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2018: Liverpool & London August 20-29, 2018

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    2002 Tour Report by Batya Selavan

    Part III


    It was then time to leave and we headed to our home-away-from-home, Liverpool! Yeah!!!!! We arrived at the Britannia Adelphi hotel, checked in quickly and got settled in. This regal hotel is centrally located to everything in Liverpool. Shortly thereafter, we headed over to LIPA (Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts, also known as Paul's "Fame" school). Here, various bands including "The Nurk Twins" played to what looked to be a packed house. That was the name John & Paul called themselves at an impromptu gig on April 24, 1960. I didn't go, but I heard mixed reviews about the show. After LIPA, many made their way down to the Cavern for live music and ale.
    To start our first full day in Liverpool, I had a great breakfast and left the group. I went to the Walker Art Gallery to see the five Paul paintings on display. I found one of Stu Sutcliff's paintings there, too. The paintings were okay. I give Paul an "A" for effort and style, but he is much better singer and songwriter than painter. I then ventured off for some local shopping, and leisurely enjoyed my personal walk around town.
    I should mention that throughout the week, Pete Best had press conferences and book signings at various locations. I tried to get into the press conference at the Cavern, but didn't succeed. Pete was promoting his new book, "The Beatles: The True Beginnings." He also had a signing at The Beatles Story exhibition at Albert Dock. There are two new exhibits at The Beatles Story worth mentioning. One is a George Harrison memorial wall, covered with letters, pictures, poems and drawings left by fans worldwide. You had a chance to add to it and have it become part of a permanent memorial for George. Also, there is a Lennon exhibit with a centerpiece of Lennon specs, called "A Look Through The Eyes of Lennon." It's a bit weird but worth seeing. You walk in and lights go off and you look through large cardboard specs to see video of images of the 60's, while you hear John's song "Love." In the afternoon, I went with some friends to see the auction preview at LIPA, and had a drink at Ye Cracke pub, where John and Cynthia often met. Later, I had a late lunch in Penny Lane at the Sgt. Pepper Bistro. Our waitress, who was from Ireland, said she was Rosie O'Donnell's cousin.
    While I was doing my own thing, the tour group boarded the Magical Mystery Tour bus for the Eddie & Les show. Eddie "the Walrus" Porter serves as the guide and Les does the driving and feeds Eddie all the straight lines. They present the tour perfectly, mixing elements of history, local lore, comedy and sensitivity.
    We were joined on-board by a camera crew from Granada TV/London Weekend Television, filming for the Discovery's Travel Channel. Perhaps we'll be on TV as part of their Beatles England travel special if and when it ever airs. We gave them some great footage, that's for sure. The members of "British Export" look gear dressed in their "early years" costumes, and the camera crew captured all the female tour-members chasing the boys down a quiet, suburban street. Along the way, we visited all the homes, schools and early hangouts of John, Paul, George, Ringo, Stu and Pete. We saw Mendips, Strawberry Field, Penny Lane and got our first glimpse of the recently re-named John Lennon Airport (formerly Speke). We were able to go inside, and we took pictures of the John Lennon statue. The airport's motto: "Above us only skies." It was a gorgeous day.
    That evening we walked over to the Royal Court Theater to see two of America's finest bands, "1964 The Tribute" and "American English." They performed the "Red" and "Blue" albums with some extras thrown in. It's hard to imagine better sounding or looking acts than these two. The special guest of the evening, Louise Harrison, was very diplomatic by calling the two lead guitarists in the bands her "baby brothers." Sadly, Louise quickly undid any of her good will with some ill-chosen comments. She began begging for peace in the world, which is always cool. But Americans in the crowd were stunned into silence when she continued to ramble, begging America and President George Bush to stop dropping bombs (!) on innocent people. Huh? Needless to say, she was approached about it and claimed she didn't realize she had said anything wrong. Shocked as we were, we didn't let Louise's misguided and off-the-wall rantings affect our good time.

