Alkmaar in Holland is perhaps best known for its traditional cheese market. Burly men have paraded the streets of Alkmaar for hundreds of years, all dressed in costumes whilst selling their wares.
And there’s also a cheese market.
Perhaps less well known, however, is Alkmaar’s Beatles Museum.
The obvious question is “Why Alkmaar?” Although the Beatles played Amsterdam in 1964, they never visited Alkmaar, and the Dutch connection is vague at best: there was that trip to the Amsterdam Hilton for the bed-in for Peace by Lennon immortalised in “The Ballad of John and Yoko”, but that’s about it.* The rumour that one of Revolver’s best loved songs began as “Gouda Get You Into My Life” is almost certainly a false one.
The story behind the museum begins with Dutch Beatles fan and collector Azing Moltmaker.
Moltmaker’s interest in all things Beatles dates back to 1973 when he was first given a copy of the single “Michelle”. This led to the discovery of “Let It Be”… and a life’s obsession began.
Moltmaker began to collect Beatles LPs and discovered slight variations in international releases, from differences in album covers to alternative b-sides on singles. From there, Moltmaker discovered bootleg LPs, some of which contained different (and unofficial) versions and out-takes of the songs. He wrote fanzines and articles about The Beatles, and appeared to take rejection of his articles by a Dutch Beatles fan club personally. This spurred him on to start his own Beatles fan club, a version of which still exists today, called Beatles 4-ever.
As I wondered around the museum a guide explained Moltmaker wrote a book about all the various international variations and releases. One book became several, and the books were later used by The Beatles themselves to claim royalties from EMI, who had disputed the extent of international sales and releases. Without the evidence in Moltmaker’s book The Beatles may have found it difficult to prove which records had been released in different territories.
The guide went on to explain that to thank him, each Beatle gave Moltmaker something for his collection. Ringo gave the jacket he carried on the cover of Abbey Road. Paul gave him the shoes he wore on the cover of Abbey Road (that’s a Beatles in-joke there). No, Paul gave the jacket he wore at Shea Stadium. George donated his first guitar and his personal Gold Disc of Help! whilst John gave his boots, an early guitar and strap and Nehru jacket. All of these pieces now are on display in the museum alongside an extraordinary number of different items, from Beatles dolls…
….to Beatles Batman comics….
….to different bootleg albums of all descriptions…..
In one of his books, Moltmaker mocks the “Paul is Dead” brigade, by fabricating a “Ringo Is Dead” theory, thus demonstrating you can find signs and portents in anything. He wrote a book about it, showing clues that “prove” the deaths of both men whilst debunking the whole thing.
Moltmaker was there in person at the museum on the day I was there, happily showing interested parties his collection and copies of the books he has written, which number sixty.
The museum first opened in 1981, and in February 2014 moved to new premises, in Kanaalkade 48, 1811LS Alkmaar, Netherlands. Admission is €2.50 per person: a small price to see just how obsessive one man can be, and to enjoy the fruits of that life’s work. See also www.beatlesmuseum.nl
* As the song goes, “Standing in the dock at Southampton / trying to get to Holland or France / The man in the mac / said you gotta go back / You know they didnt even give us a chance.”