This essay will look at the influence that the Beatles have had on the tourist industry in Liverpool. It will briefly look at the cultural and musical effect that the Beatles had on the world and their contribution to the emergence and changing of popular culture. It will then discuss Liverpool’s award of the European Capital of Culture. It will assess the various tourist attractions directly connected to the group and their importance to Liverpool’s tourism industry. The Beatles were a rock group formed in 1960 in Liverpool. They were the most successful and critically acclaimed acts in popular music history (Unterberger, 2009).
It could be argued that the Beatles were one of the best things to happen in the twentieth century, let alone the sixties. They were seen as being youth personified and as being unmatched innovators being bigger that Jesus and rock & roll itself. They sold more than a billion records, breaking numerous records along the way and even after the split in 1969 the Beatles carried on making history and the Beatles album of Number One hits going onto to become the best selling album of the 2000’s hitting number one in 35 different countries (RollingStone).
During 1963, the monumental impact the Beatles had on the continual growth of the beat-boom and had started a musical and cultural reorganisation of the face of British pop (Chambers, 1986). Their impact on the world of fashion also had some significance, with their mop-top haircuts, Edwardian collarless suits, bright colours, floral patterns, teashade glasses, Indian shirts and sandals (Hewitt 2011). The Beatles led the way in these changing times during the 1960s with youth and rebellion in comparison to the youth of post war Britain.
The 1960’s were a very important time for popular culture with MacDonald (2005) capturing it nicely stating ‘Anyone unlucky enough not to have been aged between 14 and 30 during 1966-7 will never know the excitement of those years in popular culture. A sunny optimism permeated everything and possibilities seemed limitless. Bestriding a British scene that embraced music, poetry, fashion, and film, and in which English football had recently beaten the world’. This is the time the Beatles were at their peak.
Popular Culture tourism is the act of travelling to locations featured in literature, film, music, or any other form of popular entertainment (Storey, 2006). Popular destinations include Liverpool, which is especially popular with fans of the Beatles (Leonard, Strachan, 2010). Cohen (1991) states that it is difficult to characterize a city as varied as Liverpool, but sums it up through the medias eyes by stating ‘Liverpool has been a newsworthy place, a provider of headlines, a colourful backdrop to inner-city decline, scene of numerous soap operas, documentaries, and socially relevant plays.
It is famous for its football teams and supporters, its rock bands and other performance arts (poets, playwrights, comedians), and for passionate politics. ’ Liverpool is frequently characterized as a ‘creative city’ and was named the European Capital of Culture in 2008 by the Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell stating ‘Liverpool was the most vital, energetic bid’. Bringing the title to Liverpool is expected to increase tourist numbers visiting the city, and it in turn increase investment, create Jobs and boost the cities profile. BBC, 2008) Mike Storey, leader of Liverpool City Council described the win as ‘like Liverpool winning the Champions League, Everton winning the double and the Beatles reforming all on the same day’. Perhaps a slight over-exaggeration but this emphasizes the point that the whole city became involved and backed the bid (BBC, 2008) during the make-over of the city centre, including the building of retail development ‘Liverpool One’, the opening of a new Beatles-themed hotel, a new performance area on the docklands and numerous projects aimed at refashioning the city by improving its arts and cultural spaces.
Winning this award was Liverpool’s chance to showcase the city’s cultural richness and diversity. But what was the Beatles contribution to Liverpool achieving this award? Lashua et al (2010) state that in 1977 city officials had little interest in the promotion of art and culture for the purposes of social or economic development, or the promotion of the Beatles as local heritage during times of a non-existent tourist industry or any cultural policy in place. Councilors famously rejected a Beatles statue, questioning their contribution to the city and stating that they were not worthy of a place in the city’s history.
Thirty years later, Liverpool ‘s bid for European Capital of Culture was spear-headed by rock stars, especially the two living members of the Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. The live music performance events provided a promotional platform for the city and renaissance of the 1960’s era on a public stage (Lashua et al 2010). Vacant buildings were wrapped and rebranded with images of Paul McCartney emphasizing the city’s Beatles connections and iconic architecture (Lashua et al 2010).
Liverpool is officially the World Capital of Pop, famous for its music, with the Beatles being the most famous band to date (Visit Liverpool, 2012). John Penrose the tourism and heritage minister stated that the Beatles were tremendously important to Liverpool tourism industry (BBC, 2012). The winding parts of the city centre known as Mathew Street and the Cavern Quarter forms a network of former warehouses that have been developed into a Mecca for fans which include sites of music shops, pubs, cafes, performance venues and Beatles tourist attractions (Lashua et al, 2010).
There are statues made in the Beatles honour, including John Lennon leaning against the Cavern pub wall, Eleanor Rigby sitting on a bench in Stanley Street and Arthur Dooley’s bronze ‘Four lads who Shook the World’ located near the Cavern. Every August Bank Holiday weekend Liverpool hosts the Mathew Street Festival which is the largest free music festival in Europe (Cavern Club, 2012). The Cavern Club, where the Beatles made 292 appearances over 2 years from 1961 is located on Mathew Street and it is classed as a musical heritage site.
It is one of the many landmarks in Liverpool that is directly linked with the Beatles. Today is a very popular venue for tourists to visit even though it has been over 50 years since the Beatles first performed (Visit Liverpool, 2012). Opened in 1984 this Cavern Club is actually a replica that was reconstructed further down Mathew Street from the original site. (Lashua et al, 2010). This is due to British Rail enforcing the closure of the original site to allow building work for a new underground railway system.
