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  • "2004 Magical History Tour Report"
    By Janice Jennings
    with contributions by Doddie Giganti, Roseanna Barnett and Kristy Mundt

      "It was 20 years ago..." no wait, that was last year. This was the 21st annual tour. The NY group met at JFK by looking for other Beatles shirts. About 40 of us had gathered in one corner of the airport lobby when Charles F. Rosenay!!! arrived with complimentary Krispy Kreme doughnuts and our plane tickets. The Chicago crew was hosted by Danny Levine, and, in L.A., the group was greeted by Karen Garcia. Once aboard British Airways, the pilots announced that the fans on board were on their way to Liverpool in celebration of the 40th anniversary of The Beatles' invasion of America. This was the invasion in reverse; we were invading them this time!

          Upon arriving in Germany, We were met by our guide Rene van Haarlem, from the "Beatles Unlimited" magazine. We boarded two chartered coaches and checked into the Hamburg Holiday Inn. After some time to nap or freshen up, we left for the Indra Club. This would be the first time any MMTour got into the Indra, which was where The "Savage Young" Beatles had their first Hamburg gigs. It is located near the end of the "The Reeperbahn." We dined from a buffet, and spent the evening being entertained by the very talented Beatles tribute band, The Fab Four, who would be with us the entire tour. They were joining us fresh from a long high-profile engagement in the main ballroom at the Las Vegas Hilton. Here, they played an amazing set of the raw pre-fame material, including songs The Beatles actually performed in Hamburg in the early 60's. Tired, sleepy, jet-lagged and under the weather, they were nonetheless awesome! After dancing and partying late, by the time we got back to the hotel we were "so tired," and by the time we hit our beds we were "sleeping like a log."

          Our second day of our vacation began with a panoramic sightseeing tour of the Hamburg harbor. Hamburg has the 2nd largest harbor in Europe. Our boat cruise was very relaxing, very informative and educational, but to many of us, the most important site was the first place The Beatles landed in 1961. This was followed by a bus tour around the city. After a lunch break, we went to the Staatliche Schule Sozialpadagogik Harburg, also known as the Friedrich-Ebert Gymnasium. This is the spot, or school, where the lads recorded with Tony Sheridan in 1961 for producer Bert Kaempfert (before George Martin came into the picture). It's a school, still in use. We had a brief tour of the recording area, and then stepped onto the stage for a group shot. All of us were actually standing on the very same stage where The Beatles recorded such tracks as "My Bonnie," "Ain't She Sweet" and all those other now-famous gems now known as the "Sheridan sessions." This was also the very first time an American tour group (with a few Canadians, a few Brits and one Swede) had visited this great landmark. What a coup!

          Then, it was off to Staatliche Hochschule fur Bildende Kunste. This was the art college that Stu Sutcliffe attended. We left the buses and continued with a complete walking tour of The Reeperbahn. We went inside 'The Glam' formerly 'The Top Ten Club'. We explored every noon & cranny of this historic venue, and some of the gals in the group even took turns dancing or posing in the go-go cages.

          Rene was giving us background information when a very special guest joined us. We were surprised, but it was well planned in advance by our tour hosts. The legendary Horst Fascher joined us for an informal chat. Mr. Fascher was the owner of the famed Star Club, he was dubbed the Beatles' bodyguard and he was one of their best friends in Germany. He delighted us with interesting stories. Listening to Horst tell his stories, it was if he was in his twenties again! We wanted to hear more, and he wanted to share more of his memories, but we needed to press on. So he joined us as we continued our walking tour down The Reeperbahn to where the Star Club used to be.

          At this point, part of the group chose to return to the hotel to change or grab dinner, while the rest of us continued with the tour. As Rene pointed out the places where the Beatles stayed or played, he and Horst related stories involving each one. One incident involved John who 'showered' the nuns from his window while they were walking to church. Another was about a monkey that he owned. It destroyed the interior of a friend's place and John had to pay up. We went by the Keiserkeller, another known club, and to the famous doorway where the photo was used for the cover of John's "Rock and Roll" album. The doorway is hidden down an alleyway. Those wanting photos standing in the same position as John found that they accidentally rang buzzers to the apartments. The tenants who happened to be at home were not pleased. Ooops. Sorry. On our way down The Reeperbahn, we encountered Gunter Zint, a well-known German rock photographer. He had recently reopened his store, which is filled with a plethora of rock memorabilia, including Beatles images.

