The Beatles Story, Liverpool
Museum - Address: Albert Dock, Liverpool, Merseyside L3 4AD
4 reviews from the community
Review of "The Beatles Story, Liverpool"
It has been over a year since I posted a review. I can't say I have any new ones in production at the moment either! I will return a rate but please leave a comment so I can see which review you've rated and when. xx
This time during the month of Beatlemania, instead of just writing about the bands albums, films and death theories, I wanted to write about some of the ways in which Liverpool still celebrate the lives of their favourite sons (beside the football players!). Although Ringo made a few disparaging comments towards his hometown a year or two ago, the phrase ‘everyone has to start somewhere’ springs to mind and – although I may be a little bias – I would have to say that Liverpool is very much the land of opportunity compared to where I live!Right at the heart of the city is Albert Dock, a place now surrounded by various shops, museums and even a hotel with the Echo Arena mere feet away. When I was very little, perhaps six, I remember Mummy and Daddy, as they were affectionately called back then, taking my Brother and I right near the river. Being small and ignorant, I don’t remember much about the day other than a dark corridor which lead to a place called ‘The Cavern’ and my Dad getting me a coin in the special machine that was squished into saying ‘Penny Lane’.
Add ten years on from that memory and I’m not quite as unaware as I was back then and now-a-days, I seem to have a bit of a thing for learning about all things Beatle-esque. The museum situated in the mists of Albert Dock is The Beatles Story, a place where all Beatles obsessees go to marvel in their unhealthy hobby and jump around like lunatics when they come face to face with some rather interesting curios.ABOUT THE BEATLES STORY
Currently speaking, The Beatles Story prides itself on being the only permanent Beatles themed exhibition in the world and takes advantage of the fact that it is set in the homeland of the group; being situated where it is, and promising such an epic Beatles experience, The Beatles Story is undeniably appealing to visitors of all nationalities because it’s at the heart of one of the city’s most well-known landmarks. Officially opened in the May of 1988, where the Albert Dock and the surrounding area had been rejuvenated, The Beatles Story updates itself pretty frequently; although my memories from over a decade ago are a bit obscure, I do think that the museum has become a lot more colourful and child interactive during the new millennium, which makes it a fun environment for all age groups who go to visit.
The Beatles Story is a bit of a way away from the dock itself and after initially getting lost (no surprises there, really) we found ourselves amongst the various t-shirts and other Beatles paraphernalia in the gift shop! Imagining that you could just trundle down the stairs and there would be the entrance into the exhibition was a nice but overly romantic thought. Instead, we spent the next ten minutes being unable to follow a simple map situated near the dock itself until we finally came to The Beatles Story entrance. I did begin to remember bits and pieces of my first experience there with the steps resembling a wartime bunker! However, the entrance and its rather unusual associations actually opened the door for the beginning of the entire experience - more on that in a little while.Before entering the building, one of the first things that would catch your eye would undeniably be the Superlambbanana situated just near the steps of The Beatles Story. Superlambbananas are these cool statues that are a cross between the animal and fruit in the name and outside the museum there was a special Sgt. Pepper/Yellow Submarine Superlambanana which really set the scene for the colourful exhibitions that were set to be on offer once inside the Beatles Story. My Mum literally had to drag me away from the concrete mound because I instantly fell in love with it...
ROLL UP FOR THE MYSTERY TOUR!
As you go inside the Beatles story, you are instantly hurled back into the threshold of War-time Britain, when the four babes destined to be a part of Britain’s most prolific America Music Invaders were born. Although some of this section of the museum wasn’t specifically Beatles related, it gave you a good idea of Liverpool in the aftermath of WWII and also gave you an inkling as to what kind of environment John, Paul, George and Ringo grew up in.
Once you’ve paid and walked along the Abbey Road shoe and foot prints on the floor, which I was of course massively impressed with, you venture over to the other counter where you get your audio headset. Currently available in eight different languages, including French, Spanish and German, I have to say that I’ve never been a fan of these; in the past I’ve ended up dropping the audio headsets or breaking them but I was determined not to do so on this occasion...just for a change!THE ATTRACTION
As you walk around The Beatles Story, you really do get a good sense of the impact that the band had upon the world and it is really easy to get caught up in the nostalgia of the place. There are many ways in which the museum has succeeded in doing this, with one of them being the audio sets. With the narration being recorded by Lennon’s sister Julia, as you walk around the exhibitions you will find numbers that once you type into the little handset, you will (hopefully) hear a recollection or account from that specific time in the Beatles’ career.
