This blog post was supposed to be a celebration of all things Beatles at the International BeatleWeek 2019, and within 48 hours it has mutated into a Liverpool Rant. I’ve been here twice before and very much enjoyed myself. Things were going downhill a bit last time, but nothing prepared me for Liverpool’s new, aggressive, burgeoning homeless population.
Everything began innocently enough. The cheap bus from the airport worked out nicely and was a short walk to my hostel. After dumping the gear, I headed for the Adelphi Hotel to pick up my BeatleWeek bracelet to gain me access to events. An absolutely gorgeous brunette with penetrating eyes greeted me at the Help Desk and further convinced me that I’d made a good decision about the event.
Now is the part of the feature where you drag the needle across the phonograph record like they do in movies to signal a dramatic change in the plot course or emphasize something bizarre or horrific on the screen.
It all started to go wrong after that. My good friend, Liverpool, turned on me with a vengeance. After singing its praises all over the world, I found myself feeling betrayed to my very core. The wound cut deep, not just because I was treated so shabbily, but because of the black mark they are leaving upon John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Liverpool should be ashamed of itself. The City Council, the locals, the homeless, and street people all share the blame.
HARD DAYS NIGHT SHOP – The best Beatle souvenir shop in Liverpool right at the top of Mathew Street features a “Fool on the Hill” sleeping outside. This area is the welcome mat of the city!
Steps away from this sleeping derelict “The Busker” sings “Penny Lane” next to the famous Cavern Club. The sentimental lyrics fall to the ground in stark contrast to the scene unfolding on Mathew Street. It’s only 3:11 pm in the afternoon, but you can already feel the crazy bubbling to the surface.
Unfortunately, I am staying at the “current” ground zero of suck, the birthplace of the Beatles, better known as Mathew Street where they played 292 shows at the Cavern Club which is now a relocated simulation. Although the original pub where they drank before gigs at the Cavern is still there, “The Grapes” can’t begin to make up for utter degeneration of the hallowed street at large.
THE GRAPES – The pub where the Beatles always grabbed a pint before performing at the Cavern.
Not since my visit to Marrakech have I found myself within such a hive of scum and villainy. I was told that they are supposedly going to clean up Mathew Street. The sheer weight of addiction, mental illness, and ill-mannered acting out were extremely oppressive. Stir in the grotty streets, obnoxious, drunk locals, and you have an atmosphere more befitting a Sex Pistols reunion than International BeatleWeek.
For God’s sakes, Mathew Street is one of the most important 100 meters in Rock Music History. It’s the flashpoint of the most influential musical movement of the 20th century! To maintain this hallowed ground in this condition is a disgrace. It’s an insult to The Beatles, The Fans, Liverpool, and Great Britain at large. “The Beatles Shop” at the bottom of the street has an older Beatles sculpture over the door. McCartney’s right hand is missing and so is Ringo’s nose. I mean, how can you have a proper Ringo without his bloody great hooter?
GOOD THING MACCA’S A LEFTY
It’s just another example of people making money off of the Beatles without showing due respect. It is in this same manner that Liverpool has abdicated its responsibility to the Beatles’ birthplace, figuratively and literally, by failing to welcome visitors properly and basically tarnishing the very legacy of the Beatles in the process.
Another thing I don’t get is the lack of quality sculpture of the Beatles around town. Surely the Chamber of Commerce could afford a few quality-likenesses scattered about the city, and I do mean likenesses because many of the bronze Beatles around town couldn’t be picked out of a police lineup. The only way you can tell them apart is if they happen to be holding their instruments. I’ve seen much better statues of Lennon throughout Europe.
There isn’t even a statue of Brian Epstein, the Beatles manager who was often referred to as the fifth Beatle! How is this possible? He died over fifty years ago due to suicide because of Britains draconian laws against homosexuality.
