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John was with us 40 years and in those years, he left a legacy that exists 40 years after his tragic death and will exist for centuries more. He is immortalised around the entire world, in fact in 2008 one of John’s songs, ‘Across the universe’ was beamed into space! The transmission was aimed 431 light years away from Earth. The song travelled across the universe at a speed of 186,000 miles per second!
Today we will be live from Strawberry Field Visitor Centre with lots of tributes to Liverpool’s most famous son from special guests and reflection from the city itself. Follow all of the acti0n on our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages.
On Wednesday 9th October 1940, Julia Stanley gave birth to a boy, John Winston Lennon, in Oxford Street Maternity Hospital. Nobody can remember what ward he was born in, his father (Alf Lennon) wasn’t present at his birth and it was wartime. John was born in a week where Liverpool was heavily bombed. Official accounts show that no bombs landed on Liverpool the night John was born, but that didn’t stop him writing the following for the Mersey Beat Magazine;
“I was bored on the 9th October 1940, when, I believe, the Nasties were still booming us, led by Madalf Heatlump (who only had one). Anyway they didn’t get me…”
The Oxford Street Maternity hospital is now student accommodation.
When we think of Penny Lane, we normally think of the iconic Paul McCartney song, but around the corner from the shelter in the middle of the roundabout is the first home that John Lennon lived in and the house that he was more than likely conceived in. He lived here until March 1946 when his mother Julia moved in with her new partner, Bobby Dykins. At this point, an argument arose in the family between Julia and her sister Mimi, which led to Mimi threatening social services on Julia for moving in with a man outside of wedlock and living in such a small home with John.
Julia was a beautiful woman, she met Alf Lennon at the Sefton Park Lake and she would work in The Brookhouse Pub on Smithdown Road while living in Newcastle Road.
John would be enrolled into Mosspits Primary on 12th November 1945 and Julia would walk John to school which was less than 10 minutes from their home. He remained in the school for no more than 6 months until he joined Dovedale Primary School in May 1946. John always felt different from the other kids, he was 7 years of age when he wrote his first “book” but by the age of 11 he was regularly writing little sketches, jokes and creating drawings. Drawings that would later be used on his “walls and bridges” album. John wasn’t aware but a few years below him in Dovedale Primary School was George Harrison. Years later John would visit Dovedale Primary School with Yoko Ono. Yoko would later donate money to the school to help with renovations.
He would later attend Quarrybank Highschool (now Calderstones) and it was here where he would get into mischief with his friend Pete Shotton. His end of term report would read “hopeless. Rather a clown in class. A shocking report. He is just wasting other pupils’ time. Certainly on the road to failure”
Two things would happen here that would change his life forever. Firstly, he would gather his mates around one day and form his own skiffle band, “The Quarrymen” named after the school’s motto. The second would be that his headmaster, Mr Pobjoy, would get John into The Liverpool Arts College despite his poor grades and that would give John more freedom, a bohemian lifestyle and a new scene.
John would spend most of his life living on Menlove Avenue in a named house called Mendips with his Aunt Mimi and his uncle George. This is one thing that surprises tourists when they visit Liverpool, they picture Liverpool and John Lennon as working class and Lennon as the working-class hero. The suburb that John grew up in is leafy and affluent, it was far from the “Liverpool slums.” John was to have this house as his main address from 1945 until 1963. I Call Your Name, Please Please Me and Hello Little Girl were all written inside this property, alongside others. It was here where John would listen to radio Luxemburg and fall in love with the sound of Elvis and it was here that he would practise his guitar, mainly in the front porch.
Whenever John would play guitar inside the house Mimi would make it clear she didn’t enjoy it. She would typically say “the guitars all very well John, but you’ll never make a living from it” – these words would later be framed and took pride of place in her bungalow overlooking Poole Harbour, which John bought for her.
Johns mother Julia would frequently visit and would teach John his first chords on the guitar/banjo. She too loved Elvis and rock and roll, so they had a much in common. Unfortunately for John he would lose his mother in a fatal car accident on Menlove Avenue and it would change his life forever and he would never get over it. John would go on to write many songs referencing her, including the beautiful song “Julia”
On 6th July 1957 John Lennon and his band, The Quarrymen played skiffle music at the Woolton Village Fete. At this point the band was far from a professional outfit. John famously couldn’t even tune up his guitar properly at this point and was still playing banjo chords that his mother had taught him. After the performance they went into St Peters Church hall to get ready for the grand dance that night, when Ivan Vaughn came into the hall, a good friend of John, and asked if he could bring a mate in with him.
That mate happened to be Paul McCartney, he met John for the first time and impressed the band by getting hold of a right-handed guitar, tuning it, turning it upside down and playing Twenty Flight Rock by Eddie Cochrane. John would later say that this was the day it all started moving.
John had attended Sunday School at this church, sang in the church choir, went to scouts, youth club and even got confirmed here. It is here where you will also find a gravestone to a lady called Eleanor Rigby.
Not only was John Lennon born at the top end of Hope Street at the Oxford Street Maternity Hospital, but John spent a significant amount of time on the street when growing up. John attended the Liverpool Arts College (now part of LIPA) and it was here that he would make many friends, most famous would be Cynthia Powell who would later become Cynthia Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe.
