Atlantic Cities

London and Liverpool's Mayors Are Feuding Over the Beatles

London and Liverpool's Mayors Are Feuding Over the Beatles
Reuters

According to London mayor Boris Johnson, it was his city, not Liverpool, that made the Beatles into music legends. Now, Liverpool’s mayor wants an apology. Another one, that is.

Last month, while giving a talk called "London, Gateway to Britain" at the London School of Economics, Johnson said the "greatest band in the world came from Liverpool, but in the end they recorded their stuff in London and it was London that helped propel them around the world."

Those are fighting words for Liverpudlians, who passionately claim the band as their own. Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson told the Mirror that Johnson’s comments are “another embarrassing gaffe by him, which he'll have to apologize for." Anderson also reminded readers that recently, "Boris the Bore failed an intelligence test and it's little wonder when he makes daft statements like this."

The claim by Johnson is only his latest jab at the northern English city. And in reality, it's probably his least offensive. In a doozy of an anti-Liverpool editorial written for the Spectator in 2004, Johnson lamented Liverpool’s "disproportionate" grief for Ken Bigley, a British civil engineer from the city who was beheaded in Iraq. In his honor, the city held a 2-minute moment of silence for him.

Johnson, then a Tory MP and Spectator editor, described Liverpool as such:

A combination of economic misfortune — its docks were, fundamentally, on the wrong side of England when Britain entered what is now the European Union — and an excessive predilection for welfarism have created a peculiar, and deeply unattractive, psyche among many Liverpudlians. They see themselves whenever possible as victims, and resent their victim status; yet at the same time they wallow in it. Part of this flawed psychological state is that they cannot accept that they might have made any contribution to their misfortunes, but seek rather to blame someone else for it, thereby deepening their sense of shared tribal grievance against the rest of society.

As a coup de grace, Johnson added, inaccurately, that Liverpool's drunken soccer fans bore some responsibility for the Hillsborough disaster, where 96 people died and 776 were injured due to overcrowding at a Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest match in 1989. Tory leader Michael Howard called Johnson's article "nonsense from beginning to end." Johnson eventually apologized.

Back to music: If any city other than Liverpool can take credit for the Beatles, it would probably be Hamburg, Germany, where the band spent much of the early 1960s honing their craft at clubs around town. Only then was London ready to do business with the Beatles. As of now, Johnson hasn't apologized. We can't imagine he'll make the trek up to Liverpool to check out the Beatles museum anytime soon.

H/T The Guardian

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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