The Hendersons Will Dance And Sing
(In which three 50-somethings make their long awaited pilgrimage to Liverpool,
and experience memorable Beatle moments here, there and everywhere)
By Alan Millen, Zurich, Switzerland / March 2006 (

    All right, Sherman, set the wayback machine to February 1964. Beatlemania has recently crossed the Atlantic and continued its global spread to Nanaimo, B.C., then a rough-and-tumble town of some 20,000 residents on the east coast of Vancouver Island. Beatle fans are emerging in numbers. And I am one of them – 12 years old and already the proud owner of a collarless Beatle jacket from Woolworth’s and my first Beatles single (She Loves You / I’ll Get You), purchased at Fletcher’s Appliances on Commercial Street for the then princely sum of one dollar plus five cents tax and followed soon afterward by Please Mr. Postman / Roll Over Beethoven. Life in general was never quite the same after February 9, that magical Sunday night when The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and took North America by storm. By the end of that month I had dug down deep and paid four dollars and 20 cents plus 21 cents sales tax for a copy of Twist And Shout, which more than 40 years later now resides in my sister’s basement in a small town on Vancouver Island, where it and the rest of my glorious record collection have been in safekeeping since 1987, the year I left Canada to live in Switzerland. But that’s another story altogether.

    Skip ahead to the autumn of that year when the Henderson brothers, Keith and Ed, come to live on Harewood Road, a stone’s throw from Fourth Street, where I had already lived for a couple of years. Our paths first crossed at Harewood School, where a bond was forged that has lasted more than four decades, with the music of the Beatles providing the soundtrack all along the way. Every song they released was joyously received and analyzed and scenes from the first two movies re-enacted. By 1966 Keith was a bassist in the first of numerous bands that would be part of the local music scene over the next five years: Generation, 33rd Rail, The White Buck Grease Band, to name just a few. Ed became a guitar aficionado early on, even building his own replica guitars out of cardboard and bits of wood until the day came when they both acquired the real thing. Ed was a player, but not a performer. He would work out the melodies from repeated listening, much to the amazement of his older brother and me. Day Tripper…here’s how it goes. Nowhere Man…I figured it out last night. Meanwhile, I proved hopelessly inept at learning to play, opting instead to focus on lyrics. In a perfect world, I supposed we would have become some powerhouse songwriting team, but that never happened. Yet the music of The Beatles was the ever-present accompaniment to the countless hours we spent together just trying to survive the trials and tribulations of adolescence, the challenges of young adulthood and relationships with women, eventual marriage and fatherhood, and now, more than 40 years later, the inevitable onset of middle age. Yet we can still roll back the years effortlessly to recall the thrill of being in Kelly’s Records when the first shipment of Paperback Writer & Rain arrives, complete with groovy picture sleeve. Were Keith and I really the first two guys in town to buy that dynamite single? We certainly like to think so.

    London, where you get a tan from standing in the English rain
    More than four decades on, we arrive as a trio in London on February 22 for a brief two-day visit dedicated to Beatle locations in the British capital. First-time visitors are encouraged to join one of the official Beatle Walks, which is part of the extensive London Walks program ( I have been on both walks a couple of times and so was able to play tour guide for my two companions. The weather was unfriendly, to say the least. Throughout the day we faced a bracing mix of wind, rain and snow, but we soldiered through, starting from the Abbey Road crosswalk (or zebra crossing as it’s referred to in UK parlance) and finishing several hours later at Paul McCartney’s offices in Soho Square. There are numerous memorable locations in between, but for us I think 3 Savile Row registered most strongly as we stood outside the former head office of Apple and imagined the Beatles up on the rooftop. In our minds at least, the strains of Don’t Let Me Down, I’ve Got A Feeling, The One After 909, Get Back were still hanging in the air. As was Lennon’s timeless quip: “I hope we’ve passed the audition.”

    Liverpool here we come
    I first visited Liverpool in November 1997 and went on the Magical Mystery Tour of Beatle locations in and around the city that shaped the Fab Four all those years ago. By the end of the second day I was hooked. Since then I have been back several times and have attended the annual Beatle Week festival in 1998, 2003, 2004 and 2005. And I hope to get back again this August. Keith and I made our first pilgrimage together in February 2004, during which we had the pleasure of seeing and hearing The Mersey Beatles at the Cavern. That visit gave rise to the idea of making the trip again, this time together with his younger brother, which we finally accomplished on February 24-26 of this year. Our timing turned out to be perfect as we were able to attend George Harrison Tribute Day at the Cavern. Hearing local tribute bands The Blue Meanies and The Beat Beatles perform the music of our heroes so impressively in that setting was a dream come true.

