Beatles in London: Liverpool as Bethlehem

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Beatles in London. Cavern Liverpool. Photo Credit: Nirmal Thacker. C.C.licenseIf London is the Mecca of Beatles fans, then Liverpool is their Bethlehem. Liverpool, as everyone not deserted on an island since 1963 knows, is where each Beatle was born and grew up. Paul McCartney being introduced to John Lennon at St. Peter's church social in Liverpool on July 6, 1957 is as revered a meeting as any in popular culture history. Eleanor Rigby, before she picked up the rice in the church where her wedding had been, was buried in St. Peter's cemetery. Strawberry Fields, Penny Lane and Blue Jay Way were the streets and parks of the Beatles' youth long before they inspired the songs that bear their names.

But the centre of the Beatles' Liverpool will always be the Cavern, where the musicians who would become the Beatles formed, over years of performing and perfecting, a whole far greater than the sum of their parts.

Going to the Cavern Club now is not quite like going to Abbey Road or Baker Street. In the Cavern, there's no need to try to picture what it was like when the Beatles made their mark there - the atmosphere is palpable to this day. More a crypt than a club, the Cavern is the feather in the cap of Liverpool's Mathew Street. The damp room, down several flights of poorly lit stairs, has been left nearly unchanged since the band played there throughout the late 50s and early 60s. The stage is kept empty, but it is remarkably easy to imagine what it was like when the real party was happening years ago.

On any given night, Beatles songs are pumped through speakers at a volume much louder than most people are accustomed to hearing them, and the result is fantastic. It's a reminder that these tunes that you could sing in your sleep are rockers, that they're meant to get you up and partying and having a good, naughty time. Somehow, regardless of the average age of those sipping their ales in the Cavern, the scene is a tribute to youth. The Cavern is a remarkable experience for the casual fan and the fanatic alike, and as close as you can get to a legitimate Beatles experience today.

- Patrick Allegri