Musical sounds that get mapped

Liverpool map annotated with notes and illustrations of places with links to the Beatles

1974 Beatles map, courtesy of the Institute of Popular Music

Maps are selective and musical maps are no exception. Certain music sounds and sites are selected for inclusion whilst others are excluded.

Maps of Beatles Liverpool can help to illustrate this point. There is a map of Lennon’s Liverpool, for example, that traces his journey from his family home, school and church fete in leafy suburbia to inner city bedsits, art college and clubs. There are also numerous maps featuring sites related to the music-making of the Beatles as a band during the 1950s, from the notorious Cavern Club to the NEMS office where their manager was based.

Musical maps of Liverpool have tended to be dominated by the Beatles given their promotion as local heritage by Liverpool’s tourist industries. But whose heritage counts? the Beatles may get mapped but what about the lives and careers of other local musicians?

In fact, the dominance of the Beatles has provoked competing narratives about the musical life of Liverpool. For example, jazz and country musicians who also performed at the Cavern Club during the late 1950s have described how their stories have been overshadowed by the Beatles. Some of them have sought alternative ways of promoting their music as local heritage and putting it ‘on the map’, including books and CDs. Similarly, during the early 1990s some of the city’s rock musicians objected so much to the focus on the Beatles and what happened ‘then’ that they established an annual music festival called ‘Liverpool Now!’.

Featured here is one of the first Beatles maps of Liverpool that was ever produced. It was produced by the City of Liverpool Public Relations Office in 1974 and was included in a souvenir pack entitled ‘From Liverpool to the World’. The pack took the form of an album sleeve. Inside it was not only this map but also a booklet about the Beatles and their career, a Beatles poster and fan club letter, Beatles postcards and wall charts.