Blindsided in Liverpool: An Unexpected Beatles Journey

So there I was, crying on a Beatle’s Tour bus outside Strawberry Fields, trying to figure out what brought me to this point – the dreaded sudden public display of emotion.

We’d traveled to Liverpool to experience this fabulous city, after having missed it when we lived in London. We wanted to see The Dock, The Tate – we hadn’t even considered The Beatles. But ever the opportunists, we stumbled upon a Beatles Tour, and the guy offered us a deal. Well, we can never pass up a deal.

We’d managed to snag a prime upper deck seat, and James had just jumped off to snap a closeup of the iconic sign. The music loop had cycled through – from “She Loves You” to “Hey Jude” all the way up to “In My Life.” And that was my undoing. I was blindsided by a flood of memories and emotions that washed over me.

“There are places I’ll remember

All my life, though some have changed …”

—“In My Life” by the Beatles

What in the world was going on? I didn’t even consider myself a Beatles fan … but I obviously needed to rethink that attitude.

The bus had been winding it’s way through the streets of Liverpool where the Fab Four grew up and launched their stunning careers. And just as their neighborhood had inspired memorable lyrics, I realized that their songs were woven through my life story.

The Beatles were already a sensation in England when they came to the US to perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964, playing “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You” and “She Loves You.”

The Beatles took America by storm when I was a budding teenager, and wide-eyed girls were swept up in the screaming, crying frenzy that was Beatlemania.

I wasn’t a screamer – it was not allowed in my family. In a household of four girls, my mother had an ironclad rule that you were never permitted to scream unless you were in serious danger. My younger sister would always scream if I started to tickle her – an amazingly effective sibling self-defense measure. It only took me a few times to figure out that Mom would come running – fearing the worst – and then I was in big trouble.

Of course, my sisters swear that trouble was my middle name. As the firstborn, I tested all the boundaries … and my mother’s patience. So when it came to Beatlemania, there was to be none of that nonsense. In her book, guys with long hair and girls with short skirts were a recipe for disaster.

But their music coincided with significant life events from my formative years … and on into adulthood. Surprisingly, their words still resonate with me now. These are my 9 touchstones:

1. I first held hands with a boy walking to school. I was in the band, carrying a heavy saxophone, and he offered to carry it and took my hand. I was smitten. In those days we carried transistor radios (the iPhone of the 60s) and this song was playing. You guessed it – “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”

2. The first time I kissed a guy was at a party in the basement of my friend’s house. He was the cool, new guy from out of town. Playing in the background was “If I Fell.”

3. I had just started taking French lessons when “Michelle” came out. How perfect. I could actually practice while singing a song I loved. I felt so sophisticated.

“Sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble,

Tres bien ensemble.”

—“Michelle” by the Beatles

4. When the Beatles shocked the world with their last live performance in 1969 on a Saville Row rooftop, I had just moved from small town Ohio to big city Chicago – leaving all my childhood friends. Their theme of “Let It Be” seemed to encapsulate my young life to that point.

From then on, the members of the Beatles were flying solo, continuing to create iconic music with poignant lyrics.

5. In 1971, James and I entered university, young in love and thrilled with our newfound independence and free-thinking surroundings. That’s when John released “Imagine” and we were captivated by its anti-establishment lyrics and beguiling melody.

“Imagine all the people

Livin’ life in peace …

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will be as one …”

—“Imagine” by John Lennon

6. In 1980 when John Lennon was murdered, James was in the hospital recovering from life-threatening Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever he caught while working in the jungles of Belize. Both events were a shock.

7. In 1990 we quit our corporate jobs in London, started our own business, and began the epic journey that returned us to the US and our families. Paul sang “The Long and Winding Road” in the background – the anthem of our nomadic lives.

8. When George Harrison passed away in 2001 we had just embarked on our first Round-the-World Trip. We celebrated his life listening to our favorite Beatles tune “Norwegian Wood” where his exotic sitar captivated a generation.

9. And just last year when I shared some personal challenges, I referred to John Lennon’s lovely lullaby to his son – “Beautiful Boy.” The lyrics contain the famous Lennon quote:

“Life is What Happens to You,

While You’re Busy Making Other Plans”

—”Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon

Life really does come full circle.

