The London Midlands train from Birmingham to Liverpool covers 100 miles in about an hour and a half, and for $60 round trip for both of us, we cannot resist. The verdant countryside rolls by and the ride is so smooth we actually snooze a bit on the way. My image of Liverpool as a foggy, rainy city is quickly dispelled as we emerge from the train station into bright sunlight and clear skies, although I have been assured that clear skies are never guaranteed. We get our bearings and then head to the nearby bus station to hop on the Sightseer Bus for a tour of the city.
We roll past the school where Paul McCartney attended, and it finally strikes me. This is where it all began when the British Invasion of rock starting when the Beatles displaced Elvis, The Beach Boys, and Motown at the top of the hit parade. This is poignant for me since that is when I started listening to the radio. I was in the sixth grade in 1962 when one Beatles song after another hit the charts: She Loves You, Twist and Shout, I Want to Hold Your Hand. And the hits and the groups just kept coming.
In the midst of our sightseeing, we take time out for a stop on the ABC Tour to visit the Anglican Cathedral. There is nothing to prepare us for the immense scale of the cathedral, the largest in the UK and the fifth largest cathedral in the world. Its tower is over 300 feet tall, half the height of the Space Needle in Seattle. The pipe organ has almost 2,000 pipes. If only we could have been there for the organ music!
Our tour continues along the bank of the Mersey River, and the soundtrack on the bus plays Ferry Cross the Mersey by Gerry and the Pacemakers, now the anthem of Liverpool. While the Beatles put Liverpool in the global spotlight, the city has not gone overboard with Beatles mania. There is a Beatles Museum, and there are statues of the Fab Four mounted overlooking the street at the Hard Days Night Hotel downtown. Other than that, Beatle freaks have to hunt out the historic spots if they want to touch the same stool where one of them might have sat in a bar or nightclub.
Not all of Liverpool’s reputation was built on the Beatles’ fame. During the 18th century, Liverpool was the capital of the cotton trade. At that time over two-thirds of the cotton products in the world were produced in Liverpool. The innovations made in ginning, coloring and weaving cotton and manufacturing cotton goods during these boom years are still utilized today. On a sadder note, in the mid 1700’s Liverpool was the largest slave trade city in the world. And in 1912, Liverpool was where people gathered to hear news of survivors when the Titanic sank because the great ship was registered in Liverpool.
Today Liverpool has more registered historic buildings than any city in the UK except London. The first stone building in the world to incorporate a steel superstructure sits near the docks, which led to the building of skyscrapers everywhere in the world. Liverpool offers a fine array of attractions, and the city has a nice feel to it. It is great to say I visited the home of The Beatles. And even though I was not their biggest fan, my Sgt. Pepper’s vinyl album has been kept in perfect shape all these years.