Mad Day Out Beatles Taxi Tour, Liverpool (Part I).
Mad Day Out Beatles Taxi Tour, Liverpool.
May 2019. Coming to Liverpool and seeing all The Beatles sites was a dream come true for me. Having toured The Beatles Story, visited the Double Fantasy Exhibition and caught some live music at both The Cavern Club and The Cavern Pub, it was finally time for the prospect that had excited me most prior to my visit.
For me the ultimate Beatles experience is a tour around the key city sites of the band’s early years. Initially I was going to book a spot on the hugely popular Magical Mystery Bus Tour. But then, as I researched deeper, I found out about a local man called Ian Doyle and his Mad Day Out Beatles Taxi Tours.
Instead of being crammed onto a bus with fifty other people, my travel buddy Steppers and I could get a private taxi tour from a local Beatles expert. Enter Ian Doyle, an affable wisecracking Liverpudlian who loves showing people around his home city.
He named his tour after The Beatles so-called Mad Day Out in London during the summer of 1968. Taking a break from recording The White Album at Abbey Road, John, Paul, George and Ringo set off on an impromptu jaunt around the city with photographer Don McCullin.
Mad Day Out Beatles Taxi Tour.
The more I read about Ian’s tours the more fascinated I became. And the icing on the cake? Our chariot would be his beautiful Dear Prudence taxi, lovingly converted in tribute to John Lennon’s 1960s psychedelic Rolls Royce. Thus it didn’t take us long to throw the Magical Mystery Bus idea out the window.
Ian came and picked up Steppers and I right outside our digs at the amazing Hard Days Night Hotel. Wide of smile and firm of handshake, our guide seemed delighted to have a pair of “proper Beatles fans” as he put it.
Wasting no time in getting the tour underway, we jumped into Dear Prudence and hummed off through the city centre. Our first stop was Admiral Grove, an understated street where a certain Richard Starkey lived for twenty years before rising to fame with The Beatles.
Hopping out of Dear Prudence, Ian led us down Admiral Grove, explaining that Richard (better known as Ringo Starr) wasn’t actually born here, but just across the road at 9 Madlyn Street. That house stands in the area used for filming the popular TV series Peaky Blinders.
In any case it was Admiral Grove that was Ringo’s proper childhood home. He arrived at the age of three, following his parents’ separation. And here he lived, at number ten, until fame and fortune swept him away.
The Beatles in Liverpool.
The street has barely changed. To highlight this, Ian whipped out his photo book and showed us a shot of Ringo walking down Admiral Grove in his early twenties.
Moreover, the house looks just the same as it did over seventy years ago. As a sickly child, Ringo suffered long absences from school. Hence this is the building in which his teenage babysitter Ms. Maguire taught him to read and write. Notice the pink V for Victory letter above the door, a tribute to Britain’s triumph in The Second World War.
Ian then walked us back to the entrance of Admiral Grove and directed our attention to a grand looking pub called The Empress. “Does it look familiar lads?” he asked, with an arched eyebrow. Hm, It did look familiar. And yet, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
Located just twenty yards from his former home, The Empress was Ringo’s mum’s local watering hole. She even worked there for a while as a barmaid. Ringo eventually immortalised the place by putting it on the album cover of his 1970 solo record Sentimental Journey. Naturally, the owner of the pub has since added a sign to celebrate the Ringo connection.
Mad Day Out Beatles Taxi Tour.
From Admiral Grove Ian shuttled us off to the Sefton Park Hotel, a spot that I hadn’t even been aware of. Overlooking the pretty boating lake at Sefton Park, this stylish three star hotel was the former family home of original Beatles bassist Stuart Sutcliffe.
Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s the building was called The Blenheim. This is where Stuart’s mother lived during Stuart’s Liverpool Art College days.
There, he befriended John Lennon, who convinced him to buy a bass guitar and join his band, The Beatles. This was despite the fact that Sutcliffe had little interest in music and virtually no talent for the instrument.
Sutcliffe was a permanent fixture during The Beatles’ Hamburg days, a key period in the band’s musical and stylistic evolution. However, Stuart never really took to the bass and indeed Paul McCartney became so frustrated with his lack of ability he asked his bandmate to turn his back to the audience while they were playing live. This way, people wouldn’t notice how inept he was.
