Sunday 24 October 2021

Paul makes an unannounced trip to Liverpool and other recent Beatles' related events

Hello everybody,

I hope you’re all keeping safe and well as we head into what promises to be a busy period for Beatles fans. Some of you are no doubt already enjoying the 50th anniversary re-release of the Let It Be album and, like me, looking forward to watching the companion film, Peter Jackson’s three-part ‘Get Back’ on the Disney+ channel starting 25th November. 

Ahead of that we get Paul McCartney’s The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present book on 2 November, and the recently published sequel to his Grandude children’s book. Not only that, but Abbey Road studios in London has also today announced they are opening up their world-famous Studio 2 for a series of lectures to be held over two weekends 13th-14th and 20th-21st November. 

As you might expect, with so much to promote there have been all manner of videos, social media postings, press and television interviews, a surprising number of which have featured a little nod to Liverpool in some way, most of which involve Paul. I thought it would be interesting to compile them all here because any new photo, film clip, document or anecdote is always interesting.

On 22 September a one-minute clip of Paul talking with comedian, actor and television presenter Bob Mortimer in the British Library was released as a teaser trailer for his new lyrics book. 

Discussing the 1968 song Rocky Raccoon, Bob asked Paul to recount the story of the doctor stinking of gin: I was riding on a little moped to see my cousin Betty (Robbins) and it was a moonlit night, (stares up at the sky, mouth agog) ‘Wow! Look at that moon’ and when I looked back the bike is now here (mimes a 45° angle) and there’s no way to get it back up, so I’m, hitting that pavement. I smashed me lip and everything, bleeding away, and I go (covers mouth with hand) ‘Hey Betty, don’t worry but I’ve (reveals face) had an accident, arrgh oh my God and she says, ‘I’ll ring the doctor’. I think it was around Christmas time, well he was pissed (impersonates a drunk)’I think you need a couple of stitches’ and I’m like, ok have you got anaesthetic? ‘No, I’ve got a needle and thread’ and he’s trying to thread the needle, but he can’t, he can’t see it, he’s seeing a few needles, so Betty takes it off him and she threads it. Well, he, was the doctor stinking of gin, I’ve never forgot him. 

I’ve previously told the story of Paul’s moped accident on Brimstage Road, Wirral, and Doctor ‘Pip’ Jones in my blog about Neston here (Link)


25 September

Three days later Paul was spotted at the bus stop outside 398 Pensby Road in Pensby, Wirral, about four miles from the scene of his 1965 moped accident. 

The sighting made the Liverpool Echo the following day. Colin Newitt and his family were returning from a meal in Parkgate when his wife spotted Paul at the bus stop. 

Colin said: "So we had been to Parkgate for a meal with our son Mason when I heard my wife shouting 'look there's Paul.'  He had just got out of a car, and we had stopped at the lights. I wound the window down and shouted 'Paul.'

He shouted back 'You alright?'

I then told him that I went to the same school as him. He asked me which one and I said Liverpool Institute. He asked me who was my teacher and said I can't remember but that Mr Parker was the head.

The lights then changed, and we had to go. I shouted 'See ya' and he waved goodbye. He had just got out of a car with his daughter Stella."

Colin’s son Mason managed to snap the accompanying photograph.


26 September

The following day Paul was spotted in Liverpool again, following what the Echo described as a poignant date for his family.

Paul was photographed at Lime Street station on the Sunday lunchtime with two of his daughters - fashion designer Stella and photographer Mary, as well as his wife Nancy Shevell and several grandchildren. 

That same day there were posts on social media from both Paul’s brother Michael and their third cousins the Robbins (the children of Betty and Mike Robbins), all referencing a family event the previous evening.

It’s uncertain what the extended McCartney clan were celebrating but on Friday 24th September Paul had paid tribute to his first wife Linda, on what would have been her 80th birthday. It’s also been suggested that Mike McCartney’s wife Rowena was celebrating her 60th birthday. 

