Menu

"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

Travel Report: The Cavern Club, Liverpool.

The Cavern Club in Liverpool.

The Cavern Club, Liverpool.

May 2019. It was early evening on Mathew Street and I was about to tick off another holy grail sight in Liverpool. Finally, over thirty four years since I heard my first Beatles record (I think it was Rubber Soul), I was heading into the Cavern Club for a night of history, merriment and classic tunes.

Welcome to the Cavern Club.

The Cavern Club, Liverpool.

This is where The Fab Four made 292 appearances between 1961 and 1963. Dubbed “The most famous club in the world”, The Cavern Club is a venue steeped in musical history, even if you were to remove The Beatles from its narrative.

The Cavern Club Liverpool.

The Cavern Club, Liverpool.

It was a special feeling descending those steps into what one can only describe as an underground lair. Along the way, just about everyone wants to stop and get a photo with the sign.

However, this is surprisingly difficult to pull off. First, there’s nearly always a queue on the narrow walkway. Then, when it’s your turn, whoever takes the photo has to deal with the near constant stream of foot traffic pouring up and down the stairs. Nevertheless, my friend Steppers and I stayed patient and eventually got the job done.

The Cavern Club Liverpool.

The Cavern Club, Liverpool.

And then we emerged into the venue’s aptly cavernous underground cellar. The place was pumping, people absolutely everywhere. The word COVID-19 a completely unknown entity.

Unexpectedly, we found ourselves greeted by the soaring melodies of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. In fact, there was a huge group singing and dancing along as we tried, with difficulty, to pick our way to some manner of private space.

The Cavern Club, Liverpool.

The Cavern Club first opened its doors in January 1957 under the ownership of Alan Sytner, who intended it to be Liverpool’s premier jazz club. The building had initially served as a giant fruit warehouse before its transformation into an air raid shelter during World War II.

Alan Sytner founder of The Cavern Club in Liverpool

Alan Sytner: “Where are all the jazz fans?”

In order to make ends meet, Sytner soon found himself booking a few skiffle acts. After all, the style was becoming increasingly popular with young people in Liverpool.

On the 7th of August 1957 John Lennon and his band The Quarrymen appeared at The Cavern as an interlude between two jazz outfits. Despite the club’s strict no rock ‘n’ roll rule, Lennon and friends launched into Elvis Presley’s Don’t Be Cruel in the middle of their set. 

The Quarry Men memorabilia Liverpool

The Cavern Club, Liverpool.

Hence a furious Sytner pushed his way through the crowd to tell Lennon, in no uncertain terms, “to cut out the bloody rock ‘n’ roll”.  Happily, it seems all has been forgiven and today The Quarrymen have their own glass exhibit in tribute to their appearances here.

Inside the Cavern Club in Liverpool

The Cavern Club, Liverpool.

Five months after The Quarrymen’s Cavern debut, they returned for a show with new member Paul McCartney. In 1959 Sytner sold the club to a local music promoter, Ray McFall, who subsequently began booking rock ‘n’ roll groups. Among those early acts were Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, featuring none other than Ringo Starr on drums.

What to See and Do, Liverpool.

The Beatles 1961.

The Beatles in 1961: George Harrison (left) Pete Best, Paul McCartney, John Lennon (right).

The Beatles’ first ever Cavern gig was on the 9th of February 1961. The line up that day was John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best. It was exactly nine months later that Brian Epstein wandered in to see the band. His visit set off a remarkable chain of events that would see the group shoot to global superstardom.

No matter what time of day you arrive at The Cavern Club, there’s usually a local artist up onstage. In addition to Beatles tracks, you can expect to hear songs by club favourites Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer and The Big Three.

That evening, singing along to Here Comes the Sun, I explored as best as I could the many glass cases of memorabilia and antique treasures.

Klaus Voorman signed Beatles Anthology artwork

The Cavern Club, Liverpool.

In one corner, tucked away behind a rowdy group of drunken Italians, I spied some framed Beatles Anthology artwork from the 1990s. Each piece signed by none other than Klaus Voorman, who designed the covers.

Mickey Dolenz signed drums.

The Cavern Club, Liverpool.

Elsewhere, nestled between a pair of the club’s signature stone columns, I spotted a drum signed by Micky Dolenz of The Monkees. The donation came in 2016 when Dolenz visited Liverpool for his first live set at the venue.

The Cavern Club, Liverpool.

Cilla Black tribute Liverpool.

The Cavern Club, Liverpool.

I was also delighted to see a section saved for Cilla Black, who holds a special place in British culture. After a brief but successful singing career in the 60s, she went on to become one of Britain’s most loved TV presenters. As a kid I remember watching countless episodes of two shows she hosted, Surprise Surprise and Blind Date.