The handsets aren’t that great if I’m completely honest. Although some people would undoubtedly feel a bit overwhelmed with the prospect of reading too much, and it wouldn’t be as user friendly to children, the audio players weren’t faultless; with mine headset, you had to hold it at a certain angle so that you could get the sound in both ears. The audio headsets are also not all that practical if you are trying to juggle a camera in one palm and that in another and I don’t think these players had a clip to you could slot it onto your jeans or anything like that. Still, the information playing on the cassettes was interesting and fairly thorough with a range of commentators from different phases of the bands life, including John’s first wife Cynthia Lennon and the group’s manager Brian Epstein amongst other EMI executives, with many of these short interviews being ripped from previous recordings.My favourite of all of the clips was Epstein’s recollection of how he met the band and their first meeting together; the lads showed a distinct lack of interest with McCartney not even bothering to turn up on time! Brian recalls how Paul said on the phone how he’d only just gotten out of bed and was about to have a bath before wondering down to the office. George replied that ‘he may be late but at least he’ll be clean’ which was a fine example of the bands rather aloof but witty sense of humour.
As you walk around the attraction, there are pieces of writing dotted around the various displays but it mainly mirrors what is said on the audio player, perhaps for the benefit of blind or deaf people. Being a bit distracted by one thing or another, I did manage to miss some of the numbers and was constantly wondering between the rooms trying to catch up on what I’d missed! Away from that, the writing is presented amongst various pictures and artefacts of the band, with the first guitar owned by Harrison being on display pretty early on into the experience. To be honest though, the images were secondary to the 3D displays on offer, and although they were a good addition, a lot of the time you’re either too distracted by the bright lights or tying to fix your audio thingy to notice!Many of the images, surprise surprise, you will have seen dozens of times before, especially if you’re a diehard Beatles fan. Yet, the different mock-ups, each significant to the bands career – particularly scenes from the bands earlier days in Hamburg - are pretty spectacular. The band’s experiences in Hamburg, chronicled with information surrounding the untimely death of Lennon’s best friend Stuart Sutcliffe (the Beatles’ first bassist until McCartney took over the instrument) went into a lot of depth and was very atmospheric as you stood amongst a replication of one of the cocktail bars entrances, complete with a prostitute! Not a real one, just a dummy.
But the Cavern Club, out of all of the mock ups, really stole the show; after going into the actual Cavern Club later on in the day, the actual place seemed every bit as dingy yet strangely charismatic as how the Beatles Story had replicated it. At that point, there was a chance to stop listening to the audio player and watch a little video feature, set in the Cavern Club, with the band playing their version of ‘Twist And Shout’. However, there was a lot else to listen to whilst in there and, with the music being so loud, it’s a good idea to read what was on offer in the Cavern Club section before heading outside onto the replica of Matthews Street to listen to what the audio player had to say. One of the biggest drawbacks with the Cavern Club and Matthews Street was the fact that it was verging on too dark to read the information and it would have helped if the museum had set up some little lights just above the script so it could be read more easily. However, the darkness of both the Cavern Club and Mathews Street was very atmospheric and created a very vivid setting as if you were actually there as the Beatles were playing their earlier songs to their adoring fans. For children, who may not be the biggest Fab Four fans in the world, there was a nice little opportunity whilst on Matthews Street to find a fake rat that was said to be lurking on the pavement. Did I bother to search for the rat? Are you mad?! I’m clearly far too old and sensible to search for a stuffed toy! Ok, maybe a teeny look...Although it has to be said that the displays of the groups earlier career did last for a lot longer than many better publicised sections, once you entered NEMS – a makeshift of Epstein’s music store before he managed the Fab Four – it was where the story of the whirlwind romance that The Beatles had with the world took place. Taking on all comers in the record industry, the most laughable moment was the recollection of one idiot in the music industry who justified not signing the Beatles because ‘guitar music was on its way out’, allowing for his moment of non-glory to be cemented inside The Beatles Story The early fame of the band is amplified by the plane scene, which depicts the events surrounding the group’s first landing in America. Radio archives blare out over a tannoy system and proves just how obsessive our American friends were with the Liverpudlians; ‘It is 8.30am Beatle Time!’, ‘The Beatles are crossing the Atlantic as we speak!’
