23rd March 1961 – the beatles at the cavern
WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO SEE THE BEATLES AT THE CAVERN?
“I couldn’t get enough of the Cavern,” says Cavernite and author Debbie Greenberg. “I would go there for every lunchtime session from Tuesday to Friday. There were two sessions, from 12 to 1pm and 1.15pm to 2.15pm. The later one was always the best – and then I would go back again at night for more.
“We were greedy for our fix of non-stop beat music. The club didn’t look like much from the outside. After dodging the fruit lorries delivering to the Fruit Exchange opposite and the lunchtime shoppers, we queued to get in through a small door in the wall of a towering brick warehouse at 10 Mathew Street.
DOWN INTO THE CAVERN
“Once we descended a steep flight of well-worn stone steps to a small landing, where a few more steps led to a man seated at a small wooden table taking the entrance fees. I paid a shilling to become a member of the Cavern Club entitling me to an admission discount at each visit – which in my case was most days. The heat and noise would send your senses reeling as you stepped through those cellar arches. It was enthralling and unbearably hot.
“The Cavern’s identity began to change at the start of the new decade. Rock ‘n’ roll slowly replaced jazz and the Cavern became the heart that have Mersey its beat.
THE BEATLES DEBUT
“We watched the Beatles debut at the Cavern at the lunchtime session on 9th February 1961. We were blown away. The Beatles were different, their music was incredible, their appearance raunchy, their energy infectious. They just oozed excitement.
OFF TO HAMBURG
“Six week later on 23rd of March, after a lunchtime session at the Cavern, they jumped on a train at Liverpool’s Lime Street Station on their way to Hamburg for the second time, having previously played there in 1960. This time they sped off out of our lives for four months. We missed them but still went down to the Cavern to watch other groups, like Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Swinging Blue Genes, the Remo Four, the Big Three, Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes and many more. They were all fabulous groups but they weren’t the Beatles.
BACK HOME AGAIN
“News soon spread around Liverpool that the Beatles were back from Hamburg and were to be guests of the Swinging Blue Genes at the Cavern on Friday 14th July 1961 for their welcome home appearance.
“Everybody wanted to see them. They were already by far the best group in Liverpool. Everything about them was exciting and intoxicating. They seemed to be infused with even more vigour and passion than before. The transformation was unbelievable, with their gyrating hips, humourous banter on stage and sexy outfits – clad in tight black leather with black Cuban heeled boots.”
“Their repertoire was now wide-ranging, making them stand out from other bands. Their sound was unique and addictive, their energy palpable. Liverpool had never seen or heard anything quite like them. Sue and I made sure we were at the Cavern for every one of their performances after that. They appeared every Wednesday night and every Monday, Wednesday and Friday lunchtime.
“The Hamburg connection proved the ultimate testing ground for many Liverpool groups. On some nights, groups would be expected to play at the Top Ten Club or Kaiserkeller or later on the Star Club for up to seven hours with only s ten-minute break every hour.
“Those sessions transformed Liverpool groups into totally professional outfits. None more so that the Beatles. It turned them from talented amateurs into the band of bands, as Klaus Voormann described them. The Cavern was soon packed every time they played. Bob Wooler booked them and they received £5 for their debut (£1 each). At that time, Stuart Sutcliffe was playing bass guitar, although not very well, and he would play with his back to the audience so no one could see how he was playing.”