          For the evening's festivities, we returned to the Indra Club for another great night of food, music, and entertainment. We were greeted by a nice spread of food, and a gorgeous painting on display of The Beatles (John, Paul, George & Pete) with Horst Fascher. The evening entertainment began with a set of beautiful acoustic Beatles tunes provided by one of our tour members, Chuck Lore, and his guitar. This was followed by a Q&A session featuring Horst Fascher, Tony Sheridan, Gunter Zint and Lee Curtis. Lee Curtis (along with his All-Stars) was a top Mersey band in The Beatles' era, and Lee just happened to have been in Hamburg by coincidence. It was like a min-Beatles convention, and this was probably the only time these four were on the same stage together talking and answering questions from fans. The main show followed: Tony Sheridan live with his rocking band. Chuck Lore joined him on a few numbers, and it was great hearing Tony perform "My Bonnie", "Saints" etc. on a Hamburg stage just for us! As if we didn't have enough entertainment, two of The Fab Four finished the evening with a couple of songs, and tour hosts Charles and Danny joined them to help us all in a rousing sing-a-long of "Hey Jude". More than a splendid time was had by all on this very historic evening. Travelers who had been to Hamburg on the MMTour in the past all agreed that this was the best visit ever to the German city. It's getting better all the time, isn't it?

          The next morning, we said farewell to Hamburg and departed Germany for our next venture, London! It turned out that British Airways had just gone on strike, but it didn't affect us too much. With a few setbacks from time schedules and delayed flights (we were compensated with meal vouchers), we had some time to kill in the gate area. We played music trivia with members of The Fab Four (Quick: name 10 songs by Creedence! Quick: name 20 songs by Elton John! Quick: name 25 songs by The Beach Boys! No -- 30!), and found out that The Fab Four's rhythm guitarist Ron could do as good a Davy Jones as he does John Lennon. We arrived in London, boarded our buses, and checked into the Thistle Euston. While we were getting our room assignments, we were joined by more tour members who had skipped Hamburg (they missed a wonderful time).

          That afternoon, we went on a historic panoramic coach tour of London which took us to all the major sightseeing 'musts': Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, 10 Downing Street, St. Paul's Cathedral, The Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. London experts Richard Porter, and his new bride, Irena Porter, conducted the tours.

          For the walking tour of Beatles sites, we went to an amazing number of places. Here is just a small list of the sites:

    • Trident Studios,; now called the Sound Studio, where ‘Hey Jude’ was recorded
    • MPL at 1 Soho Square, We learned that the origin of Soho came from the area being a hunting ground. When a rabbit was spotted, the hunters would shout, "So-ho!"
    • Carnaby Street, the fashion street of the 60s
    • NEMS old offices
    • London Palladium, We found out that during the show, the screaming was so loud that The Beatles couldn't hear their monitors. Ringo would be playing one song and the rest would be playing another!
    • Prince of Wales Theatre, where John said his 'rattle your jewelry' comment
    • Apple Records, 3 Savile Row ('please, can we go to the roof?')
    • The alley where Bag O'Nails used to be, where Paul met Linda
    • Indica Art Gallery - where John met Yoko (Imagine where all this could have led if she had just painted the word "NO&uot;)

          Talk about a complete tour of the Beatles' London sites! Too many to mention. If we ever tried to find these places on our own, we'd be lost. Thank you to Richard and his wife for all the great locations and stories.

          Whew! After a full day, we were ready to sit down, eat, and enjoy ourselves! We all met at the original Hard Rock Café, where members of the Mexican Beatles Fan Club joined us. Some toured 'The Vault'of the HRC where certain memorabilia is tucked away. We got to touch some of the items, and really get lost in the moment. Some of us decided to dress up; Kristy wore a pink wig, and others showed up in 60's outfits. Charles & Danny were our DJs, providing a constant stream of Beatles & solo music, dancing, and some unexpected extras, like a special comedy number where they performed "Strokin" with a little help from their friend (one of our tour members), Ernie. Hopefully, everyone had a camera ready for that treat! Beatles tailor Gordon Millings made a surprise guest appearance. He and his father were known for making all those Beatles suits, and his Dad can be seen in the film "A Hard Day's Night". We enjoyed the food & drink, danced for hours and didn't want the night to end. We eventually had to "get back" to the hotel for a well-needed rest.