If you’ve never been to Liverpool, it’s a fantastic place. Whether you take a ferry ‘cross the Mersey or sample a bit of Scouse (both an accent and fish pie), you’ll enjoy the marvelous Liverpudlian hospitality and vitality.

And you really should take the Beatles Tour – whether you think you’re a fan, or not.

So what about you? Do you have a favorite Beatles song or memory you’d like to share?

Imagine Peace, Terri

P.S. Paul McCartney recently took a “Carpool Karaoke” spin around Liverpool with British comedian James Corden. What a delight! And it follows the same route we took. If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat. 

Photo Credits: 1. Dimitry Anikin  8. Groovy History  9. Gift Habeshaw 10. Over Sixty  11. Bertrand Moritz 12.Atanas Paskalev

Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

61 thoughts

  1. I’ll have to come back to this one later to enjoy the video and the memories. Yes, this brought a lump to the throat, Terri. I love the city and I loved them too. 🙂 🙂

    1. Strolling down Memory Lane of Beatles songs is a definite blast from the past, Jo. And you’re right about the lump in the throat. I think for me, past memories are awakened when I hear certain songs or smell certain scents – then BAM!! – I’m right back there in that moment. I think you’ll enjoy the video as a fan of the city and Fab Four. 🙂 ~Terri

  2. There is something about the music when we were in our teens that sticks with us forever. About a decade older than you two, Elvis was often the background track to my life. I didn’t particularly care for him at the time but came to appreciate his talent years later. When we got to college, both Alie and I took odd turns away from the music our friends listened to: Alie memorized countless folk songs and I listened to what we would now call smooth jazz.

    1. Ray, you’re so right about the music of our youth. I read that teenagers imprint on the music that was popular when they were 13. I didn’t know if that was true, so I went back to a list of the most popular songs when I was 13, and sure enough, I knew all the lyrics to just about every song! Amazing!

      It’s interesting that you and Alie chose different musical paths – it was the same for us. James loved Motown, and like Alie, I was into folk music. And it seems that the Beatles still ring true – I just didn’t know it! 🙂 ~Terri

  3. Ah, how poetic is your timing? Just yesterday I was going through old photos and found some of my mom, me, and six of my sisters at a Beatles (mock band) concert. We were on vacation—the first and only we ever had together— and our expressions were pure joy. Like you, I had never considered myself a Beatles fan but after that concert I added several albums to my play list. And, Beautiful Boy was the song I danced with my son to at his wedding. Enjoyed reading this.

    1. Thank you Alison, so glad you enjoyed it. Your vacation with your six sisters and Mom sounds glorious. I would love to see that photo. You must come from a really big family! And to think that the Beatles brought you all together for that one lovely memory is so touching.

      As a result of researching this post I got to know John Lennon a lot better. His creation of “Beautiful Boy” certainly seems to feature John coming full circle on his final album. How special that you and your son danced to it at his wedding. Now I will forever have that in my memory. Thanks! ~Terri

    1. That’s amazing, Darlene. I love your post and all your great photos. It sounds like we had a very similar experience and reaction to being in lovely Liverpool. Talk about a city that pushes a lot of memory buttons!

      So you were a screamer, huh! My best friend was, too! As my Dad used to say, “She could peel the paint off the walls with that scream!” 🙂 It’s so nice to know that I wasn’t the only one getting emotional when I took the tour. Here’s to Simpatico Sisters. 🙂 ~Terri

      1. It certainly is a city for memories. Even seeing the sculpture of the family ready to immigrate to North America brought tears to my eyes as I thought of how many left those shores to a new life, never to return. My son’s mother-in-law was a little girl when her family left from that very port to immigrate to Canada almost 70 years ago.

      2. Darlene, we were struck by the same thought of so many people leaving their homeland for a new life. And you have a personal connection! Was she old enough to remember much of the experience? ~Terri

      3. All she told me was she was excited to be going on a large boat. I think she was around 4 or 5. My grandfather was the same age when he immigrated with his parents in 1911 (from Hamburg, Germany) and he said the same thing. He recalled being excited to be on a large boat.

