Whether they were more famous than Jesus Christ or not, The Beatles certainly have an extensive series of sites to visit if you’re a fan on a pilgrimage. To commemorate the fact one can actually join the Fab Four virtually (and temporarily, just like Stuart Sutcliffe!) with The Beatles: Rock Band hitting this week on the XBOX 360/PS3/Wii platforms, if you wanna take your fanboy enthusiasm on the road, here’s your itinerary for a Beatles-maniac visit (with a few related detours) to the UK.
Of course, Liverpool is the Beatles’ birthplace, as well as a whole wave of gay-licious music acts and icons including Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Dead and Alive and Ladytron. Check into the Hard Days Night Hotel, a stylish, four-star Beatles-themed hotel. Heck, make like John and Yoko and stage a nude bed-in – with room service, of course.
You can also stay in Brian Epstein’s former family home, the Epstein House, which offers packages that include Beatles tours and Mersey Ferry cruises.
Epstein was the band’s manager, and very much a hush-hush gay (quel scandal – Google for the scoop!). The 1992 film
There are a bevy of guided Beatles site tours, many of which include important Epstein landmarks (including the flat he used for shagging everyone-but-John-Lennon – it has a red door!). You can search via official tourism website, Visit Liverpool.
The Liverpool Wall of Fame features a photographic wall of important “Mersey Beat” artists and metallic mock-ups of 7” hit singles (there’s even one by The Spice Girls’ sporty Melanie C!). Just nearby is the famed The Cavern Club, where you can pose with a statue of John Lennon and scan the impressive roster of artists who played here, inscribed upon the brick wall (Gary Glitter’s name was removed after his 2005 Vietnam debacle, the cheeky monkey!).
The Casbah Coffee Club is even more seminal, and the stars on its ceiling were painted by the fabulous foursome . Of course, there’s more than a pinch of kitsch to some of the businesses working the Beatles angle around here. Ahem, Fab 4 Pizza?
Big John and Paul fans might wanna see where the lads grew up and met. For those, it’s all about the joint tour of Mendips and 20 Forthlin Road. The latter is the childhood home of Paul McCartney; and it’s where the Beatles met, rehearsed and wrote many of their earliest songs. Mendips, where John Lennon lived with his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George, and where he composed early songs in the front porch and in his bedroom. Mendips was bought by Yoko Ono Lennon and immediately donated to the National Trust, who opened the house to the public on 29th March 2003.
Another big must? The Beatles Story museum and its Fab 4 Store (visit the website as well for its trivia and additional site listings). Lower key, the neighborhoodsy Famous Grapes Pub at 25 Mathew Street is where the gang used to down a few pints. Today, Paul McCartney makes the rounds every July, when he parties with the students at his elite Lipa Film School.
In London, 3 Savile Row is the address of Apple Records, on whose roof the Beatles performed their final concert in 1969. And for the ultimate photo opportunity, walk across Abbey Road – shoes on, shoes off, maybe even a red hanky out a rear pocket for a sleazy retro-gay twist – where the recording studio of the same name still exists. You can check out the road itself in real-time on the studio’s webcam.
The Beatles might have had a bed-in with each other if Joe Orton had his way. One of the UK’s most scandalous gay playwrights, Orton was commissioned to write a film, entitled Up Against It, for the Beatles to star in, but Epstein himself was appalled by the screenplay’s homoerotic and subversive content (this series of events, and Orton’s promiscuous life, which ended at the hands of his loopy lover Kenneth Halliwell, is recounted in the 1987 biopic, Prick Up Your Ears). In Orton’s hometown of Leicester, about 100 miles north of London (a Britrail Flexpass, available through http://www.BritRail.com, is a good idea if you’re going to skip around the UK on your Beatlesquest), the area in front of the newly renovated Curve Performing Arts Center is now dubbed Joe Orton Square.
The term “crossover act” barely does justice to The Beatles’ success and popularity. But beyond their place in pop culture, they literally traveled all over the place. George Harrison loved him some India. John Lennon spent his final years in New York City. Ringo Starr got “lost in translation” doing a Japanese apple drink commercial (fer reals, yo – check out the results). And Paul McCartney honeymooned with bride Heather Mills in the Indian Ocean’s tropical Republic of Seychelles. Fittingly, there are oodles of other Beatles points of interest/import outside the UK – and in some very gay cities indeed.
HAMBURG, GERMANY: The Beatles played their first residency in Hamburg in 1960 at The Indra Club. You can take a Beatles Tour of Hamburg’s St. Pauli quarter, “following the tracks of the Beatles.” There’s a Beatlemania Shop and Café, and the Beatles Platz, commemorated with a metal sculpture. Oh. Did we mention how much queer nightlife is going on in Hamburg? Head thee to the St. Georg gay village, yeah yeah yeah!
LAS VEGAS: The Cirque du Soleil gang has gone Beatles-tastic with their LOVE production at The Mirage, and you can get psychedelic with it before or after the show in their glowing REVOLUTION lounge.
MONTREAL: John and Yoko staged a 1969 bed-in, and recorded “Give Peace A Chance,” in Suite 1742 of the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth. Let’s add some sassiness to that by noting that Joan Crawford stayed at the Queen too (if only she’d given peace a chance!).
NEW YORK CITY: John Lennon and Yoko Ono lived in NYC’s prestigious The Dakota building on 72nd Street (Mia Farrow gave birth to her devil baby here in Rosemary’s Baby, and there are plenty of celebs and arts icons in residence). And tragically, Lennon was shot while entering the building on December 8th, 1980. Just across the street, Strawberry Fields, at Central Park West, is a garden dedicated to Lennon, and fans gather here en masse every anniversary of his death.
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