          We began the next morning with an option of going to the British Library or London's Beatles Store. This was followed by an extensive all-day coach tour of seemingly endless Beatles sites: scenes from "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!" plus Abbey Road Studios, St. Pancras Gardens, King's Cross Station, the Asher House, the Apple Boutique, Ringo's flat, Marylebone Registry, Marylebone Station, Paul's house in St. John's Wood, Chiswick House, Post Office Alley, Kew Garden, Twickenham Studios, and Ailsa Avenue. We saw The Beatles' London homes and places we recognized the minute we saw them. We saw the City Barge Pub where the lads had lager & lime, and Ringo fell into a tiger trap. We saw where The Beatles jumped through the window to escape their enemies, and we inspected the four doors where The Beatles entered to get into their home(s) in "Help!" We walked in the footsteps of Ringo from the film "A Hard Day's Night."

          It seemed that we saw a bazillion Beatle sites. All of these were great photo opportunities, and we were never rushed.

          At night, we had an extra special exclusive event. We were whisked to the '12 Bar Club' for a private invitation-only CD release party for/by Paul's guitarist. Rusty Anderson. This was arranged only a few days in advance of the tour. Funny, this was the first time I had ever attended a CD release party where they had no CDs (they hadn't arrived in time!). The small club holds 150 people, but we filled it to the doorway with 120. Opening act Tim Arnold began with a 30 minute set. While he was on, many of us met Rusty, got his autograph and took photos with him. Rusty took the stage accompanied by three other musicians. He gave us a wonderful slice of selections from his super solo CD. Also attending the intimate gig were members of the British press and record executives. Yes, we all hoped that maybe McCartney would show up to see his band-member, but we did have a surprise visit by another member from Macca's band, Paul 'Wix'Wickens! Most of us got to hang out with Wix, and we also got his autograph and took pictures with him. What a star-studded night. Many of us bought t-shirts from the 12 Bar Club as a memento of a fantastic and unforgettable night of great music from Rusty Anderson.

          The next day we left London via three charter buses. We watched rare videos and British clips, along with 'The Concert for George' and some of the 'Beatles Anthology' videos and outtakes. We enjoyed the British countryside. We made a side-stop to Henley-on-Thames to visit George's Friar Park, AKA 'Crackerbox Palace'. This was a longer stop than usual due to having three busloads of fans with cameras, but nobody minded spending extra time in this lovely, quaint town. While we were taking pictures of George's home, a car started down the driveway, saw us, and promptly retreated back to the house. Was it Olivia or Dhani? Danny warned us we may not be able to stay as long as we needed, but we did. Some of the travelers left candles along the wall or by the gate. The gardener who had worked for George came out to visit. What a truly heartfelt and respectful visit this was.

          After a lunch break, where the Beatboys from Mexico entertained us with a couple of impromptu numbers, we continued on our journey to Liverpool.

          We arrived at our Liverpool hotel, where even more tour members joined us. We met in the lobby and walked over to the world-famous Cavern Club to see a performance by Pete Best and his band. Everyone is aware of the significance of The Cavern Club in Beatles history, and even though this is a reconstruction of the original club, it is everything you would expect it to be. Upon entering, you descend a flight of steps and notice the climate change immediately. The back room is attainable by going thru the 'cavern' area, around the bar, and thru another entrance. The show was great and Pete signed autographs for us afterwards. This was especially delightful for those both those who'd never met Pete before, and others who by now consider him a friend.

          The rest of our stay in Liverpool varied by schedules and interests. Fortunately, everything was within walking distance of the Britainnia Adelphi Hotel. This grand hotel was built in 1914, and it is the center of festivities during Beatles week. Royalty has stayed here, The Beatles stayed here when they returned to Liverpool, and now we invaded it. On nearby Mathew Street, you will find the Cavern Club, the Cavern Pub, The Beatles Store, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds Café, the From Me to You souvenir shop, The Grapes, the Wall of Fame, and several other Beatles haunts. You can also walk to Albert Docks and go to The Beatles Story, an audio-guided tour thru reproduction renderings from the early stages of the Beatles’ career to present times. The Tate Gallery is located nearby. It is an extension of the Tate Gallery in London. We were given a very complete and accurate itinerary, plus a helpful map, and suggested things to do in case we had to pick one event over another.

