It was 50 years ago today (almost)
It was 50 years ago today (almost)
Jan 12 2007
by Mike Chapple, Liverpool Daily Post
LIVERPOOL’S Cavern Club celebrates its 50th anniversary next week. And the club, which became the launchpad for The Beatles’ incredible success story and Merseybeat in general, is promising a year-long series of surprises.
"We’re currently negotiating with some of the biggest names to appear at a massive gig that we’ve got planned for May – but it’s one of those that if we give out a whiff of information beforehand they will pull the plug on us,” said Cavern director Bill Heckle, who hopes that a full itinerary of events will be confirmed on its birthday next Tuesday, January 16.
There are also plans for the release of a DVD, book, TV documentary and an album compilation featuring some of the most famous bands who have played there over the past half a century.
The day itself will be marked by a special invitation-only 13-hour party at the club, with an open bar and over 30 bands playing.
But Mr Heckle scotched any rumours that Sir Paul McCartney would be propping up the free bar.
“Macca was invited, but with everything that’s going on in his personal life at the moment there’s no chance at all of him turning up,” explained Mr Heckle, who said that nevertheless he was expecting to see several famous musicians scattered among the family and friends.
He added: “When we held the 40th anniversary we found that all of the original Quarrymen – barring John Lennon of course – were in the same room for the first time in 40 years. After a few drinks they got up on the stage to play – and they haven’t been off the road these past 10 years.”
Also on the day, but outside on Mathew Street, a mystery will finally be cleared up for all avid Beatles fans – the unveiling of the exact site of the doorway to the original Cavern where the 18 stone steps led down into the basement club. The site has been worked out by analysing photographs from the private collection of the club’s late DJ, Bob Wooler.
“I could tell you where it is – but that would be another surprise that is best left saving for the day itself,” said Mr Heckle.
Number 10 Mathew Street was an innocuous address.
In previous incarnations, it had been an egg-packing station, a wines and spirits store, and even a makeshift air raid shelter during the war- time Blitz on Liverpool.
But on January 16, 1957, Number 10 took its first step into becoming one of the most famous destinations in the world when it first opened its doors as the Cavern Club. Bought by local doctor’s son Alan Sytner, who envisioned it as the Scouse version of the Parisian nightclub Le Cavais Francais, its first night featuring the Merseysippi jazz band drew a crowd of over 1,000 – though only 600 were allowed in.
Its jazz-only policy, however, soon began to be eroded by the burgeoning popularity of skiffle and rock ’n’ roll.
In fact, it was on August 7 in the same year that a young John Lennon and the skiffle band The Quarrymen first graced the stage of the Cavern.
The Beatles played the club a total of 274 times, from February 21, 1961, when they were paid a fiver, to August 3, 1963, when they commanded a fee of £300.
But the “Best of Cellars” as Bob Wooler dubbed it, was a subterranean showcase for many other Liverpool bands.
Author and publisher Ron Jones – who wrote The Complete Liverpool Beatles Guide just reissued in its third edition – was a 19-year-old city council employee when he paid his first visit to the Cavern in 1961.
He was primarily a follower of the Remo Four, who were admired by The Beatles and especially George Harrison, who looked up to their lead guitarist Colin Manley because he could play like the ace country guitar picker Chet Atkins.
“It wasn’t just The Beatles who got a good reaction – The Remo Four, The Big Three, the Swingin’ Blue Jeans, Gerry and the Pacemakers ... they were all really popular,” said Ron, who regularly went to the Cavern in the evening with his mates, work preventing him from going to the legendary lunchtime sessions.
“You never really thought about the conditions in there. The smell of carbolic and sweat, the cigarette smoke – because everyone smoked in those days – the darkness and the dankness. It was all about the excitement of the bands and the music. And like all things in retrospect, at the time you don’t really realise what’s happening or its significance.
“You’d be watching The Beatles after paying literally coppers, sometimes standing inches away from them, just saying hello and stuff in between songs.”
With The Beatles and Merseybeat explosion the club became the centre of media attention worldwide.
It even had its own weekly show Sunday Night at The Cavern broadcast on Radio Luxembourg.
