I feel compelled to mention Davy….

I wasn’t going to write a blog about Davy Jones today, not because his death hasn’t made me sad, because it has. But because, as much as I’ve always liked The Monkees, I am by no means an authority on them and didn’t really feel qualified to comment on Davy’s life to any great extent.

However…I’ve just been reading Twitter, and the overwhelming comments on there about him have inspired me to say a few words.

Something strange happens when a celebrity dies. We grieve, but in a way that kind of takes us by surprise. We expect to grieve when a loved one dies, but these are people who we have probably never met and who probably don’t even know we exist – so why do we afford them such an outpouring of emotion?

My earliest recollection is of course John Lennon in 1980. I was only 9 and not a Beatles fan then, but was more than aware of the sadness that had struck so many people when the news came from New York.  I also remember, at aged 9, buying my first Lennon single (Just Like) Starting Over – albeit postumous, perhaps that was the start of what later moulded me into me.

My next memory was Eric Morecambe in 1984, because I remember that it seemed to make my Mum and Dad a bit sad and indeed, since learning more about him over the years, I now appreciate why.

But the first celeb to really hit me when he went, was Freddie Mercury. I came down for breakfast before work and turned on Breakfast TV to the sad news that Freddie had died. My reaction surprised even me. I wasn’t what you’d call a Queen fan, but obviously as a music lover I realised what we’d lost and how sad it all was.

The phone rang – it was my brother, calling to see if I’d heard. And we shed a tear together. My Mum emerged from the kitchen to see me crying in front of the TV and seemed confused at how the death of someone we didn’t know could upset us so much. But that’s the whole point. When you’ve grown up with the image of someone, always there, present on your TV, present on the radio and part of the soundtrack that defined your youth, you DO know them.  They and their music are part of you.

A friend once made the observation that I apparently “cry at everything”.  My initial response was to be slightly disgruntled at what had seemed like a derogatory slur on my senstive nature, but then I decided I’d take it as a compliment. Because I don’t cry at everything, I cry when something moves me. And if I’m moved a lot, by the things I see, hear and feel on a daily basis, then that makes me proud and makes me feel alive.

So, when I started reading Twitter tonight, my heart went out to all the people who did love Davy, because I know they’ll be feeling a little bit empty tonight, because a part of their childhood has gone.

I love the fact that The Monkees had the last laugh – having been manufactured for a ‘Beatles’ type project, they were initially stiffled by their management and not really allowed to apply themselves creatively to their music. I get the impression they were treated a little like circus animals, being poked with sticks and told to ‘be funny for the fans’. But once they’d found their feet and demanded some rights, what transpired was a credible and very cute little band who banged out some of the sixties’ most memorable tunes. Aside from all the obvious party tracks like “I’m a believer”, “Theme from The Monkees” and “Daydream Believer”, there were some absolute pop-corkers like “She”, “A little bit you, a little bit me”, “Last train to Clarkesville”, “Steppin’ Stone” and not forgetting…”Randy Scouse Git”!

As The Monkees themselves said “People say we Monkey around, but we’re too busy singin’”.

And finally, let’s not forget, Davy was a northerner who cut his teeth on the cobbles of Coronation Street – which makes him good enough for me.

RIP Davy Jones – a white knight on his steed.

 

 

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Our Home Away from Home

Now this is a Blog close to my heart. Guest Bloggers Joe and Joyce Brazino from Philadelphia were introduced to me by a mutual friend a few years ago on one of their regular trips to Beatle Week. Little did I know, that over the years, they would become very special friends and that we’d meet up many times both here and in the US.  Joyce is an established wordsmith and wanted to share her love of Liverpool with the Cavern Blog…..

In August of 2001, my husband and I made plans for our first-ever trip to London. “Look,” said Joe pointing to a map, “If we fly from Philadelphia directly into Manchester, it will be a lot cheaper – and from there, it’s only a three-hour train ride to London.”, which in America, is considered a hop, skip and a jump.

