Sunday, October 07, 2007

Liverpool and the Mersey Ferry

This is a photo of the mythical Cavern Club, where the Beatles played some 220 gigs in the early '60s. The club is faithfully recreated inside a museum at Albert Dock on the waterfront of Liverpool. From the photos and the replica, it resembles almost every New York jazz club – in a basement, cramped, room for maybe 80 to 100 people maximum. Here the Beatles are in the Cavern with their original drummer, Peter Best, who was judged by their record producer George Martin to be an inferior player, which is why they dropped him for Ringo late in 1962. The singer at right was not identified in the exhibit.

The early Beatles with Ringo. They played a series of five gigs in Hamburg, Germany, where the owner of a club there had them play marathon eight-hour shows and used to egg them on with "Mach Schau" (put on a show, be entertainers). This supposedly helped them improve their stage presence. The Beatles were rejected by every major record label, and George Martin really wasn't that impressed with their music so much as their charisma. He enjoyed working with them so he took them on.

Mathew Street, the alley where the Cavern Club was located, has become a kind of Beatles shrine. A statue of John Lennon is on the street. The original club was demolished in the 1970s for a tramway that was ultimately not built. A plaque marks the spot. This statue on the waterfront looks like Elvis but is really a locally famous rocker from the '50s, Billy Fury.

Edgy modern buildings compete for attention with the older landmarks on Liverpool's skyline seen from the Mersey Ferry. The river is a great highway, more than a mile wide, which made it a busy port of call during the height of the Industrial Revolution. Liverpool played a big role in the triangular slave trade. Manufactured goods went out to Africa and were traded for slaves, who were transported to the Caribbean, Brazil and the States, and products like rum and sugar were sent back to England. The Slave Museum on Albert Dock is an unflinching look at Liverpool's role in that.

During the Second World War, Liverpool was one of England's most important supply depots. It handled hundreds of ships a week. The Germans bombed the city heavily in May 1942.

Liverpool will be the European Union's Capital of Culture in 2008, which means all kinds of events and celebrations will take place there. The city has a half-dozen great museums of art, science and culture, so it deserves the honor. The wealth created by shipping and industry in the 18th and 19th centuries led to wonderful architecture. There is also something of a boom going on today and construction is under way everywhere.

These two photos are on Albert Dock. The red pillars mark the Tate Gallery, which along with the Maritime Museum, Slave Museum and Beatles Museum, make Albert Dock a must-visit place.

Back in Manchester

Bridges for light-rail and mainline railroad lines cross near the ruins of a Roman granary, built around 75 A.D. in the heart of Manchester. This is right by the pool where I go to swim.

My daily travel to work is along Oxford Road, home of the University of Manchester, largest in the UK, with more than 40,000 students, virtually all of whom get there by public transportation. This is a university without parking lots.

Some brave souls live in houseboats on Manchester's canals.


  1. Anonymous2:12 PM

    oh my goodness, James Brenner! Your journey sounds fantastic. Please eat a dark chocolate McVites for me. Well it's night there, so head for the closest pub and have a beer. Might be coming your way: lakes district (Underbarrow at friends B&B, edinburgh, birmingham and Oxford. Just got your blog from Rachel at BBJ.

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