For one week out of the year, Beatles fans gather in Liverpool, England, to relive, remember, and rock out at the ultimate Fab Four celebration.
IN THE LOBBY OF THE BRITANNIA ADELPHI HOTEL IN LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND, I RUN INTO THE BEATLES. WELL, IT’S NOT ACTUALLY JOHN LENNON, PAUL McCARTNEY, GEORGE HARRISON, AND RINGO STARR.
INSTEAD, it’s Mark Bloor, Steven Howard, David Howard, and Brian Ambrose — the four members of the Mersey Beatles, a Beatles tribute act. But they look like the Beatles and dress like the Beatles. I listen to them perform, and they sound like the Beatles. Wide-eyed grinning fans wearing Beatles T-shirts swarm the group, getting pictures taken with them. If there were some fainting teenage girls and a convincing Ed Sullivan impersonator nearby, I might ask for DNA tests.
A little while later, I see the Beatles again — this time, it’s Kiyohiro “Lenny” Kamei, Yuki Kikuchi, Kenji Kubo, and Takashi “Anchan” Sugisawa. In reality, they are another Beatles cover band — the Aspreys, from Tokyo. But they have the haircuts and the military-style gray jackets the Fab Four donned at Shea Stadium in 1965. There are no hysterical girls being carted away by police here, either, just a handful of graying, middle-aged faux groupies waiting for a photo op.
Just about everywhere I look during my visit to Liverpool, I see the Beatles, or at least faithful approximations of them. When Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr were playing their lunchtime gigs at the Cavern Club nearly 50 years ago, they couldn’t have dreamed that decades later, there would be an entire populace thriving on their music. Or that every year in late August, throngs of zealots would gather in the band’s hometown to revel with adoration at an annual festival of mop-top madness known as Beatle Week.
Being a Beatles freak myself, I have long wanted to attend this storied event, which began humbly in 1981 as a loosely organized celebration staged by local businesses. In 1986, a company called Cavern City Tours — headed by partners Dave Jones, who once gave Beatles tours as a Liverpool cabbie, and Bill Heckle, a former schoolteacher and a Beatles devotee — assumed control and, over the years, has developed Beatle Week into what it is today. With 2010 marking the 40th anniversary of the band’s breakup, and with the recent resurgence in the band’s popularity, thanks in part to the release of the group’s remastered catalog and a video game, The Beatles: Rock Band, I decided this was the year to make the trek.