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16th October, 2015

Memorabilia: Eleanor Rigby Grave

The Beatles Story is home to this 'film prop' Eleanor Rigby gravestone, which was used by The Beatles in their 1995 comeback video 'Free as a Bird'. In addition to this, our 'replica Cavern' room was also used in the video. Upon completion of filming, The Beatles donated this gravestone to be exhibited in The Beatles Story. It weighs a whopping 50 stone and is made of solid granite. 'Free As A Bird' can now be watched in full on VEVO.

Released in December 1995, ‘Free As A Bird’ was the first of the new songs for Anthology. Instead of recording a completely new composition together, Paul, George and Ringo created a track based on John’s 1977 demo, recorded at his and Yoko’s home in the Dakota in New York City.

Jeff Lynne, a good friend of George Harrison’s and a fellow member of the Travelling Wilburys, was drafted in to help with production. Joe Pytka, a talented American filmmaker who had made several music videos with Michael Jackson, directed the beautiful video. The visual concept was a ‘bird’s-eye-view’ of countless Beatles songs. 

The film prop gravestone has a permanent position in The Beatles Story's Main Exhibition, but just who is Eleanor Rigby?

In the famous Fab Four song, Sir Paul McCartney sings the heartbreaking and poignant lyrics, "Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name, nobody came". This depiction of solitude in which McCartney sings of "all the lonely people" has a distinct eeriness to it, helped along by a funereal string octet orchestration that is typical of Sir George Martin's production genius.

Perhaps most spooky of all is the fact that Eleanor Rigby actually exists, although Sir Paul has always conceded that he did not write the song directly about her, and that he may instead have been subconsciously influenced by the name on the gravestone.

The real Eleanor Rigby was born in 1895 and lived in Liverpool, where she married a man named Thomas Woods. Thomas was a railway foreman 17 years older than Eleanor, who was 35 when she eventually married. Whilst her marriage was joyous, her happiness was shortlived, as she could not bare children, providing emotional stress which cut Eleanor deep to her core. On 10 October 1939, at the relatively young age of 44, Eleanor died after suffering a brain haemorrhage, and was buried along with the bodies of her grandfather John Rigby, his wife Frances and their daughter Doris.

The tombstone, situated in the churchyard of St. Peter's church, just a stone's throw from John Lennon's childhood home, has since become a landmark for Beatles fans visiting Liverpool. Coincidentally, John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met at the Woolton Village garden fete at the same St. Peter's church in the afternoon of 6 July 1957.

There is also an Eleanor Rigby statue in Liverpool on Stanley Street which was designed and made by entertainer Tommy Steele as a depiction of the character featured within The Beatles song. Like the grave of the real Eleanor Rigby, this statue has become a well-frequented landmark for visitors to the city of Liverpool.

See the 'film prop' gravestone and many other great items of memorabilia only at the Beatles Story, Liverpool.

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