Nigel Greenberg set up Cavern Sound Ltd. Nigel’s connection with the Cavern went way back. “During my teenage years one of my close friends was Franklin Sytner,” he recalls. “We shared an interest in skiffle, and some nights I would tag along with Frank to the Cavern Club, which was then owned by his brother.”
By 1961 the music scene in Liverpool was starting to take off. Hundreds of groups were playing in suburban dance halls and city centre clubs. Most bands were quartets – lead, rhythm and bass guitarists and a drummer. Each guitarist needed an amplifier and the group also needed a public address system with microphones and loudspeakers.
Frank’s older brother, Alan Sytner, had opened the premises in 1957 as a jazz club, but from the early ’60s skiffle groups started playing. Alan eventually sold the Cavern to Ray McFall, who took over on 3rd October 1959, with Mr. Acker Bilk and his band top of the bill.
At The Cavern Club, Mathew Street
After installing a new sound system for Hope Hall, a city centre cinema that doubled as a live music venue, they were approached by Ray McFall and Bob Wooler to discuss a new venture. By 1963 the Beatles had made Liverpool and the Cavern world famous, and now Ray and Bob wanted to open a recording studio in the vacant cellar next door, where local bands could record demo discs. Cavern Sound Ltd was incorporated and the studio opened in late 1964.
25th October 1964: Cavern Sound Ltd. Opens
Nigel explains: “It transpired that Ray’s sound studio idea was a last-gasp attempt to generate additional revenue to prop up the club, which was rapidly going down the drain. He loved the limelight and even accompanied the Beatles on their first trip to the US at enormous cost.
Find Out The Whole Story Now
Read the fascinating story of this little-known period in the Cavern’s history and how Nigel met Debbie many years later on a blind date and realised their paths crossed many years before in The Cavern! It is all in Cavern Club: The Inside Story
Leslie Cavendish, The Beatles hairdresser recalls the time he was visiting George at the London University Hospital on February 1969, as he had his tonsils removed and he wanted to see a friendly face. So, Derek Taylor asked me to go and visit him at the hospital.
Because the world’s press was waiting outside Derek told me not to say anything, especially as I told a journalist that Lennon was going bald!
A Day in his Life
I walked in and a few recognised me, but I just went straight into reception and went to the ward. I mentioned that I had never seen so many press people, before but George said that it was a normal day in his life.
When I came down and came out of the entrance they asked if I had any news about Beatle George. “Will he be able to sing again, how ill is he?” etc. etc.
I have always watched people on the TV say this and now I had my chance; “NO COMMENT”, and then I smiled and went back to work.
George had this very special peaceful aura around him and all the times I had been in his company you felt it and maybe it was “SOMETHING IN THE WAY HE SMILED.”
It was 25th October 1968 and I had paid my usual Friday visit to the hairdressers and arrived at the club mid-morning to start work. Dad was stocking the Top Bar when I arrived.
“We’ve had a visitor,” he said.
“Who was it?” I asked.
“Paul McCartney,” he said.
“So I’ve missed him?” To say I was disappointed doesn’t come close.
“Don’t worry, he’s coming back,” Dad assured me. “You finish stocking the bar and put some champagne on ice. I’m going to the photography shop to buy a camera.”
Dad walked across North John Street to Photo Optics in Dale Street. He had to spin the photographer a yarn that he wanted to take photographs of a group in the club and asked if he’d come over and set up the camera so he wouldn’t have to do anything but take photos.
Paul had just walked into the club and out of the blue, while Dad was stocking the Top Bar ready for the evening.
Recognising him instantly, Dad held out his hand.
“Hi, Alf Geoghegan, the Cavern.”
Paul shook his hand and replied, “Hi, Paul McCartney, the Cavern. I’m going over to the Wirral to deliver a record player to Ruth, my stepsister, and I’d like to come back later. I’ve got my girlfriend in the car and I’d like to show her the Cavern, on one condition – you don’t tell the press.”
“You’ve got it,” Dad said. “Would you mind if we took some photographs?”
“No, that’s fine, I’ll be back in about an hour.”
Dad locked the main door to prevent any visitors wandering in. We gathered by the bar where Dad offered them a drink and proceeded to open the champagne.
Linda Eastman Takes a Photograph
“I’ll do that,” Linda said. “I’m a good bartender.” She took over and served the champagne.
Dad made a toast: “To Paul and the Cavern.”
He asked Paul again if he could take some photographs and was about to pick up the camera, when Linda said, “I’ll do that, I’m a good photographer.”
She picked up the camera and after altering all the settings started to take the shots. Dad was afraid she’d messed up the camera!
