You don't have to look hard to see Mike Spurr's obsession. The police sergeant stands on his Waverley porch wearing a Yellow Submarine t-shirt. Three Beatles-related prints line a wall in his family's living room, including a limited-edition photo by Astrid Kirchherr of a young John Lennon, George Harrison and early member Stu Sutcliffe, sporting their best rock-rebel expressions. Go through the kitchen and there's a set of shelves at the top of the basement stairs holding a collection of DVDs, including Beatles movies and performances (plus Thomas the Tank Engine's Ringo Starr years). Walk down the stairs, past the mounted posters and Double Fantasy merchandise stand, and look up to the Penny Lane street sign, one of only 10 in the world replicated with "authentic dirt and grit." But even this brief nostalgia trip will not prepare you for The Beatles bunker: Spurr's basement of Fab Four memorabilia. Part museum, part showcase, developed with a touch of crazy and a lot of love, it's the unconfirmed biggest collection in Atlantic Canada.
Spurr is happy to tour through his prized possessions, even if the floor's still tacky from a paint job. "It's a private museum really, but it's a functional room as well," he says, of the shelves and glass display cases that line every bit of wall space. But it's not a pristine museum: Sometimes it houses dirty hockey equipment and exercise bikes; a noisy dehumidifier monitors moisture; and there are non-Beatles materials like Spurr's model airplane collection and a photo of him "arresting" Alice Cooper, while doing security for the rocker. But everywhere you go, there's Ringo's nose, Paul's puppy-eyes, George's kind face and John's intense stare.
"It started as a record collection,"---first the White Album---"then memorabilia," Spurr says. For him, The Beatles represent an era: "They really did it for the '60s...it's almost like a dynasty Stanley Cup. From '64 to '70, nobody owns this place but us."
Some merch is from back in the heyday, like a set of 1964 nodder dolls of the lads, dressed in "She Loves You"-era suits. (Spurr has another set stashed away, but these are coveted because Ringo's papier-mâché drumsticks are intact.) Apple Corp., the company that manages The Beatles' image, continues to release new products, like cookie jars and magnets, each year. On September 9, Spurr's planning a credit card workout when they re-release The Beatles catalogue, digitally re-mastered for the first time---the same day as The Beatles: Rock Band enters the market. Beatlemania has never bitten the dust.
In fact, The Beatles were the first openly merchandised band---imagine Mick Jagger's mug on treats (Spurr has an unused Beatle Krunch Coated Ice Cream Bar wrapper) or bubblegum cards. Spurr admits it's a bit of a "boys and toys" spirit that drives him; enthusiasm spills over when he picks up a mini Corgi die-cast Magical Mystery Tour bus. He even had a set of his own commemorative pins created, in conjunction with a petition he started to keep Mark Chapman, Lennon's killer, in jail. But the thrill's in the hunt: Spurr never purchases online. He prefers face-to-face interactions at the annual Beatles convention in Liverpool, or Halifax's own Maritime Beatles Event. He treats his excursions like casino visits, with a limited amount of cash in hand, picking out a few pieces each year.
"It's taken a long time to collect them, but at the same time, it's a bit of a poor man's collection," says Spurr. "You could probably liquidate everything in this house, including the house itself and not be able to buy the lyrics for 'A Day in the Life' at Sotheby's. The one thing you have to know about collecting Beatles stuff is that you have to know what league you're in." According to Spurr, it's "very collectable among rich people, unfortunately," especially among the newly loaded who made their cash in technology.
This Saturday is Spurr's fourth time seeing McCartney live. "Kings and queens and other famous people line up to meet this guy," he says. "He is probably one of the most famous humans in the world...Right now the US president is popular, but the most he's getting is eight years. He might go down as one of the great ones, but then the next one just gets up. There's only one Paul McCartney."