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  • "1999 Magical History Tour Report"
    by Linda Schultz
    (with help from Batya Selavan)

          The odyssey that is Magical History Tour '99 begins on August 22, 1999 as we depart the U.S. On the 23rd, we arrive in London from different cities, at different airports, and in the early afternoon we all convene in the lobby of the beautiful Forum Hotel in London. We are given really cool-looking nametags from Liverpool Productions as gifts, designed by one of the teenagers on our trip. They resemble backstage passes. We wear them proudly around our necks. This is the largest tour in history; 101 strong! We are now a group, a family, for the next ten days, united in our devotion to "the greatest band that ever graced this planet." (Thanks, André.)

          After checking in at the luxurious Forum Hotel, we have some free time to relax or see a bit of London. 99tr_01.jpg We meet in the lobby at 7 PM for an evening with "The Rutles." We board a coach that takes us to John Halsey's (aka Barry Wom) Castle Inn in Cambridge. The special guest on the bus is Alf Bicknell, the Beatles' chauffeur during the height of Beatlemania. Alf has marvelous and hilarious anecdotes to tell about his days as the Beatles' driver. When we arrive at the Castle Inn, we are treated to a performance by "The Beatnix," which includes many Beatles songs. Following that, John Halsey and Neil Innes of the Rutles entertain us. A splendid time is had by all.

          Tuesday afternoon is our walking tour of Beatles' London. We see many places that have played a large role in the Beatles' history, such as the former Apple offices at 3 Savile Row. We see current sites, such as Paul's MPL offices. We follow our pied piper, Cavern City Tours' Dave Jones (no, not Davy Jones) as he leads us through the streets of London, telling us wonderful stories related to each of these Beatle locations. We are joined by a TV crew who tape our escapades for British tourism.

          Tuesday night is one of the absolute highlights of the trip: our exclusive Abbey Road recording session! We get off our private coach and gather outside the hallowed Abbey Road Studios. It is not yet our scheduled time to enter the studio and record a song, so we all take loads of photos of the famous wall outside. We perform the obligatory death-defying act of walking across Abbey Road during the evening rush hour, only four at a time for authenticity's sake, while dodging those tiny speeding cars. Anything to get that photo!! Some brave souls among us perform the daring act barefoot. We take many pictures of the exterior of Abbey Road. There is a stark reminder of just how special this evening is. A big sign at the gate proclaims, "Abbey Road is not open to the public." The sign states that no one will be admitted and souvenirs may be purchased at a nearby tube station. How amazing to realize that - on this trip, on this night - we are not "the public." We are actually booked as recording artists who will be going inside Studio Two, where the Beatles recorded most of their music, and which can be seen prominently in the Anthology video. The realization that WE will soon be in that studio is awesome beyond words.

          I snap a photo of one particular piece of graffiti on The Wall. This message proclaims in bold black letters, "I love you Paul! Shannon from Sydney, 20 August 1999." I take this particular photo because in my MMT '98 photo album, I already have a photo of a different place on this wall, where in bold black letters, it proclaimed, "I love you 99tr_03.jpg Paul! Shannon from Sydney, 21 August 1998." Apparently, Shannon makes her pilgrimage from Sydney to Abbey Road every August and leaves her mark on this wall. If you are on the MMT, you absolutely, positively understand Shannon. She is no different than we are. You don't know Shannon, but you feel connected to her. I take this photo for continuity, to record her 1999 visit, just as I recorded her 1998 visit. I suspect that this may not be Shannon's final visit to Abbey Road......nor mine.

          That is one of the most wonderful aspects of this trip that you will not read about in any brochure. Everybody with whom you are traveling is a Beatles fan. You can be yourself and unabashedly express your devotion to the Beatles. When you cry, or kiss the ground at some location, or dash across Abbey Road barefoot, you need never feel embarrassed. You are among fellow fans and friends.

          We enter the reception area of Abbey Road Studios, where we are able to purchase books about Abbey Road, as well as buttons and clothing with the Abbey Road logo. After a while, we are led downstairs into Studio Two. There are no words to adequately describe the feeling of being in here, inside THEIR studio, where so much amazing music was created. There is silence as we look around this studio in total awe and disbelief. I try to memorize every detail of the room, so that it will be permanently embedded in my memory.

          We await the arrival of Gary Gibson, the amazing Lennon clone. There is excitement 99tr_04.jpg as Gary enters Studio Two. He bears a strong resemblance to John, in both voice and appearance. He moves to a microphone and leads us in "Come Together." Following the recording, Gary poses for a few pictures and signs some autographs. As a surprise to one our younger tour-members, he leads us all in singing Happy Birthday. After he leaves, we all pose for a group shot.