There are unconfirmed reports that Paul and his two daughters also visited the Linda McCartney Cancer Centre while they were in Liverpool. I find this slightly more believable than the suggestion by one wag that Paul was back in town because Everton were playing at home.

Photos by Activate Digital

Although there’s probably no escaping the inevitable camera phones that emerge wherever he goes it’s notable that these particular images give the impression that Paul and his family were able to move around the station, apparently unmolested and in some cases barely noticed, before they took the train back to London together. 

I can’t think of many high-profile celebrities who would do that and it’s perhaps a measure of how safe he feels whenever he returns home unannounced. 

Over the years Paul has said in interviews that he does this – walks around in public and uses public transport – and feels safe doing so because nobody expects him to be there and by the time people have realised he’s gone.

As someone once said, he’s a lovely lad, and so natural. I mean adoration hasn’t gone to his head one jot has it, you know what I mean, success. 

Most annoyingly, I actually got off a train in Lime Street just over an hour later and missed them!


29 September

Three days after his weekend in Liverpool there was another important birthday in the McCartney family, that of Paul’s late mother Mary (born 1909) which he marked by sharing another lovely, previously unseen photograph of them together, taken at a holiday camp in the late 1940s. It’s been suggested that the photo was taken at Butlins in Pwhelli but having looked at a lot of 1940s-1950s holiday camps I’m pretty sure it was taken at the former Squier’s Gate camp in Blackpool.


On 30 September there was an invite only event at the Liverpool Beatles Museum in Mathew Street during which a new addition to the collection was unveiled.

Figurative artist Jonathan Hague became friends with John Lennon when they both studied at Liverpool College of Art, and they kept in touch throughout the Beatles' subsequent rise to fame. In 1967 John Lennon and Paul McCartney sponsored Hague’s exhibition at the Royal Institute in London which included Hague’s first portrait of the Beatles in their Sgt. Pepper outfits. Lennon subsequently purchased the painting (he also bought Hague a house in Leamington Spa). The whereabouts of this painting today are unknown.

When John was murdered in 1980 Hague was inspired to paint again, producing a second similar, but not identical painting, which remained in his house until he passed away in 2015. When they started looking for a suitable place to display the painting a few years later, word reached the Hague family about the Liverpool Beatles museum, and following a tour of it they decided they had found the perfect home for their father’s work.

Roag Best had invited John Lennon’s half-sister Julia Baird along to do the honours.

This was a nice little get together with friends from the Liverpool Beatles scene, some who I hadn’t seen since the start of the pandemic and some I only knew on-line through this blog and the Facebook group of the same name.

Also, on 30 September Paul McCartney’s second children’s book about the exploits of the magical intrepid explorer Edward Marshall Senior, otherwise known as Grandude, was published.

The sequel, Grandude’s Green Submarine features more adventures with Grandude and his four grandchildren and introduces music-loving grandmother Nandude, which is an obvious nod to his wife Nancy. 

To promote the book Paul took part in a Q&A published in The Mirror.  Asked for his memories about the biggest adventure he went on as a child he recalled going to the Isle of Man with the school, which was pretty amazing because we didn’t travel much as kids.

He also remembered going to Butlins in Pwllheli, North Wales, around the age of 11 where he was photographed still wearing his school cap and short school trousers. He reflected ‘I think we were too poor for leisure clothes, or I was amazingly proud of my new school uniform.

But, yeah, it was great, I loved it. Me and my brother Mike just zoomed round all day, going to all the various things going on – beauty contest or the knobbly knees contest or the singing contest or the rock and calypso ballroom.' 
Ringo Starr would later play a summer season at the rock and calypso ballroom while he was a member of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. 

Asked about his own favourite bedtime stories as a child Paul said I didn’t get any bedtime stories. I would read stories myself, but it just wasn’t one of those households where your parents read you stories. I read Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson – I love that. I also read all the annuals like the Beano and the Dandy and the Eagle. It was very exciting when they came out around Christmas. So, we didn’t really do the bedtime story, but my dad did fix up headphones that came up to our bedroom so we could listen to the radio, and in a way that was like storytelling – just a super modern version. 