          Every club had numerous bands playing during the day. There were Beatles tribute bands from all over the world. You were able to freely hop from one club to another depending on which band you wanted to see. Most of us never missed any of the performances by The Fab Four, because band members Ron, Ardy, Mike and Rolo (and soundman Mick) weren't just any Beatles tribute, they were fellow tour members and friends!

          One particular event could only be attended by groups of 14, so therefore the times were scattered over several days. This was the Mendips and 20 Forthlin Road tour, boyhood homes of John and Paul. The houses are now under the care of the National Trust. With furnishings similar to the original pieces, you are literally transported back to the time when they lived, played, and wrote those wonderful songs. Housekeeper Colin lives in Mendips. He described the history of how John came to live with Aunt Mimi and his relationship with his aunt and uncle. Photographs are not allowed inside the house, so cameras are 'held' until you are ready to go outside. The same rule applies to 20 Forthlin Road, where our mate Johnny Haliday is the guide and caretaker. Here, you may listen to an audio-guided presentation of each room. Paul's house is similar to a townhouse, whereas Mendips was considered a higher-class house.

          The Royal Court Theatre hosted three nights of 'the U.S. Invasion' with performances by such talented acts as The Fab Five, Me and My Monkey, Tim Piper, '62, The Fab Four, 1964, Mark Staycer, British Export, the Overtures and The Fab Faux. It was a great cross-section of the music offered that week.

          One of the many highlights was The Fab Faux's all-psychedelic set of some of the more obscure Beatle tracks. The Fab Faux consist of N.Y musicians Will Lee (of David Letterman's Late Show band with Paul Schaefer), Jimmy Vivino (of Conan O' Brien's band with Max Weinberg), Rich Pagano, Jack Petruzzelli and Beatles expert Frank Agnello. After the concerts at the Royal Court, you could go back to Mathew Street or the Adelphi - music was everywhere! Our official tour band, The Fab Four, played many gigs throughout the tour featuring the Hamburg/Cavern/BBC era, the early years, the Sgt. Pepper period, and even the later years. They even did some solo numbers. It seemed that they could play every song The Beatles ever recorded, and do it as close to the originals as humanly possible.

          From the website:

          A great way to get a piece of original, rare memorabilia was to attend the auction at the Liver pool Institute Performing Arts (LIPA). Items were not cheap, but they were reasonable. All of the pieces were authentic, and the proceeds went toward a good cause. Members of our tour group scooped some of the best autographs, tour programs, photos and collectibles up. As a bonus, the auction was held in the Paul McCartney Auditorium.

          On Sunday it was the annual International Mersey Beatles Convention at the Adelphi! This is a full day of dealers, videos, music, and special guests. If you weren't sitting in the ballroom listening to Q&As with Freda Kelly (original Beatles fan club secretary), John Lennon's sister Julia, Bob Whitaker (photographer), the original Quarrymen, Alan Williams (the manager who gave The Beatles away), or Sid Bernstein (who brought The Beatles to America), then you were buying Beatles items right and left, all the while praying you could fit them all into your luggage. Some of our new friends were exhibiting in the vendors' room: Richard and Irena Porter, Rene van Haarlem, Charles F. Rosenay!!!, "Krazy" Kenny (who sell his Beatle t-shirts all over the world), Beatles artist Shannon, John Lennon's sister Julia Baird and Rusty Anderson (with his CDs). Autographs were easily obtained.

          Monday was the big, big day for Liverpool. Not only was it a Bank Holiday, it was the day for the Mathew Street Festival. The QE2 blew her pipes at 11am. Over 200 bands on 80 stages played throughout the city. Our very own Charles F. Rosenay!!!, joined later by co-host Danny Levine, was MC for the Beatles stage. The line-up was like a who's-who of America's finest Beatle bands including '62, The Fab Five, 1964, The Fab Four. At one point, Charles laughingly commented on stage that the line-up didn't need an MC, it needed an accountant! There were also great performances by British Export and Tim Piper, one of the world's greatest Lennon impersonators and a sincerely nice guy. Earlier in the week, he invited Lynda from our tour group to play drums with him (we learned that Lynda played in an all-female Beatles band in Massachusetts in the 60's!). The weather was mostly sunny and we loved every second of this festival. A nearby stage featured non-Beatle tribute bands (Stones, Abba, Queen, Clapton, etc.) while another boasted Mersey legends such as The Searchers, The Merseybeats and the Pete Best Band. Nearby, there were carnival rides, food booths, and activities for every age. By days' end, some 300,000-400,000 people attended. We learned later that despite what we perceived as nice weather, the QE2 was unable to dock due to choppy waters.

