Greencastle natives Logan Beck and Lucas Eckrich traveled to Liverpool to pay homage to the greatest rock-and-roll band to ever record a tune. What happened at the end of their day in The Beatles’ home town probably would have ruined a great time for most of us, but as Beck recalls here, nothing could dash the high they had just experienced.
by Logan Beck
photos courtesy of Logan Beck
The Beatles were the first band I ever got obsessed with. I don’t know how old I was, but the first records I ever knew by name were Rubber Soul and Sgt. Pepper. There have been other bands and other phases over the years, but all of them eventually lost the spell they held over me. The Beatles never faded. So when I traveled abroad to England to visit my friend and bandmate, Lucas, I felt a strange sort of obligation to visit Liverpool and walk where the Beatles walked. In a strange way it felt like a spiritual journey, a pilgrimage to the musical Mecca.
When we checked into our hotel in Liverpool, the first thing Lucas and I did was book tickets to the city-wide Beatles bus tour, fittingly-named “The Magical Mystery Tour.” The tour guide was starting to bald. He was probably using a special shampoo to try to hold on to his last wisps of strawberry blonde hair, but he joked in a confident and casual way like someone who used to be the class clown. He looked like a slightly uglier and much older Michael Cera, and Lucas and I instantly took to him.
The bus wheeled around corner after corner taking us past the places made legend by Beatles lyrics. Penny Lane was marked by two cheap plastic signs that, according to “Michael”, cost only 5 pence to make because people keep stealing them. At one time the city only painted the Penny Lane sign onto the walls lining the sidewalk because real signs wouldn’t stay up for more than an hour or so. We rode to the other side of town where we stopped at Strawberry Fields. The gates vandalized nearly beyond the point of recognition. Funnily, most vandals had written “RIP Paul” than “RIP John” or “George”.
At the end of the tour, the bus parked down the street from the world famous Cavern Club, the place where the Beatles played countless shows before they broke into stardom. Since their rise, innumerable acts have played there. The Rolling Stones, Queen, Elton John, B.B. King, the list goes on and on. But before we reached the Cavern, “Michael” learned that Lucas and I are musicians. So when we stepped off the bus, intent on heading to the Cavern, “Michael” tapped us on our shoulders, “Hey lads, what are your plans for tomorrow evening?”
“We’re planning to stay with a friend in Manchester and maybe catch a Premier League match.”
“Well that’s your first mistake, isn’t it?” “Michael” pretended to vomit. We’d forgotten we were still in Liverpool. He grinned through his thick rimmed glasses, “Anyways, if you were to somehow wind up back in Liverpool tomorrow night, my band has played the Cavern Club every Saturday night for the past seven years. We would love to have you two come up and play a song with us.”
Lucas and I calmly shot each other a glance, calmly thanked the guide, and calmly walked around the corner where we proceeded to calmly lose all of our self-control. We screamed, laughed, hugged, and high-fived and you better believe we cancelled all of our god damn plans in Manchester.
By Saturday evening,we were strolling into the Cavern Club. No issue in showing up four hours early to a gig. We wandered down the stairs, one flight, two flights, three flights, four. The lights were dim, and the music was loud. A horde of twenty-somethings dressed as teenagers were on stage playing all the classics, and everybody was drunkenly singing along. Every brick in the place was covered by three or four signatures, and the walls were filled with showcases of memorabilia and gear of former musicians who played the club. On stage sat a wall of Vox amps and a Hofner bass, classic Beatles.
Dancing and singing with the locals was fun, but we were still several hours late so we wound up hogging a table in the back corner of the club. We quietly rehearsed over and over in heads while anxiously waiting to see “Michael” stroll past us towards the backstage area.
After hundreds of slow minutes, we saw his thick rims floating about the mass of faces and we jumped up, probably too enthusiastically, and rushed up to meet him. He smiled and told us to sit tight, he would get us up there.
When we were called up, he introduced us as “two blokes who rode my bus. They’re from Indiana in the US of A.” At first, the crowd looked a little skeptical, we were obviously the youngest two in the club by at least five years. Still, Lucas picked up the guitar with confidence, and I strapped on the Hofner bass (I actually hate Hofners, but it would be damn near blasphemy to not use a Hofner through a Vox amp to play a Beatles tune). We made eye contact with each other and turned to look at the rest of the band. I nodded to the drummer, he clicked his sticks four times, and we broke into “Don’t Let Me Down.”
The stage was electric. I watched the people in front of us turn fluid as they started swaying and dancing to our music. After three minutes my cheeks were hurting from smiling so hard. Lucas and I locked in and in just a second, the song was over. The crowd loved us. I couldn’t hear Lucas over their cheering but it didn’t matter, I felt like a rock star.
We handed the instruments back to their rightful owners and walked off stage, ecstatic. When we reached the dance floor, we were swarmed by a group of drunken 30-something year olds who wanted to buy us drinks. It flattered and surprised both of us, but we were so high from playing that we didn’t pay them much mind (Lucas would’ve declined no matter the circumstances because he has a girlfriend). We left the club and headed towards the train station, intent on heading back to Lucas’s house in Oxford. The air was bitter and frigid, but we barely felt it until we reached the station.
When we walked into the open air station, the air got a lot colder, and we saw that the trains in Liverpool do not, as we were told, run twenty-four hours. So then we started to worry. We had no place to stay for the night and not much money, save for the train ticket back.
We began wandering around the city, strolling into hotel lobbies and hostels in search of lodging. All the hostels were full, and the only hotel rooms available cost 130 pounds. That was not about to happen. As the night got even darker and colder, Lucas struck an idea, “Y’know, McDonald’s is open 24 hours.” Genius! We set off again towards downtown Liverpool.
Saturday nights have always had a strange power to change people. Liverpool is no exception. During daylight hours everyone is polite, put-together and mostly sober. At night, drinks get poured, clothes come off, and profanities get screamed. The streets were filthy from the absurd amount of littering that occurred within the last five hours. We trudged carefully onward as we made our way to McDonald’s only to see that Micky Dee’s was a cesspool of people too drunk to get home, but drunk enough to spend 20quid on grease. It was almost as packed as the Cavern Club. Barely any standing room, and certainly no sitting room. We were out another place to spend the night.
Frustrated, we began scanning the sidewalk for places that might still be open where we could relax for a few hours before getting thrown back into the streets. After a few moments our eyes found a mostly empty Burger King, also 24 hours. Well that was decided, so we strolled into the George W. Bush of fast-food restaurants–a place which hadn’t won the popular vote, but would do if it had to.
Fast-food is strange in England. All the burger joints have security guards whose sole job is to make sure you don’t fall asleep in their booths while they’re on duty. At least in America fast-food restaurants have the decency to let you sleep in the back if you really need to. On top of that, very few places in England have power outlets. And since most people use cash, places like Burger King feel no rush to fix their broken credit card readers. Still, we spent the night in Burger King. We didn’t sleep. We had to keep all of our winter gear on because every few minutes a drunk would stumble in and vacuum out all the warm air in the place. Our phones died. We couldn’t eat because we had no cash. Nine hours went by slowly. Very slowly. But I wasn’t mad. It was kind of funny actually. We played the most famous club in the world and then spent the night in a Burger King. That’s probably the closest thing to a real rockstar I’ll ever be.