But it hit problems in the mid- 60s when its latest owner, Ray McFall, declared himself bankrupt. The club was closed but following massive protest it was finally reopened by the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson on January 23, 1966.
BUT the writing was already on the wall for the original club as the city bureaucrats had never been fans of it or the Beatles legacy. In 1973 it was forced to close again, this time because the city council decided the space was needed to fit an extraction duct for the underground rail network, and the bulldozers moved in.
The Cavern was resurrected in 1984 as part of the Cavern Walks development, in which bricks from the old club were used to refurbish the new.
Mr Jones, who has been invited to next Tuesday’s all-day event, is philosophical about its demise.
“People are still saying now that it’s a tragedy that the most famous rock ’n’ roll club in the world should be demolished. It certainly wouldn’t be allowed now, and from today’s perspective it was an act of lunacy. But Liverpool in those days wasn’t a tourist city and so what is there today in its place is better than nothing at all.”
Another guest invited to next week’s bash is historian Mark Lewisohn, regarded as the world’s leading expert on The Beatles – McCartney says he knows more about them than the band did themselves.
“There were other great rock ’n’ roll clubs – Hamburg had the Star Club, in New York it was CBGBs, and there was the Fillmore in San Francisco, but there’s no doubting how important the Cavern was in the formation of a whole new music scene,” said Mark who, at 48, was just a toddler when the original club was in its pomp.
He is currently researching a 15-year project to write an enormous three-volume definitive history of The Beatles, including the Cavern itself.
“It would have been absolutely fascinating to have been there for one of their all-nighter sessions in late 1961 watching The Beatles with Rory (Storm) if he had been there, King Size Taylor and the Dominoes, the Big Three, the Swinging Blue Jeans . . .
“But those times are gone. My motive and purpose is to record what happened in those times as accurately as possible. And I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that what happened at The Cavern was something truly extraordinary.”#
MARK LEWISOHN would like to interview anyone with genuine eyewitness information that may be included in the definitive history. Send contact details via firstname.lastname@example.org
Wow, that place is 50? Yeah I guess it would be...
A doorway into Cavern's glorious past
Jan 17 2007
The Cavern turned 50 yesterday. Kate Mansey went along for the party
By Kate Mansey, Liverpool Daily Post
John Lennon's sister, Julia Baird, next to the original Cavern door unveiled during the birthday celebrations.
John Lennon's sister, Julia Baird, at the Cavern's 50th birthday celebrations.
Beatles performing at the Cavern.
George Harrison performing with the Beatles at the Cavern Club in Liverpool in 1961.
LIVERPOOL'S immortal Cavern Club celebrated its 50th birthday in style yesterday by announcing a string of similar clubs will open across the globe.
Buenos Aires, Adelaide and Tokyo already have their own versions of the Cavern Club.
But the influence of the Mathew Street venue will spread even further after owners confirmed they had inquiries from 42 countries about opening Cavern Clubs in exotic destinations, including Dubai and Shanghai.
The new venues were just part of a raft of plans designed to move the Cavern business model forward in the 21st century.
But the glory and magic of the original club, which first opened its doors in 1957, was not forgot-ten in yesterday's celebrations.
When it first became known as the place to be, the Cavern attracted queues of young people who lined up outside its famous doors clamouring to get inside.
Now, for the first time since it was reopened, fans will be able to clearly see where the first entrance to the club used to be.
The Cavern was filled in during 1973 and finally demolished in 1982 but it was re-opened on part of the same site in 1984 using reclaimed bricks from the original building.
The club's original door, which became the new venue's emergency exit when it was rebuilt, was unveiled yesterday as a piece of public art.
Cavern co-owner Dave Jones said: "This will help clarify once and for all where the entrance to the original Cavern was, what it looked like, and its relationship to the Cavern today."
One side of the artwork reveals what the door looked like, while the other side shows photographs of people waiting to get inside along with a picture of The Beatles.
Yesterday's 13-hour VIP party started with a performance from the Merseysippi Jazz Band who were the first band to play the Cavern when it opened.
The celebrations featured more than 30 live bands across the night which paid tribute to The Beatles as well as some of the new bands who still play at the club.
Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were invited along with a host of Merseyside music greats, but the former Beatles were unable to make it due to prior commitments.