  4. Thank you for this post. I loved following you along on the Beatles tour. I’ve been a Beatles fan ever since I heard them on the radio when I was in middle school. When my daughter and I spent a weekend in New York City one of our must see sights was the John Lennon memorial in Central Park.

    1. Many thanks, Beth. I love how mothers and daughters bond over the Beatles, and visiting the memorial together must have been very special. So the real question is: Were you a screamer? 🙂 ~Terri

    1. Leslie, It’s so good to have a Sister in Arms. I think the Beatles’ music has touched a lot of lives in many different ways – and in my case, I didn’t even realize it! 🙂 ~Terri

  5. Hi Terri and James, When I see your Beatles quotes, I immediately begin to sing the song in my mind. Like you say “…a flood of memories and emotions…”. I can still hear the next door neighbour’s teenage girls screaming when the Beatles came on the Ed Sullivan Show. And, “Imagine” is still a favourite song on my playlists. I just Re watched the Carpool Karaoke. What fun! Thank you for sharing a great post!🙂 Erica

    1. Thanks so much, Erica! Once I start humming Beatles’ tunes in my head … I can’t stop. One just leads to another until I get up to Helter Skelter – and then I stop. I guess I preferred their softer, funnier side. But the teenage screaming was a totally new thing to me. I think I secretly envied the girls’ abilities to just “Let ‘er rip!” And they sure did. 🙂

      I did get a kick out of Carpool Karaoke – and Sir Paul was such a good sport about it all. So, do you have a favorite Beatles’ song? ~Terri

  6. I was too young to be a Beatles screamer, but the soundtrack of their career ran all through my life, too. My favorite memories are of sitting in my aunt’s and uncle’s house and listening to their record player (so I’m not THAT much younger – haha) with my brother. All those early songs (If I Fell, Can’t Buy Me Love, etc) still take me right back to their little place at the beach and my pre-teen years. The later ones have similar associations, all very special. How fun to think back on all of them, prompted by your fun post!

    1. What great memories, Lexie. And I bet your aunt and uncle have their recollections of your visits, too. Like you, we listened to the songs on an old record player. James and I were just talking about all the things we’d have to do to get them to play properly. James said his record player was so persnickety that they had to tape a nickel to the arm to get it to stay in the right track! So glad I prompted some special memories! 🙂 ~Terri

  7. I went to University in North Wales and Liverpool was our nearest large city. I am afraid we rather looked down on the Beatles preferring the numerous Irish Liverpudlian folk groups. My memories from that era were being suprised just how divided the city was between catholic and protestant. It was the time of the troubles in Ireland and most Liverpudlians I knew strongly supported one side or the other with regular orange and green marches. I was suprised that my children actually liked the beatles.

    1. Anne, what a fascinating, thought-provoking perspective you bring to the conversation. Thank you! Being in university at that time and location gave you a unique viewpoint on the circumstances. I’ve read about the divide you described, and it’s so good to talk with someone who experienced it. I understand that Liverpool has gone through tremendous changes since its low point in the 1970s and 80s, and I’m curious how you view the changes.

      I must admit that I’m intrigued by the Irish Liverpudlian folk groups you mentioned. I’m a music lover and wondered if they would be anyone one I might know? Thanks again for giving us another slant on the times. All the best, Terri

    1. Hi Alice, I’m so glad you stopped by – it’s great to have you here. I’m so glad that you enjoyed the tour, and hopefully we’ll all be able to get back on the road again soon. Fingers crossed. 🙂 All the best, Terri

  8. Reading this was such a great way to start my morning. We took the Magical Mystery bus tour last year and just couldn’t stop smiling. But that first photo – it always brings tears to my eyes when we visit the park.
    Thanks and be safe.
    Steve

    1. Steve you totally nailed it – “we just couldn’t stop smiling.” My face hurt the next day from grinning for hours nonstop. 🙂 And we had this fabulous tour guide who played guitar – walking up and down the bus steps – and knew his Beatles history inside and out. I was amazed.

      And you’re right, the Imagine photo always feels bittersweet. I hope that you and Annie are staying safe and healthy. ~Terri

  9. Terri you have an incredible memory. My brother and I loved the Beatles as we grew up. As he moved to the US many decades ago, I am the holder of most the Beatles LPs that we bought in our early days. However I have no recollection of specific songs tied to moments as you do. My brother and I have talked about going to Liverpool one day together. Your post brings that dream back to top of mind.