My favourite section was the room which celebrated the artwork associated with the bands movies and albums. The display of Sgt. Peppers was amazing and took centre stage at the back of the room, complete with red drapes to give the album’s cover artwork a really grand feel. If you are familiar with the ‘Free as a Bird’ video, a song re-mastered and advanced by the remaining Beatles as it was one of John’s demos from 1977, included many curios from the groups songs back in the day. One of them was Eleanor Rigby and the actual grave stone that was used in the video is kept in the Beatles Story! It was made out of real stone and weighs a ridiculous amount which you wouldn’t have thought whilst watching the video as it seems to be made entirely via computer graphics.‘The Magical Mystery Tour’ display was another chance for children to interact with their surroundings because of the little game in which you match up the various animal heads, bodies and legs from the movie’s ‘I Am The Walrus’ scene although younger children would definitely need adults to help them with this as it’s quite high up on the wall. One of my absolute favourite parts of the visit was the really wacky bit where you walked inside the Yellow Submarine! Although there wasn’t much to do in there, it was unusual and a nice touch because of its size and detailing. I nearly got as excited as a small kid who was also inside the submarine which was a tad worrying...
After the display about the bands movies, things do focus much more on the serious side of the band and their declining feelings towards one another. It didn’t exactly rush through how the end came about as there were a significant number of audio tracks to listen to in that area but it did gloss over some of the finer details and just presented the story in a way which many had done before. This section hosted many bits of memorabilia from all over the world which accompanied the commentary on the audio tapes very well.After handing your headsets back to one of the Beatles Story workers, you entered a room which celebrated John, Paul, George and Ringo’s careers after the band disbanded and, to my knowledge, this was a fairly new display in The Beatles Story. Although some of the facts and different bits and pieces were interesting, there were some of the television presentations that weren’t in fantastic working order and the films themselves were a bit grainy. Each band member’s display was tailored to suit their individual styles and tastes and it all looked quite neat but no where near as visually impressive as some of the 3D displays earlier on in the exhibition.
The limited edition display room was another tribute to the bands earlier days which, in all fairness, was a bit unnecessary; their rise to superstardom had been accounted for in an excellent amount of depth elsewhere in the place although the photo shots were a pleasant enough addition. With images of the band touring the USA and performing on the Ed Sullivan show – which nearly 50% of the population tuned in to watch – it was a nicer ending than the somewhat depressing last few moments beyond that door.Between the two rooms is the most poignant display in the whole of The Beatles Story, which is why I left it till last. The White Room has been recreated as a loving and reflective tribute to John Lennon and is honestly so inadvertently depressing. The immortal ‘Imagine’ is on loop and there is a display of a white piano – like the one in the original music video – and guitar, with the lyrics sparkling faintly in the background as they are painted in silver (see pics). The room had an odd sort of peacefulness about it and it really was the most fitting end to The Beatles Story in order to celebrate the guy who really did make some of the most quirky and innovative music of all time.
When we went, the interactive children’s room was yet to be completed. I was really sad because – forever the big kid – I wanted to go in there and start playing with stuff - how sad?! It kind of showed the Beatles in cartoon form, from what little bits I could see, right from the earlier days (no shocker there). However, The Beatles Discovery Zone and boasts a vast array of interactive features, such as creating your own Beatles newspaper headline as well as the opportunity to learn how to play one of the bands many hits on a toy piano! No fair, I wanna go!THE FAB FOUR GIFT SHOP
As I mentioned earlier on, we made the mistake of going into the gift shop before the actual museum but it wasn’t that much of a mistake; being a person of terrible indecisive tendencies, as well as a persistent shopper, it gave me a chance to go and look at what I could buy before I made my decision...of course that didn’t mean I had fully made up my mind by the time we made our way back to the store afterwards...
The gift shop is well laid out; as you walk in, you’ll see all of the t-shirts, which you can either get in men’s, unisex or women’s fitted sizes as well as things like wallets, bags, umbrellas (which were actually needed on the day) and even Beatles wigs! As you move lower down the shop, there is Beatles stationary stuff as well as collectables such as watches, glasses and badges. I really wanted a t-shirt because you can never have too many tops as all women will be able to tell you with a straight face. I’d already seen the one I wanted; it was a darkish blue with the Beatles as they were dressed up as Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band in the film ‘Yellow Submarine’. Shock horror, when it came to buying one, they didn’t have any in my size and I didn’t want the burgundy colour so I ventured on elsewhere until I got a plain black one with the groups insignia on it and a matching arm band thingy to match.The prices aren’t too bad although the bags are a bit steep and all of the wallets are £15 so if you did want just a little memento, you’d be better going down the other end of the store where you can find charms such as the usual and even a fancy dress version of the Lennon specs in either bright pink or lime green! As they made me look a bit like Harriet Potter on crack, I moved away and just got what I wanted. I was a smidge upset that there weren’t any Sgt. Pepper jackets; there was a guy wandering up and down the street in the blue one – which was the best colour – but they didn’t actually sell any, unfortunately. Hopefully they’ll change that pretty soon...
