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May 2019. It was early evening when Steppers and I mooched onto Mathew street, the beating heart of Liverpool’s world famous Cavern Quarter. We had of course come to see The Cavern Club, the legendary music venue where The Beatles cut their teeth in the early 1960s. But while The Cavern Club is undoubtedly Mathew Street’s main draw, the first thing you’ll see as you enter from North John Street is its sister venue, The Cavern Pub. Just look out for the statue of John Lennon casually leaning against the wall.
The statue was modelled from an old photo taken by the German photographer Jurgen Vollmer from The Beatles’ Hamburg days. In the photo the three blurred figures in the foreground are Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Stuart Sutcliffe. The shot eventually served as the front cover for Lennon’s troubled 1975 solo album Rock ‘n’ Roll.
May 2019. Before ducking inside, take a moment to appreciate The Wall of Fame, unveiled by Gerry and the Pacemakers singer Gerry Marsden in 1997. Covering the exterior of The Cavern Pub, it actually stands in tribute to The Cavern Club across the road. Which is a little confusing and one of many reasons so many people get the two venues muddled up.
May 2019. The Cavern Pub is basically a live music venue focusing on local talent, from singer-songwriters and bands showcasing original material to tribute acts dedicated to keeping the old classic coming thick and fast. With no other plans that night, I figured what better way to warm up for the main event of The Cavern Club than a visit here for The Cavern Pub’s Monday Night Acoustic Set. The tunes were already well underway as we entered and with free entrance the place was packed! I didn’t catch the name of this first singer, but he was in the middle of performing an original composition called Brother Gone about the passing of an old friend.
May 2019. The Cavern Pub proudly displays a fantastic range of rock memorabilia, so with pints in hand we set off to have a look at their treasures. A lot of love has clearly gone into this place and in early 2018 the place underwent a makeover. It can often be too busy to get a good look at everything, with audience members blocking access to the glass cases as they stand nodding their heads to the music. But head into the quiet backroom where the toilets are and you’ll find signed John Lennon records and an autographed guitar autographed by Earl Slick. “All you need is love!” he exclaims.
May 2019. You never know what you might learn in The Cavern Pub. I had no idea for example that Star Wars legend Mark Hamill is a big Beatles fan and that he’d come to Liverpool for a Mathew Street experience of his own. “To all my mates at The Cavern, you are the best!” Whatever went down, it sounds like Mark had a good time.
The most curious exhibit I saw at The Cavern Pub that night was the glass case in tribute to the forgotten Welsh band Badfinger. Named after the working title of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Bad finger Boogie), the band was signed to The Beatles’ Apple label and enjoyed moderate success, despite suffering an unprecedented string of personal and professional woes that had some music journalists labelling them The Unluckiest Band in Rock History! If they have a claim to fame it’s probably for writing Without You, which enjoyed huge success when covered by both Harry Nilsson and Mariah Carey.
One of the main acts at The Cavern Pub that night was an established local artist by the name of Stuart Tod, aka Shadow Captain. This guy is known all over Liverpool with a long career as both a solo artist and with the bands Campbell & Todd and The Freebies. He played a bunch of songs that night, all of which channelled a familiar classic rock vibe, so it was no surprise to read that his many influences include The Beatles, Neil Young, The Kinks, Dylan, Springsteen and The Stones. To find out more and listen to a varied selection of his work, check out his website.
The Cavern Pub also has a proud tradition of giving aspiring singer-songwriters their first opportunity to get up onstage in front of an audience. And right enough I got to see a debutant that night in the form of Ben Newport. Introduced by Monday night MC Ian Prowse (frontman of the Liverpudlian band Amsterdam), a clearly nervous Newport started off with an apology that his song wouldn’t be as meaningful as the guy who’d just come offstage! But in the end Ben did just fine with his stripped back ballad about “overthinking a relationship”. It’s difficult to judge someone on one song but Ben seemed competent enough as both a singer and a guitarist, albeit with a very Liverpudlian sound pitched somewhere between The Coral, The Stands and Jake Bugg.
We’d enjoyed our visit to The Cavern Pub and, as hoped, it had whetted our appetite for the short walk across the road to the legendary Cavern Club….
For more on the greatest rock band in history, check out my articles from The Beatles In Liverpool. Alternatively, have a read about my visit to Abbey Road in London, or check out my review of The White Album.
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