Top 3 European cities for Beatles fans
“Beatles, eh? Oh, yes. I seem to remember their off-key caterwauling on the old Sullivan show. What was Ed thinking?” Mr Burns may not have been impressed but the bands currently burning up the charts can thank The Beatles for the jangly guitar music which has dominated modern music for the past fifty years. And there would be no Beatles were it not for three cities which helped shape a band John Lennon once described as “bigger than Jesus.” So put away your LPs, pack your bags and prepare yourself for a dose of Beatlemania.
Odd though it may seem, England’s greatest ever band got their first big break in Germany. A short stroll from Hamburg’s notorious Reeperbahn in the heart of the St. Pauli red-light district is the Kaiserkeller, where after a short stint at the nearby Indra nightclub, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe got their first big break as the resident house band in 1960. Best was eventually kicked out of the band – replaced by Ringo Starr – while Sutcliffe would soon be dead, however The Beatles meteoric rise up the charts started in this cosmopolitan Hanseatic city.
Today, countless Beatles tours commemorate the impact the band had on this free-spirited city. Beatles-Platz is a public plaza standing at the crossroads of the Reeperbahn and Grosse Freiheit and boasts five statues of the Hamburg-era members. Most of the clubs have long disappeared from the city’s gritty streets – if not from memory – however there’s no doubt Hamburg played a key role in the formative years of The Beatles. “I might have been born in Liverpool, but I grew up in Hamburg," Lennon once said of his time in northern Germany.
Though The Beatles learned their chops in Hamburg, the Fab Four are inextricably linked to their hometown, Liverpool. All four members were born on Merseyside and made their mark on the legendary Cavern Club in the heart of the city, a faithful replica of which now acts as a mecca for music lovers from across the globe. There’s a statue of John Lennon leaning casually, hands in pockets, against the wall outside – though it’s hardly the only reminder of The Beatles’ halcyon Liverpool days.
The band’s Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane double A-side inadvertently spawned two of Liverpool’s most popular tourist attractions, with the gates outside Strawberry Field and the Penny Lane street sign now some of the city’s most photographed sites. The rebuilt Cavern Club not only runs a two-hour ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ which finishes at the venue, it also makes stops outside the gates of Strawberry Field and on Penny Lane itself.
At the height of their fame – and amid simmering tension within the group – The Beatles released one of their most iconic albums, Abbey Road, in 1969. Retrospectively renowned for the density of its layered composition, the album is perhaps better known for its unforgettable album cover. Boasting a striking photo of the four band members striding across the Abbey Road zebra crossing, this iconic image is recreated daily by fans paying homage to the band.
The Abbey Road Studios are not the only London site associated with a band which reigned supreme throughout the Swinging Sixties. The band’s legendary final live performance in late 1969 took place on the rooftop of their Apple Corps headquarters on Savile Row. It’s now a regular stop on Beatles tours of the city, as is the Hard Rock Café, which houses the handwritten lyrics to the Lennon classics ‘Imagine’ and ‘Instant Karma’.