The Cavern Club, 10 Matthew Street, Liverpool, opened its doors in 1957 as the city’s first venue dedicated to live, popular music.
The venue became famous as the place where The Beatles made a name for themselves and became the Club’s signature act in the early 60s.
The band, featuring John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best on drums, first performed at the Club in February 1961 and forged their identity with a series of lunchtime gigs. Pete Best left the band and was replaced by Ringo Starr in the summer of 1962.
The Beatles and The Cavern Club became synonymous and 292 performances were held there before the group’s last underground gig in August 1963.
Sunday 30th March 2014: Walking down the dingy steps and into the underground Club and it feels like The Beatles live on in every brick of the Cavern. Their memorabilia hangs from the walls, instruments are encased in glass and everyone in the bar is there to recapture the memories that their music stirs. People from all over the world are united in a dark, confined space by a cold pint and a rendition of ‘She Loves You’ from a lone guitarist on the stage.
Even if you’re not a Beatles fan, if such a thing exists, the place makes you feel alive with a sense of a lost era. The magic of music and its power to bring people together in four minutes of a shared experience. It’s an average Sunday afternoon and the street above us is dotted with a few idle shoppers milling around. Under their feet, the Cavern Club is packed and buzzing at 1.30 in the afternoon. The atmosphere is electric as people jostle for space and try not to spill drinks as they tap along with the music. It’s like another world; an underground hideaway where every day is Saturday night.
Over the past sixty years the Cavern Club has been through more than its share of highs and lows. In the 1970s it was forced into closure to make way for the creation of a new underground railway system. The cellar was filled with rubble as the warehouses above it were demolished. It remained closed and derelict for the rest of the decade.
Life came back to the Cavern Club in terrible circumstances when news broke of the death of John Lennon on December 9th 1980. Fans flocked to the closed venue on Matthew Street to stand outside the Club to mourn the loss and leave messages of tribute for their local hero who became an international legend.
In 1982 hopes of a re-opening dawned when plans for a £7 million redevelopment project were announced. It was short lived; plans failed to come to fruition as the cellar was deemed structurally unsound. Cavern bricks were sold for £5 each along with a certificate of authenticity signed by the club’s former owner Ray McFall.
By April 1984 the Club was finally back on its feet and reconstructed as closely as possible to the original design. The 1990s saw the club come under new ownership from Cavern City Tours. They marked the Cavern Club’s 40th anniversary by creating a Cavern Wall of Fame. As a tribute to all who had performed there over the years, 1801 bricks now feature the names of people who have played at the club since 1957.
A moment of history came when Paul McCartney returned to the Club in December 1999 to play a set of rock n roll covers. The gig was broadcast live on BBC Radio One. Over the past ten years, many more famous artists and bands have continued to play at the Cavern including Arctic Monkeys, Travis, Embrace and KT Tunstall.
If you have any interest in music, Liverpool’s Cavern Club is a must-visit. As you descend two floors to set foot in the Cavern you feel like you’ve entered history. It’s hard not to feel the goose bumps as you read the names graffitied on the bricks above you and the music carries across the room and through everyone in it. It’s a dark, window-less hideaway that feels like you’ve travelled through a black hole in space and journeyed back to a better time.