    1. Thanks Sue, isn’t it funny how some things just stick in your memory and you can’t really explain why? James and I always laugh because I can remember where I was when I first heard a song … and he can vividly remember every campsite we’ve ever had (but I’m clueless!) 🙂 I just never realized that Beatles’ songs wove such a tapestry through my life.

      How cool that you are the holder of the Beatles LPs for you and your brother. That must be a treasure trove of memories! You two would definitely enjoy the nostalgia of Liverpool. Hopefully when we’re all able to hit the road again you can make that dream a reality. ~Terri

    1. Many thanks, Jacqui. And no, you’re not crazy! 🙂 I thought I was in the same category, but I guess the Liverpudlian enthusiasm is contagious. The great thing we discovered about Liverpool is that it has so much to offer besides Beatles nostalgia. In addition to fascinating history, gorgeous architecture, and great museums, the people will totally charm you. ~Terri

  10. What fun, Terri. I traveled down memory lane with you. Incredible how music can touch and help mold a generation— whether you consider yourself a fan or not. My first Beetles experience was “I Want to Hold Your Hand’ as well. I was a junior at Berkeley in 1964 and lived in a high-rise four-plex of dorms. One of the dorms went on a Beetles kick and played the song on loud speakers, over and over and over. –Curt

    1. What a great story, Curt! I guess the continuous broadcasting guaranteed that you’d either love – or hate the song for life! 🙂 And being at Berkeley at that time in history must have been quite an experience. So when you were in the Peace Corps, did the Beatles’ music follow you to Africa? ~Terri

      1. For a country boy, Terri, being at Berkeley in the 60s was like waking up and finding that I had been transported to a different planet. 🙂
        In up-country Gbarnga, the only two radio stations were BBC and VOA, neither of which I remember being big on the Beetles. I did have a heck of a collection of the Kingston Trio records, however. The young Liberian who worked for us had them memorized. –Curt

      2. Well, you can never go wrong with the Kingston Trio, Curt. 🙂 When we lived in Sudan in the early 80s, the musical influence was mostly Arab Pop Music out of Egypt, with a smattering of American Pop like Wham! or The Cars. Madonna was considered entirely too risqué. 🙂 ~Terri

      3. I can imagine that Madonna would have been frowned on, Terri. Grin. We also had a couple of Barbara Streisand albums left for us by a PCV who was going home after finishing his service. Couldn’t go wrong there, either! –Curt

      4. Oh so true, Curt! James and I saw the Kingston Trio perform in Nashville at Opryland when we were college students. We thought we’d hit the big time. 🙂 ~Terri

      5. Laughing. In a sense, you had. Peggy saw Elvis when see was in Knoxville at UT. She thought that she had hit the big time as well. 🙂 My only claim to fame in the 70s was seeing Jimmy Buffet at Harrahs in Reno, grin. –Curt

  11. Simply wonderful! Thanks for the heartfelt memories. And thank you too for the Carpool Karoke – I had seen it and wanted to view it again!

    1. Thanks a bunch, Pam. It’s amazing how one song can spark so many memories. I didn’t see the Carpool Karaoke until we returned from the trip, and it was deja vu. I just grinned and sang along with it. 🙂 ~Terri

  12. Your touchstones are wonderful Terri. I particularly like your I Wanna Hold Your Hand memory. It really is incredible what memories are evoked by Beatles songs. The first thing that comes to mind for me is being introduced to The Beatles (with the song Maxwell’s Silver Hammer) in my then best friend’s basement. She was the youngest of ten children and I thought her older brothers were the coolest listening to The Beatles (I was only about 7 or 8 at the time). The songs Hey Jude and Octopus’s Garden will always be associated with my time figure skating, as a teenager, and doing routines (poorly) to these songs. Thanks for the fun memories!

