Of all the great rock n roll bands since pop music began, there has been none that quite reached the heights of adoration that the Beatles did. From concerts drowned out by the sound of screaming, to the “Apple Scruffs” who hung around outside the studios day and night, just hoping to glimpse their icons, the Beatles were revered and loved. If you’re one of those people who used to scream at the sight of a moptop or just someone who’s grown up with the Beatles’ music, you may want to visit a few of the places that were significant in the lives and careers of the Fab Four. Join our Magical Mystery Sightseeing Tour, with our Top 10 Beatles Sights.
10. Candlestick Park, San Francisco
Let’s start at the end – of their live career at least. Things had been difficult for a while – live sets were inaudible above the screaming and moving the Beatles around without them being crushed or abducted was a feat of military precision. So it was no surprise that their 11-song set at Candlestick Park on August 29th 1966 would prove to be their last official concert.
The stadium is still in use today, as home to the San Francisco 49ers, so you can catch a game while there. But if you can, just close your eyes and imagine 4 tiny figures with guitars on a stage erected around 2nd base…
9. “Mendips”, Liverpool
It’s not surprising that a lot of the Beatles sites are to be found in Liverpool. This unremarkable-looking house is where John Lennon grew up, and is now owned by the National Trust, who organize tours of it regularly. It may look ordinary but, in the words of John’s widow Yoko, it “resonates with a special atmosphere.”
It’s a 1930s, semi-detached house and John lived there with his Aunt Mimi, who took care of him when his mother Julia was unable to (she later died in a road accident). He lived there between the ages of 4 and 23, only moving out after the Beatles became famous. It’s been restored with decor from the 1950s and 60s, so you can really picture how it would have looked when John and Mimi lived there. For the sake of politeness, it’s not advised to steal bits of the carpet of soft furnishings, however devoted a fan you are…
8. Prince of Wales Theatre, London
Squashed between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, this London theatre was the venue for the 1963 Royal Variety Performance, where the Beatles performed in front of the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. Before the performance, John Lennon had threatened to tell the people in the posh seats that, if they wouldn’t clap they could “rattle their £^<!ing jewelry”. Luckily, this comment mutated into the much friendlier “For our last number I’d like to ask your help. The people in the cheaper seats clap your hands. And the rest of you, if you’d just rattle your jewelry” With a cheeky wink and nod, Lennon not only got away with it but even got a wave of approval from the Queen Mother.
Recently, the theatre hosted a Beatles’ tribute show called “Let it Be”, but sadly that is no longer running. Still, John Lennon would probably appreciate the dark humor of the Book of Mormon!
7. Penny Lane, Liverpool
Back to Liverpool for this iconic street where Paul and John used to meet up to catch the bus into the city center. It was immortalized in the song of the same name, although tourists to the area may be disappointed in the lack of friendly firemen with hourglasses. There may even be a lack of street sign, given that this particular road is prone to sign-theft.
For a while, the council took to painting the street name onto houses instead, but have recently come up with an apparently “theft-proof” sign so that fans could still stand and gaze on the spot when Lennon and McCartney once stood, but not actually remove the sign to incorporate it into their home decor. There’s been no word on just how effective the theft-proofing is…
6. Shea Stadium, New York
While Candlestick Park was the Beatles’ final gig, it wasn’t their definitive one. That honor falls to another American concert, a year earlier. In August 1965, the Beatles played the biggest gig of their lives so far, at Shea Stadium, New York, in front of 55,600 fans. It was recorded and released as a documentary, albeit with some songs re-recorded (it’s hard to capture good audio over the screaming!). John Lennon later described the Shea Stadium gig as “the top of the mountain” and it paved the way for the stadium rock bands of the 70s and 80s.
Shea Stadium was demolished in 2008, with its replacement stadium Citi Field opening next door the following year. Paul McCartney played the closing gig, alongside Billy Joel and the stadium site is now Citi Field’s car park. But if you look closely, the home plate is still in place amid the parked cars, and there is a small tribute to the old stadium.
5. Strawberry Fields, Liverpool
Another Liverpool place immortalized through song, Strawberry Field was the name of a Salvation Army Children’s Home not far from Mendips. John used to visit the ground every year for a garden party, and nicknamed the wooded area behind the house “Strawberry Fields” (plural). Later, when writing a hazy, drug-induced song about nothing being real, he somehow linked it to the play areas of his childhood.
The house is now a church and prayer center and the original gates have been replaced with new, but identical ones. As you’d expect from a Beatles sight, there is graffiti everywhere. Don’t feel like you have to add to it if you visit…
4. 3, Savile Row, London
One of the least remarkable-looking Beatles sights, with so much Beatles history contained within. Among the bespoke tailors of Mayfair’s Savile Row, the Beatles moved into number 3 in 1968 and set up Apple Corps, an umbrella company that covered a multitude of interests, from Apple Retail (the actual boutique was near Baker St) to Apple Electronics.
In many ways, Apple was a classic case study in how not to run a business, with the gorgeous shopgirls at Apple Boutique turning a blind eye to hippy shoplifters and £300,000 being spent on the work of “Magic Alex” down in Apple Electronics. “Magic Alex” spent a long time tinkering with LEDs to produce the “Nothing Box” but never did anything productive and was one of the many casualties of the rationalization of the business by Allen Klein a year later. The various businesses collapsed in financial ruin, although Apple Records continued to release recordings and still does.
The building is notable not only for housing Apple Corps but for hosting the Beatles’ very last live performance together, which was a spontaneous rooftop gig halted by police. A must-see if you’re a Beatles fan in London.
3. Central Park, New York
As any John Lennon fan will know, Central Park has a particularly poignant meaning as not only where the singer spent his last few years, but also where he met his death in December 1980. To honor him, the park has designated 2.5 acres as “Strawberry Fields“, a permanent memorial that features the word “Imagine” in the middle of a mosaic. Fans often gather there on significant occasions, such as the anniversary of his death, but have also used it for solemn times such as immediately after the September 11th attacks. The area is designated a “quiet zone” and is ideal for fans wanting to pay tribute to their icon or just “turn off your mind, relax and float downstream”. John would have liked it.
2. The Cavern Club, Liverpool
And so to where it all started…although by the time the Beatles were playing the Cavern, they’d already been together a long time and had played some lengthy seasons on Hamburg’s Reeperbahn with their then drummer Pete Best and bassist Stu Sutcliffe. But the Cavern was where it started to come together for them – in Hamburg, they’d been met with indifference but at the Cavern, they were adored. The basement club was dangerously overcrowded at times, as fans surged towards the stage the Fab Three were playing on (Pete Best was still in Ringo’s spot at this point, although Stu Sutcliffe had left). It was there that they were discovered by Brian Epstein in 1962, and stardom was a 12-bar blues riff away. Unsurprisingly, it is now a Beatles Museum, featuring statues of the band and memorabilia but it also still hosts live music acts.
1. Abbey Road, London
Now, for the most famous Beatles sight. It’s an unassuming zebra crossing in North London, but it featured on one of the most recognizable and parodied album covers ever. Plus, it’s just outside the Abbey Road studios where the Beatles recorded some of their greatest hits. A word of warning for anyone trying to recreate that zebra crossing shot – the road is extremely busy and the bus drivers are unsympathetic. They will try and mow you down before you can say “I’ll be Ringo”. But it’s an essential sight for anyone interested in Beatles history.