The Beatles have turned Liverpool into a place of pilgrimage. Does this mean they are saints? John and George perhaps... but it's trickier to be a living saint. If Ringo thought that being sanctified meant that he could do nothing wrong in the eyes of his followers, he got a rude awakening when, shortly after singing 'Liverpool I left you, but I never let you down', he failed to say appropriate things about Liverpool on the Jonathan Ross Show.
He ought to know that Liverpool doesn't forgive. A sign in a playground (named Starr Fields in his honour) was sprayed with paint with Ringo's face blanked out and the word 'traitor' scrawled next to it. And his figure in a topiary sculpture of the Beatles (South Parkway Station) was beheaded. Blogs, message boards and radio phone-ins have been simmering with indignation ever since.
Ringo always was flippant, but Paul would never make that sort of mistake. His Capital of Culture appearance seems to have been all that the city hoped for.
As Ringo will be only too aware, this is not the first time the cry of 'traitor' has been aimed at the Beatles. It must be remembered that the city gave the Fab Four a hard time for 'abandoning' Liverpool as their careers blossomed. Leaving the city was something a huge number of people did in the late Sixties and Seventies because there seemed little alternative if you were going to make anything of your lives.
In retrospect it seems astonishing how firmly Liverpool turned its back on the Beatles in the Seventies — but at that point we didn't really realise the whole country was in the process of becoming a theme-park. Famously, the council vetoed a plan for a Beatles statue in 1977. What a turnaround: now you can't move for Beatles statues, merchandise and memorabilia. And Apple Corps, the company the Beatles formed to organise reinvestment of their massive earnings, has been central in reviving the presence of the Beatles in Liverpool. Apparently, it's all about 'aggressively monetizing the Beatles brand'. Anyway, it's all to Liverpool's huge benefit.
Those of us who can remember John Lennon's assassination recall an event on a par with the deaths of Princess Diana and President Kennedy. These tragedies were all sudden and unexpected. The death of Saint John Lennon resonated through a generation who had always seen him as an icon of an emerging idealism: it had that dramatic end-of-an-era finality about it. For Liverpool, at a time when 12,000 people were leaving the city per year, it must have seen like the final nail in the coffin. Yet in retrospect, it was the event that started the process of reinventing the city as a Beatles shrine.
George Harrison appreciation
George Harrison life in pictures
Paul McCartney's Anfield gig
Beatles Story museum
Hard Day's Night Hotel