    More than 40 years after first hearing of the Cavern club,
    Alan Millen and Keith Henderson visit the legendary location

    Klaus Voormann: there are places I remember
    But the appearance of Klaus Voormann as guest speaker was the icing on the cake. Hearing this Hamburg native relate tales of his first encounters with the Beatles, including Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe, was simply spellbinding. “It was just so exciting. I had never heard rock and roll before,” he recalled. He described Pete Best as being “in a world of his own, not really part of the band. Ringo was obviously a better drummer.” As for his own musical start, he acquired Stuart Sutcliffe’s bass guitar when Stuart needed money for art supplies. “I paid him 200 marks for it and taught myself to play.” Although Beatle fans are well aware of Voormann’s musical pedigree, he reminded the audience that he also has a stint with Manfred Mann, although this phase was not really a highlight, lacking in integrity compared to his experiences with John, Paul, George and Ringo.

    As the occasion marked George’s 63rd birthday, Voormann reminisced at length about the legendary lead guitarist, describing him as “mature for his age, even at 17 years old. And in the early days he sang both differently and more often than later on recordings by the Beatles.”

    As for his involvement in creating the cover of Revolver, which marked his return to his first vocation after several years of not doing art, Voormann remembered being “blown away by the music upon hearing it before I created the artwork. Hearing Tomorrow Never Knows was incredible. They never stood still. They were always striving to be better.” When he presented the cover some time later, Brian Epstein was moved to tears, describing it as “better than anything we expected.” But some people found it disturbing. “They said George’s eyes were scary.”

    He described the eventual break-up of the band “as the most natural thing in the world. It would have been wrong for them to stay together just because other people wanted them to.”

    Voormann reminisced freely about working with George, John and Ringo on assorted solo recordings (All Things Must Pass, Imagine, Instant Karma etc.) and performing on stage at the Concert For Bangla Desh, with Bob Dylan’s appearance in doubt right up to the last minute even after rehearsals had been completed, and Live Peace In Toronto, for which the band rehearsed on board their flight over the Atlantic (“right next to the engines”)

    Surely the most poignant moment of the afternoon came when Klaus Voormann recalled the last time he saw George alive. “It was in Austria. He was in bad shape. But his spirit was very good. He tried to make me feel better, although I wanted it to be the other way around. He recalled that during their final hours together, George told him: “My body is only a shell. My spirit will always be with you.” George’s characteristic humour stayed with him till the end. “He even made a home video of himself, without any hair and a front tooth missing, singing “how does it feel to be one of the beautiful people.”

    Asked by a member of the audience for a fondest memory of George and John, he selected this last encounter with George. And of John, he said: “The way he stood beside his wife when people were giving her a hard time. That really impressed me.”

    Klaus Voormann finished his talk by signing copies of his illustrated book “Four Track Stories” (published in German and English, see

    Klaus Voormann signing “Four Track Stories” for Ed Henderson at the Cavern, 25 Feb 2006

    For three lifelong Beatle fans this up-close and personal encounter with someone from the inner circle was a bit of unforgettable magic. The pinnacle for me was having the opportunity to present Klaus Voormann with a copy of a song I wrote in 1998 called “You Gotta Love The Beatles”, musical expression of thanks to the Beatles for the joy they provided and to the people who make Beatle Week happen each year in Liverpool. In 2005 the song was recorded by The Beatlemaniacs (see, a tribute band based in northeast England who have performed at Beatle Week on several occasions. The song is included on the “Jukebox” section of their website.

    Meet the Beatles … our B&B host did just that
    Finding accommodation in Liverpool proved quite difficult. I started over the internet about a month before our visit but could find nothing affordable in the city centre. But in the end that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We ended up staying at a bed and breakfast near Sefton Park, a short bus or taxi ride from the city centre. The park itself is significant in Beatle history for being the location for early publicity shots taken by Dezo Hoffmann, which were later used on the cover of the Twist And Shout LP.

    The house at 13 Ullett Road is an impressive character building dating from the mid-1800s. For £40 per night each, English breakfast included, we got the spacious basement suite, which we found ideal for our needs. Recently renovated, it was immaculately clean and the beds very comfortable. On a value-for-money basis this was in an altogether different league from what we experienced in London. And our gracious host, Diane Gardiner, turned out to be a lifelong Beatle fan herself. Imagine our envy at hearing her own personal anecdote.

