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Dr Mike Jones is a lecturer at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Popular Music. As part of a report he has written for the city of Liverpool, he’s been examining the intense and occasionally strained relationship between the city and its most successful global export – The Beatles.

He has traced a fascinating story shaped by the social, political and economic changes Liverpool has faced in the last 100 years, and brought to life a new way of looking at the city’s approach to the band. Here are five things we learned about Liverpool’s recognition of The Beatles from Mike’s appearance on the University of Liverpool Podcast.

5 things we learned about the city of Liverpool’s relationship with the Beatles

  1. The Beatles’ rise came at a difficult time for Liverpool
    Mike believes that Liverpool reached its peak as a city in the pre-First World War period, when it acted as a major port in Britain’s huge global empire. But as decline set in, the city lost roughly half its population between the 1930s and the 1960s. So The Beatles and Liverpool were, according to Mike, “on exactly the opposite trajectory.” While the band was looking out to the world and embracing global opportunities, the city was in retreat. “I think the band’s antipathy [towards Liverpool] comes from that more than anything else,” says Mike.
  2. Separation between band and city came early
    The band’s last concert in Liverpool was at the Liverpool Empire towards the end of 1965. It took five more years for the band to break up, but the four band members had already separated from their home city. “The crucial point is they stopped playing live,” says Mike. “The Beatles had no reason to return as a playing group to Liverpool.”  
  3. The city authority’s attitude towards The Beatles
    In the early 1970s, shortly after The Beatles had broken up, a suggestion was made to erect a statue of the band in Liverpool. “The City Council’s response was ‘why should we put up a statue to four drug addicts?’” says Mike. It was an attitude, he says, that reflected the friction between the city’s authorities and its population. “There were always elements in the city that were resistant to The Beatles.”
  4. It took 20 years for Liverpool to embrace The Beatles
    Mike believes it wasn’t until the late 1980s or early 1990s that the City Council began to see the potential in developing the city’s recognition of the band. Its initial attempts, he says, were “clumsy” – including a 1991 John Lennon Memorial Concert at Liverpool’s Pier Head that was largely unsuccessful. But the foundations were laid and a shift in attitudes occurred that helped to reignite Liverpool’s tourism industry.
  5. The Beatles’ fans kick-started the real recognition
    “Most of The Beatles legacy provision is there because enthusiasts have developed it,” says Mike. From the Cavern City Tours through to individual fans working in Liverpool’s tourist and information centres, Mike believes it took the efforts of those equally enthusiastic about both the city and the band to finally fulfil Liverpool’s embrace of The Beatles. “People who work for city councils tend to think they know best,” says Mike, “but it’s actually the fans, the people who created those attractions, they’re the ones who knew best.”

About this podcast

The University of Liverpool Podcast aims to bring listeners closer to some of the academic experts, authors and innovative thinkers from the University who, through their in-depth analyses, research and discoveries, are affecting positive change in the world today. Each episode features one or more of our academic experts discussing research in their specialist field. Subscribe to the University of Liverpool Podcast via iTunes, Tunein and Google Play Music (US and Canada only) 

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