Liverpool is a great city to visit. There are simply tons of things to do here to occupy you for at least several days. I was in Liverpool for only a few days and I still feel like I would like to go back and visit certain places I didn’t get the chance to visit this time around. However I did do some internet research before coming to Liverpool and already had a few specific places in mind which I wanted to visit. There are all the obvious sites such as all the Beatles related landmarks (which I could not possibly shun especially since I myself am a huge fan of their music). There are also some world class art museums such as the Tate Liverpool and the Walker Gallery – sadly I didn’t have enough time to visit the latter although I hope to visit it on another trip to Liverpool. If I do return to Liverpool I would like to explore more of the city’s local arts and music scene. There is a building on the waterfront, right by the Tate Liverpool, which houses the Liverpool Maritime museum and the Slavery museum – both definitely worth a visit to gain a better understanding of the city’s history. Like Glasgow further north, the shipping industry flourished in Liverpool during the 19th century and brought incredible prosperity to the city. At one point Liverpool was wealthier than London. Evidence of this past wealth can be seen in many of the architecturally beautiful buildings dotted around the city as well as the rows of handsome Georgian houses on many of the city’s streets.
Below I am featuring certain sites and places in Liverpool which I particularly enjoyed.
Those Fabulous Four**
For me my favourite Beatles related thing to do is to visit the houses where John Lennon and Paul McCartney grew up. There are some agencies which offer tours but in reality you can visit independently. However if you want to go inside John Lennon’s house that can only be done via the tours offered by the National Trust. Both houses are located several kilometres outside of the city centre in the suburb of Allerton. I decided to check out Macca’s childhood gaff first but before I did I thought it would be rude if I didn’t break the journey in Penny Lane which is located en route via the 86 bus from the centre. The Penny Lane street sign is completely defaced just like the Abbey Road sign at St Johns Wood in London. I ask a passerby to take a photo of me next to it. Listening to the music of the Beatles and my second favourite band from Liverpool, the La’s, I develop many romantic notions in my head of the city some of which I can’t explain in words. Penny Lane is quite an ordinary street yet it’s thrust and propelled into a dauntingly significant part of history because of that song.
The Beatles song Penny Lane was named after this street
I get back on the 86 bus before disembarking at the junction of Mather Avenue and Forthlin Road. The latter street is where Paul McCartney’s childhood home is located. Macca’s house is very modest and nondescript. Now I am sure he can easily afford to buy up the whole street and still barely make a dent on his vast fortune. There is no one else on the street but myself until a few moments later a mammoth tour group arrives all descending on Paul’s humble childhood abode.
The childhood home of Paul McCartney
John Lennon’s house is located about 20 mins away off Menlove Avenue. To get there I walk via the Allerton Golf club. I am using Google Maps on my iPhone and try to utilise the shortest route possible. Lennon’s childhood home is larger than Macca’s with its own front drive. A blue plaque adorns the front of the house. There is the option to enter the house if you do one of the National Trust tours yet I feel there is nothing more I need to gain. I would rather spend that time losing myself in his amazing music.
Outside John Lennon’s childhood home
I return to the city centre from where I take another bus north east of the city to the suburb of West Durby. It is here on a leafy and seemingly affluent street with some lovely villa-like properties where the Casbah Coffee Club was once located. It was established by Mona Best (the mother of Pete Best, the original Beatles drummer who was unceremoniously fired from the band just before they hit the big time) in the celler of their substantial family home in a beautiful rural setting to provide a space for local bands to play and socialise.
The Casbah Club was located in the celler of the pre Ringo drummer, Pete Best’s, family’s home
The club was established in August 1959. It was here where the Beatles, then known as the Quarrymen, played their first gig. This was before they would regularly play at the legendary Cavern club in the centre of town which at the time was only putting on Jazz.
Outside the famous Cavern Club which was the epicentre of the early 1960s Merseybeat scene in Liverpool where the Beatles regularly played before they hit the big time
Chinatown and St Luke’s Church
The famous Chinatown Arch
Liverpool’s Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in Europe. I’ve already touched upon this historical part of Liverpool in a separate post which can be viewed here. The roots of Liverpool’s Chinese community date back to the 1860s with the establishment of the Blue Funnel Shipping Line by Alfred Holt and Company which employed many Chinese seamen who came all the way from Shanghai. The original Chinatown was established around Cleveland Square close to the docks. When that entire area was bombed during the Second World War, a new Chinatown was established on Nelson Street and surrounding streets where it continues to flourish today.
St Luke’s church
At the intersection of Berry and Renshaw streets which marks the unofficial beginning of Chinatown is a bombed out church called St Luke’s, which was destroyed during the Second World War. This church reminds me of St Dunstans to the East in the City Of London close to Tower of London.