In the early days in the Cavern, 1957/1958, John would upset Alan Sytner by playing the odd rock’n’roll number in amongst the skiffle. Alan Sytner who owned the Cavern wanted it to remain purely as a Jazz club. In 1959, Ray McFall bought the Cavern from Alan Sytner and he was also a Jazz fanatic. The Beatles returned from Hamburg from their first trip and had their debut at the Cavern on 9th February 1961 and there was no stopping the rock’n’roll after that.
Every Beatles performance at the Cavern was like being part of a private party. John and Paul would bounce off each other with funny quips. John could be quite cutting at times but he had a great sense of humour. We got used to his abrasiveness. It was just John’s way. He would hold his guitar high up on his chest, a posture that he had copied from watching Tony Sheridan whilst they were in Hamburg. John was very short sighted and wasn’t able to see much of the audience at all as he would never wear his spectacles on stage.
A few years after The Beatles had hit the ‘big time,’ A film crew travelled slowly, followed by George, driving a convertible car, with John seated in the back. He drove past Ringo’s house in Admiral Grove and down North Hill Street. They came past our butchers’ shop, and I was on the pavement in my butcher’s coat and apron. Even though they were driving very slowly, it was over in a flash.
Read more of Debbie’s memories of growing up in the Dingle, following the Beatles, before he father bought the Cavern Club, in her book, Cavern Club: The Inside Story.
In the week when we are celebrating what would have been John Lennon’s 80th birthday, our new book of the week is one of the most important books about John Lennon ever written. We have read so many stories over the years from people who knew John at different stages of his life.
Michael Hill became John’s friend at the age of 5 at Dovedale Primary School, and accompanied John to Quarry Bank when they reached 11.
The foursome of John Lennon and his best mate, Pete Shotton, stand next to Don Beattie and his best friend, Michael Hill. On many occasions, the four of them would head out of Quarry Bank school at lunchtime and go to Michael’s house on Dovedale Road, a short bike-ride away. They would have fish and chips and listen to some records, of which Michael was the primary supplier.
It was here that John Lennon’s life was to change forever, when Michael played John a record he had picked up on a school trip to Amsterdam: “Long Tall Sally” by Little Richard.
As John said:
“Little Richard was one of the all-time greats. The first time I heard him, a friend of mine (Mike Hill) had been to Holland and brought back a 78 with ‘Long Tall Sally’. That’s the music that brought me from the provinces of England to the world. That’s what made me what I am.”
Today is Brian Epstein’s birthday. When Brian’s name comes up in the context of merchandising, everyone comments about the ‘agreement’ surrounding merchandise – 10% to Brian and the Beatles, and 90% to the management company. This always reminds me of a simple mantra – hindsight makes us all brilliant by giving us perfect 20/20 vision after the fact.
What makes it interesting is that Brian had no guide book to follow, no playbook to help, no experiences of other marketing campaigns before of this size to learn from…they were writing the rules as they went along. There had never been mass merchandising of an entity on this scale before anywhere, including Disney, Marvel, Superman, Elvis, etc. So I cut Brian a break.
He could have easily thought, “let me get this straight…we get 10% of monies, and we don’t have to do anything? We just loan you our name and a couple of photos and likenesses, and you hand us a check? This is the greatest gig ever!” And the precedent had been set…they had been doing UK deals in late ’63 at the 10%, so this wasn’t such a stretch.
Now it didn’t take long for him to change his mind. When they handed him the first royalty check in early 1964 for $9000, he thought it was great…until they reminded him that was his 10%. He did the quick math, realized they kept about $80,000 and immediately had the lawyers work to change it to more of a 50-50 split. That took six months, but by then, things had changed.
So Brian did his best with what was the current knowledge at hand, and we toast him on his birthday. Mark it ‘faB!’
As the Beatles’ career progressed, George Harrison gradually developed into a first-class songwriter on a par with the formidable John Lennon/Paul McCartney partnership. One of Harrison’s more unusual compositions, “I Want to Tell You,” fits in perfectly with Revolver’s experimental vibe. The pounding piano, pervasive dissonance, and a subtle reference to Harrison’s increasing interest in Indian music and culture add up to a classic and offbeat track.
In 1980, Harrison described the lyrics as addressing “the avalanche of thoughts that are so hard to write down or say or transmit.” Indeed, the verses paint a picture of someone constantly struggling with language. He laments that he has many thoughts to express, but lacks the words to communicate them. In addition, he fears offending the person he’s having the conversation with, explaining that he may appear “unkind,” but it’s not intentional his mind is clear and pure, but the body cannot move as quickly as the mind.
For me, the best lines in the song concern his frustration with his inability to communicate, yet he ultimately surrenders to his imperfection. He can wait for his thoughts to unravel he has the time. That sentiment fits in well with other songs on the album, as Lennon also advocates a laid-back lifestyles without worries in tracks like “Tomorrow Never Knows” (telling us to relax and float downstream” and “surrender to the void”) and “I’m Only Sleeping.” (“taking my time”).