          Later that night at the hotel, our leaders, Charles and Danny, have reserved an area of the mezzanine of The Forum for a Beatles singalong. Some members of the tour are very shy and reserved at first and stand off to the side, merely observing. It is interesting to see how each one of them eventually gets caught up in the spirit of the singing. Eventually everyone enters the circle and joins the group. The singalong steadily gains momentum. It is clear that people who ordinarily would never be caught singing Beatles songs in public, soon shed their reserve and are whole-heartedly singing along with each song. It is another example of how comfortable we feel with one another.

          On Wednesday morning, we take a bus tour of Beatle sites, led by Richard Porter, prez of the London Beatles Fan Club and the man who conducts the London Beatles Walks. He takes us to some amazing places. We visit places we've seen on film but never thought we'd actually see in person: Chiswick House, the estate where the "Rain" video was filmed; locations featured prominently in "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!" and so on. We see the Marylebone Magistrates Court, where John was arraigned after his 1968 pot bust. We see the Marylebone Registry where Paul and Linda got married. We see 57 Green Street, where all four Beatles lived in the early 1960s. This was their secret London residence, until John, Cynthia and Julian moved to Emperor's Gate and Paul moved in with the Asher family.

          We walk over to 57 Wimpole Street, the former home of the Asher family. We shoot photos of the front of the home, which many a Beatle fan before us might well have done. Then, Richard leads us around the corner and turns down a small, unmarked alley until we are directly behind the Asher home. Richard points to a top floor window overlooking this narrow alley. This was Paul's room, facing the back alley. Richard describes the complex escape route Paul used while living in this house. Paul's exit route started with that top floor window and eventually took him out through the garage of the adjoining home, into a waiting car to escape the throngs of fans and press clamoring at the front door. We look up at the top floor window and at the garage door of the adjoining home. We feel very privileged to have such inside information!

          On Wednesday afternoon, we take a bus tour of traditional London. We get to view all the important sites, including Buckingham Palace, Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, among others. For four hours, we get a complete tour of London's most famous landmarks.

          Wednesday evening, we make our way to Covent Garden for an evening in the Rock Garden, a small club in which we listen to live music by various bands. We take in the fascinating sights and smells and sounds (including live bands) of Covent Garden as we enjoy this clear summer night in London. I purposely take very deep breaths of the fragrant air, as if doing so will somehow allow me to preserve the wonderful smell of this London evening in my memory forever.

          Thursday morning, we board our coach for the second stop on our journey: Liverpool! About forty minutes out of London, we stop at Henley-on-Thames 99tr_05.jpg to view George's estate, Friar Park. We all take photos of the majestic house and impressive wrought-iron gate. No George sighting, unfortunately. Back on the bus, we play a game involving Beatles song titles.

          We arrive in Liverpool. For first timers, it is mind-boggling to realize that you are really in this city. We are truly pilgrims making our pilgrimage to Macca...and to John, George and Ringo! As the bus winds through the suburban areas down to the Adelphi Hotel near the docks, we observe every street and every detail with awe. WE'RE REALLY IN LIVERPOOL!!!!

          Our first evening in Liverpool, we attend a concert at LIPA (and if you're still reading at this point, you obviously don't need me to tell you what LIPA is). The concert featuring international Beatle bands takes place in the new Paul McCartney Auditorium. "Banned On The Run" headline with Norway's "Swing" as the opening act. The newly- renovated LIPA is really something to see and one senses that Paul was deeply involved in the design of this state-of-the-art auditorium that showcases the talents of LIPA students.

          Following the LIPA concert, we head over to Mathew Street ("Birthplace of the Beatles," as the street signs proudly proclaim) to the Cavern Club to listen to more live music. This is another amazing moment. We head down the winding stairs into the Cavern Club, which is an exact replica of the original. Every-thing looks the same as it did when our heroes played there. The arches, the stage -- everything looks as it did in the photos we have seen. Onstage, "Los Beat 3" from Venezuela perform Beatle songs in both English and Spanish. Being in here transports me back to the 1960s and evokes vivid memories of how it felt to be a screaming, shrieking Beatles fan (yes, I was one of those berserk, screaming ones) back then when we knew that the Beatles and Beatlemania would impact our lives forever.

