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Longing for 'Yesterday': Anchorage man creates a shrine to the Beatles in his Hillside home

Mike Dunham
Larry Flynn shows off the John Lennon part of his collection of Beatles memorabilia on the second floor of his Anchorage home on Tuesday, June 24. Flynn is bringing the Beatles tribute band BritBeat to Anchorage with concerts on Friday, July 11 at the Tap Root and Saturday, July 12 at Wendy Williamson Auditorium on the UAA campus. Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News

A sign by an ornate gate on the Anchorage Hillside identifies the manorial home as “Haymans Green.”

Haymans Green is also the name of the Liverpool, England, street where the Casbah Club is located, the site of some of the Beatles’ earliest public successes and the place where they signed the contract with Brian Epstein that would lead to fame and fortune. 

You’d need to be a serious Beatles fan to know that, and such a fan is the man who lives in the Hillside house, Larry Flynn. Beatles scholar is a more accurate term than mere fan.

Flynn’s passion is displayed within the walls of the house, beyond the iron gate and life-size lion statues. A painting of the first meeting between Paul McCartney and John Lennon is framed in the living room. A computer-operated grand piano on the landing above can play Beatles hits. A big portion of the top floor contains a trove of memorabilia -- a veritable Beatles museum.

Recognized as an authority within the worldwide community of Fab Four devotees, Flynn attends Beatles conventions and takes Beatles cruises with his fellow aficionados. For several years, he has brought Beatles tribute bands to Anchorage for live concerts. Those bands include BritBeat, which will perform shows at Tap Root on Friday, July 11, and a big, theatrical concert at Wendy Williamson Auditorium on Saturday.

Flynn was a high school sophomore in Monroe, Louisiana, when the band made its U.S. debut in 1964. He was not an instant Beatlemaniac. “I saw their first appearance on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’” he said. “For whatever reason we didn’t go to church that day. But it had no effect on me. The next day on the bus I heard girls talking about the Beatles. I thought they meant bugs.”

His conversion didn’t happen for another year. “My brother took me to the movies. We couldn’t get in to see the movie we wanted to see, so he said we’d go to ‘Help!’ I went along, even though I didn’t really want to see it. I went in neutral -- and I came out a rabid fan.

“It has changed my life.”

He actually moved to San Francisco, he said, so that he could see their concert at Candlestick Stadium on Aug. 29, 1966. He still has the ticket. It cost $5.50.

“I didn’t know it was going to be their last show as a touring band,” he said wistfully.

When the group broke up in 1970, Flynn was serving with the U.S. Army in Vietnam. “If I’d been here, I could have kept them together,” he joked. “I blame myself.”

A pharmacist, Flynn moved to Anchorage in 1984. Over the years, he’s accumulated Beatles-related items that now occupy his “John Lennon Room.” A crimson cord separates the shrine from the rest of the house. A sign reads, “Dedicated to the memory and the legacy of John Lennon, the leader of the world’s greatest pop music phenomenon.” Next to the sign is a replica of the yellow band uniform Lennon wore for the cover of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” It was custom-made to fit Flynn. 

Flynn estimates the room contains 300 books on the Beatles. There are coffee mugs and other such items celebrating the band -- posters, photographs and paintings. Some are signed by people associated with the lads from Liverpool, like May Pang and Nancy Andrews, former girlfriends of John and Ringo, respectively.

All of the mop-tops’ albums line the wall, wrapping around the room, from their early British releases to their swan song, “Let It Be.”

The crown jewels of the collection are three LPs with the record jackets signed by all four Beatles: their initial U.S. album, “Introducing the Beatles,” “Hard Day’s Night” and “Rubber Soul.” 

The first-named particularly appeals to Flynn’s sense of esoteric Beatles lore. It’s a bootleg, he points out, pressed by Vee-Jay, the company that had the distribution rights for the band in America before losing the franchise to Capitol. That didn’t keep them from stamping out look-alikes until a court finally put a stop to it. The contents were sometimes juggled, but the covers were well-done imitations. John, Paul, George and Ringo all signed the one Flynn displays apparently without recognizing the fake. 

Flynn revels in his mastery of such trivia. He has early 45s with songs credited “McCartney-Lennon,” the reverse of what became the standard credit later on. He knows who was who in the band’s saga and has met and corresponded with many of them, including: Pete Best, the original drummer with John, Paul and George; Billy J. Kramer, a fellow Brit who first covered several Lennon-McCartney songs; and Sid Bernstein, who produced the Beatles’ concerts in America.

He has a set of Beatles trivia cards that he doesn’t mind correcting.

“Who bought John Lennon’s first guitar?”

“There’s debate about that,” he says, taking issue with the three-word answer on the back of the card and citing the various sources and their reasons for different answers.

“Who was the first Beatle to set foot in the United States?”

That one’s easy. George. Twice. “Harrison was the first to step off the airplane in New York,” Flynn says, with a photo to prove it. But before then, when the band began to make money, he used some of his earnings to visit his sister in St. Louis. Flynn also has a photo of himself with George Harrison’s sister, who still lives in Missouri.

He also notes, with a touch of irony, that during that trip Harrison made the rounds of St. Louis radio stations trying to push the group’s records. “They didn’t want anything to do with this British band,” he says with a shake of his head.

The world has long since reversed the verdict of the St. Louis DJs. And the verdict remains valid even though the group, as a group, is long gone. But that enduring popularity is a sign of their greatness, Flynn said.

“They’re still the number one band of all time, even though they disbanded more than 40 years ago. They’re cross-generational; they cut across racial and economic lines. There’s never been anything like them.”

A sense of the sacred permeates the John Lennon Room and with it a sense of deep nostalgia for things that can no longer be touched. The signed albums are framed, not to be played or listened to, the vinyl perhaps never to be seen outside its sleeve again. On the wall with images of the real Beatles are posters of the various “tribute” bands Flynn has brought to Alaska over the past eight years.

“Obviously, it’s not the Beatles,” he said with a sigh. “But it’s as close as we’re going to get now.”

Reach Mike Dunham at mdunham@adn.com or 257-4332.