In conjunction with the 60th anniversary of the formation of The Beatles, we have outlined a Fab Four bucket list — a long and winding road that starts in Liverpool and leads to London, Amsterdam, India and New York City
SINGAPORE (May 15): In January 1960, they were called the Beatals as a tribute to Buddy Holly and the Crickets. They became the Silver Beetles in May, refashioned themselves as the Silver Beatles in July and finally settled on being called The Beatles in mid-August. Theirs is the soundtrack of many a childhood, angsty teenage years or even the throes of adulthood.
The Fab Four have had such a mighty presence in our collective consciousness that there is no escaping the continued effect John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Richard Ringo Starkey have on us all. In the decade that they were together — incidentally, April 10 was the 50th anniversary of the interview Paul gave to announce The Beatles’ split — the music of the Fab Four was political, emotional and evocative. Even if you hated the musicality or took offence at John’s treatment of his first son Julian, there is no denying how much The Beatles shaped pop and rock music as we know it.
And yet, 60 years after their founding, the Fab Four’s genre-defining — and defying — work does not seem dated or old-fashioned at all. Indeed, the buoyancy of their music is especially appealing in these challenging times, put down, possibly, to the strength and simplicity of their melodies. Intrinsically uplifting, often uncomplicated, happy day tunes created and made by four lads who were navigating the start of adulthood in post-war Britain, so much of the music is full of hope. Surely, anything that transmits cheer is a necessity at the moment.
As we celebrate the Fab Four’s 60th anniversary in this tumultuous year, we are additionally grateful for the soothing familiarity of their music, a panacea for when we need it the most. The present Movement Control Order will not last forever, and if planning a holiday makes it easier to get through this difficult time, perhaps this list of must-visit spots all over the world for Beatles fans will assuage your wanderlust.
The UK’s northwestern city of Liverpool, now a Unesco City of Music, is where passionate Beatles fans should start their journey of discovery and exploration — all four band members were born and raised here and it is where they first met and started performing. The birthplaces of the Fab Four can’t quite be toured anymore but the childhood homes of John and Paul are open to the public as they are presently owned by the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest, which arranges daily tours.
The two starkly different homes provide an insight into John’s and Paul’s growing up years. Mendips, John’s childhood home that was lovingly maintained by his Aunt Mimi, is a fine example of 1950s semi-detached housing and much more luxurious than 20 Forthlin Road, Paul’s home. Paul’s mother, Mary, tragically died when he was in his teens and his father, Jim, raised him and his brother. The McCartney men were not as house-proud as Aunt Mimi and money was tight, so expect to see mismatched wallpaper, clutter and threadbare sofas.
Once you get into the city proper, you will see more indications of the Fab Four’s adult lives. Located at 10 Mathew Street, the Cavern Club is where The Beatles performed their first gigs together. An intimate space with brick-vaulted cellars packed with 1960s memorabilia, Cavern Club hosts live tribute acts day and night as well as free tours. The Beatles first performed at the club in 1961 and established themselves as its signature act — this was the place where their musical identity was forged, where they would hone their immaculate stage presence with the audience just inches from them.
St Peter’s Church is a key location in The Beatles’ history as it was at a festival on its grounds that John and Paul met for the first time in 1957, but more interestingly, in its cemetery is the headstone of Eleanor Rigby. A moving commentary on the loneliness of life in post-war Britain, the group’s Eleanor Rigby single was part of its Revolver album, released in 1966. If it is compelling vacation photographs you are after, head to the Waterfront for a picture with larger-thanlife statues of the Fab Four that have become the city’s most popular selfie spot.
It was unveiled in 2015 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the band’s last gig in the city and details like the acorns in John’s hands being cast from the ones near his home in New York City are almost painfully nostalgic. Not too far off is a legitimate Yellow Submarine that you can stay in.
Located just off the Royal Albert Dock, the sub is painted like the album cover, so it is a great backdrop for pictures should you have alternative accommodation planned. For a truly cerebral way to indulge in your love for the Fab Four, The Beatles Story museum explores the mythical rise of this iconic band. It has the largest Beatles exhibit in the world, with replicas of the Casbah, Mathew Street and Abbey Road Studios that authentically capture the early Sixties, providing a personalised experience of the various locations that formed the group’s history.
