I was an impressionable young teenager when the Beatles rocked the world. For all of my high school years, their music reverberated through my soul. It’s left an impression that will never leave so, when I had the chance to visit Liverpool this year, it almost felt like coming home.

On our first evening in Liverpool, we checked into the Penny Lane Hotel and headed straight for the Cavern Club. We were delighted that a Beatles tribute band was performing so we squeezed into the narrow, tiny bar and found a table that we shared with two sisters, Beatlemaniacs from Sweden. The walls, covered with memorabilia, told many stories of the origin’s of the club’s most famous band.

A Beatles tribute band performs at the Cavern
The Cavern: crowded, loud, but a famous place I just had to visit and Imagine.
a statue of John Lennon in Liverpool
As we left the Cavern, we lingered in the neighbourhood, which is now known as the Cavern Quarter. It’s filled with bars, pubs, restaurants and hotels, many of them taking on the name of the Beatles in some form. We sensed that the action carried on well into the early morning hours. We dined at the Hard Days Night Hotel and hung out with John for a while.
The Beatles are everywhere in the Cavern Quarter.
Here, There and Everywhere you look in the Cavern Quarter, there is a connection to the Beatles.
The gates to Strawberry Fields, Liverpool
Strawberry Fields Forever. As part of a three hour guided tour of Beatles sites in Liverpool, the meaning of John’s famous song became clear as our guide explained that within this park, now being redeveloped, was an orphanage. Just a few blocks from John’s childhood home, he visited here often to play on the grounds and possibly felt a connection to his own fractured family.
The babershop from Penny Lane, by the Beatles.
After writing Strawberry Fields, John challenged Paul to write a song about his neighborhood.

In Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs
Of every head he’s had the pleasure to have known
And all the people that come and go
Stop and say hello

Penny Lane also mentions the roundabout, right beside our hotel, the fire hall and the bank. We visited all of these locations and marvelled at the songwriting ability that wove together all of these places he frequented.

Church where a wedding has been
“Ah, Look at all the lonely people.” This is the church mentioned in the song, Eleanor Rigby. “Wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door, Who is it for?” Two things really struck me about our visit here. First, it was on this church property that Paul and John first met in 1957. As Paul once said, “We ducked out here and had a few ciggies!” And, secondly …
gravestone of Eleanor Rigby
Secondly, who are these guys? How could two people so young combine the elements of this profoundly poignant song so perfectly?  The genius of these two songwriters! Interesting fact: this is the only Beatles song recorded where they play none of the instruments!

Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
Nobody came.
Father Mackenzie, wiping the dirt from his hands as he walked from the grave
No one was saved.

childhood home of John and Paul

Standing in front of Paul’s childhood home (left) and John’s, we learned that Paul’s brother, Mike, was a photographer. Thanks to his photos, both houses, owned by the National Trust, are perfectly preserved. Because John lived with his Aunt Mimi who was home during the day, the two boys spent countless hours writing songs at Paul’s home. Michelle (in the foreground) is the taxi cab that toured us around.

There are places I remember all my life
Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain

cover of Sentimental Journey
Shortly after the Beatles broke up, Ringo was the first one to make an individual album, called Sentimental Journey. Not well received by critics, it was an album covering favourite songs from his past. . This building in Liverpool was used as the album cover photo and is now a pub.
Beatles Statue in Liverpool
The Beatles have made an indelible mark on many of us who remember such an incredible time. They’ve also left a huge mark on the city of Liverpool. Today, nearly 50 years after the release of their final album, Beatles’ heritage is worth $147 million (CAD) per year to the city! Not bad for four young kids from a working class neighbourhood who never had any formal musical training.
Liverpool Today
Today, the 800 year old city of Liverpool is thriving with a revitalized downtown core, several world heritage sites and is one of England’s top five retail destinations. Paul McCartney gives back to his hometown by supporting a hospital dedicated to women’s health, after his wife Linda died of breast cancer. Also, when the school that he and John attended was closed and become derelict, he formed the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, now one of the United Kingdom’s leading institutions for performing arts. Each year when music students graduate, Paul attends and personally hands out certificates.
statue of Beatles
Like a million other people each year, we just had to pose with the Fab Four.

About the Photography

The photos in this post are simply documentary so there’s not much to say about them.

However, as a photographer, the songwriting talent of the Beatles challenges me. If they could write songs such as Eleanor Rigby that cause us to stop and ponder, can’t we also do that with our photography? Of course we can! Making photos that tell stories about our humanity is how we connect with others and cause people to stop and think. When I was a beginning photographer, I was more than happy with a pretty picture but now it’s so much more satisfying to tell a compelling story. It’s not easy but worth the challenge. After a quick search of my own files, here are some story-telling photos that I connect with. Do they speak to you?

 

People of all ages drum with joy at the Hobiyee.

Dad helps daughter learn to ride a bicycle.

boys in a carLook at her!

 

 

 

Two parent loons care for their young hatchlings

For more on making photos that connect on an emotional level, check out the work of Mary Ellen Mark and Dorothea Lange.

And if you’re an old Beatlemaniac like me, you’ll probably enjoy The Beatles Bible. It tells just about everything there is to know, including the stories behind the writings of individual songs.

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