Travel Report: Mad Day Out Beatles Taxi Tour Part II, Liverpool.
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May 2019. What an incredible morning we’d had driving around Liverpool with Ian Doyle’s Mad Day Out Beatles Taxi Tours. We’d seen Ringo Starr’s childhood home in Admiral Grove, visited the Sefton Park Hotel where Stuart Sutcliffe lived during his Liverpool Art College days and been right through Penny Lane with its Macca-autographed sign, roundabout, church, bank and barber shop.
And now Dear Prudence was turning into Newcastle Road and coming to a gentle stop outside number 9… number 9…. number 9. This suburban, red brick terrace house was John Lennon’s first childhood home and he lived here between 1940 and 1946.
May 2019. The property is now owned by Yoko Ono, who only made her first visit to 9 Newcastle Road as recently as 2018 during her promotion of The Double Fantasy Exhibition at The Museum of Liverpool. It was Yoko herself who added the Welcome, Imagine Peace tiles to the house steps.
May 2019. When John was five he was sent off to live with his aunt Mimi and her husband George at this pretty home, 251 Menlove Avenue. Affectionately known as Mendips, John lived here for seventeen years. So this was the property where Lennon learned to play guitar, although his strict aunt forbade him to practice in the house. Despite this, Paul McCartney claims at least one song was born here when the two held a session for what would become I’ll Get You, which eventually ended up as the b-side to She Loves You.
Yoko Ono purchased the house in 2002 and handed it over to the National Trust. It has since been restyled with an authentic 1950s feel and can be toured by appointment. Ian gave us the full backstory of Lennon’s complicated relationship with his mother Julia, who was tragically knocked over and killed just across the road from the property.
May 2019. Knowing that Steppers and I were big Beatles fans, Ian was also keen to show us an additional Lennon property that he usually leaves out of the tour for the more casual visitor. I’d never heard of 137 Gateacre Drive until Ian showed us the place, bought by John for his two half sisters, Julia and Jackie. Following the death of their father Bobby Dykins (also in a road accident), John was dismayed to hear that the girls were now living with their Aunt Harriet, her husband Norman and son David, all crammed under one roof in a small cottage. This was 1967 so Lennon, by now a millionaire, stepped in to purchase this three bedroom property for the family. He also told them to furnish the place however they wished and simply send him the bills.
Lennon visited 137 Gateacre drive himself with Yoko in June 1969. But the visit was a highly awkward one, with John’s relatives not at all impressed with Yoko, who they found standoffish and fussy with her strictly macrobiotic diet. An unsubstantiated rumour also goes that one of the sisters referred to Yoko as “ugly” during their stay. In any case the story took a dark turn following Lennon’s death when, in late 1991, the family discovered that John had neglected to secure the property in their name and that ownership had in fact been transferred to Yoko! Despite a lengthy back and forth between Yoko’s lawyers and the family in Liverpool, 137 Gateacre drive was finally donated to the Salvation Army, as per Ono’s wishes. It’s believed that Yoko did offer the girls some money, but that this had been rejected.
May 2019. Ian also took us to 174 Mackets Lane, George Harrison’s Liverpool home from 1950 to 1962. The Harrisons moved about a fair bit during George’s youth and this was actually his third city home. As a teen George had a job at the local butcher and continued to live in the house during the early days of Beatlemania. Of all the Beatle childhood homes I saw during the tour, this was the most unloved, with a rusty old gate and overgrown garden.
This brilliant photo shows how it took three postmen to deliver over five giant crates of fan mail to 174 Mackets Lane on George’s 21st birthday, the 25th of February, 1964. In the and the constant barrage of fan and media attention saw George buy his parents a larger and more private bungalow in Appleton near Warrington.
May 2019. It was quiet when Ian parked up in Forthlin Road, the street Paul McCartney moved into in 1955 while he was still in secondary school. As we jumped out of Dear Prudence I was struck by how quiet it was that afternoon, just myself, Ian, Steppers and a local man walking by with a white t-shirt that read: STILL HATE THATCHER.
20 Forthlin Road has been labelled “The Birthplace of The Beatles” by The National Trust, as this is where Lennon and McCartney came up with a chunk of their early compositions. Basically Paul’s dad was much more chilled out than Aunt Mimi and they could come and go as they pleased. McCartney’s bedroom was the one directly above the front door.
May 2019. Gliding down Liverpool’s streets once again and suddenly Dear Prudence’s stereo kicked into life and on came the sublime Eleanor Rigby. So I guessed it was time to head off to the suburb of Woolton, home to St. Peter’s Church and its famous graveyard.
It was right in the hall here at St. Peter’s Church that Paul McCartney first met John Lennon on the 6th of July 1957. John and his band The Quarry Men had just finished playing at the church’s garden fete.
The church’s big draw for Beatlemaniacs is that this is where you can find the gravestone of a certain Eleanor Rigby. But despite the fact that Lennon and McCartney used to hang out in the graveyard in the years following that first meeting, Paul has always claimed the headstone had nothing to do with his song! According to Macca, while composing the track he was inspired to use Eleanor as a nod to the actress Eleanor Bron (who had starred alongside The Beatles in the movie Help!), while Rigby was the name of a wine store he’d visited in Bristol. The grave of John’s Uncle George can also be found in the cemetery.
I can’t recommend Ian Doyle and his Mad Day Out Taxi Tour enough! This guy is a walking, talking Beatles dictionary and his car is gorgeous. I can’t for the life of me imagine why people would want to be stuffed into a massive bus that rolls straight past so many of the key sites without giving you the chance to stop for a bit and explore at your leisure.
My Mad Day Out with Ian Doyle’s Beatles Taxi Tours was the definitive highlight of my trip to Liverpool. To find out more have a look at his website. We took the three hour Rickenbacker tour priced at £70 for the taxi. That’s £35 each, not so much more expensive than the bus tour, which typically goes for £20pp. And of course Ian’s prices are per taxi, which means the cost goes down further if you can squeeze three, four or even five people into the car.
For more on the greatest rock band in history, check out my other articles on The Beatles In Liverpool. Alternatively, have a read about my visit to Abbey Road in London, or check out my review of The White Album.
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