I eyed the location of Manchester, and noticed that it was really close to Liverpool – that magical, mystical, most wondrous place – a dream destination ever since the Beatles burst through my transistor radio at the age of 9.

“I have an idea,” I said, “Why don’t we go from Manchester to Liverpool and stay overnight?” Thus our first trip to Liverpool, the first of eight to be exact, was born.

At 6 a.m. GMT, we stumbled off the plane in Manchester and boarded a train to Liverpool. I had my walkman (these were pre-Ipod days) cued so that, with the press of a button, I could hear the opening chord of a Hard Day’s Night just as we pulled into Lime Street station. (Geeky, I know … but it just had to be done!)

Imagine my joy getting into a cool black cab where the driver sounded like Lennon and addressed me as “Luv”, it was almost too much to take! When we pulled into the now-defunct Moat House Hotel, the ear candy continued with a cheeky, incredibly funny and most conversational Bellhop. I was practically dizzy with delight.

Of course, our room wasn’t ready, and although it was only 8am, we dropped our bags and hit the streets. To me, this was like a visit to the Holy City. The entire place vibrated with a Beatley aura that, combined with the jet lag and a few lunch-hour pints, had me on the edge of delirium. When we walked along Mathew Street, I swore I could “feel” the presence of John, Paul, George and Ringo as my feet touched every stone in the pavement. The Cavern, although a replica of the original, was a moving sight, since I had only imagined it for so many years. Even though it was empty except for the two of us, it was easy to envision the boys onstage. The day was literally a childhood dream come true. But it was about to get even better.

That evening, we sat in the Grapes in Mathew Street, trying to take in the fact that the boys had frequented this very place. Upon exiting, we heard live Beatle music coming from a bar down the street. (For those who know Liverpool, the bar was Baty’s, now the site of the Hard Day’s Night Hotel.) We followed it and were greeted by a most amazing sight – the Blue Meanies: four young Liverpudlians in boots and suits,  The Beatles’ music, note for note. A frenetic, appreciative crowd danced to every song. To hear that music, in that place, and sung by young lads who bore an eerie resemblance to the Beatles without wigs or makeup, was truly the experience of a lifetime. Joe noted that the best people to watch were the local women of a “certain age” (that would be my age), who were actually there when it all began. Their continuing love of the music was beyond anything I’d experienced before.

We soon discovered that we had hit upon Liverpool at the start of the annual Beatle Week festival. And indeed, on our way back to the hotel, several Beatley young men were being deposited out of cabs along with their gear. That very night, I exacted a promise from Joe – we must come back next year, and we must stay for several days. And we did.

Our experiences in Liverpool have introduced us to people from around the world, several of whom are now treasured friends. These are people we would never have met otherwise. We’ve also heard innumerable live performances by incredibly talented musicians from around the world. They recreate The Beatles’ and music from the 60s – sometimes note for note and sometimes with their own twist. Many of them also produce amazing original material. We often say it’s been the most fun and enriching ten years of our lives!

Although we were so sad to leave Liverpool after just one day in 2001, we knew we’d return. But we couldn’t have imagined how many amazing times were in store for us there, and how much the people we’d meet would come to mean to us. Thank you John, George, Paul and Ringo for making it all happen.

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Lazing on a Sunday afternoon

Now I don’t need much of an excuse to get my backside down to the Cavern, so when Mum and Dad decided to stay over last weekend, it was a good opportunity to check out the What’s On guide and organise some typically Scouse entertainment, i.e. a band and a beer.

At 1pm on Sunday, there was a band on called 54321. I’d never heard of them, didn’t recognise them and disappointingly, from their picture, they seemed a little too young to be playing anything like the kind of stuff we’d enjoy, but with an open mind we toddled off for a greasy breakfast in Bold Street, lining our stomachs perfectly for the Guiness that was to follow in the Cavern.

As I’ve mentioned many times, the usual vibe as you spiral down the staircase into the Cavern is one of moist, humid excitement and the heat normally knocks you backwards when you get towards the bottom. But on this chilly afternoon, it was pleasantly toastie down there, not too busy and easy to get to the bar. Three key ingredients to guarantee a happy Cavern Blogger.