    1. So glad you liked the touchstones, Caroline. And your memories are so specific and unique! I can totally relate to idolizing your friend’s older brothers. Me too! We just wanted to be cool, too. I’m so impressed that you figure skated to the Beatles. I bet there aren’t a lot of people who can say that. What wonderful memories and I’m so glad you shared them. Thanks! ~Terri

  13. What a wonderful account and heart-warning tribute to your past and to the Beatles, Terri. Sometimes, emotions can get to us. Just like that. The Beatles were from before my generation, yet, I grew up listening to them – to the records of my dad. Back in the day, apparently you were a Beatle or a Stone (Rolling Stones). My mom belonged to the other camp, so I’m familiar with songs of both bands.

    I love the songs of The Beatles. They always cheer me up and, despite me not knowing the lyrics (in Belgium, we never learned the lyrics as our English knowledge came well after listening to music), I enjoy singing along with the chorus. As a teenager, I had a few “Best of The Beatles” CDs and I still like listening to them. I’d certainly take that tour in Liverpool whenever we visit. But, only if we can get a good deal! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Liesbet. And you’re right – you were either a Beatles or a Stones fan. I think I had a foot in both camps, but the Beatles songs seem to tug at my heart strings – and I didn’t even realize it! The Stones were a bit more “Sassy” as my Dad said. 🙂

      As I researched the Beatles, I realized that we got to watch them grow up from boys to men right before our eyes – with 4 unique personalities. And all their growing pains produced radically different phases in their music. I hope you’re able to make it to Liverpool one day because it’s a real slice of life. ~Terri

    1. Rebecca, I love your phrase “the soundtrack of our lives.” How perfect. And wouldn’t it be fun to put that together. Talk about strolling down memory lane. So glad you enjoyed the Carpool Karaoke. ~Terri

  14. Great post! Had a good laugh at the photo of the screamer, LOL! My mom saw the Beatles at Red Rocks in Colorado in the ’60s — she probably looked like that! Their music was the background of my childhood. It’s funny how some of us (myself included) don’t consider ourselves huge fans but somehow know the words to every song!

    1. Many thanks, Kelly! And like you, I seem to know the words to so many Beatles songs – but I’m not sure why! I love your phrase “background of my childhood.” Perfect. It’s hard to imaging the Beatles at Red Rocks in such a natural setting, but I guess that depends on what phase of their career they were in. Please tell her that I’m envious – now that I’ve discovered I’m a fan! 🙂 ~Terri

  15. Terri, I LOVE this post, it has made me quite emotional. I am a huge Beatles fan and although I was only a child when they were at the top of the charts, I think their music is timeless and I still love listening to it now. I really enjoyed how you have written this post, quoting their music in the background of some of your life-changing events. I went to Liverpool a few years ago to attend a 4 days conference and I ended up skipping a session so I could go on that bus tour you mentioned. It was totally worth it. I am so glad you have included the James Corden Carpool Karaoke with Paul McCartney…absolutely fabulous. I wish I could have been at that Pub and see him perform.

    1. I’m thrilled that you enjoyed it, Gilda. I totally agree with you about their music being timeless – and it seems to appeal across generations. It must feel great to create something that truly stands the test of time. I know that I love the music my parents loved because it always reminds me of them singing and dancing together. 🙂 Thanks again for your kind words. ~Terri

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  17. I was one of those who was around for the performance on the Ed Sullivan show. I wasn’t a screamer, but I certainly enjoyed the music. What’s odd is that none of the earliest songs have specific memories attached. They were part of the sound track of my high school years, but little more. When I think about my favorites, the titles that come to mind are “Ticket to Ride,” “Day Tripper,” and “Back in the USSR.” There may be a pattern there.

    My all time favorite has to be “Here Comes the Sun.” It was used as a Communion hymn in one of my congregations, and it was well done; the pun, of course, was intentional. I just discovered that my favorite video’s been removed; it paired the song with fabulous sunrises in the north — icebergs, and such. No matter. Just listening to the song again was enough.

    1. Linda, I too love the songs you selected. Isn’t it interesting that all of your favorites are tied to the concept of travel and destinations? They say you can learn a lot about a person by their taste in music. 🙂

      It’s hard to beat “Here Comes the Sun.” Too bad the video has been taken down – I would love to see that one. I used to plan corporate conferences, and that song was guaranteed to get a crowd of people smiling and singing along. Thanks so much for all your great memories. ~Terri

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