    99tr_06.jpg       The next morning, we board the brightly colored Magical Mystery Tour bus for a day-long tour of Liverpool. For eight and a half hours, our guide, Eddie "the Walrus" Porter, shows us just about every Beatle site in Liverpool. We see Beatle birthplaces, childhood homes, Brian Epstein's family home, schools that each of the Beatles attended. We visit Penny Lane walk around. We see the shelter in the middle of the roundabout (now called "Sgt. Pepper's Bistro"), the barbershop showing photographs, and the bank whose executive stubbornly refused to wear his mac. We even remember to gaze at the blue suburban skies on this clear, sunny day. The second bus has Hillary Oxlade, queen of Beatle tourguides, as their leader. This group lucks out when they approach Ringo's home in the Dingle, the current occupant invited everyone in for a quick peak inside!

          One of the defining moments of this tour, and of this trip, is our visit to Strawberry Field. We stand in awe 99tr_07.jpg as we contemplate the ornate, strawberry-red, gate and the serene beauty of this place, which is enclosed by tall, leafy trees. The impact of seeing the place where John played as a child and which he later immortalized in song is a very emotional one, and some people cry openly. We each take photographs in front of the gate.

          We go to St. Peter's Church in the Woolton section. After showing us the grave of Eleanor Rigby, Eddie Porter leads us to a field behind the church. This is the field where the Quarrymen played on July 6, 1957. It is really just a plain-looking, level field of grass, but we all know that this is no ordinary field. We know that on the day that the Quarrymen performed on this field, John and Paul met for the first time. This place is special.

          We cross the street to the church hall, where on July 6, 1957, Ivan Vaughan did something that impacted the 20th century in 99tr_08.jpg as profound a way as any other. He introduced John and Paul. We are all snapping photos of the building and of the plaque commemorating the meeting of John and Paul, when, to our total amazement, an employee of the church comes out and invites us all inside the church hall. As with so many other places we see on this trip, we stand in absolute awe and amazement, observing this church hall. It looks like it has not been renovated since our heroes first chatted here in 1957. We stand there silently and take in every detail of this room. In each of our minds, we form our own image of John and Paul's first meeting. We each imagine where they stood, how they looked, what they said. We cannot believe we are standing inside this hall.

          This day, we are also privileged to be the first Magical History Tour group to see the newly-dedicated Linda McCartney Play Area in beautiful Calderstones Park on Menlove Avenue, not far from the home of John's Aunt Mimi. We have viewed the exterior of the home in which John lived with Aunt Mimi, and now we are entering Calderstones Park. We follow Eddie to the back of this very large and scenic park to the new playground. It is Paul's loving memorial to Linda. On this beautiful, sunny, late-summer day in Liverpool, the playground is filled with lots of young children & their parents. It is a joyful place, and it is just what you'd expect Paul to create in Linda's memory. I just know she would have loved this place. Next to the play area is a tree that Paul has planted in Linda's memory. We feel very lucky to be among the first tourists to experience this.

          That night we are scheduled to attend a concert by "The Beats," one of the favorite Beatle bands. 15 people in our group opt to attend "An Audience with Gerry Marsden" at the Everyman Theatre. Gerry performs a one-man show and afterwards, he signs autographs and poses for a group picture. More on Gerry later.

          "The Beats" perform a multi-media tribute show at the Royal Court Theatre. This group from Argentina has gone to great lengths to look like the Beatles. The "John guy", as we all call him, bears a very strong resemblance 99tr_09.jpg to the real John. The "Paul guy" doesn't look much like Paul to me, but others think he does. The "George guy" and the "Ringo guy" have the hair, but that's about all. They perform a tribute concert that includes costume changes, from the Ed Sullivan suits, to the Sgt. Pepper costumes, to the Let It Be look. Behind them are screens featuring actual footage of the Beatles while The Beats perform their songs. During The Beats' costume changes, we are treated to more film footage of our idols. We see familiar footage that is so firmly implanted in our 20th century consciousness: Ed Sullivan Shows, Shea Stadium concerts. We watch footage of the Beatles at work with George Martin inside Studio Two at Abbey Road. Opening act for this show is the "Barmstadt Beatles," a classical ensemble consisting of violins, a viola, cello and double bass. This concert is very entertaining and tastefully done, and everyone has a great time.