Galloping Piano Accents
While Harrison’s lyrics are clever, the instrumentation further distinguishes “I Want to Tell You” from other rock songs of the time. The galloping piano accents the rhythm through dissonant harmonies, and Ringo Starr’s drumming easily navigates through some offbeat tempos. According to Alan Pollack, author of the “Notes On” series, Starr re-energizes the track with his driving percussion. “If you feel the momentum beginning to sag toward the end of this section, dig how that sudden burst of rapid triplets at the very end of the bridge helps to rejump-start your momentum for the verse that follows,” writes Pollack. Other percussion can be heard, including tambourine and handclaps.
As usual, the Lennon/McCartney/Harrison vocal harmonies sound tight, often singing entire lines instead of emphasizing certain words. As with many Beatles songs, the group experiments with beginnings and endings. Similar to “Eight Days A Week,” the track gradually fades in, this time over the distinctive guitar riff. Even more interesting, the ending fades out over the repeated phrase “I’ve got time,” and McCartney adds an unusual touch. As the sound fades, McCartney breaks into, as Pollack states, “free Indian-flavored melisma.” In other words, he sang the word “time” while oscillating among various notes. The move adds a touch of sophistication and world-music influence to the rock track.
Harrison often found it difficult to title his songs; according to Mark Lewisohn’s seminal work The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, the cut’s working titles included “Granny Smith,” “Laxton’s Superb” (another type of apple, foreshadowing later years) and “I Don’t Know.” On June 2, 1966, the Beatles entered the studio to lay down virtually all the track’s elements; they put the finishing touches on “I Want to Tell You” the following day. Mixing was completed on June 6.
“I Want to Tell You” was never released as a single, and lingered in relative album track obscurity until years later. While touring in Japan with Eric Clapton in 1992, Harrison resurrected the song to the delight of audiences. That version, which features extended guitar solos, appeared on the Live in Japan album chronicling the brief tour. Appropriately, ELO founder and frequent Harrison collaborator Jeff Lynne performed the track at the Concert for George ten years later. It may have taken over four decades, but “I Want to Tell You” is finally receiving deserved recognition for its sophisticated arrangement and Harrison’s creativity in manipulating language.
Although Brian Epstein promised that The Beatles would return to The Cavern, they never did. 3rd August 1963 would the last of their almost 300 appearances at the Mathew Street club that had become their home since 1961.
Debbie Greenberg, a Cavernite at the time, would go on to be more involved with The Cavern when her father became the owner of the legendary club. Debbie’s story with the Cavern is detailed in her incredible book, “Cavern: The Inside Story“.
In this excerpt, she shares some of her memories and feelings of seeing The Beatles at The Cavern for the last time.
From Debbie Greenberg’s book:
I was about to leave our house on the afternoon of 3rd August 1963 when I spotted the Beatles arriving at the Harrison’s house in Macketts Lane. George’s car, a racing green Jaguar with the license plate 28 PXX. In their pink shirts. Brown suede waistcoats and dark trousers, they leapt out of the car and ran into the house.
I couldn’t wait to get down to the Cavern to see them play again and I made sure I was there well before the Cavern opened at 7pm. I met Sue in town at 5p.m. and we joined the queue outside the Cavern. It was wide to get there early, because by the time the doors finally opened the queue stretched all the way down Mathew Street. Little did we know this would be the last time we would see the Beatles at the Cavern.
The club was overflowing, we stood packed like sardines, but still managed to drum a beat with our feet and hands. From the back of the crowd we could see the Beatles on stage in the same outfits I had seen them in a few hours earlier.
It was the most incredible experience to hear them playing their number one hit, “Please Please Me”, after following them on their journey to stardom.
The memorable night was edged with tears. We had mixed feelings about the Beatles moving on. We were thrilled they had found fame but at the same time couldn’t help feeling sad that we had lost them to the rest of the world. After all, they were our Beatles.
On a warm July 28th in 1968, The Beatles went on ‘The Mad Day Out’, a phrase coined by now legendary photographer, Tom Murray. One of the locations was by the River Thames in Wapping. The Beatles posed on the river bank with Tower Bridge in the background.
Tom very kindly allowed me to use one of his amazing photos as the cover of my book ‘Guide to the Beatles London’.
The book is divided into the followings sections:
1. The Story of The Beatles in London. A chronological history from their first visit to London to their break-up.
2. A walking tour of The Beatles London. A three hour walking tour around major Beatles locations in Central London.
3. Drive My Car. Other Beatles locations in and around London. My book is still available