I’d followed a guitaristy-type guy down the stairs and had opened the door for him as he had his hands full of guitaristy-type stuff. At this point I took the opportunity to check out guitaristy-type guy on a close-up basis, only to realise he was about 12. How good could such a young band be?? I’m normally really optimistic about such things, but I was REALLY in the mood for a good gig and was having horribly negative thoughts about their age (now that’s something I never thought I’d write down and upload onto the world wide web – how bloody old do I feel now?!)

I kind of figure that if I see a band who are my age or older, they’re going to be more experienced and there’s more of a chance that their setlist will blow my skirt up. On the other hand – these guys had a residency at the Cavern, so surely they had to be, well, OK at least?

Mum and Dad settled onto their seats and I got myself comfy in a fairly handy spot with a prime uninterrupted view. The music cannot be enjoyed to its maximum potential if the view is impaired you see.

The band took a little while to sound-check, but eventually introduced themselves and kicked things off. First on the list was Drive My Car. Now I’ve heard this track done to death, and what it needed…if to be done yet again…was a bit of energy. And that’s exactly what it got. The sound quality was superb (top marks to whoever was in charge of the desk on Sunday afternoon) and the band were as tight as Sandy’s spray-on pants at the end of Grease. They sounded like they’d been playing together forever – not a note out of place. Tremendous.

So I did as any impressed music fan would do and as soon as I got home, I googled ‘em. It transpires that 4 out of the 5 band members are Taylors – so I’m assuming they might be brothers or cousins? If anyone knows, feel free to put me straight, but perhaps the family gene would account for the wonderfully harmonious vocals? Afterall it never did the Brothers Gibb any harm did it?

The set list went from great to greater and I almost shrieked like a child when lead singer Rory announced that despite the risk of offending people, they were going to do Sledgehammer. COR! When was the last time you heard that played live?! Pulp’s Common People, Long Train Running by The Doobie Brothers, Under Pressure – Queen and Bowie, more Beatles, Kinks, Spencer Davis, Stevie Wonder….you get the drift? This was the soundtrack of my youth – the stuff that made me want to look way beyond what was in the charts when I was at school, the stuff that made me spend my paper-round money on ordering old 45s from the Golden Oldies counter at Woolies and the stuff that turned me into the partially deaf, guitar-loving music freak I am today.

Bravely though, they also threw in a couple of their own original tracks – Casino and The Astronaut. Not always a good move when you’re playing to an audience made up largely of Beatle-loving tourists wanting you to “Mach Schau”. But Rory’s delivery was credible and fearless to the point that you’d never have known their songs weren’t already famous.

These guys have personality by the bucket load – they looked like they were loving every minute of their gig and they really threw the feeling out into the audience. The Cavern, despite being a lot quieter than usual, was buzzing, Rory was funny, the drummer Olly was having a laugh at the back and they generally made me want to smile big.

Of course, if you’re going to play the old stuff, you’re going to need a keyboard. How can you do it any justice at all without the silky sounds of a Hammond echoing through the mix? So with keys in place courtesy of Barney, 54321 have it tapped.

I kept turning round to express my sheer glee to Mum and Dad, who looked back at me as if I’d gone out. They were enjoying it too, just not quite as demonstratively as me it would seem! I could have sat there, with my uninterrupted view and my beautifully creamy Guiness, for the entire afternoon.

So there you have it – I have discovered 54321 and a whole new look to my Sunday afternoons. Thanks Guys – you’ve reminded me why I came to live in Liverpool – this city just gets better the longer I’m here. See you next Sunday.

Check out 54321 on Facebook.

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Not 1…Not 2…Not 3…!

It’s a rare breed of musician that has played ALL FOUR incarnations of the Cavern Club…and as promised, Cavern Blog has delivered. A massive thank you goes to local rocker Keith Hubbard for helping me with this fantastic blog.

