U.K. TRIP May 2023


Here is a recap of my U.K. trip of May 2023. It was mainly for the first five shows of Sparks’ 2023 tour, but we did a lot of cool things in between, including seeing all the Beatles sights in Liverpool and other cool places in London.



Frank and I only stayed in Oxford for one day. The Hotel was nice & modern, but our view was of the torture prison. I had no idea that Oxford was all about the university and Harry Potter. But the food was great. Had fish & chips and a steak pie.

Gorgeous weather the entire time in the U.K. between 50-70 degrees, sunny and not a drop of rain. However, it got increasingly windy, and by the time we left it was really annoying. Everyone was wearing shorts, when we had on jackets. They just wanted to show off the tattoos on their calves. Everyone has them. Silly because if anyone admires your tat or wants to ask a question about it, they are behind you, and you are walking away!

 The train/bus rides were all wonderful; endless green pastures, sheep, cows, horses.  Cobblestone streets everywhere in Oxford and Manchester – hard to wheel suitcases.

I hadn’t thought about so many Sparks friends/fans from other countries being  in town for all the shows. It’s good that we had company. Our London friend Derek met us for breakfast. We helped him set up his instruments and he went busking in Oxford.

Little by little, we met up with more Sparks friends from other countries and ten of us ended up at a pub at night. First Sparks concert the next day – totally amazing!




For the ride to Liverpool, we planned on going on the same train with a gang of friends, but we ended up on 3 different tracks. The rail system is very confusing – run by different companies. Luckily, nobody checks your tickets, because we were always on the wrong train – but got to the same destination. Every time we got off a train, people with British accents started asking us directions.

Our Liverpool hotel was in a courtyard where everyone was busking. A guy played bongo drums all night long.  It’s amazing how nearby everything is in Liverpool! We walked everywhere.

Walked down the small Mathew Street where The Cavern was. Stood at the former entrance. Now there’s a new Cavern and a Cavern Pub/Museum.

There’s a cool Plastic Ono Band exhibit case.

Most amusing was The Rutles exhibition corner, with the hand-written lyrics to ‘Cheese and Onions!’ Various performers started playing Beatles songs. Why can’t they just play the records?

It was very quiet on Mathew St. at 11 am. When the tour bus later dropped us of there after 6pm it was crawling with rabid savages taking phone pictures!!! There was a cool Brian Epstein statue, and of course the punk club Eric’s…

Dropped off my book info at some shops, which were very receptive. In one shop on the corner, the manager was older and was very nice, but he had a seething 20-year-old brat co-worker saying, “No! No! No!”and bashing Yoko. So sick!  The Liverpool Beatles Museum ordered the book!

Went to the Bluecoat to drop off info for the manager. Saw the Yoko exhibit case in there from her performances in 1967. Amazing to see an old photo of the building when it had been bombed.

Had a nice and interesting meeting with Holly Tessler– Professor of Beatles M.A. @ Liverpool University.


Hopped on the 2-hour tour bus to see Ringo’s childhood neighborhood (The Dingle), Penny Lane and Strawberry Field, where the gates were a bit smaller than I’d imagined. The bus also passed by John and Paul’s childhood homes, but we got the inside tour the next day.



Had a 2-hour bus tour to John & Paul’s homes. We booked through the National Trust – the only way to have a guided tour inside both houses.

We were picked up at 2 pm and taken to John’s home Mendips first on Menlove Avenue, after passing the bus stop across the way where John’s mom Julia was run over and killed.

We entered Mendips through the kitchen at the back where the “scruffier” guests were received (such as Paul and George whom Mimi considered to be lower class).

It was a treat to have Colin Hanton (The Quarrymen drummer) pictured below as a special guest.

Our tour guide was historian Colin Hall (who also grew up with the guys in Liverpool). He is retiring this week after 20 years at John’s home. He had even lived at Mendips for 9 years.Colin mentioned that the day before Julian Lennon’s White Feather exhibition opened, a white dove landed in the back garden of Mendips and left a white feather. That dove was a regular visitor to Mendips during the exhibition. Then when he moved out of Mendips to a home just down the road – there was a white feather on the front doorstep, and a dove in the back garden. Julian founded White Feather after something John told him… If there really was an after-life, he would send him a signal – a white feather. Julian did get that feather from John as well.

Colin mentions this here @ 20:00. Also listen to the story about the clock following it. @ 24:00.

When John moved to NYC, he had asked his aunt Mimi to send him uncle George’s clock.

Yoko told the trust, “You can’t really have Mendips without Uncle George’s clock.” (she has the original one at the Dakota) so she had a replica made and sent it over. Colin tells the story of the time the clock suddenly stopped… at 9:00.


The 2 Colins wrote a book together titled PRE: Fab! about the early days. I gave both of them my book info, and they will both order it!

It was nice that the bus guide AND Colin Hall both mentioned that this tour was made possible by Yoko Ono’s purchase of Mendips and donating it to The National Trust. Colin told us that this tour is about John’s childhood, so do not expect stories about The Beatles.  He mostly spoke about how sparsely everyone lived with the rationing of food, which wasn’t even in the shops. How important education was, how strict Mimi was about it, and how errant John was once he heard Elvis for the first time. She must have been extremely upset! Post-war times were certainly gray and bleak, and parents bore the brunt of it trying to make ends meet.

It was especially interesting to see the distance between John’s and Paul’s homes (about 1 mile). Paul took a shortcut through the golf course. The huge Calderstones Park near Mendips (where John’s parents met) and the tree-lined streets were beautiful, but I suspect the trees were not there, or not as huge and lush at the time.

Everything in both houses is either original, or an exact re-creation “of the time.” Especially daunting was the toilet paper, which was actually hard paper!

I knew that the houses and rooms would be small, but they almost resembled doll houses! It’s incredible that three people lived here (Aunt Mimi, Uncle George and John) and later, student boarders. They left the biggest front room untouched except for company, and lived in the tinier rooms. Going upstairs, I heard the creaky step that Yoko deliberately kept as it was. (John would jump over it in order not to wake Aunt Mimi when he came home late).


John’s bedroom was especially small and narrow – only enough space for the width of a twin bed and a side cabinet. I loved the reflection of the colored stained-glass windows throughout the house. (I had the same in my childhood room, a sailboat refracting the sunlight through the glass). You can’t imagine how small this room is, unless you actually stand in it. Yoko felt the same way…

An excerpt from my book: In Your Mind – The Infinite Universe of Yoko Ono…

In 2002, Yoko purchased Mendips, John’s childhood home at 251 Menlove Avenue in Liverpool. She donated it to the National Trust. During the restoration, Yoko insisted and ensured that a creaking step remained unaltered. John had told her that he had to jump over it so he wouldn’t wake Aunt Mimi when he came home late at night. The light in John’s old bedroom (where some early Beatles hits were written) is kept on overnight on his birthday each year.

John was raised in the home by his aunt Mimi and Uncle George. The house was opened to the public in 2003. It was Grade II listed by English Heritage in 2012. On Instagram, Yoko showed her amazement at the small bedroom that John had grown up in.

John was looking at the world from this room. A boy with a small room and a big dream.”

She told The Mirror (April 14, 2003),

“I loved the fact that his bedroom was preserved exactly as it was. He spoke about it so much. When I’m there, I think about what he was dreaming. Because the dreams he had there influenced the whole world, eventually. That’s why I like young people to see it. They might think they don’t have anything – a piano, say, And they can see what little he had, and yet how many beautiful dreams started there.”

Yoko has always kept a cherished part of John’s Liverpool youth with her. Many times, throughout the years she has worn a replica of his boyhood Quarry Bank School tie (which John can be seen wearing in some of the last photos taken of him in 1980).

“He had a very warm view of his past. He thought of Liverpool as a place that was incredibly wonderful… Some people who leave the city they were born in or grew up in say, ‘Thank God I left’. But John always thought it was a great place and he loved it.”

– Yoko, Twitter December 8, 2022



The rooms in Paul’s home were just as small, but there were more rooms. Again, we entered around the back at the small kitchen. The original windows of the home have been restored – gotten from old pensioners’ homes in the neighborhood, and the kitchen sink – long, missing had been dug up in the back yard. It was costly to dispose of large items in those days, and things like vintage motorbikes have turned up buried in many backyards. The dining room next to the kitchen had a drum kit there – because after Paul’s mom Mary died, they didn’t use it for eating anymore. This is where “She Loves You” and other songs were written. The drum kit just about filled the entire room.


The living room was where John and Paul also wrote together – depicted in brother Mike McCartney’s photos which were hanging everywhere in the home. The TV on which they watched the royal coronations was there. They owned a telephone which was rare for most people, because Mary McCartney was a nurse. The brick-patterned living-room wallpaper had just been re-created, and the parents’ bedroom was open to the public for the first time.

In the small McCartney back yard was an out-house (there was a 2nd toilet inside the house) and a coal storage. We saw the drain pipe which Paul would climb up to get inside the window late at night when his dad had locked the doors. He attempted this on Carpool Karaoke, but he was stopped by the producers who feared that the 80-year old Paul might not make it safely this time!

The guide Peter was very informative and nice. He will order my book and review it! He put my press info in the drawer, so it’s nice knowing that my Yoko propaganda is now in the drawer in Paul’s house! I also mailed a book to Paul, and I know that he will enjoy it. I will be giving it to Ringo in person during the NY stop of his tour!

It’s amazing to me that they all chose modest the homes once they became Beatles. They were not much bigger than their childhood homes, except that John got the largest one, Kenwood. Paul moved to a house on Cavendish, George bought Kinfauns and Ringo had the Montagu Square apartment.