    Overą


    Later that evening was the first of three late-night live music parties in the hotel's grand ballroom. Some bands from Argentina performed at what was billed the "Argy Bargy" party. The final band was the most memorable: "Sam Buttera." I don't know what that means, but I'll try to describe the band. They were a heavy metal, art-rock rock quintet with a lead singer that looked like Mick Jagger, sang like Barry Gibb on steroids, and hit notes that could've cracked glass. Anyone who ever saw the band will not easily forget them, especially their rendition of "Don't let Me Down." To pay for their flights back to Argentina, the band sold copies of their CD, and fans gobbled them up at five pounds each. Tour-member Dave, who was thoughtful enough to give fellow travelers custom-made cassettes as gifts (what a nice gesture - thanks Dave!), cited Sam Buttera's unique but somewhat bizarre show as one of the highlights of his vacation.
    The next day was full of activities. You could have either gone to see Pete Best at Beatle Story, spent the day indoors at LIPA for the Beatles Auction (which I did) or you could've spent the sunny day outdoors for a "Stones vs. Beatles" concert at nearby Chavasse Park. The latter featured Beatles and Rolling Stones tribute bands on stage, surrounded by carnival rides and booths with cotton candy and ice cream for sale. There was also a small record convention taking place at the Bluecoat Chambers hall, with a few Beatle dealers.
    At the auction there were some 315 lots up for bid, including original concert programs and signed business cards. A hand-written poem by Ringo was one of the most desired items. I was high bid on some Paul press kits and a MerseyBeat newspaper dated when I was a year old. I got into a bidding war with a guy named Jim Turner, who turned out to be one of the publishers of Spencer Leigh's new book on Bob Wooler (the original Cavern Club D.J., who passed away not too long ago). He said he wanted to buy the paper from me and would send me the book with all the promo stuff in it. The Discovery Channel, who had been filming us as the week went on, interviewed me about it. Tour member Dan O really splurged - he shelled out 65 pounds for Beatle mothballs! A
    fter the auction, I went out with friends to eat and do more shopping!
    The evening was spent once again at the Royal Court Theater for the "Solo Years Concert," headlined by a tribute to George Harrison by "Hare Georgeson" (Liverpool's Ric Allan). Bob Bartley fronted "Banned On The Run" for their Paul tribute, Jon Keats led his "Instant Karm
    a" Lennon band, and Chris Tassone came back for his Ringo clone show. Then it was back to the Adelphi ballroom for more themed Beatlesmusic. This time the Swedish Beatle band "Lenny Pane" stole the show.
    Sunday is Convention Day. All day we heard bands, watched rare videos, enjoyed guest speakers, and bought merchandise off of dealers from "across the universe." A focal point of "Beatles Week," the convention is where you see everyone who has come to Liverpool from all over the world. There were thousands of fans and more Beatle-related celebrities than at any other convention - anywhere. We met Allan (Beatles 1st manager) Williams, Julia (John's sister) Baird, Alf (Beatles chauffeur) Bicknell, Gordon (Beatles tailor) Millings, Spencer (Beatles author) Leigh, Shannon (Beatles artist), Louise (George's sister) Harrison, Sam (Beatles promoter) Leach and others. Charles and Rene both had tables with merchandise, and "Krazy" Kenny was selling his t-shirts and tie-dyes (if you've been to a convention or a "1964" concert, you probably already know Kenny). At the convention, I was interviewed by Simon Wells, a writer covering the convention for "Beatles Monthly" magazine. He wanted to speak to one person who has been on the tour many times (me) and one person who was on the tour for the very first time (my new friend Joanne). He also interviewed Charles, and suggested to him that we visit London's Krishna temple on our next tour to England, since it was donated by George in 1973. By the way, this year's Liverpool Beatles Convention was dedicated to George.
    The convention never really ended. Instead, it segued into the "Unplugged" Festival with bands performing in less formal situations. I went to see "British Export." Great show guys!
    The day after the Convention was the Mathew Street Festival. This event is awesome, and the weather was perfect! In every pub and on every street corner you hear Beatles music (or you could hear a Stones, Bee Gees, Who or Abba cover band). On the main Beatles stage was our boys, "British Export" (another super performance!) followed by "1964 A Tribute." What a double shot! Whereas "1964" are the big boys, seasoned pros and flawless, "British Export" capture the young, energetic Beatles. They complimented each other in more ways than one. The Pete Best Band played too.
    I broke away from the music fest with my friend Joanne to see the Lennon "Magic Eye" exhibit on display at a gallery at Albert Dock. This was the large tile thing that John had in his swimming pool in the home he shared with Cyn in Surrey. It has an eyeball design in the center and a star burst design around it.
    One could never get enough Beatles music, so after dinner it was back to the Royal Court for Britain's premiere band, "The Bootleg Beatles." True veterans, they were England's cast of "Beatlemania" originally, and they're as good as ever. Late-night music at the Adelphi ballroom continued with "Cool Britannia" night featuring "Cavern" and "Ringer." Perennial players, they rocked the house!!!
    Most everyone slept late the next day. For me, it was off to explore once again the Liverpool Art Institute, where I saw some really cool Beatles art done by some students. My two favorite paintings were one of Brian Epstein and one of Paul from about 1970 when he had a beard and mustache and long hair. It was then on to the Jacaranda Club for a drink. We got a surprise treat of seeing the basement where the Beatles played. It still has a restored painting that Stu did, and this design was put on a tee shirt that I purchased. The band area was like hole in the wall with benches all around the little square room with an arch entry.
    That evening was one of tour's true highlights: our VIP farewell party at the Casbah Club. We took many group photos outside under the Casbah's original Coca-Cola sign. Pete Best and his brothers were kind and patient enough to pose for all our photos. We got Pete's new book autographed by not only Pete but also his two brothers (Roag and Rory) and also Ken Brown, one of the original Quarry Men. After entering, the Best family had a nice buffet prepared for us with salads and fruit and chicken and little sandwiches.
    A duo was on hand to perform Beatles and Mersey tunes for us. We begged and pleaded and finally coerced Pete into drumming. He played for three songs. Our fearless leader, Charles, took the mic to sing with them on the last one. He was bit nervous sharing the stage with Pete but he had fun and that's what was important. It was such a great night, and Pete and his family were very gracious hosts.
    It was late when we got done at the Casbah, but not too late to either catch the final set by The Overtures' sixties music at the Cavern or go across the street to the Cavern Pub to hear Scotland's "Itchycoo Park" do songs from The Rutles to solo Beatles to Buddy Holly to Badfinger. Steve Macdonald (who used to sing with Ringer, and was our host the year before when we toured Scotland) sang with these guys. The Cavern Pub has lots of pictures and memorabilia from The Beatles, Pete Best, Cynthia Lennon and even BonJovi and Bryan Adams. Oh what a night!
    I hated the idea of leaving Liverpool so much, I subconsciously hid my airplane tickets home in my main suitcase and not in my purse.
    This was my 11th year and each year it seems to get better and better!!!
    I am thankful again to all the great new friends I made and new places I discovered. As tour member Michele pointed out, this year's trip was absolutely amazing, and every city on our journey had spectacular highlights.


    Next year is the 20th anniversary of Charles hosting these wonderful tours, and he and Danny are planning some very special events, guests and activities. I always think the tours can't be beat, yet every single year they're "getting better all the time." One thing is for sure, I will be back next year!!!!!!

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