          Our last full day in Liverpool was spent taking the Magical Mystery Tour aboard, appropriately, the yellow Magical Mystery Tour bus. How did we all get on the bus? Simple, our group was split in two. One half visited Beatles sites on the Liverpool side, while the other half visited sites in Wirral. Then we switched buses with a 'Ferry Cross the Mersey' in between.

          On the Liverpool side, hosted by Edwina and driver Les, again we visited too many places to mention. Some highlights:

    • Brian Epstein's apartment
    • Liverpool Art School, where John met Cynthia
    • Liverpool Cathedral, the largest Anglican cathedral in the world. John's memorial service was held there.
    • The Dingle, Ringo's neighborhood
    • All the early houses of the lads
    • NEMS
    • St. Peter's Church, where John met Paul on July 6, 1957
    • Woolton
    • Strawberry Field
    • Penny Lane, with all the establishments mentioned in the song

          When we arrived at the "shelter in the middle of a roundabout", we just had to sing a little song. Some of us had lunch at the Penny Lane Pub, where the words to "Penny Lane" are painted on the wall outside over the sign. We took photos of the barbershop, the bank (now a medical office), the Church (where Paul was a choir boy) and the street sign. We went into a second hand store that used to be a photograph studio. This was where The Beatles had their first publicity photo taken. We asked if we could check the attic for negatives, but the owners didn't go for that. We purchased some more rolls of film at Woolworth's, where Cynthia Powell once worked. There was another Beatles landmark or reference around every corner.

          The ferry ride to Wirral allowed us to see Liverpool from a distance. The boat made a hyperbole run over to the coast almost taking us by the remains of an old Roman fort. All the while, you could hear Gerry and the Pacemakers, another Liverpudlian band, belting out 'Ferry Cross the Mersey'.

          On the Liverpool outskirts side, Hilary Oxlade and driver Terry hosted the Wirral area. Some highlights:

    • Port Sunlight, Lever Soap Company with an isolated little 19th century community adjoining the factory area
    • Victoria Hall, one of the early gigs with Pete Best
    • Traveller's Rest, a favorite New Year's Eve stop for Paul's family
    • The Rembrandt, previous home of Jim McCartney and still owned by Paul
    • Hulme Hall, first gig with Ringo, we were allowed to enter and see the area where the lads performed.
    • Barnston Women's Institute, we were invited in for juice, tea and scones. They were dear sweet ladies who let us wander inside the performance hall, stand on the stage, hear stories, and read articles about the history of the Institute. It was originally the Heswall Jazz Club. This is where The Beatles first wore their suits. They played three gigs here.

          Before we returned to the hotel by late afternoon, we stopped at the bench with the Eleanor Rigby statue. It's a memorial for "all the lonely people", but nobody on this tour could fit that category. We made so many new friends so quickly. It's hard to believe how close we all got, and equally as hard to believe (but very impressive) how much we were able to accomplish. There was so much fun stuff going on all the time.

          That night, it was last call to hear some great music either at the hotel, at the Cavern Club, or across the street at the Cavern Pub. Or, you could take the time to pack (and repack). About 30 of us met in the hotel lobby after all the venues closed for a late-night farewell party/singalong. Chuck Lore provided the guitar, and we all contributed our vocals.

          The morning came too soon and it was time to leave our new favorite city. We hugged, kissed, exchanged promises to keep in touch (which we will!) and took charter coaches to our departure airports. Tour MVP Awards were given to musician Chuck Lore and The Fab Four. Like the song says, "there are places I'll (we'll) remember... all my life..." And there are so many people we'll remember too. We wished we weren't going home.

          Many used the flight time to catch up on journals, or to reflect upon everything they experienced, or to solidify new friendships. Some had the audacity to just sleep.

          Thanks to Charles, Danny, Rene, Karen, The Fab Four, Cavern City Tours, all our supplemental guides, and the city of Liverpool for a trip we will never forget. Thanks to all for making it so special!

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