July 6, 2008
Final drum roll for Ringo Starr’s birthplace
The former Beatle and Liverpool have fallen out. Now his old home has been deemed unworthy of saving, writes Richard Brooks
At the height of Beatlemania, Ringo Starr’s role was famously written off by John Lennon. He wasn’t even the best drummer in the band, let alone the world, joked Lennon.
Now Starr faces a further indignity. The house at No 9 Madryn Street, Liverpool, where he was born Richard Starkey, 68 years ago tomorrow, is almost certain to be demolished after a decision by English Heritage not to list it.
Applications had been made to save the house, which is in an area of mid-Victorian buildings singled out as important by the architectural writer Sir Nicholas Pevsner, but it is doomed.
In contrast, Sir Paul McCartney’s childhood home was bought by the National Trust in 1997 after John Birt, then the director-general of the BBC and a Liverpudlian, argued for its purchase. John Lennon’s home, where he lived with his aunt Mimi, was given to the trust by his widow Yoko Ono in 2002 after she had bought it. Both houses are now seen by thousands of visitors a year. George Harrison’s childhood house, which is lived in by a family, is not under threat.
To add insult to injury for Starr, the home of Pete Best, the drummer the Beatles dumped in 1962, was listed by English Heritage in 2006. The conservation body says the building, once a Conservative Club before it was bought by Mona Best, Pete’s mother, is significant because it became the Casbah Club where the group played some of their early performances.
Starr recently referred to his birthplace in a song, Liverpool 8, released to commemorate the city’s year as European Capital of Culture:
Liverpool I left you, said goodbye to Madryn Street
I always followed my heart, and I never missed a beat
Destiny was calling, I just could not stick around
Liverpool I left you, but I never let you down.
The song was panned. The lyrics are hardly as evocative as Lennon and McCartney’s Penny Lane or Strawberry Fields, the former children’s home whose gates have now been preserved.
The city turned against Starr when he made dismissive comments about Liverpool on Jonathan Ross’s BBC1 show in January, saying there was “nothing” he missed about the place. A shrubbery sculpture of the drummer was later beheaded.
Starr lived in Madryn Street for the first four years of his life before he and his mother moved around the corner to Admiral Grove. English Heritage’s main reason for rejecting the listing request, therefore, is that Madryn Street has no real links with the Beatles.
Yet many Liverpudlians, despite Starr’s remarks about the city, want the street preserved. They include the former Liberal Democrat MP, David (now Lord) Alton, who, along with the Merseyside Civic Society, argues that the Victorian houses of the area, known as New Heartlands, should be refurbished rather than demolished, although their real concern is more about keeping a community together than preserving Starr’s house.
“There are those who believe Ringo’s birthplace alone is worth keeping,” said Jerry Goldman, director of the Beatles Story attraction in Liverpool. “He was born there, after all, while John and Paul [were] not born in the homes now owned by the National Trust.”
Goldman suggests an alternative plan: “No 9 could be taken down brick by brick and rebuilt in the new Liverpool Museum. This has a double advantage. It will mean displaying a mid-Victorian terrace house, and it was Ringo’s birthplace.” The Liverpool Museum, now being built, is due to open by 2011.
Starr’s home in Admiral Grove, where he lived from the age of four to 22, is open to the public – albeit in an unofficial way. Margaret Grose, who has lived there for more than 30 years, shows people around without any charge. They usually arrive in one of the taxis that specialise in ferrying fans around Beatles landmarks in the city.
“I get hundreds a year,” said Grose. “I knew him as a young boy. He was nice and polite. What I like to see are the smiles on their faces.”
Yet even she has a criticism: “His name is mud now because of what he said earlier this year about the city.”
Source: The Sunday Times