Editor’s Note: The New York Metro Fest for Beatles Fans takes place April 1-3 at Hyatt Regency Hotel in Jersey City, NJ.
American poet Emily Dickinson was a self-confessed recluse. But her knowledge of the world-at-large abounded…because she dwelled in the land of books. So many of us over the last two years have had limited contact with the outside world and have endured increasingly narrowed experiences. But now comes a “magic carpet volume” for Beatles fans that blends travel guide with historical reference in an expanded study of The Beatles’ homes, schools, pubs, venues, and important historic sites. And it takes each reader on a personal tour of Liverpool, Hamburg, London, and New York. Cleverly entitled The Beatles Fab Four Cities, it’s the popular, new work from accomplished authors and tour guides David Bedford (Liverpool and Hamburg), Richard Porter (London and Hamburg), and Susan Ryan (New York).
Although Fab Four Cities is compact enough to stuff into a rucksack and carry on a plane, bus, or train, it’s definitely not simply a travel manual. Not by a long shot. Each destination has been thoroughly researched. In fact, after reading about Port Sunlight in Liverpool or the Royal Albert Hall in London, you’ll not only know exactly how those places relate to The Beatles but also what that location’s history is in a broader historical perspective. For example, did you know that the exquisite “Imagine” centerpiece in Central Park’s Strawberry Fields was designed by an Italian craftsman and lovingly donated to the city of New York by the city of Naples, Italy? Did you know that one of the benches in Strawberry Fields was donated by the family of renowned Lennon biographer and Beatles friend, Ray Coleman, after his death? Each page offers details such as these…facts that are far from common knowledge.
One of the most interesting aspects of Bedford, Ryan, and Porter’s book is the segment referred to as “Fab Four Connections,” where two or more of the Fab Four Cities are linked by quirky similarities or mirrored events. Here’s an example: Fab Four Cities’ authors inform us that London’s illustrious Charles Dickens made many trips to Liverpool between 1838 and 1869 and read from his books in Liverpool’s St. George’s Hall. Strangely enough, the Londoner also traveled to New York’s St. George’s Hall, raising money for the American Civil War. London, Liverpool, New York: all connected in a curious coincidence. Over and over again, uncanny links between London, Liverpool, Hamburg, and New York (four thriving port cities) are revealed. And some of these ties are, well…eerie!
Of course, the expected elements of a solid travel book are present. Clearly drawn and numbered maps are provided, along with descriptions and discussions of each site. Rare color photographs of places you’ve probably never seen before seen are included: Paul McCartney’s early childhood home in Western Avenue in Speke; the Hamburg police station where Paul and Pete Best were detained overnight before being deported for “torching” a room in the Bambi Kino Cinema; John Lennon’s Uncle Sidney’s home where the little boy lived temporarily before taking up permanent residence with his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George Smith in Mendips. The locales in this book are anything but “the usual suspects.” I’ve traveled to Liverpool seven times, and some of the places were entirely new to me.
One important consideration in the purchase of any book is the authority upon which its author speaks, and the authenticity and expertise of the writers of Fab Four Cities are exceptional:
David Bedford (“Liddypool Dave”) is a true Scouser – a lifelong resident of Liverpool – and the author of the most respected volume on The Beatles’ hometown, Liddypool. He followed that exhaustive work with The Fab One Hundred and Four (a thorough discussion of the myriad influences on the band), Finding the Fourth Beatle (a history of the band’s many drummers), and The Country of Liverpool (a consideration of the country and western influences on The Beatles…reviewed in CultureSonar, 2021). Bedford has also visited Hamburg and is quite familiar with its history and culture as well. Finally, he was one of the producers of the accurate, artistic 2018 film, “Looking for Lennon.” He is a Guest Speaker at the Fest for Beatles Fans and was the Featured Artist at 2018’s Beatles at the Ridge festival.
Richard Porter (“Beatles Brain of Britain”) similarly, is a lifelong resident of London. For over 30 years, Richard has served as a highly-respected Beatles’ London Tour Guide, recognized for the excellence of his work by Sky News, BBC Breakfast News, BBC London, and many more. His work has also been praised by the Guardian, the London Evening Standard, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Miami Herald. Porter serves as the official Beatles Consultant for BBC News and in 2009, published the esteemed guide The Beatles London. Like David Bedford, Porter is quite at home in Hamburg, having traveled to the German port town for the primary purpose of Beatles research.
Susan Ryan (as you’ve probably already surmised from the biographies of her peers) is a native New Yorker whose Fab 4 NYC Walking Tours are legend. For more than 15 years, “showing off” The Beatles’ Big Apple to newcomers has been Ryan’s passion. Her knowledge of the subject is so respected that she was selected to co-host the DVD, John Lennon’s New York. Because of her Beatles acumen, Ryan serves as a coordinator, interviewer, and emcee for the New York Metro and Chicago Fests for Beatles Fans. In 2019, she was also the emcee/host for the Beatles at the Ridge festival. Ryan has edited many well-known Beatles books and is currently working with Dr. Kenneth Womack on an upcoming project.
Now admittedly, reviewers rarely ask authors what they find most outstanding about the work that they’ve created. And that’s odd really…because that one question sheds important insight into a book’s original intent and significance. So, I posed that query to Ryan, Porter, and Bedford, and here are their frank responses:
Ryan: I think the most outstanding features of our book are the connections we were able to find between the four cities. Although we’re all experts on The Beatles in our respective towns, it was not until we collaborated on this book that we discovered how much all of them have in common and how they’re connected to each other in ways we never before realized.
Porter: For me, writing this book made me see how the cities affected The Beatles – and how The Beatles affected the cities. All now have Beatles tours that attract probably hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
Bedford: After researching and writing about The Beatles in Liverpool and Hamburg for 20 years, I assumed this would be quite a straightforward book to write. But once we started discovering the connections between the four cities, I suddenly saw the bigger picture and understood the story of The Beatles in a different way. It is those connections that make this book unique.
You will find all of the author’s aspirations well-achieved in this compact but content-packed book. If you can travel to the Fab Four Cities, you’ll need this handy reference guide. If you still cannot travel, you need it even more. Refer above to Dickinson; she knew! The Beatles Fab Four Cities is the frigate that will “take us lands away.” Enjoy!
-Jude Southerland Kessler
Photo: The Beatles (Getty)
To learn more about David Bedford, go to: https://davidabedford.com/?msclkid=8d653602a80311ec8465d7ac7cdcbe27
To learn more about Richard Porter, go to: Richard Porter – The Beatles Fab Four Cities (beatlesfab4cities.com) and for his tours: https://
To learn more about Susan Ryan, go to: https://beatlesfab4cities.com/the-authors/susan-ryan/?msclkid=1b8e0f4ea80411ec9d239f7dfe2f75f7 and for her Fab 4 NYC Walking Tours: https://fab4nyctours.weebly.com/?msclkid=a145283ea8b211ec8c8288069880f07b Meet Susan in person, April 1-3, New York Metro Fest for Beatles Fans at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Jersey City, NJ
To hear the “She Said She Said” podcast interview with all three authors, go to: https://shesaidshesaid.podbean.com/e/fab-4-cities-overview-by-the-experts/?msclkid=4a2c3d16a80411ec9a17f4328dc19f6b