    “We were 16 and we had tickets to see The Beatles. As we tried on dozens of dresses in my home in Wales, I looked out of my bedroom window and saw a tall, interesting, young man. He was trying to use the phone in one of the red public boxes. It was late evening and his hair shone in the light in the phone box. He had a great haircut, he was very good-looking and he didn't look Welsh. Then it struck me: "That bloke over there looks just like...Paul McCartney!!!" It was him. We crossed the road in two seconds. John, George and Ringo were sitting in their maroon Jaguar car. It was unreal and wonderful. We offered (begged) Paul to use our phone. He was delighted to find fellow Liverpudlians in this place called North Wales! He walked through our home, sat on my sofa (I have it still, how could I ever let it go?) and used our phone. He was charming, funny and a memory that still makes me smile. I got all their autographs and saw them perform the next night. For a long time, 16 was the best year of my life.”

    (To contact Diane Gardiner about staying at her B&B, e-mail her at or call (from Canada) 0044 151 280 1521.
    Further information: see

    From Woolton to The Dingle
    While in Liverpool we took in all the main Beatle locations, which were familiar to me from previous visits. In my experience, the best way to do this is get a good map to go with one of the various Beatle guides and purchase an all-day bus pass (approx. £2.20). This way you can cover all the prime locations within a day or two. There is some considerable walking involved but this really helps to you to get a genuine feel for the place. We visited St. Peter’s Church in the village of Woolton, where John and Paul first met and wandered from there to the famous red gates at Strawberry Field. We also visited the four childhood homes: 251 Menlove Avenue, 20 Forthlin Road, 12 Arnold Grove (on what would have been George’s 63rd birthday) and 10 Admiral Grove. Among the numerous highlights: the Penny Lane barber shop, where the two hairdressers on duty gave us a warm welcome and even gave Ed a Penny Lane road sign to hold while sitting in the chair for his haircut...and a refreshing pint and a friendly welcome at The Empress pub in The Dingle, where Ringo’s mother once worked as a barmaid. Beatle fans will recognize the pub from the cover of Sentimental Journey, Ringo’s first solo album.

    We also spent a couple of hours at The Beatles Story, the museum at the Albert Dock complex. I recall feeling mildly disappointed the first time I visited a few years back but the current product is much improved, thanks largely to an audio program narrated by Julia Baird, John Lennon’s sister, which includes sound bites from Paul McCartney, Allan Williams, Gerry Marsden and several other local people who experienced Beatlemania first-hand in the Beatles’ home town. This enhancement really brings the story to life.

    Paris celebrates the life of John Lennon
    And so to Paris, where an exhibition entitled “John Lennon: Unfinished Music”, is presented at the Cité de la Musique until June 25 (, open noon to 6 p.m.). It helps if you can at least read French as none of the supporting documentation is in English, but anyone with a reasonable grasp of his private and professional activities will be able to piece it all together quite easily even if French proves a handicap.

    This is a comprehensive account of John’s life, consisting of school report cards loaded with withering comments that peg him as the original slacker and consistent underachiever, copies of his irreverent hand-made publication The Daily Howl, hand-written as well as facsimile lyrics and abundant sound and film material from all phases of his phenomenal life, including excerpts from an interview recorded the day he was killed. And listening to that incredible voice reminds me that it was Keith who called me on that fateful Monday night to tell me the terrible news. And what I had been doing shortly before? Playing the Let It Be album. John’s famous line – “I hope we’ve passed the audition” – still fresh in my ears when the telephone rang. All these years later, I console myself with the knowledge that it was Keith, and not Howard Cosell, who broke the news to me.

    And before Keith and Ed headed back to Canada, we kept the party going by watching videos of A Hard Day’s Night, Magical Mystery Tour and Let It Be. With our incredible journey still fresh in mind, I’ll take the liberty of summing up by borrowing a line from Two Of Us: “You and I have memories, longer than the road that stretches out ahead…”

    On a poignant note, within days of our tour ending two people with connections to The Beatles came to the end of their own long and winding road. John Junkin, who played roadie Shake (“I come from a long line of electricians”) in A Hard Day’s Night, passed away on March 7 at the age of 76. And on March 8, the death of Ivor Cutler was announced. In Magical Mystery Tour he played Buster Bloodvessel, the bus conductor who announces to his passengers: "I am concerned for you to enjoy yourselves, within the limits of British decency" and then develops a passion for Ringo's large aunt Jessie which culminates with them dancing cheek to cheek on the beach. Comprehensive accounts of the lives of both men were published on the BBC website (