“Let’s see a show of hands,” the tour guide said. “Put your hand up if Ringo is your favourite Beatle.”
No hands. He nodded, both sagely and sympathetically.
“George?” There was one hand. “You know what? It’s always the George fans that come up with really deep snippets of information that nobody else knows.”
“Paul?” Five hands went up which, as there were only thirteen people on this midday tour, meant that for “John?” seven hands went up.
So Lennon nicked it, but, as Millie voted for him and is only just on the start of her journey, things can change. You don’t have to have favourites (though of course everybody does) as the group truly was the sum of its parts.
I watched an interview last night from 1988 when George and Ringo were on a chat show together. The drummer explained their following (when the group was still active) as thus: “I got all the mums. And the kids. George got the mystics, John got the intellectuals and Paul got the teens.”
Our tour finished and Millie and I headed for the place that this selective following first started.
Matthew Street, dark and grainy in the old sixties film footage, was now neon bright but empty as the pre-Christmas afternoon crowds sought the bars and restaurants as refuge from the cold.
Our tour gave us free entry to the legendary Cavern. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s mostly the same. John’s murder marked the beginning of Beatles-based tourism, but the original Matthew Street buildings above ground had been demolished. But of course below ground buildings aren’t demolished but filled in.
In 1982 it was excavated and the above ground section rebuilt using the original bricks. I once wrote a Jackdaw post called If Walls Could Talk, Concrete Confess, about a pub that used to be run by ancestors of mine, a pub long gone but holding ‘that which is valued in meaning’.
I like to think that those Cavern bricks have somehow soaked up to hold every note that has ever been played there. Not just by the Fab Four but also all of the other legendary performers that have graced the place too.
Imagine one day having the ability, along the lines of our DNA technology, to extract that trapped sound and being able to replay it again. Wouldn’t that be cool? Doing it in this same place – The Beatles playing the Cavern all over again.
Today the Cavern occupies 70% of its original space, and as far as I was concerned, when my daughter and I descended those steps, we were following in the footsteps of The Beatles and all.
There was the enclosed space; there was live music; there was a performer recounting his time when he once met Paul McCartney; there were other artists waiting in a line that stretched back decades.
And there were us – an eager audience sat drinking, singing along to Beatles covers and generally soaking up the atmosphere.
Just like those bricks.
I had a beer and my daughter a coke, before having to set off to catch our train back to Manchester. We gave our seats to a couple of women who’d just arrived from Sheffield and seemed to know every song word for word. Words that had returned to source.
I fancy coming back again one weekend to spend a bit longer here. Have a few more drinks and maybe stay over. I might even do the tour again.
I think someone else is tempted, too.