With the book being about grandparents Paul was asked whether he had any special memories of his own. He admitted, no, none at all. I didn’t know them, so that was a sadness. I didn’t realise that I didn’t have any until I was older – but, no, they all died before I was born so I didn’t meet any of them. It was more down to uncles and aunties than grandparents. 

The Mirror noted that the book would appeal to both preschool and early primary school children and asked Paul for his own memories of primary school in Liverpool. Although he initially attended Stockton Wood school in Speke, severe overcrowding necessitated a number of children, including Paul and his brother Mike transferring to a new school, Joseph Williams Primary in the still rural Belle Vale area of Liverpool, not far from Gateacre.   

Primary school was quite good, I enjoyed it. Even though I was living in Liverpool, I went to a school that was just outside. I liked going on nature walks. You went with the class and the teacher would show you this and that, and I became very fond of nature. I would do my own nature walks, and I was lucky because, even though we were in Liverpool, it was quite easy to get to the outskirts and be in the countryside.

I have some nice memories of friends and, you know, playing games. The girls would do skipping games with their skirts rolled into their knickers. All of those things were fun. Yeah, it was a good time. 

The title of his new book drew obvious comparisons to the Beatles’ song ‘Yellow Submarine’ and Paul was asked whether it was intentional: When I wrote ‘Yellow Submarine’ it was just before I was going to sleep in that sort of nodding off period and I was imagining the scene and I imagined the place underwater like a submarine parking lot with submarines in all colours of the rainbow so there was a red, green, yellow, blue etc. So, I’d always seen more than one submarine, the song, I chose yellow for this song but always felt that I left out the others so with this I thought it’d be nice to re-introduce my idea in the form of a green submarine which also gives a nod to ecological aspects. 

A life size model of Grandude’s Green Submarine was created to promote the book in a Waterstones bookshop, and, as he often does, Paul decided that it should be in Liverpool.

Children could access the submarine from the rear and have their photos taken looking through the portholes.  A 'Grandude' (Alastair Watson), and 'Nandude' (Terri Ann Hayes), were also on hand to meet them.

Grandude and Nandude with the Green Submarine outside Waterstones. (Image: Andrew Teebay/Liverpool Echo)

The green submarine docked at Waterstones on Sunday 2 October and remained there until close of business the following day when it was removed to its final harbour at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. One of the busiest children's hospitals in Europe it provides care for more than 270,000 children, young people and their families every year. It's a place close to Paul’s heart. His mother Mary trained as a nurse here and he has often supported the hospital over the years. The hospital was reportedly delighted that Paul had decided to donate the submarine to them. What a grand dude!

The Echo reported people queuing from 8am outside Waterstones to get the book, the first 55 visiting the submarine receiving a £2 voucher towards the price of the book and entered into a raffle to win an exclusive signed copy. Paul had only released 100 signed copies of the book worldwide, with five going to Liverpool, of which three had been claimed before 10.30am. 

As a promotional device it did its job because by the time, I got to Waterstones mid-afternoon on the Sunday they only had two copies left. I didn't plan on getting my photo taken but the Waterstones assistant offered.

After trampling over several small children, I managed to grab the last sheet of Grandude stickers. I think it was worth it.

On 9 October the world remembered John Lennon on what would have been his 81st birthday. It was also the 10th wedding anniversary of Paul and Nancy. McCartney posted messages and photos marking both on his official social media accounts.

Sixty years earlier John Lennon and Paul McCartney were on holiday in Paris, using the money Lennon had received for his 21st birthday from his Aunt Mater.

Paul posted a couple of remarkable photos from this period (c. 1961) as further promotion for his upcoming lyrics book.

One is a torn photo-booth image but the location of the other took a little longer to establish. But not that much longer (!) as Roger Stormo of the Daily Beatle website quickly confirmed that the photo was taken close to the Eiffel Tower on Quai Branly in Paris. He even posted a photo of how the area looks now (see below). 