Cilla Black English singer and TV presenter

Cilla Black.

Cilla was a local girl who worked in The Cavern Club as a cloakroom attendant. A talented singer herself, she got her chance to perform thanks to her friendship with Ringo Starr and John Lennon.

Black soon found herself noticed by The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, who quickly added Cilla to his growing list of artists. Under Epstein’s guidance, she went on to enjoy 11 top ten hits, including the number one singles Anyone Who Had a Heart and You’re My World.

Cilla Black statue Liverpool.

Cilla at The Cavern Club.

Having retired to the south of Spain, Cilla Black passed away at the age of 72 in 2015. Two years later The Cavern Club built a memorial statue in her honour. You can find it just outside the venue on Mathew Street. For those wanting to find out more about Cilla Black, I highly recommend the excellent TV series Cilla, starring Sheridan Smith.

What to See and Do, Liverpool.

Paul McCartney at The Cavern Club

The Cavern Club, Liverpool.

As much as I was enjoying my time at The Cavern Club, it was just too damn chaotic. Thus Steppers and I resolved to make our escape and return the next morning for the free tour.

Dale Roberts The Cavern Club Liverpool

Dale Roberts.

Yes, that’s right, The Cavern offers visitors a free 45 minute tour every weekday (except Wednesdays). It starts at 10:30 outside the main entrance. Our guide that day was a local man by the name of Dale Roberts. As a Beatles expert, Liverpool City tour guide and The Cavern Club’s social media manager, we were certainly in good hands.

Dale did an excellent job in giving us a clear overview of The Cavern Club’s complicated history. He was also keen to dispel the myth that today’s club is not at the original site, as many people mistakenly believe. Rather, it’s just a matter of the stage having changed position.

Apparently, there is so much confusion regarding The Cavern’s location that management has produced this overview of what’s happened with the iconic building over the years.

The Cavern Live Lounge Liverpool

The Cavern Club, Liverpool.

The tour granted us access to the usually off-limits Cavern Live Lounge, where some legendary gigs have been played. Oasis, Travis, The Arctic Monkeys and Adele have all played in this small, intimate room. And yes, Dale took us right onto the stage itself.

The Cavern Club, Liverpool.

Daily Post Sir Paul McCartney to play Cavern Club Again

The Cavern Club, Liverpool.

The most celebrated gig at The Cavern Lounge was surely when Paul McCartney himself appeared on December the 14th 1999. It was his first Cavern performance in over 46 years, which three hundred very lucky people got to witness. Moreover, fans got to see Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour and Deep Purple’s Ian Paice, who joined the ex-Beatle onstage.

Paul’s second modern day appearance came in July 2018 when he did a secret gig for 275 people. 175 of which had to race across the city to collect free tickets from The Echo Arena Box Office. McCartney did an impressive 28 song set that evening, including Beatles tracks, Wings numbers and some solo tunes.

After the tour, we headed back up to the main club where, thankfully, the crowd proved much more manageable. It was approaching lunchtime and the first of the day’s performers had just taken to the stage. Over a highly enjoyable hour, we kicked back to rousing renditions of Please Please Me, Drive My Car and All You Need is Love.

My visit to Liverpool’s Cavern Club was a magical experience that ranks right up there with anything I’ve seen in twenty plus years of global travel. I’m guessing COVID times have been particularly challenging for the venue, which has been closed for months as part of the UK’s strict lockdown measures.

At the time of writing they are due to reopen on May the 17th. Interested in finding out more about The Cavern Club? Take a look at their official website.

What to See and Do, Liverpool.

Visiting the Cavern Club in Liverpool

The Cavern Club, Liverpool.

For more on the greatest rock band in history, check out my other articles on The Beatles in Liverpool. Alternatively, have a read about my visit to Abbey Road in London. Maybe read my review of The White Album.

The stage at The Cavern Club in Liverpool

The Cavern Club, Liverpool.

Like this? Read more of my travel reports from around Liverpool.

Or maybe search further afield with my articles from all around England.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

Leighton Travels logo travel reports and short stories.

2 Comments

  • Team Leisure

    This Beatles Fan learned new things from here. Thanks for an informative post and amazing images. I really must follow your tracks someday. Cant wait to hear your story of the “Mad Day Out Taxi Tour”

    July 20, 2019 - 10:18 am Reply
    • leightonliterature

      Thanks, The Cavern Club feels like a rite of passage really and it’s great that they do the free tour. The people who work there clearly love the place and what they do and you can feel that.

      July 20, 2019 - 10:39 am Reply

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: