Salute to the Fab Four

MARK JUDDERY
Last updated 05:00 13/11/2013

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When writing about the Beatles, it's tempting to mine their song list for titles and phrases.

With that in mind, I'll try to avoid mentioning my "golden slumbers" (sorry, too late) at the Hard Days Night Hotel, but I should mention that the room service menu is labelled "Any time at all" and you can hang a sign on your door saying "Let it be," rather than the usual "Do not disturb".

This isn't the only four-star hotel in the Beatles' hometown of Liverpool, England, but it is certainly the ideal port of call for many of the 600,000 tourists who visit every year to pay homage to the world's greatest rock 'n' roll band. (Such is their status that, even if you disagree, "world's greatest" sounds like a rational description.)

A Beatles hotel? The idea is so obvious, it's surprising that it took so long for some enterprising soul to open one.

Obtaining the rights, of course, was a lengthy process. (You could say a "long and winding road", but we won't, thank you very much.) The music in the lobby is a mixture of Beatles songs and - just to provide variety - cover versions.

Happily, it is a step above the usual theme hotel. Each room is bright and colourful, with a different framed picture over the bed.

Some guests specifically ask for a room with a picture of their favourite Beatle. I'm happy with anyone, so I awake under John Lennon, alongside his scrawled lyrics to Help.

The hotel's two upstairs suites - the John Lennon Suite (styled after Lennon's whiter-than-white New York apartment) and the Paul McCartney Suite (complete with a suit of armour in the corner, cheekily included because Macca is now a Knight of the Realm) - are out of action for the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania, thanks to a fire earlier this year.

They should reopen in early 2014, in time for anyone wishing to celebrate the anniversary of the band's momentous Australian tour.

Fortunately, the thematic decoration doesn't go much further. While the room design is funky and cheerful, the hotel withholds the desire to place a lava lamp in each room.

The Beatles, after all, were not simply a frivolous pop band. Hard Days Night is not a cute, Disney-style construction, but part of a stylish, 128-year-old building.

For Beatles fans, the locale is part of the attraction. It's around the corner from the Cavern Club, the Beatles' first public venue, where new bands still perform.

It's a hop, step and jump to the Beatles Story museum, which sends visitors into a yellow submarine and an expert reconstruction of the Cavern Club, circa 1960.

But it's also in the centre of modern Liverpool, which has transcended its working-class reputation, and still has many clear reminders that it was European cultural capital in 2008.

Here is the home of the Tate Liverpool, northern England's centre of modern art, and such development projects as the US$1.7 billion Liverpool ONE shopping and leisure centre. Yet the city's most famous cultural contribution is still the Fab Four.

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Hard Days Night also has Bar Four, wallpapered with news clippings and Beatles-inspired artwork, with unique Beatle-esque cocktails.

Next door is Blake's Restaurant - named (as the more devout fans might guess) after Sir Peter Blake, the artist behind the Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover - where guests can dine on pigeon breast with beetroot and balsamic-coated root vegetable salad.

As I said, not your typical theme hotel.

At Blake's, diners are watched by photos of the many people on that album cover, all of whom inspired or influenced the Beatles.

Guests at Hard Days Night have already included everyone from Michael Buble to Mike Myers. Justin Bieber's visit, somewhat fittingly, attracted so many screaming fans that the roads had to be closed.

Liam Gallagher's, however, was a relatively quiet affair, in which the Oasis frontman was both enthusiastic (no surprise) and very pleasant.

Downstairs, the hotel offers function rooms like Hari's Bar, dedicated to George Harrison. The hotel also has a wedding studio, The Two of Us Room, used almost every week - and not just by Beatles fans.

Even non-fans are willing to endure endless Lennon-McCartney ballads to stay here, hold their functions, or even get married.

Like the very best songs, it's simply a nice place to be.

The writer was a guest of Hard Days Night Hotel, with the assistance of Visit Liverpool.

TRIP NOTES

GETTING THERE Hard Days Night Hotel is in Central Buildings, North John Street, a 10-minute drive from Liverpool's John Lennon Airport, just over a kilometre from James Street railway station.

HOW MUCH Rooms range from about $130 (single "luxury room") to $1580 in peak time for the Lennon Suite (with grand piano, and $300 more than the McCartney Suite). Phone + 44 20 7836 4343, email savoy@fairmont.com.

SEE + DO Hotel taxi tour is a treat for Beatles tragics. More expensive than the Magical Mystery Tour bus, it goes into more depth, from all of their childhood homes to Eleanor Rigby's grave.

MORE INFORMATION  harddaysnighthotel.com;visitliverpool.com.

- FFX Aus

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