Room 47 @ THE NICE ROOMS presents
"The Beatles' Landmarks In Liverpool"
- An Interview with author Dan Longman
Date of Article: 18th August 2017
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This year marks the 60th anniversary of when Paul first met John. Their meeting led to the creation of the world’s most famous boy band and sowed the seeds for some of the most recognisable tunes in musical history. Local author Dan Longman with his new book, The Beatles’ Landmarks in Liverpool has delved into the archives to reveal some of the city’s most momentous links with the Fab Four and looks at how these historic places have changed through time.
The Nice Rooms recently caught up with Dan to find out more.
Born in Birkenhead, Dan Longman (age 29) works as 'Heritage at Risk' Officer for Sefton Council
He is a regular history columnist for the Liverpool Echo Newspaper and Magistrate for the Merseyside Bench
The Beatles’ Landmarks in Liverpool is Dan's 12th book on local history.
"Penning a book about the Beatles has been a whole new experience for me. Taking on a subject so close to so many people’s hearts, and being careful to get the facts right, has been a real challenge. I hope given my background in local history that this book will offer something that little bit different and celebrate the local landmarks of the city where it all began."
Dan, welcome to The Nice Rooms.
In the introduction your referred to penning a book about The Beatles as being a real challenge and having to be careful getting the facts right. How did you go about sourcing your Beatles' information and any sleepless nights along the way?
Not so much sleepless nights but certainly a fair few daytime instances of writer’s block. The amount of Beatles information already out there was both a gift and a curse. I had be careful not to just regurgitate the same old stuff that has been doing the rounds for years, but then again nothing new was ever going to be revealed using secondary sources. In the beginning it was a bit of a struggle to get started, especially when juggling things like work, study and life in general. With my passion for local history, I used my tried and tested formula of just using what I had - the archives images, and from there I researched any relevant information I could find to help build a story. This mainly came from the multitude of existing books, historic maps and various sources out there on the web. I certainly don’t profess to be any kind of expert but I was able to use my local knowledge surrounding the history of Liverpool to dig a little deeper into the heritage of these well-known locations and add a little more historical and 21st century context. The ‘then and now’ style approach was the only way I personally could ever add anything new to the Beatles’ story, without a time machine.
The book features a mixture of fascinating images showcasing over twenty significant sitesacross the city region. Photographs include the world famous Mathew Street and theCavern, to lesser known sights such as Hulme Hall in Port Sunlight where Ringo first played as an official member of the band way back in 1962, and the former Odeon Cinema on London Road, where the group came for the 1964 Northern Premier of A Hard Day’s Night.Modern day pictures are contrasted against their Mersey Beat era counterparts thanks to photographer Bob Edwards who created a series of full colour ‘Then and Now’ style shots to illustrate the scenes.
When did Bob Edwards get on board?
The Beatles remain the major player in regards to generating tourism income for Liverpool don't they?
This is the weird thing. The band haven't played a note for decades yet their popularity continues to grow, capturing new generations of fans and listeners from all over the world. Being local to Liverpool probably I just notice their presence more. Hotels, bars, statues, even an airport have all been created in honour of the Beatles and their music, and that"s all relatively recent. Whilst researching the book I wasn't at all surprised to learn that the boys' legacy generates almost £90M to Liverpool's economy every year! They most certainly remain major players.
I've always wanted to write a book on The Beatles. Despite performing most of their greatest work half a century ago, the band's legacy continues to draw in the crowds. There have been countless books about the boys over the years, but I wanted to shed a new light on Liverpool’s geographical connections and discover more about the local history behind the international hits.
What was the most interesting or unexpected piece of information you discovered during your research?
I remember one night discussing how the book was coming along with a friend of mine, Mark Minshall, in a Birkenhead pub. I must have recently completed the chapter on George Harrison as I mentioned that I had read about how open and friendly the Harrison family were to fans and reporters. Mark told me how his mother was a big Beatles fan in her younger years. That bit I knew, but to my surprise he went on to say that she and had on occasion personally visited the Harrisons house for tea and biscuits! Mrs Harrison even gave her a small guitar plec from George, and told her it had been used live on stage by John Lennon. Sadly there was never any documentation to prove it but knowing the family, I am 100% certain of its authenticity. Mark still has the plec, but his mother sadly passed away a couple of years ago.
It's early days yet, I know, but how has your book been received to date?
It’s going well considering copies have only just started reaching the likes of Waterstones and WH Smiths. I’ve had some really good feedback from early reviews, both from those in the industry and Joe Public. One recently came in from a hardcore Beatles fan in the States who said that even he had learnt a few new things about the boys, so that was nice. I never intended the book to be any sort of encyclopaedia or Beatles Bible. I just wanted to contribute to the cellar full of noise that is Beatles literature with my own take on their history and heritage. If I can shine a light on something other authors have missed after so many years, then that’s a lucky a bonus. I’m told later this year the book is officially released in America which is very exciting! It'll benefit both locals and tourists, and these days Liverpool gets so many all eager to check out the sights about town. For those abroad who can’t make the trip, the Beatles’ Landmarks in Liverpool is the next best thing. It really complements the whole Beatles experience, so I just hope word gets around.
What do a nondescript New Brighton residential estate, a Litherland NHS Walk-in Centre, a Church in leafy Woolton and a never built Underground ventilation shaft in the heart of the city have in common? The answer is teased out in (Dan) Longman’s 95 page take, not so much on the Fab Four, but on some of the iconic places the band played in the heyday years of what Bill Harry introduced to the world as the Mersey Beat sound.
As we speak are there any Beatles' Heritage sites 'at risk' that you know of?
My day job sees me in the conservation team at a local authority with the title of Heritage at Risk Officer. Heritage at risk is deemed to be listed buildings or conservation areas that are most at risk of being lost as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development. I don’t work for Liverpool so I don’t have a say on matters such as the future of Strawberry Field or the story behind the old Odeon Cinema and its subsequent demolition. What I have learnt doing this job however is that the world of planning is multifaceted and to survive, all buildings must serve a purpose. Those which fail to adapt and be put to good new use can often find themselves at the wrong end of a wrecking ball. Overall most of the original buildings which feature in the book (that still stand) are in good order. The child homes of John and Paul are in excellent condition thanks to the excellent stewardship of the National Trust. Their statutory listed status also assists in the legal obligations required in their upkeep. The only place mentioned which has come close to demolition in recent years is the first home of Ringo Starr, 9 Madyrn Street. The boarded-up terrace had been one of over 200 such houses scheduled to meet their end in a £15M regeneration scheme. Fortunately the Government stepped in at the last minute and called a halt to the works, citing the negative effect the scheme would have on the appreciation of the Beatles’ musical heritage, thus is the power of the band’s legacy.
The Casbah has since been Grade II listed and appears almost identical to the times of the band.
"Dan’s fascination with heritage shines through and the book is packed full of interested historical trivia from times gone by. Did you know that the famous round about on Penny Lane was originally named after 18th century slave owner James Penny, or that the celebrated shelter in the middle of the round-about was originally near the site of an old quarry known as the Allerton Delph? What’s more, the city’s historic Blue Coat School dating from 1717 is not only renowned for being the oldest surviving building in the city centre, but was also the setting for Yoko Ono’s first ever paid artistic performance in 1967.
The Beatles’ Landmarks in Liverpool also features a foreword from the legendary Bill Harry, the man who helped promote the then fledgling band in his Mersey Beat Magazine, and who famously arranged for Brian Epstein to see the band perform at the Cavern that momentous day in 1961."
(Liverpool Echo 25th July 2017)
Dan, thanks for the interview and good luck with the book!