While many of us are “sheltered at home” during this difficult time, it’s fun to IMAGINE the places we’ll go, when we’re allowed to “roam, if you want to” once again. As we shut ourselves away from the world right now, we make promises to ourselves that we will never again put off those journeys that beckon us, those places we want to see and experience! And for so many who love music, Liverpool, England, is top of that list. One of the newest and most exciting attractions in “The City on the Mersey” is Roag Best’s Magical Beatles Museum, located only steps from The Beatles’ legendary haunt, The Cavern Club — where “the boys” performed over 300 times. Here to walk us through this fab “(“there is a) place” is none other than savvy, entrepreneurial, and witty brother of Beatles drummer, Pete Best…and son of the great Mona Best and the beloved Neil Aspinall, Mr. Roag Best.
Jude Southerland Kessler: Roag, welcome to CultureSonar! We’re honored to have you as our virtual tour guide for your wonderful Magical Beatles Museum today. Tell us, what inspired you to create this unique and interactive repository of “everything Beatles”?
Roag Best: My mother, Mona, had so many items of Beatles memorabilia in our family home: clothes, jewelry, posters, letters, instruments, signs…you name it, she had it! The funny thing is, it wasn’t even called “memorabilia” then. This collection of hers was the root of my collection.
Related: “The Beatles and ‘Sgt. Pepper’: How to Manage Change”
It all started, I suppose, when I dragged the “Casbah Coffee Club” sign out of a dumpster and asked my mother, Mo, if I could have it. She was surprised I wanted it, but said, “Sure!” This was followed by me wearing my grandfather’s army medals on the front of my denim jacket because I liked them…only to discover they had been loaned to John Lennon to wear on the Sgt. Pepper album cover. (But this wasn’t why I had taken them and been given them! It was simply because I liked the medals.)
I also used to love playing with the thicker and heavier records with the writing on the white labels that my dad had. I liked the songs! My dad, Neil Aspinall, told me if I liked them, I could have them. Once again, little did I realize they were all Beatles acetates — some even different from the released song…and then, it kicked in: my love of collecting!
I asked if could I have the guitars. I asked if I could have the drum kits (as I was starting to play drums). I asked if I could have the posters. I asked if I could have the flyers, and everyone was saying, “Yes!” because I was the only one interested in them! So, my collection grew, with items given to me from my mother and items given to me by my brother, Pete Best, and items given to me by my dad.
On top of this, I started collecting in my own right, sourcing items — traveling far and wide to get them. The collection outgrew my house, and then it outgrew the first storage unit! One unit was becoming six units, and finally, a small warehouse. But…nobody was seeing anything!
That’s when I had the thought of creating a museum, which took me ten years to find! But find it, I did! It was a five-floor Victorian warehouse in the middle of Mathew Street, Liverpool. We gutted the floors, and I sat in the building, on my own, for three weeks, sketching out how each floor of the museum would look. Once done, we began putting it back together, according to my drawings and notes…which were being deciphered by a builder who could understand my ramblings.
We got there…opening the doors on 20 July 2018. Is it finished? No!!!! We’re adding items and changing displays on a weekly basis. Have we achieved what we wanted to achieve? Yes!!! There really isn’t anything like the Magical Beatles Museum out there!
Kessler: Tell us about some of the most interesting displays and collectibles that people won’t want to miss when they visit.
Roag Best: Wow! That is so very hard to do! But I’ll try naming three from each floor…
Ground Floor, 1959-1962: We have Pete’s premier drum kit, George Harrison’s guitar, and Paul’s bass speaker
Second Floor, 1963-1966: Ringo’s drum stool, the police journal regarding The Beatles’ first USA visit to New York City and “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and gifts from Elvis to The Beatles from their 1965 meeting
Third Floor, 1967-70: John Lennon’s custom-made egg chair, the “All You Need is Love” doll from the BBC World Broadcast, the cello from “Blue Jay Way”
See? It’s so difficult, as different items excite different people, and I can’t read minds!
Kessler: Do you have themed or special monthly exhibits?
Roag Best: No, we don’t do that due to the fact that we’re adding new items and exhibits every other week and will be for another 12 to 18 months or so. Maybe when I walk around the museum and say, “Yes! This is it!” (because we’ll have no more room), I’ll consider doing that. I do know that the museum cannot house the whole collection at once, so it will always be changing!
Kessler: Can readers of CultureSonar donate items to the Magical Beatles Museum?
Roag Best: Certainly, readers can donate items! Each year, we give a “Museum Ambassador Award” to people who have donated items or helped the museum in noticeable other ways. In 2019, four people became Magical Beatles Museum Ambassadors, and this year, there are two more in the running. We take giving an ambassadorship very seriously, and we appreciate these people so much!
Kessler: And last, but certainly not least, Roag, we’d love to ask you about those very special people in your life. First, could you please share with us some memories of your dynamic mother, Mona Best?
Roag Best: Mona was a charismatic, fearless, thoughtful, intuitive, loving dynamo! From riding a motorcycle on the wall of death to betting on a horse to win a house to creating Liverpool’s first rock’n’roll club (remember, The Cavern was jazz-oriented when The Casbah opened in 1959), to giving a group who “climbed the dizzy heights of world success” their start, that was my mother. Not a bad resumé…and that’s not even a fraction of it!
Kessler: And memories of your dad, Neil Aspinall?
Roag Best: Neil was loyal, fair, loving, thoughtful, hard-working, and so amazingly creative. I have literally never spoken to anyone who thought like my dad thought — always thinking “out of the box.” He made the box and leaped out of it!! I consider myself very lucky to have had them as my parents.
Kessler: Any plans to “hit the road” this year and do a “Museum and Music” tour with your brother, Pete Best?
Roag Best: Yes, this year, in 2020, we’ll be “back out there” again! The Pete Best Band will be doing concerts! Pete will be doing his audience show and occasional guest appearances as well. Once the world is safe to explore again, we’ll be very active as it is the 60th Anniversary of The Beatles…and Pete and “you-know-who” was there for it all!
Kessler: Roag, many heartfelt thanks for taking us through your incredibly fab-tastic Magical Beatles Museum, and we hope to join you there in person soon on Mathew Street, Liverpool! Until then, stay safe and Godspeed!
For more information on the Magical Beatles Museum, go to: https://magicalbeatlesmuseum.com/
For more information on The Pete Best Band, go to: https://www.petebest.com/
-Jude Southerland Kessler
Photo: The Beatles circa 1963 via Getty Images
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