Then they expanded further with John at Tittenhurst Park, George at Friar Park, Paul’s farm in Scotland and Ringo eventually purchasing Tittenhurst from John, when he moved to the Dakota in NYC with Yoko.


Had lunch with my friend, Beatles historian Steve Bradley (who writes the great Arrive Without Travelling blog) and his son George. He interviewed me about my book for a July blog posting. Steve put me in touch with his professor (Beatles M.A. at Liverpool University) Holly Tessler, with whom I had a nice meeting in Liverpool.

Another Sparks show at night.


Arrived at Royal Gardens Hotel in London at 4pm where Iggy & James Williamson stayed during the recording of Raw Power. Didn’t get a chance to view the Bridal Suite where they stayed though. We were also in this hotel lobby every night with Mott The Hoople after their 2009 reunion gigs @ Hammersmith Odeon!



Donated my book to The British Library – the 2nd largest library in the world, where the books never leave. Not only was it accepted but ironically, the clerk who took it in was so overjoyed, he said that he is bringing it home and reading it first!  The library is huge – it looks like China’s Forbidden City!


Our friend took us to Indica Gallery, where John first met Yoko. A cool mural of Yoko’s Ceiling Painting is on the side wall of the alleyway leading up to the gallery in Mason’s Yard.
There was a “To Let” sign @ 6 Mason’s Yard, but it’s not for the gallery space – it’s for offices upstairs. Damn! We could have opened a Yoko museum at Indica!

Yoko Meets John @ Indica gallery!
When Two Clouds Meet – an excerpt from
In Your Mind – The Infinite Universe of Yoko Ono 



We spent a lovely afternoon at a café on the Serpentine bridge and walked in Hyde Park.

For those who may not know, John Dunbar made the greatest love connection of all time! He introduced Yoko to John Lennon. He owned Indica gallery where Yoko had her first London exhibition in 1966. Dunbar was married to Marianne Faithfull. He will give her my book when he sees her next week! John is still an artist. Of course, the swinging 60s is only a blip in his life, now that he’s 80 years old.


Here is John biting the apple on the back of the Indica catalogue, signed by Yoko @ Knokke festival in 1967 (from my collection).

Saw the famous Scotch of St. James at 13 Mason’s Yard where Hendrix first performed in London. The Beatles and Stones, The Who and Clapton hung out there. Gered Mankewitz had his photography studio in Mason’s yard, where he shot many famous pictures of Hendrix, album covers for the Stones, and many other bands throughout the 60s and 70s.



Walked past the lions in Trafalgar square, one of which Yoko had wrapped. The National Gallery was unfortunately closed temporarily. When it opens again in June, there will be an exhibition of Paul McCartney’s photos that he took of the Beatles in the 1960s – just published in his new book Eyes of the Storm.

MY STORY: Wrapping Event



Our friend Derek took us all around – to the cool record shops in the Berwick St. alleyway which I visit whenever I’m in London.

I just had to worship at the legendary original Marquee club location on Wardour Street. Derek said it was tiny, smoky and horrible. It’s now lofts. I have a photo Bowie leaving after filming The 1980 Floor Show there in 1973!

Had dinner at Royal Albert Hall with friends, and saw 2 more triumphant Sparks concerts there! Briefly got to congratulate Ron & Russell backstage, since they had to catch a plane to Spain. They were radiant!!  We’ll catch up again in NY, PA and at the Hollywood Bowl.

Met up again backstage with director Edgar Wright who put me in his wonderful Sparks documentary film The Sparks Brothers, which has gained them much more notoriety and success! Edgar took this great encore photo!!



Met my friend Marco Simoncelli from the amazing new band The HEAT Inc. He gave me their CD. They were to be playing in Manchester in a few days – so sorry I had to miss it!

Read about them here and check out their new CD, Asleep in the Ejector Seat


The Heat Inc. the salvation of Rock’n’Roll release a brand new single & video

Draw Blood For Proof – YouTube

This is an older song, which I love:
Your After Love Song

A new Yoko Ono biography

In Your Mind – The Infinite Universe of Yoko Ono

by Madeline Bocaro

The true story of the woman John Lennon loved.

Now in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Library & Archives

In The British Library

On several Best Books lists

Acclaimed by MOJO & Goldmine

Recommended by Olivia Harrison

Honorable Mention in The Beatles Gift Guide

Spotlighted on The Beatles Channel, Sirius XM Radio

Includes the love story of John and Yoko.


Hard cover books only available at:




8 thoughts on “U.K. TRIP May 2023

  1. I love this account, Madeline. It was a treat to be able to spend time with you and Frank in Oxford and London. I’m pleased you are home safe and sound!

  2. Damn you, Madeline, for being so cool! Hope we meet up again soon. My best to you, world traveler.

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