PRICES, OPENING TIMES & OTHER SERVICES
As it was such an appalling day weather-wise, we decided to stay inside the warmth of The Beatles Story (imagine if I’d forgotten to add ‘Story’ after the group’s name...) and have lunch there. Inside the attraction, conveniently right at the very end, there is a Starbucks Cafe, situated near the staircase which leads to the shop. As it was to be expected with anything related to a corporate coffee house, the cafe wasn’t cheap but there was a nice array of cakes, biscuits and crisps, with there being a rather small selection of soft drinks...oh and coffee. The cafe itself was based upon the Cavern itself, with the ceiling doming in as a resemblance to the bar. However, with jazz music blaring out, the touch of Beatlemania was lost and although the Cavern was originally a Jazz venue, it seemed a bit bizarre as to why the cafe was playing jazz music as opposed to the band in which the attraction was based upon...
The Beatles Story is open all year round - with the exception of Christmas Day and Boxing Day - from 9am to 7pm. However, keep in mind that the staff will not let you into the attraction after 5pm and in my estimation it would be a bit silly to turn up around that time anyway; I know we weren’t exactly rushing but we were in the place for a good two to three hours, which allowed us to adequately explore each section. The cafe closes at 6pm but you can enter the gift shop until around 7pm if you so wish. The only real issue is the parking situation that seems to be limited around the Albert Dock area but there are various multi-storey carparks near by which are about a ten minute walk away from The Beatles Story.If you have mobility issues, there are a number of different precautions set up in The Beatles Story to help accommodate you; from what I can remember, as you are walking around the exhibit, very few displays are reliant on steps. Instead, the Beatles Story is mainly explored by the use of ramps so if you or someone in your party is in a wheelchair, there shouldn’t be too many problems with getting around the museum. At the very end, there are some pretty steep steps but if you have a pushchair or wheelchair to manoeuvre, of if you aren’t that keen on taking the steps due to other circumstances, there is a lift which can hold up to 63 stones in weight so someone from your family can travel with you. I’m sure that if you just wanted to use the lift instead of the steps regardless of your needs it wouldn’t be an issue as all of the staff we met at The Beatles Story were nothing but super friendly and helpful, especially in the gift shop.
The admission prices for an exhibition that offers so much are actually quite reasonable; for an adult ticket, expect to pay £12.25 but you can get a reduced price (at £8.30) if you are a student or senior. Under fives are allowed into the museum for free but older children cost £6.35 per ticket. There are various family tickets available with the cheapest being £20.55 for one adult and two children and the most expensive being £36.25 for two adults and three children.OVERALL
Although the headphones were a little dodgy, I can’t emphasise enough just how much I enjoyed The Beatles Story; even for someone who thought she’d read a lot about the band, there was so much more to discover and uncover and via the use of 3D displays, video footage and of course the bands amazing music, The Beatles Story just brought the journey of the band to life and made the groups rise to superstardom seem truly remarkable and as if you were living it at the same time.
The bits that I think will always stand out in my mind were the displays of the Eleanor Rigby gravestone and the 3D graphic of the Sgt. Pepper’s album cover as its splendour and importance was really emphasised by such a display. Walking through the Yellow Submarine was also a true highlight; although there was little to see or do whilst in there, just seeing the cartoon made real was enough for me and it really was such a lifelike and wondrous scene. However, for sentimental value, the final moments in which you hear ‘Imagine’ being played really made the whole experience bittersweet because of how Lennon’s life was lost; the mock up of the ‘White Room’ was nothing other than stunning and had an odd sort of peaceful feeling about it.The majority of the services in the museum were in good, working order. The only parts of the place that I can remember not being serviceable were a couple of the TV monitors in one of the final rooms and the ‘make your own penny’ machine which I was a bit gutted about; my Dad got me an official Beatles Story penny when I was younger and I wanted another ‘Penny Lane’ coin to match. Obviously, the children’s play area bit wasn’t open or I’d be writing about it, telling you all how much I enjoyed jumping around on a fake piano and playing ‘Hey Jude’.
One of the best things about The Beatles Story was just how much was on offer for all age groups as there were serious sections of writing for the adults to enjoy and bold, colourful display which would be more appealing to a child. Whilst we were in the museum last August, there were a lot of families inside and a real mixture of generations and ages that all seemed to be really involved in the exhibitions and enjoying them.Yet, I doubt whether my second visit will be my last to ‘The Beatles Story’. If the museum continue to add and alter the exhibit, I’ll just HAVE to go back to see what they’ve done with the place.
That is a good enough excuse...right?!
Product Information : The Beatles Story, Liverpool
Manufacturer's product descriptionMuseum - Address: Albert Dock, Liverpool, Merseyside L3 4AD
Address: Albert Dock, Liverpool, Merseyside L3 4AD
Listed on Ciao since: 22/05/2009