Luckily for Sutcliffe, he was an exceptionally talented artist. He’d already sold paintings back in Liverpool, while in Hamburg his craft flourished. It was also in Hamburg that he met Astrid Kirchherr, a local photographer and artist. The two quickly fell in love and it didn’t take long for Stuart to realise that his future lay outside The Beatles.
The Beatles In Liverpool.
Ian parked outside Sefton Park Hotel and led us up the entrance steps. I was delighted to see that Stuart’s role in The Beatles’ story has been given the attention it deserves with a plaque at the front door.
Inside, Ian explained how Stuart and his mother Millie lived on the ground floor. The area that used to be the living room is now the bar. On the other side, in the restaurant section, framed photos of Sutcliffe and Lennon adorn the walls. All taken by Astrid in Hamburg throughout the early 1960s.
We learned that Stuart had a fractious relationship with his mother. One particularly infamous incident came when he returned home from Hamburg with Astrid. This, Ian explained, was the only time Stuart stayed in the house. Drunk and fuming, Millie Sutcliffe set about the place screaming that her son had betrayed his nation by shacking up with “a dreaded German”.
Disgusted, Stuart and Astrid left the house. This was his last visit to Liverpool and The Blenheim. Just a few months later Stuart tragically died in Hamburg on the 10th of April 1962 after suffering a cerebral haemorrhage. He was just twenty one years old.
Sutcliffe had been experiencing terrible headaches in the months before his death, but doctors were unable to pinpoint the cause. The 1994 movie Backbeat, starring Stephen Dorff and Ian Hart, tells his sad story.
Mad Day Out Beatles Taxi Tour.
It was a special moment when Dear Prudence gently turned onto Penny Lane. We drove about a quarter of the way down before Ian pulled up a short distance beyond that sign. I think it’s important to point out that there are lots of Penny Lane signs. But this is the one you want to see, especially since it’s been autographed by fans from all over the world.
Its most important signature arrived in June 2018. This was when Sir Paul McCartney scribbled his name during his appearance on Carpool Karaoke with James Corden.
While admiring the sign, Steppers and I saw the Magical Mystery Tour Bus pull up at the end of the road. And there it stayed for a few moments before resuming its journey. Ian just had to point out that his tour wouldn’t dream of skimming over Penny Lane’s famous sign. This definitely felt like a huge win for us and further testament that Ian’s service delivered much more than the group tour.
From there we jumped back into Dear Prudence and continued on down Penny Lane towards the famous roundabout. As we went, the car stereo kicked in and on came Penny Lane, a simply fantastic touch and one that’ll live long in the memory. Steppers, Ian and I all sang along until the car stopped in front of the famous barbershop.
“In Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs. Of every head he’s had the pleasure to know.
And all the people that come and go,
stop and say hello”.
This is the barbershop referenced in the song. Back in the day it went by the name of Bioletti’s and all four Beatles had their hair cut here at some point. Curiously, it isn’t (and never has been) on Penny Lane itself, but on Smithdown Place overlooking the roundabout.
All The Beatles taxi tour companies stop outside the barber shop. But as a sign of respect to the business and its customers they won’t take you inside. I was desperate to have a closer look at the framed Beatles photographs visible through the window. So I cheekily headed in, took a very quick look, grabbed this hasty shot and ducked back out again before anyone had the chance to get shitty.
It was also right outside Tony Slavin Barber Shop that Ian bumped into Paul McCartney on that famous Carpool Karaoke day. Paul’s very own “mad day out” if you will. Naturally, Ian was keen to show us the moment Sir Paul spotted Dear Prudence from across the road.
Upon seeing Paul, Ian popped his head out the window and asked Macca what he thought of his car. To which Paul replied, “It’s great, a real bonus!” Somebody even got a photo of McCartney walking past the taxi, which of course has found its way into Ian’s photo book.
Mad Day Out Beatles Taxi Tour.
My Mad Day Out Beatles Taxi Tour was the definitive highlight of my trip to Liverpool. We saw so many cool spots, it feels like too much to cover in one article. So please do check out my concluding piece: Mad Day Out Beatles Taxi Tour Part II.
To find out more about Ian Doyle and his tours, have a look at his website. We took the three hour Rickenbacker tour priced at £70.
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. Maybe even read my review of The White Album.
Like these? Have a read of my travel reports from around Liverpool.
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