The Cavern Club
The original Cavern Club entrance in 1963
|Location||Mathew Street, Liverpool, England|
|Opened||1957, reopened 1984 and 1999|
|Closed||1973 and 1989|
|Owner||Alan Sytner, Bob Wooler, Ray McFall; Tommy Smith; Bill Heckle and Dave Jones|
The original Cavern Club opened on Wednesday 16 January 1957 as a jazz club, later becoming a centre of the rock and roll scene in Liverpool in the 1960s. The Beatles played in the club in their early years.
The original Cavern club closed in March 1973 and was filled in during construction work on the Merseyrail underground rail loop. Jan Akkerman with Dutch group Focus were the last to play the original Cavern a few days before the club was shut down.
Rebuilt with similar arches and tunnels across the street from the site of the original club, the Cavern Club is now part of the Liverpool Mathew Street Music Festival.
Alan Sytner opened the The Cavern club, having been inspired by the jazz district in Paris, where there were a number of clubs in cellars. Sytner returned to Liverpool and strove to open a club similar to the Le Caveau jazz club in Paris. He eventually found a perfect cellar for his club with similar tunnels and arches—which had been used as an air raid shelter during World War Two. The club was opened on 16 January 1957. The first act to perform at the opening of the club was the Merseysippi Jazz Band.
What started as a jazz club eventually became a hangout for skiffle groups. Whilst playing golf with Sytner's father, Dr. Joseph Sytner, Nigel Walley—who had left school at 15 to become an apprentice golf professional at the Lee Park Golf Club—asked Dr. Sytner if his son could book The Quarrymen at The Cavern, which was one of three jazz clubs he managed. Dr. Sytner suggested that the band should play at the golf club first, so as to assess their talent. After performing at the golf club Sytner phoned Walley a week later and offered the band an interlude spot playing skiffle between the performances of two jazz bands at The Cavern, on Wednesday, 7 August 1957.
The club hosted its first performance by The Beatles on Thursday 9 February 1961. Brian Epstein, The Beatles manager who secured the groups' first recording contract, first saw the group perform at the club on 9 November 1961. Inspired by the group Epstein made moves to take over their management. Before the performance, the Quarrymen argued amongst themselves about the set list, as rock 'n roll songs were definitely not allowed at the club, but skiffle was tolerated. After opening with a skiffle song, John Lennon called for the others to start playing an Elvis Presley song, "Don't Be Cruel". Rod Davis warned Lennon that the audience would "eat you alive", but Lennon ignored this and started playing the song himself, forcing the others to join in. Halfway through, Sytner pushed his way through the audience and handed Lennon a note which read, "Cut out the bloody rock 'n roll". Paul McCartney's first appearance at The Cavern was with The Quarrymen on 24 January 1958. (George Harrison first played at The Cavern during a lunchtime session on 9 February 1961).
Sytner sold The Cavern Club to Ray McFall in 1959 and moved to London. Blues bands and Beat groups began to appear at the club on a regular basis in the early 1960s. The first Beat night was held on 25 May 1960 and featured a performance by Rory Storm and the Hurricanes (which included Ringo Starr as drummer). By early 1961, Bob Wooler had become the full-time compère and organiser of the lunchtime sessions.
The Beatles and others
The Beatles made their first appearance at the club on 9 February 1961 after returning to Liverpool from Hamburg, Germany where they had been playing at the Indra and the Kaiserkeller clubs. Their stage show had been through a lot of changes with some in the audience thinking they were watching a German band as they were billed from Hamburg. From 1961 to 1963 The Beatles made 292 appearances at the club, with their last occurring on 3 August 1963, a month after the band recorded "She Loves You" and just six months before the Beatles' first trip to the U.S. At the time, Brian Epstein promised the club's owners that the Beatles would return someday, but it was a promise that was never fulfilled. By this time, "Beatlemania" was sprouting across England, and the small club could no longer satisfy audience demand for the group. During 1962, The Hollies took The Beatles' slot at the Cavern Club. The Beatles had graduated from the club and had been signed to EMI's Parlophone label by producer George Martin. The amount of musical activity in Liverpool and Manchester caused record producers who had previously never ventured very far from London to start looking to the north.