John and Stuart would become best friends and they would hang around together in the pubs on Hope Street, this includes The Philharmonic Dining Rooms and Ye Cracke. John would drown his sorrows in Ye Cracke, he would go on dates here too, he would even plot and plan how to “put Liverpool on the map” in this pub with his friends.
His new friendship with would bring Stuart into the group, John forced Stuart to buy a bass guitar and join the band even though Stuart was more preoccupied with art. However, one thing would happen at the top end of Hope Street that would change the world, John and Stuart would sit in Gambier Terrace where Stuart lived and throw around ideas for a band name, inspired by Buddy Holly and The Crickets, they would settle on The Beatles.
In 1959 The Beatles played a gig on the opening night of a small coffee bar in the basement of a West Derby house called The Casbah. It was owned by Mona Best, the mother of the Merseybeat. The Beatles played 44 gigs at The Casbah and even helped decorate the place.
Mona Best was a strong character and was also a risk taker, in 1954 she pawned all of her jewellery and put all of the money on a 33-1 horse called Never Say Die at The Derby, its jockey was 18 year old Lester Piggott and it won. Mona Best used her winnings to buy 8 Hayman’s Green and later create The Casbah in the basement. If it wasn’t for that gamble, things may have been different for John Lennon.
The Jacaranda was one of The Beatles favourite places to hang out and much like The Casbah, for The Beatles to play gigs here they had to work for it. John and Stuart painted the lady’s toilets for Allan Williams who owned the coffee house and in turn, got gigs and management from Allan. The lads would play here – their payment would be drinks and food – not money.
Allan Williams owned The Jac, he also owned The Blue Angel (at first known as the Wyvern Social Club, now referred to locally as The Raz). This was the location of two auditions that changed the fate of The Beatles. The first in 1960 for Larry Parnes and he was looking for a band to back Billy Fury. The Silver Beetles, with Johnny ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson as their drummer failed the audition. But they did impress Larry, as he would later hire them to tour Scotland for a tour with Johnny Gentle.
The other audition would be the same year, The Beatles had been offered an opportunity to go to Humburg for a string of gigs and they needed a reliable drummer. Pete Best was the drummer of The Blackjacks at the time, but he would successfully audition for The Beatles and on Tuesday 15th August 1960 they would all cram into a little van on Slater Street, outside The Jacaranda and leave for their first trip to Hamburg. This would be the making of The Beatles.
By the time The Beatles got back from Hamburg they were a better band but it all seemed over, Paul McCartney got a job and The Beatles looked to be gone. Suddenly, they managed to get gigs at lunchtime at The Cavern Club and things took off from there at a frightening pace. Mathew Street was full of queues, all wanting to get in the club and see their favourite Merseybeat bands playing. The Beatles made their debut here on 9th February 1961.
At the top of the street was The Grapes, where The Beatles could be found drinking alongside fans and other bands, around the corner is The Whitestar Pub which was another drinking spot for the lads.
Around the corner again was Rushworth’s Music House (on Whitechapel) and Hessey’s Music Store (the bottom of Stanley Street) and it was in places like this where John and the rest of the band would get their hands on musical instruments – instruments that would later be heard on some of the most iconic records of all time. John would buy a guitar here for £160, it would later be stolen and then resurface in 2015 and be sold at auction for $2.51m.
NEMS Record Store would also be on Whitechapel, owned by Brian Epstein. Brian would hear such a buzz about The Beatles that on 9th November 1961 he would visit The Cavern Club to watch them and fall in love. He would become their manager after chatting to Alan Williams and be told “you can have them, I wouldn’t go near them with a fucking bargepole!” – John had a dispute with Allan after their trip to Hamburg. The Beatles would sign their official contracts with Brian Epstein on Whitechapel.
Brian Epstein would give John and Cynthia a place to live on Faulkner Street, he would be John’s best man at his wedding at the Mount Pleasant Registry Office and then pay the bill for the party at Reece’s (Clayton Square) that night, meeting Brian would change John’s life.
Brian Epstein would take John, Paul, George and Ringo and create stars. He would take them from a dark and dusty basement cellar on Mathew Street and by 9th February 1964, exactly 3 years to the day after their Cavern Club debut, they would be playing live on the Ed Sullivan Show to over 73 million people. The world would change overnight as the press called it ‘Beatlemania’ and nothing would ever be the same. John Lennon’s band that he built in the suburbs of Liverpool defined the 60s and their split would dominate the 70s.
On 8th December 1980 the world lost John Lennon. He had defined an era and while he would lead a troubled life, he would leave a legacy of peace, love and music. He will forever be remembered as a normal lad from Liverpool who changed the world forever.
THIS WAS A GUEST BLOG BY DALE ROBERTS OF CAVERN CITY TOURS. HE WORKS AT THE FOREFRONT OF BEATLES TOURISM IN LIVERPOOL. IN 2017 HE WOULD BE PART OF A TEAM THAT WOULD TRANSFORM HOP-ON, HOP-OFF TOURS IN THE CITY. MOST RECENTLY DALE HAS SET UP THE CAVERN CLUB BEHIND THE SCENES TOUR ALONGSIDE BEING SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER FOR CAVERN CITY TOURS.
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