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(Credits: Far Out / Bent Rej / Megan Leeming / Annie Spratt)

Music

Roaming John Lennon's Liverpool

@SamWKemp

John Lennon’s legacy is intimately bound with his native city of Liverpool. Today, you can barely walk fifty paces without spotting something Beatles related. Whether it’s John Lennon Airport, The Beatles museum on Royal Albert Dock, or The Cavern Club itself, it’s clear Liverpool is very proud of its musical heritage – and no wonder. This is a city that birthed one of the most important – if not the most important – band in the history of recorded music.

John Lennon was born in Liverpool Maternity Hospital on October 9th, 1940. Much of his early life was characterised by his mother Julia’s turbulent relationship with her husband Alfred, a Merchant Seaman who wasn’t present for Lennon’s birth, or indeed after it.

The monthly cheques he sent to Julia kept the pair afloat well enough, but when they stopped arriving abruptly in 1944 after Alfred went AWOL, things took a turn for the worse. When he returned six months down the line, he found his wife pregnant with another man’s child, at which point Lennon was sent to live with his Aunt Mimi.

As the years went by and John grew into adolescence, he developed a resistance to male authority figures and a complex relationship with his biological mother, whose love of rock ‘n’ roll marked her in stark contrast to his Aunt Mimi, a woman without any children of her own.

Lennon’s fascination with music and art only grew more intense with age, leading him to form his own skiffle group, The Quarrymen in 1956. And all the while, Liverpool stood watch, casting a watchful eye over Lennon as he made his first tentative steps towards greatness. So, join us as we take a stroll around John Lennon’s Liverpool, the city that birthed The Beatles.

Exploring John Lennon’s Liverpool:

251 Menlove Avenue

Address: 251 Menlove Ave, Liverpool L25 7SA.

Located in the Mendips suburbs, John Lennon’s childhood home is humblingly understated. While it would have been much grander and higher status than the undetached council housing that Paul McCartney grew up in, it seems far too modest to have housed someone with as enormous a legacy as John Lennon.

It is here that the young Lennon lived with his Aunt and her husband George until he was 22. Aunt Mimi kept a tight ship in 251 Menlove Avenue, ensuring the house and garden was neat and tidy, much to the chagrin of the rebellious young Lennon, who had arrived when he was just four years old, following his parent’s divorce. His mother, Julia, subsequently remarried and visited Lennon frequently. As playing records was absolutely out of the question in 251 Menlove Avenue, it was at Julia’s house that he first learned to play the Banjo (and later the guitar) by strumming along to early rock ‘n’ roll and skiffle records.

(Credit: Lipinski)

St Peter’s Church

Address: Church Rd, Liverpool L25 5JF.

This Grade II listed Anglican church in Woolton, Liverpool, has a number of fascinating connections to the life of John Lennon and his career with The Beatles. Once you’ve passed under the ornate lychgate, you’ll notice a plaque on the wall of the church that commemorates the day Lennon met Paul McCartney for the first time, after his band, The Quarryman, performed at the annual church fete. The plaque features a quote from Lennon, who once recalled the infamous meeting: “That was the day, the day that I met Paul, that it started moving”.

St Peter’s churchyard also contains a gravestone to one John Rigby, whose daughter, Eleonor Rigby, inspired McCartney’s song of the same name. It’s quite likely that “Father McKenzie” who writes “the words for a sermon no one will hear” in that 1966 song was the vicar at St Peter’s.

(Credit: James Pye)

Liverpool College of Art

Address: 68 Hope St, Liverpool L1 7AY.

In 1957, the same summer he met Paul McCartney, John Lennon found himself at a crossroads. Having lost all interest in his passing his O-Levels, Lennon faced the prospect of spending a life working a dull and meaningless job. If it wasn’t for his interest in art – which saw him create a weekly newspaper called ‘The Daily Howl’, that he sold to his classmates – he may well have abandoned his music with The Quarrymen and taken a job on the factory floor.

Thankfully, the D he got for his art O-Level was enough to secure him a place at Liverpool College of Art, where he would go on to meet Stuart Sutcliffe (a talented painter and The Beatles’ original bassist) and Cynthia Powell, Lennon’s first wife – both of who made a profound impact on the young musician’s worldview. Unfortunately, Lennon left Liverpool College of Art under something of a cloud after being asked to leave due to his lack of commitment to the course. Although, that hasn’t stopped the college from listing him as one of their notable alumni.

(Credit: Rodhullandemu / Apple Records)

Penny Lane

Address: Penny Lane, Liverpool, L18 1DQ.

At the point where Church Road meets Smithdown Place, there stands a disused “shelter in the middle of a round-about”. It was here, on Penny Lane, that John Lennon and Paul McCartney would wait for one of the double-deckers heading to The Cavern Club. Along the way, it also passed another of Lennon and McCartney’s favourite haunts, Brian Epstein’s Record shop, NEMS. 

That same bus shelter that The Beatles sang about in ‘Penny Lane‘ stands across from another of the landmarks Paul McCartney mentions in the 1967 track, the barbershop decorated with pictures of “every head” the barber has had the “pleasure to know”. It’s still a barbershop to this day, although the framed photographs have since been removed.

(Credit: Sefton Park walk)

Strawberry Fields

Address: Beaconsfield Rd, Liverpool L25 6EJ.

Another Liverpool landmark immortalised by The Beatles, the real Strawberry Fields stands behind a set of bright red gates. The site was previously home to a Salvation Army Children’s home where John Lennon used to play when he was a child, and to which he would return in the late ’60s with ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. Situated just down the road from Lennon’s home on Menlove Avenue, his memories of going to ‘Strawberry Fields’ with Aunt Mimi on hot Summer days came to define a nostalgic image of his childhood in Liverpool.

As you approach the gates, you’ll notice the concrete gateposts are decorated with a mess of technicolour scrawls, where countless Beatles pilgrims have etched names and messages in chalk. Interestingly, in 2000, the iconic gates were stolen by two men in a transit fan and later sold to an unsuspecting antique dealer for a hefty sum. On realising that he’d bought the actual gates from Strawberry Fields, he promptly informed the police. Today, Strawberry Fields is open to the public and features a cafe, a therapeutic garden, and an exhibition of the site’s history.

(Credit: Rept0n1x)