The world’s most famous rock and roll club, Liverpool’s The Cavern celebrates its 50th birthday today Tuesday 16 January 2007.
The Beatles played at The Cavern 292 times and it was during one of their lunchtime sessions at the club that they were first seen by their future manager Brian Epstein.
The Cavern, named by owner Alan Synter after a Paris venue ‘Le Caveau’, opened on Wednesday 16th January 1957. The club began life as a Jazz venue, the first act was Merseysippi Jazz Band, and for three years the club would mainly feature jazz artists.
The Beatles first promoter Sam Leach recalls that The Cavern, because of its jazz associations was one of the last Liverpool clubs to feature beat music; “It makes me smile when you read ‘The Cavern where it all began’. They were the last ones in.
“Truthfully it was a hole, it was smelly. The girls weren’t that particularly nice, they were ok but a little bit rough. I used to go the Mardi Gras because the girls there were higher class.”
The Cavern will be celebrating its 50th birthday with a day long concert for a specially invited audience.
In 1959 The Cavern was sold to Ray McFall who continued the jazz theme, but over time beat music began to take over. Lunchtime sessions had been introduced in April 1957 partly to deal with the skiffle craze. John Lennon made his first appearance at the Cavern with The Quarrymen on 7 August 1957. In 1960 Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, featuring Ringo Starr on drums, played the first beat evening session.
From 1960 onwards beat music became The Cavern’s mainstay. Bob Wooler was recruited as the compere at lunchtime sessions and most of the Merseybeat acts played there at one time or another. The Beatles made their first appearance on Wednesday 21 February 1961 and their last on Friday 3 August 1963.
Sam Leach says that despite its reputation now, the club was never his favourite venue; “I didn’t enjoy it. If you went there with a pair of new hush puppies they’d be finished by the time you came out with the mud and the coke. There was no drink in those days. Cigarettes and coke, that was all you had underneath you feet in those days.”
“But it was exciting The Cavern, I’ll give it that. You have to say The Cavern has become and is the most important rock club of all time. There’s no argument. No one can dispute that.”
By the late 1960’s the club had lost much of its appeal. The introduction of an alcohol license in 1967 – the club had previously only served soft drinks – did little to stop the slide.
In 1973 the original Cavern closed its doors for the final time. The cellar venue stood in the way of a planned ventilation shaft for the new underground rail loop line. In the event the shaft was never constructed and the club lay filled in but undisturbed until the early 1980’s.
Revellers at the closing night of the Cavern in 1973, at a time when The Beatles had only recently split, seemed to care little for the club’s Merseybeat associations one saying “I don’t think that’s recognised now. They don’t think of the Cavern as where the Beatles were discovered now. The Cavern now is just the place where you can go and hear good music.”
In 1984 a new Cavern opened, constructed on 75% of the original site and built with 15,000 bricks from the original club. The new venue is deeper than the original but the dimensions and design are the same.
In 1999 Paul McCartney returned to the club which launched his career playing a special gig at the new Cavern. Source....