Thankfully, there is a fund for Brian’s statue that was featured at the Beatles Convention Hall. Christ, if you want something done……
THE FRUIT EXCHANGE – Just fifty years after Brian Epstein topped himself, not only are gay clubs acceptable but they take the mickey out of themselves as well, as evidenced by this hilarious name. Poor Brian, if only he’d known that change was on the way. Not only would shunning be off the table, he’d have gotten a Pride Week Parade, and a rainbow flag to boot.
OUT! – A LOCAL DRAG SHOW
Anyway, people, I’m only getting started so place your beverage in your cup holder and fasten your seatbelts. We’ve got some rough territory to cover. Also, you might want to keep a small, plastic rubbish bin within reach should you feel a sudden rush of nausea.
With BeatleWeek in town, the resident street people are doing their best at playing upon the sympathies of “Peace and Love” Beatles fans, who are little more than a bunch of low-hanging fruit wearing Beatles tee-shirts and paraphernalia. Such easy targets are lulled into a false sense of security by the music, alcohol, and the all you need is love togetherness these sort of events engender. Meanwhile, the Liverpool grifters are in your face to wheedle money out of you in order to get while the getting’s good before BeatleWeek is over. It’s a feeding frenzy to the point that fights break out over the really choice chumps’ change. The street people spend most of their energy in a scrum scamming people out of their cash or fighting over people from whom to extract money.
I guess you have to be satisfied with being ripped-off and be thankful you aren’t being robbed. The current crop of Scousers on the streets can spin a sad yarn of incredible hyperbole, creativity, and guile in order to garner your sympathy. It’s almost worth the money you part with since it’s compelling performance art to a small audience. The sidewalks are lousy with one-person shows. Occasionally, you luck onto an ensemble cast which is preferable because they tend to leave you alone and act out on one another.
It basically feels like the whole town is on the take or up to no good in some way and has deteriorated into an endemic, sleazy destination filled with ne’er do wells and obnoxious drunks.
Just up this street is Greggs which is a franchise that sells cheap quick bites. I pretty much subsisted on their sausage rolls and Monster energy drinks to keep from sliding into a serious Liverpudlian depression. It would have been a crying shame to succumb to an Anthony Bourdain swansong during International BeatleWeek and come up short on my five year travel committment in the process.
Fortunately, I don’t tend to turn my negative thoughts inward as evidenced by this blog so not only does the thing keep me busy, but it can be theraputic as well. This is most important for a solo traveler when more often than not, I find myself as a strange person in a strange land. Add to that, the fact that world at large is becoming more bizarre by the minute as reflected by the climate, political and weatherwise.
LENNONESQUE PSYCHADELIC ROLLS ROYCE – SPECIAL CAR FOR HIRE
THE CAVERN CLUB – The original Cavern Club was closed and filled in with dirt in 1973 thus ending an era. This new version is a good representation of the original including the unbearable heat. You would think they could have installed AC that functioned properly in this day and age. On Friday and Saturday, a Beatles tribute band plays in the Lounge for 15 or 20 pounds respectively.
BEST BEAT – SERBIAN BEATLES – These guys were good. The right handed bass player even learned to play lefty like McCartney. About 50% of the Beatle bands in the festival were rubbish. It was astonishing the number of lousy bands, and I mean bad. Not everyone can be the Fab Four, but there should be a decent baseline for hiring bands. They should be properly vetted which could easily be taken care of by dialing up prospective talent on YouTube. If they aren’t on YouTube, don’t bother. Simple.
THE FAB FOUR – ULTIMATE BEATLES TRIBUTE BAND
Actually, two of the band members are from Liverpool to add an extra helping of authenticity.
The Beatles exploded onto the scene with “She Loves You” on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. Here they repeat that performance in a hall filled with excited fans trying to avoid wetting themselves every time they heard the now-famous “ooooooohhh!!!” refrain. These guys resemble the Beatles, but most importantly they sound like them. It was one of the only guaranteed positive takeaways from the event.
“I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love.”
With multiple costume changes, they work their way through every period of the Beatle’s repertoire.
“LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS, LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS, LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS”
“Let me take you down ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields, nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.”
“Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall, I’d love to turn you on.”