I’ve also included this shot of Quai Branly, taken a little bit further back from where Paul was standing, so you can see the Eiffel Tower in the shot.

Notice the little pin holes in Paul's photo, a sign perhaps that it's a personal favourite of his which he's had out on display. A treasured memory of his holiday with John before fame beckoned. It's likely Lennon took the photo.

On 13 October we got the magnificent new trailer for Peter Jackson’s ‘Get Back’ film. The picture quality looking simply astonishing, like it was filmed yesterday.

Sharped eyed viewers will have spotted a brief clip of John and Paul with their former Liverpool agent/manager Allan Williams during his visit to Apple on 22 January 1969. 

I've heard the audio of Allan Williams' visit on bootleg, but I've never seen a photo before. Listening to it again Allan mentions he’s down in London with the artist Arthur Dooley (who would later create the Four Lads Who Shook the World sculpture in Mathew Street).  

He also says he still has the record the Beatles made in Hamburg with Lou Walters and Ringo Starr who were then both still members of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, in 1960. It’s an important disc, being the very first recording to feature John, Paul, George and Ringo. Perhaps recognising the significance, the Beatles ask Allan if he has the disc with him. Unfortunately, he hasn’t and promises to bring it next time. 

Sadly, history tells us that Allan subsequently lost the record, leaving it in the back of a taxi when he was, shall we say, a little worse for wear. It’s never turned up since. In hindsight January 1969 would have been one of the best times for Allan to bring it to Apple. Had he done so, there’s a good chance the Beatles would have asked to hear it there and then, and with everything being documented by a film crew, the audio of the disc would have been captured on the Nagra tapes used to record the soundtrack. At least then we'd have one surviving recording of it

Former manager/agent Allan Williams down from Liverpool on business in the big smoke drops in to 3 Saville Row during the Beatles' Get Back / Let It Be sessions.

Simultaneously with the release of the trailer, images from the excellent companion ‘Get Back’ book started appearing on-line including this photo of Allan in the Apple basement, just as everyone was packing up to leave for the day. 

Allan was such a great character and it's wonderful to see photos of him with the Beatles eight and a half years after he drove them to Hamburg in his van, the place where things finally started moving for the group. They had a lot to thank him for.

Another person the Beatles had a lot to thank for was also remembered on 13 October which marked what would have been the 80th birthday of Neil Aspinall, friend of the Best family, father of Roag, Beatles' road manager, Head of Apple and, in my book the only true 5th Beatle (not counting the people who were actually Beatles).

On 15 October it was reported that there would be traffic disruption the following week around the Port Sunlight area arising from the filming of The Midas Man, a new production about the life of Brian Epstein.

Filming started on 21 October with Jacob Fortune-Lloyd portraying Brian. He was quoted saying “[Brian’s] style is key to understanding his character. It reveals his flair, sensitivity & good taste. It was his armour against a challenging & dangerous world”. The following day it was announced that the award winning British actor, director and writer Rosie Day had been cast as Cilla Black.


On 17 and 18 October newspapers printed excerpts from Paul’s lyrics book. The New Yorker had this piece by Paul concerning the writing of ‘Eleanor Rigby’.

My mum’s favourite cold cream was Nivea, and I love it to this day. That’s the cold cream I was thinking of in the description of the face Eleanor keeps “in a jar by the door.” I was always a little scared by how often women used cold cream.

Paul as a boy scout, second from left on the third row.

Growing up, I knew a lot of old ladies—partly through what was called Bob-a-Job Week, when Scouts did chores for a shilling. You’d get a shilling for cleaning out a shed or mowing a lawn. I wanted to write a song that would sum them up. Eleanor Rigby is based on an old lady that I got on with very well. I don’t even know how I first met “Eleanor Rigby,” but I would go around to her house, and not just once or twice. I found out that she lived on her own, so I would go around there and just chat, which is sort of crazy if you think about me being some young Liverpool guy. Later, I would offer to go and get her shopping. She’d give me a list and I’d bring the stuff back, and we’d sit in her kitchen. I still vividly remember the kitchen, because she had a little crystal-radio set. That’s not a brand name; it actually had a crystal inside it. Crystal radios were quite popular in the nineteen-twenties and thirties. So I would visit, and just hearing her stories enriched my soul and influenced the songs I would later write. 