          The next day is the Beatles auction for serious collectors. Many people in our group attend, and some actually buy incredible lots. We also participate in two major events this day. Those of us who wish to go board a bus to Paul's childhood home at 20 Forthlin Road. The house is now under the auspices of the National Trust, to be maintained as an historic landmark. Based on Mike McCartney's family photos, the house has been restored to look exactly as it did when the McCartneys lived there. No detail has been overlooked. The oriental-motif wallpaper in the living room, the 1950s furniture in the dining room and parlor, the old appliances and washing machine all make the interior very authentic.

          Upon entering the house we are each given audio units and booklets for a self-guided tour. We select a number on the audio player to hear a recorded remembrance of a specific room or a certain event or even a framed photo. The most incredible photograph of all hangs in Mike's former room and those of you who have been there will instantly know what I mean!

          The recorded recollections of life in this house while Paul and his family lived here are wonderful. Some are humorous, some sad and poignant. Paul has recorded the first recollection. He welcomes us to the tour of the house as we hear Beatles music in the background, and talks about his fond memories of this house. Later on, we exit through the back door of the kitchen and come to the small back yard and garden, instantly recognizable 99tr_10.jpg from the famous photos that we have seen of Jim McCartney sitting in his lawn chair in that same garden.

          For me, the highlights of the house are the parlor and Paul's old bedroom. We are permitted to sit on the bed, which is a replica of Paul's bed, and is situated in the same place. I sit on the bed and gaze out the window, realizing that this is the same view Paul saw every morning when he woke up. As I sit in the parlor, I contemplate the fact that John and Paul had composed many of the Beatles' early songs by the piano in this room. John's Aunt Mimi wasn't much of a fan of John's interest in playing the guitar, or of rock and roll in general. Jim McCartney, a former musician himself, was more tolerant of John and Paul's musical endeavors, so John would come to 20 Forthlin Road and he and Paul would write many of their early songs in this very room. I press the button to hear Mike McCartney's vivid recollection of John often coming up the front walk.

          That afternoon, we get another rare glimpse of Beatles history, as we attend an 99tr_11.jpg event commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Casbah Club. We get to view the inside of the Casbah and we get to meet Pete Best. Pete is seated at a table signing autographs. I find him to be very cordial and still very handsome. We are keenly aware of the Beatles' history as we meet Pete Best and view the Casbah. Several bands perform in an outside tent, but "A Hard Day's Night" steals the show. They are comprised of members of the 60's bubblegum group Ohio Express, with one of our tour-members, Ron Manzone filling in on rhythm guitar. Original Beatles manager Allan Williams and other Mersey legends mingle with the fans throughout the Casbah celebration.

          That evening is the concert by Gary Gibson. I have a tough choice to make: see Gibson or catch the second night of Gerry Marsden's show. It is fun to have this choice, but it's a tough decision. Because I saw Gibson's fantastic show last year, and because Charles and the others raved about Gerry's show the night before, I decide to head to the Everyman Theatre to spend an evening with Gerry. The audience is made up mostly of locals, with a very small handful of tourists present.

          Gerry performs many of his songs and tells anecdotes, not unlike VH1's "Storytellers" series. He is a marvelous entertainer and his Liverpudlian sense of humor goes over big with this audience. The crowd roars when Gerry tells us the background of his group's #1 hit, "How Do You Do It?" Brian Epstein was the Pacemakers' manager as well. Brian had originally given "How Do You Do It?" to the Beatles. John listened to it and then told Brian, "This song is #$%. Give it to Gerry Marsden." We all laugh, as we can so easily envision the scene Gerry describes. It is only one of many Beatle stories.

          As he did the previous 99tr_12.jpg evening, Gerry poses for photos and signs autographs following the show. When I ask him if I might have a photo with him, Gerry suddenly pulls me onto his lap and kisses me on the cheek while someone from our group snaps the photo. Although I am sorry to have missed Gary Gibson, this is a great evening.

          Sunday afternoon is the all-day Beatles convention at the Adelphi Hotel. Vendors from all over the world sell all kinds of CDs, records and other Beatles-related goods. You can browse these tables all day long. John's sister, Julia, is at the convention and several members of our group spend time speaking with her. Hamish Stuart (former member of Paul's band on the World Tours) performs a surprise concert in the Adelphi ballroom later that afternoon. He debuts songs from his new solo album. There are lots of exciting things happening throughout convention day.

          Sunday evening, we are in for a real treat. We all attend the-first-ever-in-Liverpool "Charles and Danny's DJ Party." We gather in one of the Adelphi's lounges as Charles and Danny host an American-style DJ party. Everyone in attendance loves it. They entertain the crowd and lead us in some interactive dances. The best part is getting back to basics -- they play Beatles songs (by the real guys) all night long and everyone dances, non-stop. It is a nice change of pace to dance all night long to Beatles records. When Ringo's vocals from the White Album's "Good Night" comes on at 3 AM, no one wants to leave.