AND THEN BACK TO THE REALITY OF LIVERPOOL……..A TOWN UP TO NO GOOD
B.B. CATS – Playing material from the Beatle’s early days in Hamburg, these ladies from Tokyo rock.
DOWN BEAT BANDMEMBER
DOWN BEAT – And man was it a downer. Johnny Kuroda threw this ensemble together just in time for Beatle Week. Claiming great harmonies in the festival program, this band laid waste to a number of my favorites before I headed for the greener pastures of the Casbah Coffee Club. Their claimed famed harmonies were cringeworthy.
CASBAH COFFEE CLUB
This is one of the most important places in all of Beatledom. It’s the very first place The Beatles played as a group.
Mona Best, the mother of Pete Best, allowed the band to use the basement as their very own clubhouse. Pete was the Beatles’ first drummer who accompanied them on their two trips to Hamburg and played all of their gigs at the world-famous Cavern Club which was retired in 1973 leaving the Casbah as the premier historic Beatles venue since even the Hamburg clubs have long since ceased to exist.
All of the rooms in the Casbah have the distinction of being painted by the Beatles, and aside from retaining its entire original form, there are a number of special items the Beatles left behind when they had Pete unceremoniously fired from the group. I always felt that the way it was handled was cowardly and hurtful. They sent their manager, Brian Epstein, to do the deed and poor Pete was devastated to the point of attempted suicide. It was pretty shabby treatment of a guy who had backed them through two arduous tours of Germany.
I have come to the conclusion that once the Beatles had made it big, they could have passed the hat and paid him for the work he did for them as well as the support his mother had given the group. I guess it proves that even the Beatles could be assholes.
ROAN BEST – Pete’s brother by another father. I got a fantastic tour of the Casbah from him last year. His dad was Neil Aspinall, the Beatles’ road manager.
A GREAT SETTING FOR BEATLE BAND – Too bad they sucked royally.
WORST BAND I ENCOUNTERED – This Indonesian band follows suit and delivered the sourest notes of the festival before I fled for the bus heading back to Liverpool. I was in Chiang Mai, Thailand last year and encountered a bar band that was doing Beatle songs better than half of the people here.
CASBAH COFFEE BAR – This starry ceiling was painted by John Lennon and was evaluated by Sotheby’s at over a million pounds.
L.S.D. – Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – I still think the Beatles knew what they were doing with the name.
ALAN WHITE AND REPLICANT YOKO – I think this chick, aside from nailing that sort of cross-eyed look, was able to fully own the unbearable screeching tirades that Yoko considered to be singing. Don’t get me started on that Svengali snake. That horrific harpy made John’s son, Julian, buy one of his father’s guitars after he died. Shame on John for not sorting him out in your will in the first place.
The problem at that moment was that she was ruining perfectly good Beatle songs in this performance. An imitation John was trying to sing “Yer Blues” and “Cold Turkey” while that horrific, simulated shrew shredded of a couple of great songs. Imagine beating a burlap sack full of cats during a harp recital and you’ll get an idea of how poorly her caterwauling and Lennon’s music blended together. Bad enough, I had to put up with the poseur back in the day without being ambushed in the middle of Liverpool by some faux-Asian artist at a Beatles fest. Putting on the same sort of contrived performance art, the phony Ono was able to annoy as thoroughly as the real article.
Take a look at Alan White in the background. He looks like death can’t come soon enough. Her Yoko vocals were a dead match, but she was too pretty to complete the package.
100 SECONDS WINS 100 POUNDS – The guy with the muscular arms forgot he had a huge gut to hold aloft. He dropped ten quid in thirty-five seconds.
Soon after, I was treated to a drunk guy at McDonald’s using his double patty burger to mouth the words of “Love Me Tender.” What made his inebriated act stand out is that he was dressed in a cheap, white, Elvis jumpsuit. It was much better than the night before when some wanker shoved me out of the way to use the bathroom.
BRITANNIA ADELPHI HOTEL – In all of its festive glory and by way of welcoming Beatles fans from all over the world, a homeless person snoozes on its front steps.
