John Lennon's sacrifice: The Philharmonic pub
The entrance to the Phil
Doing it in style
Mosaics on the floor.
And if you get tired of mosaics
No not one of King Ludwig's Bavarian castles. The Vines Public House nr. Lime street station.
It’s impossible to dissect the magic of the Liverpool pub. I have drunk everywhere from the Cascades to New Orleans, London, Malta, Newcastle, Glasgow and some of the finest pubs in Wales, even New York. But nothing beats the Liverpool pub.
I went back recently after a decade or two of absence. We hit the Globe, opposite Liverpool Central Station. It was the Sunday Liverpool had just lost 1.0 to Manchester, which is a bit like saying God had just lost to the Devil. The pub was crammed with flesh, elbows sticking out of windows, bellies rammed against the bar.
When someone moved, there was a domino ripple across what was a very small room; a perpetual phenomenon as people made their way to and from the bar, sometimes risking the toilet – everything made well with immense and cheerful courtesy. Chaos and the Butterfly effect, only with beer.
Half the Liverpool Kop were there, or it sounded like, people singing, the rest bellowing to make themselves heard.
My son asked my how they celebrated when they won.
What can I say?
It was a blast-back to the past. Within ten minutes a young girl with long black hair, otherwise dressed in red was talking to us having spotted we were strangers there.
My first experience of a pub was a solitary pint of Double Diamond in the Black Bull, having told my mum I was off to Sunday Mass. It got better.
When I and Mike Adams were at Colquitt St. we drank in the Royal Albert in, I think, Seel St. the tables were of dimpled copper and Percy Sledge was for ever on the Juke Box singing 'When a man loves a woman.'
When I became a ‘student’ I moved on to the most magical pub in Liverpool. The Philharmonic. It was like walking into a masterpiece and becoming part of it. Even the toilets were special. Pissing was an event
John Lennon lamented the fact that he was never able to drink there again after he’d become famous. I lament the fact that it is now too far away for me to slip in there for pint. The beer was good, so was the talk, the company, but it was everything else, the mosaics and the stained glass windows, the plasterwork, the paneling in the different snugs. The only thing wrong with it was the Cocktail bar. Beautiful, but they would insist on serving you in half pint glasses.
Further down the road was O’Connor’s Tavern. It reeked of Restoration England, only seedier, and was presided over by a short, cynical bald-headed man who sometimes smiled when he thought of the money pouring over his bar.
Once, jaded by the opulence and fired by working class zeal, I persuaded Geoff Fimister and others in our group to go to a real working class pub. ‘Where?’ they asked, tolerant, amused, but not yet convinced.
‘The Slaughter House, somewhere off Dale St.’ I said. ‘I hear it’s really good.’
‘It’d have to be good with a name like that,’ said Geoff.
So we went.
It was obvious something was wrong as soon as the door slammed behind us. Too late to escape. A room full of skin-heads, their heads swiveling, focusing on us, on our long hair, and me with my gold rimmed John Lennon glasses. Someone grabbed me by the collar and accused me of looking at him; someone else called me the Milky Bar Kid. It could have been worse.
I think we stayed for a pint, out of pride and then made our escape. Once again my judgment had been brought into question.
So I guess not everything in Liverpool is good.
Just most of it.