Epstein's childhood home, Strawberry Fields, John's Aunt Mimi's house and finally to Paul's childhood home, before being driven back into the city centre and dropped off by Mathew Street where the Cavern is located. It was a good tour, but also very whistle stop. If you happen to be sitting at the opposite window to where something is located it's tough luck, you won't really see it. We got off the coach at the Penny Lane sign, George's home as it's down a little lane, Strawberry Fields to take photos of the gate, and at Paul's home as again it's down a little street. I did enjoy it as it was enough for me, I didn't feel like it missed anything out and I really appreciated the spiel the guide gave as it was very thorough and I did learn things I didn't already know. It was also great really getting a feel for where they grew up and where things were in relation to each other, seeing places you've only read about and seeing it all in context. My only real annoyance was how quickly we'd whizzed through the Ringo section, I hadn't even got to see his Admiral Grove home at all, but I was very aware of how quickly we got to it at the beginning of the tour. So afterwards when we were dropped off at the Cavern I went onto Google maps and saw it was only a 40 minute walk away - perfectly doable!

Brian Epstein's childhood home

Paul McCartney's childhood home

I explored Mathew Street and the Cavern, and marveled to myself that I'd basically walked past it on Saturday without even realising (the Saturday was my one non-Beatle day just exploring Liverpool in general). There's obviously a lot of Beatle related things down there, mostly shops and bars. I spent ages reading the outside wall of the Cavern, as each brick is engraved with the name of a band/artist who's played there. I also went down into the Cavern, feeling a buzz of excitement heading down those famous steps and picturing the black and white images of the Cavern girls doing the same all of those years ago. The actual Cavern is tiny, and there was a live band playing Beatles tracks down there. They were actually quite good! I explored all of the shops, before making my way back to the Dingle area.

The bricks outside The Cavern are engraved with all of the bands and artists to have played there through the years.
Got excited seeing this Donovan display inside the Cavern!

It was quite a simple walk to Admiral Grove, and whilst I fully realise I could probably of taken a bus I felt I got a better feel for the place by walking there. It's really not that far, and I'd recommend the trek. I even couldn't help but imagine a young Ringo possibly taking the same route :)

It's a little awkward because obviously it's a real residential area where people still live today and I was careful of being respectful about that. When we were stopped at George's old home on the coach tour, people live there today yet fans were plucking flowers right out of their hanging baskets and looking right in the windows. It's just disrespectful and unnecessary, there's no need to be a dick about it.

Ringo was born in 9 Madryn Street - actually born there in that house (it's the 5th front door down). It's quite sad seeing it as the entire street is boarded up. Even the street sign is gone, I probably wouldn't of even realised which street it was without the help of Google maps. There was talk of demolishing the houses for a long time, but they're due to be renovated now so at least it'll remain standing. I do feel incredibly bitter that John and Paul's houses were bought by the National Trust, but people were happy to see the house Ringo was born in get turned to dust. Having gone through my entire life as a Ringo fan being told how unimportant and disposable Ringo is I can't help but take that personally! Show him some respect!

Literally across the street - literally - is Admiral Grove where Ringo and his mum Elsie moved to when Ringo was 5 years old. Ringo's dad left when he was three, and Elsie felt their three bedroom house was too big and expensive for just the two of them so moved to the two bedroom house across the street where Ringo lived until he was 23. 10 Admiral Grove is still very much standing and being lived in. In fact it's so unsuspecting I actually walked straight past it without realising and had to go back!

It's the pink and white one

Literally across the street is the Empress pub. And when I say across the street, it's probably about 20 or so steps from the front door of 10 Admiral Grove to the front door of the pub. This pub became a bit of a monument of Ringo's childhood to him, and it's easy to see why being there and seeing it tower over the surrounding houses. It's where Elsie worked as a barmaid throughout Ringo's childhood, and was later photographed and put on the cover of Ringo's first solo album Sentimental Journey which he recorded inspired by his mum (it's made up of her favourite songs. His family even appear superimposed on the windows of the Empress on the album cover).

Obviously it's just houses and I didn't want to be a weirdo and stand around for too long so it was just a quick walk round, but honestly it was probably my favourite part of the whole trip and I'm so glad I did it. Ringo means so much to me and it meant a lot being able to see these things in the flesh and put everything I've read about into perspective.