Another one is nodding off a fix against its front windows while guests seek festival info inside. Can you imagine spending good coin to stay in this place?
BEATLES CONVENTION – Here you can purchase all manner of Beatles paraphernalia as well as meet people who have extremely obscure connections with all things Beatle. The tee-shirts and merch ranged from refined to kitsch.
JOHN’S ORIGINAL 1964 LEATHER CAPS AVAILABLE AGAIN
BITS AND PIECES
These were especially good since the labels were consistent with the actual bands the artwork represents.
MENKIND – In a world where men are battered and weary from the fallout of the #metoo movement, third-wave feminists, and even Gillette, there is a retail sanctuary that respects the male of the species.
STRYKER CROSSBOW & TARGET – This is the ideal, borderline, contraband gift for a young relative. In this case, Charlie, who I will encounter shortly in Salisbury. Hopefully, his mom Alexa won’t be put off, but after test marketing on the Isle of Man, it has received the English lad’s seal of approval. Boy’s will be boys and must be allowed to play with toxic toys. Get Stuffed, Gillette!
LAMBRETTA – Favorite Mod Mobile
rude kids – a fitting mascot
GROUSING HOMELESS BASTARD – This reprobate just got finished unloading some vile invective on some poor young street female for interfering with his grifting.
CHICKEN HAWKS – To add to an already repellent and sleazy street scene, these forty-something guys were chatting up and giving cigarettes to teenage girls.
SHANKLY HOTEL ROOFTOP CONCERT
WAITING IN A LINE ONCE AGAIN – Another Beatle fan clings to the Sixties with a zebra skin print dress.
ROOFTOP CONCERT – THIS IS THE BEST IDEA OF THE FESTIVAL
SOME STUPID WITH A BARBECUE BURNED THE PLACE TO THE GROUND, SMOKE ON THE ROOFTOP FIRE IN THE SKIES – Deep Purple
It was the perfect venue to recreate the Apple Records rooftop concert, playing selections from Let It Be like Don’t Let Me Down, I Me Mine, I Dig A Pony, and Two Of Us all delivered in excellent form by the Cavern Club Beatles. They threw in Back In The USSR, Ob-La-Di, Birthday, Golden Slumbers, and The End. I should have called it quits after that, but I made the mistake of signing on for another steam-bath in the Cavern Club the next day.
CAVERN CLUB BEATLES
WALL OF FAME – Take note of Badfinger which is the most famous group to sign on to the Beatles’ Apple label. Sadly, they have one of the most tragic stories of any band in their era. Their manager, Stan Polley basically took them for everything and left them with nothing even though they had many hit songs. In the wake of being completely defrauded by that reprehensible pig, Pete Ham and Tom Evans both hung themselves.
You would have thought that the Beatles might have had their backs along the way and could have provided much-needed advice. Due to the lack of touring Brian Epstein’s role had been diminished so the Beatles should have put him in charge of Badfinger. It would have saved his life, Pete’s, and Tom’s. What a shame on all three counts.
LAST DAY OF THE FESTIVAL – People clamor outside the Cavern to see The Overtures, a phenomenal Sixties retrospective. Unfortunately, I wasn’t warned about what awaited me in the cellar below.
HELLO ELO – A Jeff Lynne impersonator catches me in mid-shot.
ABBEY ROAD – A six-string wielding, self-absorbed douchebag does his damndest to destroy the lion’s share of Abbey Road. Now, mind you, I’m supposed to be seeing The Overtures and not this clown. Now I’ve got to wait 45 minutes for him to “bull in a china shop” his way through one of my favorite Beatle Albums.
I’ll give him this. He managed to hit all the notes in “Oh Darling!,” though it still put me off my Beatles. Octopus’s Garden is pretty thin fare, but this ponce turned it into a saccharine fest that sent diabetics rushing for their insulin. The sublime “Because” was inexplicably subjected to an occasional touch of Yoko screech for good measure. I am on the verge of acrimony while he wrecks “Sun King,” as I ponder the possibility of he and James Blunt dying in the same car accident. “Sun King” is all about the rich harmonies, and all we got was his limp, flat, reedy solo. I didn’t pay to hear some soy-boy showboat waste an hour of my life, I was there to enjoy a proper Sixties-style rock band.