One of The Beatles’ most famous images is the one used on the cover of the Abbey Road album — the Fab Four are pictured striding across a pedestrian crossing near the recording studio of the same name. This is a fully operational zebra crossing, though, so aside from the queues to replicate this picture, you will also be in the way of everyday traffic if you do. What might be a more memorable experience is the gift shop within Abbey Road Studios, which is home to a variety of Beatles souvenirs and a large wall covered with the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover. The gate outside the studio is sure to make for great pictures as it is covered in graffiti by other Beatles devotees and features song lyrics. If your London itinerary includes a pit stop at the British Library, stock up on some Beatlemania here too — see napkins with song lyrics on them and original texts penned by John and Paul, for example. You can even get a Beatles fan club membership card to prove your allegiance.
The three months in 1968 that The Beatles spent in the International Academy of Meditation in this Himalayan city were their most productive as songwriters, and the ashram was also where most of the music for the White Album was created. Here’s a bit of trivia: Dear Prudence was written by John and Paul for Mia Farrow’s sister Prudence as a means to coax her out of seclusion, so intense was her practice.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the International Academy of Meditation was the training centre for students of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi — immortalised in Sexy Sadie — who devised the transcendental meditation technique. It was abandoned in the 1990s and reverted to the local forestry department in 2003, after which it became a popular destination for fans of The Beatles.
Although derelict and overrun by jungle, the site was officially opened to the public in 2015. It has since become known as Beatles Ashram and hosted an exhibition in February 2018 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four’s arrival in Rishikesh. Located within the Rajaji Tiger Reserve, the ashram is worth a visit today purely for the nostalgia. The buildings may be in disrepair but the neglect is not without its benefits — the surroundings are lush and green and the the air is always tinged with freshness. The walls are covered with Beatles-inspired graffiti and murals left behind by erstwhile fans, making this a true shrine to the band.
On March 24, 1969, a white RollsRoyce pulled up in front of the Hilton Amsterdam and John Lennon and Yoko Ono stepped out. They booked Suite 702 and shortly afterwards, all furniture, except for the bed, was removed. This marked the start of the famous “Bed-in” for peace, a Kardashian-esque media spectacle that saw the just-married pair harnessing the power of their celebrity to protest the war in Vietnam.
While sitting in bed, they invited the world’s press to come and photograph them as they preached the idea of peace, with some notions more memorable than others. Bagism was their tongue-in-cheek solution to prejudice that involved, as you might have guessed, wearing a bag over one’s whole body.
Today, the John & Yoko suite is one of the most famous bridal suites in the world. It has been recreated as it was, but with a few concessions to a more luxurious environment, in keepingwith contemporary tastes and expectations. The style of decoration was approved and advised by Yoko herself, and the room includes other paraphernalia related to the couple. The bed-in was repeated in Montreal a few months later at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, but Amsterdam will always be where it happened first.
New York City
The Beatles’ experience in New York City is very John-centric and decidedly sombre. The last city he lived in before his assassination, the Big Apple was where John escaped to with Yoko to get away from the press. The decade he spent here saw a surge in his solo work and John being more of a father and husband than a former pop star.
Central Park was where John spent much of his days as a doting dad to his child with Yoko, Sean, and in 1985, Strawberry Fields was officially dedicated to him on what would have been his 45th birthday. Yoko worked with landscape architect Bruce Kelly and the Central Park Conservancy to create the memorial, the Imagine mosaic, a gift from the Italian city of Naples.
A designated quiet zone in the park, Strawberry Fields has also been endorsed as a Garden of Peace by 121 countries, whose names appear on a bronze plaque on the path leading to the memorial. Strawberry Fields is located just across the street from the landmark Dakota apartment building, John’s former home and the site of his death. The building — its official address is 1 West 72nd Street — is where Annie Leibovitz photographed her iconic 1981 Rolling Stone cover. It was one of the few times John had allowed any member of the press into his home and her priceless images were captured mere hours before he died.