Eleanor Rigby may actually have started with a quite different name. Daisy Hawkins, was it? I can see that “Hawkins” is quite nice, but it wasn’t right. Jack Hawkins had played Quintus Arrius in “Ben-Hur.” Then, there was Jim Hawkins, from one of my favorite books, “Treasure Island.” But it wasn’t right. This is the trouble with history, though. Even if you were there, which I obviously was, it’s sometimes very difficult to pin down.

It’s like the story of the name Eleanor Rigby on a marker in the graveyard at St. Peter’s Church in Woolton, which John and I certainly wandered around, endlessly talking about our future. I don’t remember seeing the grave there, but I suppose I might have registered it subliminally.

St. Peter’s Church also plays quite a big part in how I come to be talking about many of these memories today. Back in the summer of 1957, Ivan Vaughan (a friend from school) and I went to the Woolton Village Fête at the church together, and he introduced me to his friend John, who was playing there with his band, the Quarry Men. 

I’d just turned fifteen at this point and John was sixteen, and Ivan knew we were both obsessed with rock and roll, so he took me over to introduce us. One thing led to another—typical teen-age boys posturing and the like—and I ended up showing off a little by playing Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock” on the guitar. I think I played Gene Vincent’s “Be-Bop-a-Lula” and a few Little Richard songs, too. 

A week or so later, I was out on my bike and bumped into Pete Shotton, who was the Quarry Men’s washboard player—a very important instrument in a skiffle band. He and I got talking, and he told me that John thought I should join them. That was a very John thing to do—have someone else ask me so he wouldn’t lose face if I said no. John often had his guard up, but that was one of the great balances between us. He could be quite caustic and witty, but once you got to know him he had this lovely warm character. I was more the opposite: pretty easygoing and friendly, but I could be tough when needed. 

I said I would think about it, and a week later said yes. And after that John and I started hanging out quite a bit. I was on school holidays and John was about to start art college, usefully next door to my school. I showed him how to tune his guitar; he was using banjo tuning—I think his neighbor had done that for him before—and we taught ourselves how to play songs by people like Chuck Berry. I would have played him “I Lost My Little Girl” a while later, when I’d got my courage up to share it, and he started showing me his songs. And that’s where it all began.

I do this “tour” when I’m back in Liverpool with friends and family. I drive around the old sites, pointing out places like our old house in Forthlin Road, and I sometimes drive by St. Peter’s, too. It’s only a short drive by car from the old house. And I do often stop and wonder about the chances of the Beatles getting together. We were four guys who lived in this city in the North of England, but we didn’t know one another. Then, by chance, we did get to know one another. And then we sounded pretty good when we played together, and we all had that youthful drive to get good at this music thing. 

To this very day, it still is a complete mystery to me that it happened at all. Would John and I have met some other way, if Ivan and I hadn’t gone to that fête? I’d actually gone along to try and pick up a girl. I’d seen John around—in the chip shop, on the bus, that sort of thing—and thought he looked quite cool, but would we have ever talked? I don’t know. As it happened, though, I had a school friend who knew John. And then I also happened to share a bus journey with George to school. All these small coincidences had to happen to make the Beatles happen, and it does feel like some kind of magic. It’s one of the wonderful lessons about saying yes when life presents these opportunities to you. You never know where they might lead.

And, as if all these coincidences weren’t enough, it turns out that someone else who was at the fête had a portable tape machine—one of those old Grundigs. So there’s this recording (admittedly of pretty bad quality) of the Quarry Men’s performance that day. You can listen to it online. And there are also a few photos around of the band on the back of a truck. So this day that proved to be pretty pivotal in my life still has this presence and exists in these ghosts of the past. 