St Luke’s church today resembles more an ancient negleted ruin as a result of heavy bombing during World War Two
The Ye Cracke and Dispensary pubs
The Ye Cracke pub
The Ye Cracke pub is a great old fashioned pub on Rice Street off Hope Street, close to the Philharmonic Hall. This place is crammed full of early pre Beatles history. John Lennon’s uncle was a regular here as was John himself and his girlfriend Cynthia when they were both at art school in the 1950s. I love this pub. When I stopped by one mid afternoon there was just a mere smattering of punters and I had a whole wing of the pub to myself. I ordered a pint of Thwaites for only a couple of quid. In my corner Beatles related artwork by local junior artists adorned the walls.
Inside Ye Cracke. Notice both the black and white photos on top left corner which feature a young pre Beatles John Lennon from the 1950s. John was a regular here.
At the top of the photo is a very early back and white Beatles photo when Pete Best was still in the band
In front of me was a turquoise portrait of John Lennon by a local artist. In the portrait, John’s face appears tired and washed up; like he’s been on crystal meths for two weeks. In the entrance there are a few black and whites photos featuring a young John Lennon in the 1950s plus one of the very early Beatles line up when Pete Best was still in the band.
The Dispensary pub
The Dispensary pub is a cracker. A proper place with all the original features, warts, shit stains and all. Something of a rarity today. And boy do they do amazing ales. Have a pint of the Plum Porters. It is one of the best and tastiest ales I’ve ever had. The songs Hush, Mr Tamborine Man and Tiger Feet seem to be on continuous repeat on the jukebox. Being here I feel like I’m in the Newcastle pub Michael Caine enters at the beginning of Get Carter where he asks for a pint of bitter ‘in a thin glass’. On various online forums there is a lot of talk about the pub’s notorious ‘volatile’ landlord, ‘Crazy Dave’. Immediately I think of the low budget 1993 US film Red starring legendary hard man Lawrence Tierney as the cantankerous and unstable landlord of some dive bar in Philadelphia. In the film he gets periodically prank called and every time ends up losing his shit at the offender down the phone. I was at the Dispensary two times and on both occasions Dave was present. In the wake of reading all the online stories about him, I felt a perverse temptation to add to the existing chain of Crazy Dave agro and order a Smirnoff Ice with a straw but I chicken out. Astonishingly, on my second visit Dave recognises me and greets me with an unusually cordial ‘alright mate’. Yet examining him further, he looks like the sort of person who wants to keep his place local and wouldn’t hesitate to crush a Shoreditch trendy like a butterfly on a wheel if they rubbed him up the wrong way. This is a place where Trip Advisor reviews mean jack shit. The Dispensary ain’t The Old Blue Last, that’s for sure
Breakfast at Shiraz Café
Full English breakfast at Shiraz café
Come to Shiraz, located on Williamson square, for breakfast (or lunch) and order the Full English Breakfast for £5.50. This is one hearty and powerful Full English. My only complaint about it is the black pudding ring which at times feels like you are chewing on a cooled melted ice hockey pick. Yet apart from that the breakfast is top here and great value. All stripes come to Shiraz. This is an institution and an invaluable reference point if you are ever hungry and don’t want to break the bank. The Full English aside, Shiraz also does good size portions of cheap no nonsense comfort fare dishes like Chilli Con Carne, casseroles, lasagna etc. On one of my many trips here I ordered a half roast chicken with a mountain of fries, rice and salad for a little under £6. The vegetarian Mediterranean breakfast is a healthier alternative to the full English but before you order it request that they don’t put so much sauce over the feta salad which on its own is perfectly fine. A good local cafe/restaurant which I highly recommend.
The Zanzibar club***
Whilst in Liverpool I wanted to find a good non pretentious live indie/rock music venue similar to the Camden Barfly in London or the now defunct CBGBs in New York. There is no shortage of live music venues in Liverpool yet I hand picked this venue because of its focus on unsigned indie/rock bands and also it’s history especially regarding the city’s local music scene during the last 15-20 years. During the early 1960s the Cavern Club on Mathew Street was the epicentre of the emerging Merseybeat music scene with the Beatles it’s most successful band. Then later towards the end of the 1970s during the whole punk and new wave movements the nearby club Eric’s also on Matthew Street was the centre of that scene where local bands of that time such as Echo And The Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes and The Mighty Wah emerged from. The Zanzibar club located on Seel Street, which has a number of trendy bars and clubs, has been an integral part of the local Liverpool music scene for close to 20 years. Two key Liverpool bands, The Coral and The Zutons, used to gig here regularly when they were still relatively unknown. Noel Gallagher also once played a solo gig here in 2003. I came one Saturday night when four local unsigned bands were playing. I managed to catch two. Neither band was particularly original nor did they ooze much charisma or play a set that was truly memorable. On the other hand the first band where the members were around the 19-20 mark played a good tight set. Perhaps with time their musical influences will expand and they may start making some very adventurous and challenging music. It is incredibly hard and gruelling work being in a band in these digital post internet days (unless you are the Rolling Stones), especially with the collapse of much of the music industry. In a way I think local bands should be supported now more than ever before. Most bands essentially do their best whether I am a fan or not.
By Nicholas Peart
20th October 2016
(All rights reserved)
*Image source: http://www.wikipedia.com
**Image source: http://www.bilboard.com
***Image source: http://www.mycityvenue.com