It’s 50 years since the Beatles landed in New York in 1964, changing pop music forever. Here’s a Magical Mystery Tour with the Fab Four.
John Lennon once said, ‘I might have been born in Liverpool but I grew up in Hamburg.’ This raunchy city was so instrumental to the early Beatles that a plaza in the St Pauli district was named ‘Beatles-Platz’ in 2006. The plaza, paved black to resemble a vinyl record, is in the heart of the Reeperbahn, a street known for its nightlife and Hamburg’s red-light district. From 1960 to 1962, the leather-clad Fab Five (including original bassist Stuart Sutcliffe) played hundreds of gigs in this naughty neighbourhood, though most of the clubs have closed down.
The Indra Musik Club (www.indramusikclub.com), site of the first Beatles gig in Hamburg, still hosts live music.
No-one could have guessed that four working-class lads from Liverpool would become bigger than Elvis. But Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, it happened. The earliest sounds of Beatlemania could be heard at the Cavern Club (www.cavernclub.org), a tiny live music venue that is still open today and has also hosted bands like the Who, Oasis and the Arctic Monkeys. For fans searching for the Beatles’ roots – all you need is Liverpool. From Penny Lane to the former Strawberry Fields children’s home behind John Lennon’s aunt Mimi’s house, the city is a living, breathing Beatles museum.
The Beatles Story Museum (www.beatlesstory.com) features a replica of the Cavern Club and a Fab 4D animated cinema show.
Strawberry Fields, New York City, USA
A simple memorial garden that has become a global symbol of peace, Strawberry Fields is one of the most tranquil corners of Central Park. Founded on 9 October 1985, the 45th anniversary of Lennon’s birth, near the Dakota Building where he was killed, the garden was designed by Yoko Ono and architect Bruce Kelly. The black-and-white meditative mosaic made by Italian craftsmen revolves around one word: ‘Imagine’. Lennon, who Ono said was born a New Yorker, moved to the Big Apple in 1971, first living in Greenwich Village, and even recorded an album called Sometime in New York City.
Lennon’s only full-length solo concert was played at Madison Square Garden (www.thegarden.com), which hosts NBA games and big-name music acts.
Paradise Island, the Bahamas
Following the success of their first film A Hard Day’s Night, Beatles director Richard Lester had a bigger budget for Help!. Cheekily, the Beatles requested the Bahamas as a location simply because they hadn’t been there, so in February 1965 they arrived in the city of Nassau on New Providence Island, connected to Paradise Island by a bridge. However, the band didn’t have a single day off on Paradise Island, which also features in the James Bond films Casino Royale and Thunderball. Paradise Island is now home to Vegas-style casino resorts and the Aquaventure Waterpark, with its mammoth Mayan Temple waterslide.
For information on hotel resorts and nightclubs, as well as diving and watersports, see www.nassauparadiseisland.com.
After the Beatles met a giggling guru called the Maharishi (meaning ‘enlightened spiritual one’) in London in August 1967, they were eager to ‘turn off their minds’ with more transcendental meditation. So in February 1968 they joined Donovan, Mia Farrow and Mike Love from the Beach Boys at the Maharishi’s ashram, located in the Valley of the Saints on the River Ganges in the foothills of the Himalayas. The Beatles stayed for six weeks and wrote much of The White Album here. Rishikesh is now considered the yoga capital of the world but is also a centre for whitewater rafting and treks in the Himalaya.
On 20 March 1969 John Lennon tied the knot with Yoko Ono on the Rock of Gibraltar, a small British territory off the southern coast of Spain. They had tried to get married in Paris a few days earlier but failed, so they flew into Gibraltar and went straight to the British Consulate to be married by a registrar. Lennon said the episode, as depicted in the song The Ballad of John and Yoko, was very romantic with the rock symbolising the foundation of their love.
Walk to Gibraltar across the border at La Línea in Spain (120km east of Malaga).
Although money can’t buy you love it can buy you a ticket to Love, the Cirque du Soleil show. Featuring remixed Beatles music by original record producer Sir George Martin (the real fifth Beatle) and his son Giles, the show plays at a specially designed theatre at the Mirage, a sprawling hotel and casino resort on the Las Vegas Strip. The opening of Love in 2006 reunited Paul and Ringo with the widows of George and John, who unveiled a plaque in memory of their husbands. Visitors can take a behind-the-scenes tour of the theatre and party at the psychedelic Revolution Lounge.
This ski resort in the Austrian Alps was chosen as a location to film part of the Beatles’ second film, Help!. Legend has it that the Beatles were so stoned during filming that when George shouted his line ‘Run, Ringo!’ both Ringo and Paul ran over the next hill. Obertauern is located in the southern Bundesland region, 90km south of Salzburg, and is still a major ski and snowboarding resort. While filming here in 1965, the Beatles were based in the Edelweiss Hotel, which now has a spa and a children’s ski centre and is close to the Lürzer Alm Chalet nightclub.
Salzburg is famous for another music giant, Mozart: each January it holds the Mozart Week Festival at the Mozarteum University.
More commonly associated with tango than Ringo, the Argentinian capital, Buenos Aires, is actually home to one of the world’s biggest collections of Beatles memorabilia. Opened in 2011, the Museo Beatle in Buenos Aires is the brainchild of lifelong fan Rodolfo Vazquez, who collected over 8500 rare items including records, gadgets and puppets. Next door to the museum is a clone of the Cavern Club, the Beatle Café and the Sala John Lennon stand-up comedy theatre. The museum is part of the Paseo La Plaza complex on Corrientes Avenue, the ‘Broadway of Buenos Aires’ lined with theatres, bars and tango clubs.
The Museo Beatle is open daily from 10am to midnight (from 2pm on Sunday); for details and tickets go to www.thecavern.com.ar.
Initial ideas for the cover of the Beatles’ final album included a photo shoot at Mount Everest but in the end they chose to take six photographs at the zebra crossing right outside EMI Studios in leafy north London. The iconic cover of Abbey Road, featuring a barefoot McCartney, has spawned a million imitations and a few conspiracy theories concerning the death of Paul. Abbey Road Studios, where Pink Floyd and Radiohead also recorded, is closed to the public but it does run a live webcam (www.abbeyroad.com/crossing) of the crossing, where fans infuriate the beeping cars on a daily basis.
The closest tube station to Abbey Road is St John’s Wood. Nearby, the Beatles Coffee Shop offers Beatles walking tours.