After I walked back I only had an hour and a half until my train back home, and as I felt I'd seen everything I'd wanted to I rested my aching feet at Costa for the remainder (seriously my poor feet! I hadn't made the wisest decision with my footwear as I'm too vain to be practical!) I really enjoyed my trip so much though, and am already planning further travels in the not too distant future!

I vlogged my entire trip, so if you're keen to see everything in live action you can check that out here! :)
Also if you want to see larger images of anything, they're all on my Flickr.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

So may I introduce to you the act you've known for all these years

Replica of The Cavern stage

I've really been itching to travel for a while, other than the occasional day trip I really haven't been anywhere for over a year. So last month I made the decision to make the most of the long weekend of August bank holiday and do something I've always wanted to do: go to Liverpool and do all manner of Beatles related things. When booking, I found that over the weekend I was already planning on going there was a convention being held called International Beatleweek. It's been going for absolutely years and there were literally people from all over the world attending so it's certainly not anything exclusive, but I tend to be quite ignorant of these things because really why would I learn about it if I'm not travelling to Liverpool? But it felt like fate I should go so I added it to my itinerary and ended up planning most of my trip around it.

I arrived in Liverpool fairly early on the Friday determined to make the most of my day. There were events being held for Beatleweek that day, but they didn't take my interest so I decided to make that the day I visited The Beatles Story. It's split across two locations, the main exhibition located at Albert Dock and the second a 10 minute walk away at Pier Head. It's not cheap at £15 entry, but this will get you into both locations and you can return to the main exhibition the next day if you wanted to (I'm not sure why you would, but hey I'm not judging)

Replica of the interior of the original NEMS store owned by Brian Epstein

Is it worth it? Honestly I'm not completely sure. The main exhibition was a bit of a disappointment and not really what I was expecting. I thought it'd be more museum like, with genuine items from the time to look at as it went into detail about the history of the band and their individual stories. In reality, it was actually quite brief and felt quite rushed in places. The information given was extremely basic so if you're a fan of the Beatles expect to already know everything it's telling you, and there was barely any original Beatles things to look at beyond vintage merchandise (which I did get excited about seeing things I already own on display!)

It was mostly made up of recreations of a few locations: the Cavern, Mathew Street, the Abbey Road recording studio, inside the NEMS record store. At the beginning you had to pick up headphones attached to an iPhone-like device and select the corresponding number to the location you were at to be told facts about it. This was actually incredibly frustrating as it meant everyone was loitering around like lemons waiting for the guide to stop talking on the headphones, and it wasn't like there was a lot to see while you listened because it's literally recreations of locations and little else. Everyone was in each others way, it became claustrophobic at times and it's difficult to escape because everyone is going at the exact same pace because of the guide. It's just not very well set out, and I left it feeling very underwhelmed and quite disappointed. I'm glad I did it so I know what it's like, but I can't say I'd recommend it.

The second exhibition at Pier Head was much better: the headphone guide was optional instead of mandatory and there were plenty of original things to look at and see. This one isn't just about The Beatles, but the entire British Invasion movement. It begins in a room showing American rock 'n' roll and the black artists who made it popular to show what inspired the British bands, before moving on to the British bands themselves. It's a very short exhibition, I think it was 3 rooms in total. This is also the exhibition where you can receive a drum lesson from Ringo himself which I did do! I was quite shy but I knew I'd regret it if I didn't. I've never drummed in my life, and I can't say it gave me a full idea of whether or not I'd be any good at it as I was too self aware of the crowd behind me watching to get into it and really focus. What Ringo was saying sounded quite simple, but it definitely takes some practise moving your arms and feet at different times and I really made me realise how uncoordinated I am! I enjoyed it though, especially the feeling of having one of my heroes talk me through it even if it was through a TV screen and he said the lessons he was showing were exactly how he taught the basics to his son Zak. He also specified how important self learning is, which obviously isn't surprising as he's self taught, but it's still a message I always appreciate and often isn't pushed enough. You really can teach yourself anything if you want to (and I regularly do!)

One of Ringo's actual drum kits
Ringo teachs you to play through the screen

Each museum has a Beatles store at the end of it, and whilst the bulk of the Beatles related stuff is the same it isn't all so I'd definitely recommend checking out both. The Albert Dock one was strictly Beatles and sold a huge amount of clothing, whereas the one at Pier Head had more accessories and things and also sold merchandise by other bands (I picked up a couple of Pink Floyd things which was a surprise as they weren't mentioned anywhere in the exhibition, and they sold The Who, Rolling Stones, The Zombies, etc who were in the exhibition.)

