Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cavern Lunches

March 20-26, 1961

The Beatles are wrapping things up in Liverpool now, preparatory to their second Hamburg trip.  Half of these gigs are lunchtime dates at the Cavern.  They play there Monday the 20th, Wednesday the 22nd, and Friday the 24th.  In the evening of the 20th, they also play one of the rougher venues, Hambleton Hall and finally, fittingly, the Casbah on the 26th, their last Liverpool gig before going across to Germany.

I must now reintroduce a character, very important to the story, who I've been neglecting.  We first met him briefly as an associate of promoter Brian Kelly who organized many of the Beatles non-Cavern appearances as Bekay Productions.  He was an early Beatle enthusiast.  If anyone can be said to be the voice of the Merseybeat, it is Bob Wooler.  He is the "compere" (we would say "MC") of jive shows all over Liverpool and is well known to all of the musicians on the scene.

He also has a keen sense of marketing and writes colorful ad copy.  Even though he is in his mid-30s, he seems to be able to speak the teenagers' language when talking up a group or a show.  He shares many of his ideas with the Beatles on how they can increase the excitement factor of their shows, like starting to play at venues with a stage curtain before it goes up.  Just before he announces the Beatles, he has a recording of the "William Tell Overture" played through the house sound system to get the crowd's attention and that song becomes something of a Beatles signature tune. He often introduces them at the Cavern, as well, where they will smoke and eat on stage (after all, it is usually lunch time, right?)

Wanna come?  Down eighteen stone steps into a dark, dank and rather smelly warehouse basement.  The stone walls are dripping with condensation.  Now, just press play and listen to this...

...and imagine a guy in a dark suit and tie who comes up and shouts into the mic "Greetings and salutations jive fans, rockers, rollers ...(similar patter for a couple of minutes running)...  Welcome to the best of the cellars, where we've got the hi-fi high and the lights down low so let's get started with the Beatles show!"  Immediately followed by the opening to Roll Over Beethoven blaring from the amplifiers... 

Now you've got some idea of what the craziness is about.

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