In the coming months, the Cavern Club will draw in several big names with a series of high-profile "Legends" concerts.
Bo Diddley will play at the venue on June 9 with more stars to be revealed in the next few weeks.
To commemorate the half- century, a double CD will also be released by one of the country's major record labels.
It will feature some of the bands and tracks that made the Cavern a world-famous venue.
More plans to market the Cavern are set to be unveiled in the near future.
Co-owner Bill Heckle said: "We are very proud to have actually owned the Cavern twice as long as any other previous owner.
"It's not a tourist trap, it's a real, live, dirty, smelly club as it always was.
"We're committed to attracting new regional, national and international talent to come and play here for an experience that is absolutely magic.
"We have to pay tribute to the Beatles because without them the Cavern would have been confined to the dustbin.
"We are very, very proud of Liverpool and we will continue to unashamedly market the city all over the world."
JOHN LENNON'S half-sister, Julia Baird, was at The Cavern yesterday to celebrate five decades of music at the club that helped make her brother a legend.
Ms Baird, who is on the board of directors at the Cavern, said: "If John was alive today he would be here playing.
"John used to say the band loved the Cavern. He said it was where he wanted to be."
Ms Baird went back to research John's relationship with the Cavern for her new book Imagine This which is released next month.
The author, who now lives in Cheshire, said: "I see the Cavern's birthday as the launch pad for the whole of the Liverpool drama that's about to take place before 2008.
"The Cavern is a premier club that captures the zeitgeist of whenever it is and it's not stopped. It still hosts new music and it's very dynamic. The Cavern is without parallel when it's really moving.
"I went to the Cavern when I was a teenager and it was fantastic. There was sweat dripping down the walls and it's still happening.
"I never saw The Beatles play and I wish I had because I know how much it meant to John, despite the fact they used to get complaints from the audience because they weren't doing jazz music."
Beatles fans can tunnel out of a Hard Day's Night into the Cavern
THE Hard Day's Night Hotel is set to change the Cavern Club forever, it was revealed yesterday.
Plans are in place to open the luxury hotel in October this year, but there will be one major feature of the building.
Cavern owners yesterday confirmed the development will include an underground passage from the hotel on North John Street into the Mathew Street Cavern.
There will be an entrance knocked through from the sub basement of the Hard Day's Night Hotel to the Cavern Club, subject to planning permission being granted.
Two extra floors have been added to the building's original roof, making it six storeys high and offering magnificent views of the city.
Painting work is well under way on the 110 bedrooms, all the bathrooms are in, and tiles are now being fitted.
Two lifts will be installed this month, and a showroom will open in early 2007.
Fans have proved Beatlemania is alive and well with organisers receiving more than 2,000 calls for bookings.
Four decades since the Fab Four's first visit to Tokyo, about 1,000 Japanese fans have already emailed the HDN team to find out about booking a room.
So far, about 50% of queries have come from Japan, around 30% from the US and 20% from Europe, mostly the UK, Holland and Germany.
Critical times in the history of the Cavern Club
THE Cavern Club opened in Mathew Street, Liverpool, on Wednesday, January 16, 1957, and was named after the Paris Jazz Club "Le Caveau".
The Quarrymen Skiffle Group, featuring John Lennon, made their first appearance at the Cavern in August, 1957.
The Beatles made their first appearance at the club during a lunchtime session in February, 1961.
Brian Epstein became the band's manager after watching them at The Cavern, and secured a record deal for them in May, 1962.
Towards the end of 1965, the club went bankrupt and closed down for two months but was reopened by Prime Minister Harold Wilson after it was bought privately.
The original club was knocked down in 1982 but more than 15,000 bricks were saved and used to rebuild the premises using the same plans. The Cavern re-opened in 1984.
Today the club occupies 75% of the first site but revellers now descend 30 steps, compared with 18 in 1962.
Sir Paul McCartney returned to the club where it all started to perform a solo gig in December, 1999.
TV presenter and singer Cilla Black famously worked as a cloakroom attendant at The Cavern.
The 25th anniversary celebrations were halted after a lunchtime street carnival distracted so many local workers that bosses asked police to put a stop to the music.
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