Review by Terry Sweeney
The Beatles Story is highly recommended for locals and tourists alike.
This is an incredible story of how 4 local lads went on a journey that took them from the early days as the Quarrymen (which John Lennon formed in 1957-aged 16), through to the formation of the Beatles, their development as a band in Hamburg, the Cavern and then their subsequent national breakthrough in the UK.
We follow them to the incredible heights of the Ed Sullivan Show, which helped them conquer the USA, and on to their films, the live worldwide broadcast of All You Need is Love and their final appearance as a group on the Apple roof top concert in 1969.
The exhibition uses a mix of technologies. There are replicas of the Casbah club where they performed many times as a fledgling group, Mathew Street, Abbey Road Studios and The Cavern; all of which help to authentically capture the early ’60s.
The immersive technology allows you to experience the very places that helped make The Beatles the greatest band in the world. The complimentary ‘Living History’ audio guides are available in twelve different languages (English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, Polish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese and Korean), and take you through stories from each stage of the Beatles journey to the dizzying heights they reached.
The Casbah was regarded by Paul McCartney as the place where it all started. He tells how they ‘helped paint it and stuff. We looked upon it as our personal club’. Pete Best’s mum had set the club up in the basement of their house in Wavertree. The Beatles, at that time were Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, Sutcliffe and Best. They played at the Casbah hundreds of times and started to hone their craft.
We then move through to Hamburg. Allan Williams was the Beatles’ unofficial manager at this period. He arranged a residency for them in Hamburg, for which they auditioned and hired drummer Pete Best in mid-August 1960, before they left. Williams drove them there in his van.
He later fell out with the band and had no further involvement with them. We hear his thoughts on their time in Hamburg and their subsequent success.
Their initial tenure in Hamburg ended with George Harrison being deported (he’d lied to the authorities about his age and was underage to be playing in what were converted strip clubs). A week later McCartney and Best were arrested for arson, and deported, Lennon returned to Liverpool in December and Sutcliffe stayed in Hamburg until late February with his German fiancée Astrid Kircherr.
During the next two years, the Beatles were resident for periods in Hamburg. Stuart Sutcliffe eventually decided to leave the band early tin 1961 and go back to Art College in Germany, which prompted McCartney to move from rhythm to bass guitar. It’s estimated that the band played 1200 hours of music while on their Hamburg residency. The photographs of their time in Hamburg show a young rock and roll band, kitted out on leathers and denim.
After their second Hamburg residency, the band had tightened up musically and become much better showmen. On their return to Liverpool they enjoyed increasing popularity and where a part of the growing Merseybeat movement. They played lunchtime and evening sessions at the Cavern and were gaining a bigger and bigger local reputation.
Through the interactive technology, we get the chance to sample the Cavern experience. We see the Merseybeat newspaper and learn how that was set up on a shoestring and then immediately sold out and became a great success. We see a recreation of the Beatles Fan Club offices, hear how Brian Epstein was introduced to the band and ended up taking over as their manager.
We learn how he turned them into a more professional act and why Ringo Starr replaced Pete Best. Epstein managed to get the band (eventually) signed to EMI and they were taken under the wing of producer George Martin. Martin guided and developed their recordings and helped them increase their technical abilities in the studio; together they developed as recording artists and introduced many innovations into the studio-some of which are still used to this day.
There are some surprising pieces of information here; for example, Martin describes how he had a session drummer play on the first Beatles recording with Ringo Starr consigned to tambourine.
Brian Epstein greatly expanded their domestic success after their first hit, “Love me Do“, in late 1962. We learn how their popularity grew into the intense fan frenzy dubbed “Beatlemania“, and the band acquired the nickname “the Fab Four”. We can sample Beatlemania via recordings of the Ed Sullivan show, and the band’s appearance on the London Palladium for the Royal Variety Performance in the mid 1963.Footage of the fans screaming and fainting outside the Palladium were a taste of things to come
By early 1964, the Beatles were international stars, leading the British Invasion of the United States pop market and breaking numerous sales records. They went on to tour the US a number of times, and famously, when they first came across racial segregation in Florida in 1964, refused to play unless the audience was integrated. This prompted them to have clauses inserted into their contracts stipulating that shows be integrated for their US tours in 1965 and 1966.
Soon they made their film debut with A Hard Days Night (1964). From 1965 onwards, they produced records of greater complexity, including the albums Rubber Soul (1965), Revolver(1966) and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), and enjoyed further commercial success with The Beatles (also known as “the White Album”, 1968) and Abbey Road (1969).
In 1968, they founded Apple Corps, a multi-armed multimedia corporation that continues to oversee projects related to the band’s legacy. After the group’s break-up in 1970, all four members enjoyed success as solo artists.
The Beatles Story also spends some time covering the ex-Beatles careers.
Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr all released solo albums in 1970, with one or more of the others sometimes appearing on their solo albums.
Starr’s Ringo (1973) was the only album to include compositions and performances by all four ex-Beatles (but on separate songs). Harrison staged the Concert for Bangladesh in New York City in August 1971, with Starr as a guest. Lennon and McCartney never recorded together again, other than an unreleased jam session from 1974, which was later bootlegged.
After the break up the Beatles Story focuses on Paul McCartney and Wings output, George Harrison’s records and his work as a film producer (including Monty Python movies), Ringo Starr’s hits and film appearances, and John Lennon’s hits and concerts
In 1980, Lennon was shot and killed outside his New York City apartment in the Dakota Building. Harrison died in 2001 of lung cancer.
The latest update to The Beatles Story is a new photographic exhibition ‘Sgt. Pepper Way’, which shows previously unseen images of John Lennon to celebrate what would have been his 80th birthday on October 9th 2020.
The black and white photographs captured Lennon at the ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road’ theatre show in New York in October 1974, and have never been on public display before.
In the photographs, which have been unseen for over 45 years, Lennon can be seen changing the name of West 74th street on Broadway to Sgt. Pepper Way, sitting at an organ and relaxing in a dark velvet suit, top hat and ‘ELVIS’ lapel badge.
The photographs were all taken by Robert Deutsch who worked as a freelance photographer in New York during the 1970/80s. Deutsch was recently on a cruise ship which docked in Liverpool and he was able to explore the city in a day-long tour, which included trips to Strawberry Fields, The Cavern Club and The Beatles Story. After visiting, he got in touch with The Beatles Story and offered to share his previously unpublished photographs.
His photographs are an important addition and round of the Beatles Story nicely for those who want to revisit the exhibition and see some fresh material.
The Beatles are back in the news at the moment, with the news that Peter Jackson has released a montage of the 56 hours of material he is editing for the release of his new movie, Get Back, which covers the recording of the eponymous album. That the BBC also screened an Interview with Paul McCartney by Idris Elba over the Christmas period shows that there is an ongoing fascination with the Beatles.
The Beatles Story; Britannia Pavilion, Albert Dock, Liverpool. Opening times 10am – 3pm.
To find out more and to book tickets visit beatlesstory.com