You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one
Imagine, John Lennon
Today marks 40 years since John Lennon was murdered in New York. Visionary, revolutionary, poet and inspiration to millions, his death at the age of only 40 shocked the world.
While John was shot late in the evening on December 8th, the time difference made it about 4am UK time, and with no internet available in 1980, it meant that my mum woke on the morning of her 21st birthday to the news that one of her musical heroes was gone.
Both David and I have always been huge Beatles fans, and the loss of John Lennon has always seemed to us a colossal and tragic waste. His beautiful songs like War is Over, Give Peace a Chance and Imagine inspired people around the globe. Who knows what he could have gone on to achieve, especially in today's world of social media and easy access to online platforms? He would have been blowing people's minds on Twitter I'm sure, or speaking out on a YouTube channel. It is hard to believe that John has now been gone for as long as he was on the planet, 40 years.
For Beatles fans everywhere, we have put together a list of 10 Beatles locations you can visit in the UK. If you are in Liverpool or London for a weekend, COVID restrictions permitting, we also have full self guided Beatles themed itineraries for each location, if you click the links above.
1. Abbey Road Studios and Zebra Crossing, London
A short walk from St John’s Wood Underground station is the most famous zebra crossing in the world (sorry Shibuya, Tokyo!) Immortalised in 1969 on the cover of the Beatles’ 11th studio album, Abbey Road, the image of the Fab Four using the crossing has become one of the most imitated in history. The crossing was given grade II listed status in 2010 for “cultural and historical importance”, as was Abbey Road Studios, close by at number 3.
The studios itself was founded in 1931 and the long white wall out front is covered with graffiti: messages of peace and love, drawings and Beatles lyrics. It is repainted regularly to make room for more, feel free to contribute something.
2. The Cavern Club, Liverpool
The Cavern Club is where it all began. In February 1961, the Beatles played their first of 292 appearances, and on the 9th November, their future manager Brian Epstein watched them perform and was blown away. The Cavern you can visit today is a 1980s rebuild after the original was demolished (why????) to build an underground railway ventilation duct, but it covers 75% of the original location and used 15,000 bricks from the 60s site. There is usually live music on most nights, (this year is different, the Cavern is currently closed) and there are statues of John Lennon and Cilla Black (who worked in the cloakroom) outside.
3. The Prince of Wales Theatre, London
Head to London's West End and the Prince of Wales Theatre, where during the Beatles' performance at the 1963 Royal Variety Show, John Lennon famously asked audience members not in the cheaper seats (including the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret) to “rattle yer jewellery.”
4. Penny Lane, Liverpool
A short drive out of the city centre is the street made famous in the Beatles song of the same name. The street sign, now painted onto the wall years ago after fans kept stealing it, is protected behind plastic and signed by Paul McCartney.
5. Savile Row, London
The tall, skinny townhouse at 3 Savile Row was once the address of Apple Corps, the Beatles' multimedia business. On January 30th 1969, the Beatles gave their last ever public performance, the famous rooftop concert, on top of this building. By September that year, the band had officially split up.
6. Mendips, Liverpool
This pretty black and white house at 251 Menlove Avenue was John's childhood home where he lived with his aunt Mimi. Incredibly, the National Trust wasn't interested in acquiring this property as no songs were written there, and it took Yoko Ono buying it in 2002 and donating it to the National Trust to protect it from property speculators. It now has a blue plaque.
7. Strawberry Fields
Another name recognisable from a Beatles song, Strawberry Fields was once a children's home where young John would climb over the walls to sit in the gardens. The famous red gates now lead to a Salvation Army run Steps to Work centre for young people, but there is a cafe, interactive visitor centre and a multimedia exhibition about the history of the centre, John Lennon's childhood and the inspiration behind Strawberry Fields Forever.
8. Eleanor Rigby's grave, Liverpool
Visit St Peter's Church at L25 5JF, and see if you can find Eleanor Rigby's gravestone. The Beatles had no personal connection to the woman buried here, but her name inspired another famous track. If you go into the back of the grave yard, John Lennon's uncle George Toogood Smith is buried there. It was also here, on July 6th 1957 at the annual Woolton Parish Church Garden Fete that a young Paul McCartney watched John Lennon playing with his band the Quarrymen, and the pair first met.
9. London Palladium, London
Just behind Oxford Street is the London Palladium theatre. It was here that Beatlemania was born, when the boys took to the stage in 1963 and Britain was stunned by the hysterical reaction of their fans. Just next door at Sutherland House, look out for a blue plaque marking Brian Epstein’s office. It was here in 1966 that John Lennon told the Evening Standard that the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus”.
10. Ibis Styles Hotel, Dale Street, Liverpool
If you're staying in Liverpool, this hotel is an absolute must for Beatles fans. Each floor is Beatles themed, and the rooms look amazing. It's only a stone's throw away from Mathew Street and the Cavern Club. You can read our review of our stay here .
And if you'd like to raise a glass to John, head to Ye Cracke pub in Liverpool, a fantastic old boozer on Rice Street where John Lennon and his then girlfriend (later wife) Cynthia would drink after their classes at the nearby art college. The wood panelled interior feels like it hasn't changed since the 60s, and the electronic jukebox allows you to fully travel back in time with a Beatles soundtrack to go with your pint.