          The next day is Bank Holiday Monday in Britain, and it's also the Mathew Street 99tr_13.jpg Music Festival celebrating the Yellow Submarine premiere. All the streets around the Cavern Club are closed to traffic. Large stages are set up and bands perform at several locations. The city overflows with people, as everybody listens to music. People strike up conversations with one another. There is a ceremony to unveil the new Yellow Submarine U.S. postage stamp. There are also many activities down at the Albert Dock. Not only tourists enjoy the day - thousands of Liverpudlians join in the celebration honoring their city's most famous sons.

          That evening, we all attend the theatrical world premiere of the newly released Yellow Submarine movie. Philharmonic Hall is adorned with large, 99tr_14.jpg shiny, yellow balloons. A huge replica of the Yellow Sub logo sits atop the entrance. We go inside and everyone is filled with excitement and anticipation. Soon George Martin, Neil Aspinall and Geoff Baker arrive. But what is the true identity of the Blue Meanie who arrived with Sir George amid a lot of security? There is a lot of speculation as to who might be inside that Blue Meanie costume. The presence of Geoff Baker leads some people to one conclusion...but no one knows for certain. We watch the newly released version of Yellow Submarine and it is wonderful. After the movie, we are treated to a concert of the soundtrack by Sweden's Lenny Pane, one of the best Beatle bands in the world. To our delight, Gary Gibson comes on stage and performs with them, as do other surprise performers. It's an utterly classy, magical evening. The late night party at the hotel features the music of "The Overtures."

          The next day is our final day in Liverpool. We have the day free to ourselves. I spend the morning shopping at the numerous malls just down the street from The Adelphi. I make my final visit to The Beatles Shop on Mathew Street. I also visit the Liverpool Tourism Office, which sells really cool Beatles souvenirs. I love having the morning free to leisurely wander in and out of all these stores by myself and gather souvenirs and CDs and books to take home.

    99tr_15.jpg       In the afternoon, a group of us heads down to the Albert Dock. Although I have seen it last year, I visit The Beatles Story again. This is a must-see for any Beatles fan. It is a beautifully done and very informative exhibit. You walk through a series of rooms that traces the history of the Fabs. It begins with a history of Liverpool and its important role in world history. You then walk through rooms that trace the life of each Beatle, and then, of course, their emergence as a band. There is a lot to read and see throughout The Beatles Story. I am very glad that I've gone a second time because today I discover that there was so much I missed the first time, not to mention the new Cynthia Lennon art exhibit.

          As you walk through the exhibit, you find yourself in a space that is a replica of the original Cavern Club. You sit down to watch a short film about the Cavern Club. You continue on through the Beatles history, through Abbey Road, through the rooftop concert. Each room represents a different phase of the Beatles' history and music. It ends or so you think with the "Free As A Bird" video playing on a large screen. Then you go through a door and enter a room, which is the most poignant thing you will see in all of Liverpool. I won't spoil the impact of this room for people who have not yet seen it.

          A small group of us do a lunchtime session at the Cavern Pub, across the street from the Cavern Club. Here, two veteran bands from Ireland, "The Shoes" and "The Fabz," rock the house! Each band features former members of legendary Beatles group "Ringer." Across the street, John Lennon is paid tribute by the perennial band "Instant Karma," fronted by John Keats.

          Our last activity of this trip is a ride on the ferry 'cross the Mersey. We board the ferry for a 40-minute ride. We view the Liverpool skyline from a distance and it is beautiful. Even from this distance, we can see the majestic Liverpool Cathedral. The imposing Royal Liver (pronounced "Lyver") buildings dominate the waterfront. We take great pictures of the skyline. The ferry returns us to the Albert Dock and we spend an hour or so browsing in the many shops in that area. Sadness overcomes us as we walk back to the Adelphi Hotel, realizing that our next activity will be to pack...

          Once we get to the airport, the tears build up. This is the only part of the trip that's not fun; saying goodbye to Liverpool and to all the Beatleful new friends we have made on the trip.

          The tour is an amazing experience, just like MMT '98. I have formed lifelong friendships with many of the people I've met on the trip. The tour is easily one of the most memorable things I have ever experienced. If you have taken the official Beatles vacation, you know what I'm talking about. If not, do yourself a favor and go. You will have the time of your life. See you on MMTour 2000.

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