In the decade that followed, a wide variety of popular acts appeared at the club, including The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Kinks, Elton John, Queen, The Who and John Lee Hooker. Future star Cilla Black worked as the hat-check girl there. A recording studio, "Cavern Sound" opened in the basement of an adjoining building, run by Nigel Greenberg and Peter Hepworth. The club closed in March 1973, and was filled in during construction work on the Merseyrail underground rail loop. Jan Akkerman with Dutch group Focus were the last to play The Cavern, a few days before the club was shut down in May 1973.
The Cavern Club today
In April 1984, the club was taken over by Liverpool F.C. player Tommy Smith in association with Royal Life. It was re-built with many of the original bricks. The new design was to resemble the original as closely as possible. This was a difficult period of massive economic and political change in and around Liverpool and the club only survived until 1989, when it came under financial pressures and closed for 18 months. In 1991, two friends—schoolteacher Bill Heckle and taxi driver Dave Jones—reopened The Cavern. They still run the club today and are now the longest-running owners in its history. Despite being a world-famous tourist spot, the club continues to function primarily as a live music venue. The music policy varies from '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s classic pop music to indie, rock and modern chart music.
On 14 December 1999, former Beatle Paul McCartney returned to the New Cavern Club stage to play his last gig of 1999 publicising his new album, Run Devil Run. It has around 40 live bands performing every week; both tribute and original bands, although most perform their own material. The back room of the Cavern is the most frequently used location for touring acts and ticketed events, in more recent times playing host to The Wanted, Adele and Jessie J. The Cavern is also used as a tour warm-up venue with semi-secret gigs announced at the last moment. The Arctic Monkeys did this is in October 2005, Jake Bugg in November 2013, as well as many others before them, such as Travis and Oasis.
The front room is the main tourist attraction, where people come to have their photograph taken on the famous stage, with the names of the bands who played there written on the back wall. This room hosts live music from 2pm to midnight Monday to Thursday, 12pm to close on Fridays and weekend. Between November 2005 and September 2007, the front room played host to the Cavern Showcase, an organisation and event started by 60s star Kingsize Taylor, his wife Marga, and best friend Wes Paul. The night took place every Sunday and featured original 60s bands such as The Mojos and The Undertakers.
In November 2008, a campaign to have Gary Glitter's brick removed from the wall of fame was successful but a brass plaque near where it was notes that the bricks of two former Cavern Club performers (Glitter and Jonathan King) have been removed.
Tributes to the Cavern Club
Tribute clubs exist in Dallas, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Adelaide, Wellington, and Costa Teguise in Lanzarote. A similar looking club was also featured in the opening sequence of the film Across the Universe, in homage to The Beatles' beginnings, though the club's name was never mentioned. The footage for this scene was actually shot in The Cavern Club itself. The Cavern Club is the first playable location in The Beatles: Rock Band.
- Cavern Pub, a pub in front of the Cavern Club, known by The Cavern Wall of Fame and John Lennon statue.
- Cavern Mecca, a museum that was located next to the Cavern Club
- Iron Door Club
- Note on first Beatles appearance, The Cavern Club, retrieved 22 January 2011
- Spitz (2005) The Beatles, p. 59
- Spitz (2005) The Beatles, p. 61
- Spitz (2005) The Beatles, p. 65
- Spitz (2005) The Beatles, p. 125
- Cavern Showcase, retrieved 31 December 2008
- Cavern club removes Glitter brick, BBC News, 15 November 2008, retrieved 31 March 2009
- Spencer Leigh, The Cavern: The Most Famous Club in the World, The Story of the Cavern Club, SAF Publishing, 2008, 224 pp. EAN 978-0946719907
- Phil Thompson, The Best of Cellars : The Story of the World famous Cavern Club, The Bluecoat Press, 1994, 208 pp. EAN 978-1872568164. Rev. & upd. ed. by NPI Media Group, 2007, 192 pp, EAN 978-0752442020
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cavern Club.|
- Cavern City Tours
- Cavern Club at fifty
- 'Premier At The Cavern' - 1966 newsreel
- Cavern After Hours for lots of images of 60s groups that never made it big and other rare items of interest.