Surely, there should be some sort of punishment for mangling the Beatles’ last recorded album in the Cavern on the final day of BeatleWeek. There is a Wall of Fame on Mathew Street. Perhaps a Wall of Infamy can be arranged to carry the names of those guilty of egregious soiling of the Beatles’ catalog.
“Carry That Weight” signals that the agony will soon be over, minus the fantastic, dueling guitar finale of course. It’s an anti-climactic end to a simultaneously irritating and tedious affair.
Then another lame back-up duo came on signaling that the headliner would be delayed once again. It seems that the management thought it would be a good idea to keep everyone waiting around for two hours in a hot cellar so they could squeeze a couple of hours of drinks out of the overheated crowd. It was at this moment that I tore off my festival wristband and buggered off in disgust. I then tuned my iPhone to my BritPop playlist, left the mayhem on Mathew Street, and sought out an alleyway where I could partake of some herbal refreshment.
ELEANOR RIGBY – Her life would have been vastly improved by a stylish new mack, handbag, and shoes. That footwear is hideous enough to ruin anybody’s outlook.
WORLD FAMOUS WHITE STAR – Beautiful old pub just off of Mathew Street.
TRADITIONAL SEA CHANTYS – EVERY WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON
SOPHIA LOREN IN HER PRIME TEMPORARILY BRINGS ME BACK FROM THE BRINK
This geezer had a singing voice like a Dalek running low on batteries. His depleted robotic stylings were further complicated by the fact that he was completely unintelligible. His other suit was a bright-green, Christmas tree number. Yet another spice added to the cauldron of foul-smelling, spoiled scouse that made up BeatleWeek.
This visit to Liverpool has been like one of those bad acid trips that seemed like it would never end. Just when the awful abated and there was a break in the clouds, something mind-bogglingly unpleasant would occur. It was a relentless assault on the central nervous system as well as cognition itself. Reality was seemingly inverted and turned inside out, and I was left in a familiar city which no longer made sense.
Just in time for the final night of BeatleWeek, this bellowing drunk takes the opportunity to have his shirt off.
I had passed him and his drama 20 minutes earlier on my way up to the Cavern before leaving there and heading home.
Upon my return, this big, bald, foul-mouthed, steroid receptacle was surrounded by 12 bouncers who became weary of his antics and went for the takedown just as I passed by. I thought it a fitting and metaphorical conclusion to International BeatleWeek, a loud, aggressive, drunken, obnoxious affair with any good music taking a back seat to all of the chaos and unpleasantries.
I headed to McDonald’s to drown my sorrows with a quarter pounder avoiding three puddles of vomit as I went. There was a legless greeter at the door flashing his naked stumps, hoping to encourage contributions from the drunks arriving by the droves. By the time I made it to the order screens I had completely lost my appetite. You can’t even grab a burger at night without some bizarre or unpleasant encounter.
THE MORNING AFTER – ALL IS QUIET ON MATHEW STREET – ALL WE ARE SAYING IS GIVE PEACE A CHANCE
Equilibrium restored, a couple strolls unmolested past the Grapes on Mathew Street.
THAT’S ENOUGH OF THAT – It seems that the dog and pony show that I experienced can be attributed predominantly to International BeatleWeek. The return to relative normalcy on the day after lends credence to that theory. My return in a week will allow me to further test my hypothesis in the hopes that Liverpool is not beyond saving from the absurdity and outrage of the past six days. No doubt, Liverpool has provided copious material for the blog and I’m happy about that.
Having waded through the heat, degradation, and chaos that was International BeatleWeek 2019, I pondered the real horrors in the world at large. A weekend of soiled Beatles nostalgia doesn’t amount to anything in the grand scheme of things. I might be singing a different tune if I had flown 3000 miles and stayed in an expensive hotel. Still, it would have been nice to have escaped reality for a while.