In 1973 despite the clubs historical standing and cultural relevance, the ancient warehouses above were demolished, while the cellar itself was filled with rubble and sealed like a tomb for the remainder on the 1970’s (Cavern Club, 2012). The fact that Liverpool city officials allowed the demolition of this piece of musical history and heritage indicates previous attitudes towards culture and highlights the previous point regarding the lack of a tourism industry or cultural policy. Would you want to visit Macchu Picchu, if they decided to move it to an adjacent mountain?
Opposite the cavern club is the Cavern pub which has live music every night of the week with many artists performing there all of whom have their names on the outside wall. (Cavern Club, 2012). The Beatles Story is located on the Albert dock in Liverpool, it is an atmospheric journey into the life, times, culture and music of the Beatles. A major expansion during 2008/2009 saw the attraction triple in size, including more interactive features. (Beatles Story, 2012) This recent expansion shows the importance and popularity of the Beatles to Liverpool’s tourist industry as demand is growing.
The Magical Mystery Tour is a tourist bus service, which take tourists to childhood homes, birthplace and former schools and colleges of band members. It also goes to Penny Lane, Strawberry Field and St. Peters Church and ends up in the Cavern Club (Cavern Club, 2012) The childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney are now listed as Grade II buildings by English Heritage. By listing the buildings it means that the houses will be legally protected (BBC, 2012) and preserved for Liverpool’s historical and cultural future. Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever were both songs on a double A side record released in 1967.
Strawberry fields was named after a girls’ reform school located on Beaconsfield Road near John Lennon’s childhood home (MacDonald, 2005),a place Paul McCartney also used to visit as a child. Penny Lane was named after Penny Lane junction, where John Lennon and Paul McCartney would meet to catch a bus into Liverpool city centre. Penny Lane distills the spirit of the 1960’s, ‘couched in the primary colours of a picture-book, yet observed with the slyness of a gang of kids straggling home from school, Penny Lane is both naive and knowing- but above all thrilled to be alive’ (MacDonald, 2005).
Tourists can visit referenced locations from Beatles songs such as Tony Slavin, which is where the ‘barber showing photographs of every head he’s had the pleasure to know’, fans can recreate their own journey and observations that are quoted in the song. St. Peters Church is the location in which John Lennon and Paul McCartney met for the very first time in the church hall on the evening of Saturday, 6th of July 1957 and has been quoted as ‘Almost certainly the most important meeting in popular music history’.
The church is also the location of the grave of Eleanor Rigby, featured in the 1966 Beatles song. (St. Peters, 2012) There are a number of Beatles themed hotels located in Liverpool. The Hard Day’s Night Hotel located nearby to Mathew Street, actually has a suite dedicated to John Lennon. Equipped with John Lennon inspired artwork and a white piano with white backdrop aimed at replicating John Lennon’s Imagine music video. (Hard Day’s Night Hotel, 2012).
The Eleanor Rigby hotel located on Stanley Street is another example of the Beatles effect on Liverpool’s tourism industry it offers tours and tickets to various Beatles attractions (Eleanor Rigby Hotel, 2012) The Yellow Submarine sculpture is a large model representation of the submarine that featured in the animated film Yellow Submarine that was inspired by the song of the same name, which is located outside the Albert Dock (Visit Liverpool, 2012) ‘Hi everyone, welcome to the casbah.
We are the quarry men and we are going to play you some rock and roll’ These words were John Lennon’s during the opening night of the Casbah Coffee Club in 1959. The Quarry men was originally formed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. George Harrison would join at a later date the band would then have a reshuffle of members and name and end up as the Beatles. The Casbah Coffee club is where it all started for the Beatles but lesser known as they were under a different name ‘I think it’s a good idea to let people know about the Casbah.
They know about the Cavern, they know about some of those things, but the Casbah was the place where all that started. We helped paint it and stuff. We looked upon it as our personal club. ’ Sir Paul McCartney. The Casbah was shut for many years but has re-launched itself as a tourist attraction for Beatles enthusiasts and unlike the Cavern it remains on the original site and tours are available of the basement where the Quarry men would play (Casbah Coffee Club, 2012). In 2002 Liverpool’s airport was renamed in Honour of John Lennon 22 years after his death. A 2. metre tall bronze statue stands overlooking the check-in hall, on the roof is painted the airports motto ‘Above us only sky’ which is a fitting line from John Lennon’s famous song ‘Imagine’. In 2005 a large-scale work of art sculpture of the Yellow submarine was installed on a traffic island at the entrance to the airport (Adey, 2007). International arrivals at Liverpool John Lennon Airport are left in no doubt about the connections between John Lennon, the Beatles and the City of Liverpool Present day Liverpool unashamedly uses its own identity, culture and history to bring commercial success to the City.
However this was not always the case, during the 1970’s the tourism industry was non-existent in Liverpool, and no effort was made in the promotion or preservation of culture by the City officials, with the example of the demolition of the original Cavern Club to make way for public transport infrastructure. The renaming Liverpool Airport was not only out of respect for a major 20th Century icon, but a branding and commercial masterstroke for the Liverpool tourist industry. The contradiction between this and the demolition of the Cavern Club demonstrated a major shift in attitudes from those of the 70’s.
This is further demonstrated by the spearheading of the European Capital of Culture bid by the surviving members Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. The Beatles have many ties and connections with the City of Liverpool using these connections turning them into assets for the growth of the tourism industry. The tours, the pubs, the clubs, the coffee shops, the venues, the exhibitions, the childhood homes, the schools, the colleges, the art work and other inspirational locations is Liverpool’s way of letting you know that you are in the epicentre of everything that is the Beatles.
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