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!


  1. It looked like a lot of fun. It has been so long since I've been to a convention but it seems so many are alike! XD Vendors are overpriced. I loved the Monkees when I was little, and as I got older I really can appreciate when they tried to get more serious with their music. Once they started to produce their own music, it was really mature!

    1. I've been to quite a few conventions about a really wide range of topics and they're all of the same really! I never knew The Monkees until I was in my late teens so all of the hate they get really escapes me.

  2. Oh wow what a blast this must have been! I would love to be able to check this out one day. I am not a fan of cover bands either, if I like the song, why would I want to hear somebody else sing it? I especially dislike Beatles covers, and there are so many of them. That's so exciting you got to meet Klaus and Pattie! I will definitely have to check out your Vlogs because I want to see more!

    1. Thanks! It really was so much fun, I was a little nervous to be going alone but it ended up being fine. I really don't like cover bands, especially when they don't even sound anything like The Beatles! It's a bit different when they're all dressed up and sound identical so you can switch off and feel like you've stepped back in time, but otherwise I'd rather listen to a CD.


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