On 19 October Liverpool was featured in the Sky Arts programme: Statues Redressed 

As a result of its rich history Liverpool has the highest number of statues in the UK outside of London and includes cultural icons like The Beatles through to sporting heroes, royalty, and monuments depicting people linked to slavery and Britain’s colonial past. 

Filmed over the Summer of 2021 the programme followed a collection of artists taking part in a unique project as they creatively re-imagined some of Liverpool’s most iconic statues, giving them a whole new look by dressing them up or creating art around them to challenge, or celebrate, the role of these statues in modern times, as part of the ongoing debate around who and what should be immortalised as public monuments.

The Beatles Redressed at the Pier Head (photo: PA)

Located on the waterfront, the Beatles statues were redressed by the famous milliner Stephen Jones OBE. His redress was inspired by 'Penny Lane' for Paul, 'Here Comes The Sun' for George, 'Yellow Submarine' for Ringo and 'Help!' for John.

The programme observed that if it was measured in selfies, then this is the most loved statue in Britain. With this in mind, when the Cavern Club in Liverpool shared an image of the redressed Beatles on their social media page and asked fans what they thought, the comments were probably to be expected: 

“Useless 'art'. Remove as quickly as possible!” 

“Absolutely ridiculous.” 

One local fan showed concern for visiting tourists: “There are thousands of Beatles fans around the world who travel to Liverpool from miles and miles away. It is almost a once in a lifetime trip, they spend a lot of money as they can't visit Liverpool as often as we do. Imagine finding the statues like that... Disrespectful.” 

“No better than students sticking road cones on them! Puerile nonsense, have some respect!” 

One of my friends observed 'I'm sure the expression on George's face has changed. He now looks like he's scowling'.


Having watched the programme I found that some of the artists’ interventions were inspired, some were confrontational, some were celebratory and some, to me at least, seemed to miss the brief, but in some way all were thought provoking, which I suppose was the ultimate aim.

Finally it would be remiss of me not to mention the sad passing of Lizzie Bravo from heart problems on 5 October.

Lizzie was born in Brazil and moved to London in February 1967 to work as an au pair. Whenever she had time she would wait with other fans outside the EMI studios in Abbey Road in the hope of meeting and speaking to the Beatles.

On 4 February 1968, the Beatles were recording the song 'Across the Universe' in EMI Studios. Deciding the song needed a high-pitched voice to sing the refrain "Nothing's gonna change my world", Paul McCartney approached the fans waiting outside and asked if anyone could hold a high note. Lizzie and another girl, Gayleen Pease (a student from London) answered 'yes' and shortly afterwards found themselves being ushered into the studio where the Beatles were working. Their backing vocals can be heard on the World Wildlife Fund version of ‘Across the Universe' which appears on the album Past Masters, and now, as a consequence of Giles Martin’s 2021 remix they can also be heard (just about) on the version of the song which appears on the 50th anniversary of the Let It Be album. I hope Lizzie got to hear it.


Lizzy was a lovely lady, active on a number of Beatle themed social media sites, who I often spoke to on Facebook, encouraging her to produce an English language version of her book Do Rio A Abbey Road (From Rio to Abbey Road) which included the above photograph taken in 1968 when she visited Liverpool while the Beatles were away in India.

In 2019 she told me I went to Liverpool twice, in '67 and '68. I went to the original Cavern and saw two bands performing there: The Cymbalines and Curiosity Shoppe. It was simply amazing to be in that space... There was no mention of the boys anywhere in the city. I feel privileged to have been there when it was exactly like the city they were born and grew up in. 

She was well liked and respected and remained a Beatle fan all her life. In the genuine outpouring of sadness that followed it was brought to the attention of fans that Gayleen had also died earlier this year. They were both 70.

Here's a video of the pair reunited at Abbey Road in 2010 for BBC's 'The One Show'.

News of Lizzie's passing reached the official Lennon estate who posted this touching tribute. I wonder what she would have thought of that? Certainly whoever was managing her account in the days after she passed loved the gesture.

RIP Lizzie and Gayleen, Beatles fans to the end x


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