I spent the rest of the day wandering around the area before checking into my hotel that evening and picking up my wristband for the convention. I didn't actually end up going to many of the events, and I suspected I might not before I got there. The majority of them are focused around cover bands, and I don't mean to sound like a douche but I'm really not into cover bands. I had considered going to the Tribute to George event being held on the Saturday but decided I'd rather continue exploring Liverpool than watch a load of ageing blokes pretend to be George. On Sunday was the main convention, and there were live bands being advertised as performing which I did drop in on and promptly dropped back out of. I'm just not into it, especially as most were putting their own spin on Beatles classics which just isn't what I'm down for. If I'm at a Beatles event, I wanna hear the Beatles, not your own rendition I'm sorry to say.

The convention itself was enjoyable. It was mostly vendors selling records and vintage merchandise, and there were talks and signing sessions with various Beatle related people. The vendors hall took me about 45 minutes to make my way round entirely, but I kept going round as I decided what to buy and was there the entire day. There were so many records on sale I was hoping I might finally find All Things Must Pass by George Harrison - and I did, but with the price bumped up to convention proportions so I left it. It's really something to keep in mind when attending these things! I saw so much of the vintage merchandise I already own - pins, ornaments, record cases, my Beatles dress, all for so much more than what I paid, often up to 4x as much. However that's not to say I didn't buy a few things! I bought 3 ornaments of my beloved Jeremy Hillary Boob, including the most darling little trinket box which has instantly become one of my most favourite things! I also bought two records - one a rare Pink Floyd picture disc (it really confused me that I kept seeing Pink Floyd stuff at these Beatles events, but oh well) and an extra copy of Revolver. I already own the vinyl of Revolver but didn't have it with me, and you see I wanted it because I got to meet Klaus Voormann!!!!!

Excuse me looking so disheveled, it's hard to look good doing The Lean. I sent this picture to my mum and get a response of "That's great!! Who is he?" which made me ashamed. He designed the cover of Revolver (among other album covers) and is a huge inspiration to me as an artist. He was also a close friend to the Beatles, knowing them from way back in their Hamburg days and later living with them in London. When I was queuing up to meet him I was rehearsing what to say in my head, wanting to let him know what an inspiration he was to me as an artist and how I adored his work but unfortunately when I came face to face with him all of that flew out of my head and I could only say "thank you!" moronically about 20 times as he signed my record. Klaus also gave a really wonderful talk about his life with the Beatles which was about 50 minutes long, I recorded the entire thing on video but aren't sure whether people are interested in me uploading it so let me know if you are.

I also got to meet Pattie Boyd! She's just as beautiful in real life, and was so kind and patient. I didn't know what to say to her, she's one of my favourite Beatles girls and a fashion inspiration but that felt a bit limp to just say that so I simply thanked her and asked her for a photograph. She also signed a photograph I purchased of her with George.

Micky Dolenz of The Monkees was also there, I didn't see him signing (I'm not sure if he did, I don't think so?) which is a shame, but I caught his talk actually by accident. I decided to check out the back room I'd barely been in at that point, and happened to walk in just as they were announcing him which was a spot of luck. I love The Monkees and Micky was always my favourite and he seemed everything you'd imagine him to be. He gave some great stories about his experiences being a Monkee, the comparisons they received to the Beatles (which he said is unfair as they were much more pop than the Beatles were and aimed at a younger demographic, not to mention they were primarily a TV show and didn't consider themselves a real band at the beginning. All of which I agree with and I seriously don't get why people still feel the need to slate the Monkees 50 years on, they're just a bit of fun! Stop taking it so seriously!) and also stories about his friendships with Beatles, especially Ringo and John who he hung around with in the US during the '70s a lot.

Monday was the last day of my long weekend, and the day I took the Magical Mystery Tour of Liverpool but I think I'll save that for a separate post!

I vlogged my entire trip, so if you're keen to see everything in live action you can check that out here! :)
Also if you want to see larger images of anything, they're all on my Flickr.

Billy Fury
The Beatles made of jelly beans!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

People are strange when you're a stranger, faces look ugly when you're alone

I've felt completely stagnant and a bit lost with my social media for quite a while now, definitely for well over a year but probably longer. Before it was just a dull nagging that I couldn't put my finger on, a vague feeling of dissatisfaction with everything I was putting out. It's really come to a head these past few months of feeling completely uninspired but at last things have begun to click into place to help me realise exactly what it is that's wrong: it's me.
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