Opened by entrepreneur Alan Synter in 1957 as a jazz club, Liverpool’s Cavern Club later became a haven for Skiffle groups and soon turned Mathew Street into the beating heart of rock and roll on Merseyside.

Liverpool guitarist Keith Hubbard began his career in various Merseyside bands during the mid-60s making regular appearances at the Cavern.

As a member of Ian and the Rebels, Keith played the original Cavern Club in 1964, followed by appearances with Ricky Gleason & The Topspots through 1964-65. Prior to joining chart toppers Chicory Tip in 1975, Keith formed Caliban, who were regulars at the Cavern Club between 1972 and 1973.

In November 1972 Caliban were approached by the management of the Cavern, with a view to playing at the Club. A date was set and the band made their first Cavern appearance on 19th January 1973.

By this time, the Club was in its second incarnation, following its closure in February 1966 due to the financial failings of its then owner. New proprietors refurbished and re-opened the original Cavern Club in July 1966 boasting extended vaults, a new souvenir shop, coffee lounge and eatery.

Keith recalls: “I remember our first appearance at the Cavern was on the night that Johnny Gustafson was introduced as the replacement bassist for Billy Kinsley (Billy having left to form the Kinsleys). We opened the evening ahead of The Merseybeats who started with Johnny Gus singing ‘Lucille’, it was magic!”

Five further appearances ensued before the final performance when, after notification that the Club was to close, the band was invited to be on the bill for the final night at the world famous venue.

The date was Thursday 27th May 1973; The Cavern Club closed its doors forever at 6am on Friday 28th May 1973. In 1974 the warehouses sitting above the site were demolished and the rubble filled the void beneath, which had once been the Cavern.

In August of 1973, Caliban were offered a spot on the opening night of the New Cavern which was to be situated on the opposite side of Mathew Street  in numbers 7-15, the old Fruit Exchange. The opening was set for 16th August when Caliban would play support to Roy Wood’s Wizard. Over the following year Caliban made numerous appearances at the Cavern and at one gig were supported by the now famous Judas Priest.

In March of 1976, this version of the Cavern Club changed its name to Revolution in the hope of drumming up new business, but unfortunately had to close in April 1976, re-opening in the October of that year as the now iconic Eric’s.

In April of 1984, the Cavern Club as we now know it was re-opened, constructed back on the original side of Mathew Street as part of the Cavern Walks development and using the bricks from the excavation of the original Club.

By this time Keith had formed his current band Shooter, who have also played in today’s Cavern Club, recreating the sounds of the 50s and 60s.

Keith says: “Having played every version of the Cavern Club, I have to say, there is no where like it. Every gig has been brilliant and the Club, both old and new, has an atmosphere which is unrivalled anywhere. I love it.”

Ian and the Rebels 1963-64. Left to right - Derek Brough (bass guitar), Ian Gregson (vocals), Keith Hubbard (lead guitar), Roy Smith (guitar), Chris Kenny (drums)

 

Caliban 1971-75. Left to right - Keith Hubbard (lead guitar/vocal) Chris Kenny (drums/vocal) Ray Chapman (bass guitar/vocal) Roy Smith (lead vocal/rhythm guitar)

 

A modern day Keith in the modern day Cavern

 

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Keeping it Beat!

Tony O’Keeffe is well known around Liverpool for being the drummer of The Shakers, resident band at the Cavern Club, and lovers of all things Beat. Tony has a long history of involvement with the Mersey Sound and is passionate about what Beat music means to Liverpool.

Much to my delight, Tony has written an article which he wanted to share with us Cavern Bloggers. Here, our very special Guest Blogger, explains the importance of ‘raw’…..

Liverpool, 1961. A world in black and white. Grey skies hover over the soot-blackened Liver Building as the majestic Liver Birds look out across the murky Mersey, with its ferries criss-crossing their way over the water from the Pier Head. Somewhere in the distance there is the faint rumbling of beat music emanating from a smelly, dank cellar in the heart of the city.

Mathew Street, a small, cobbled street of fruit and vegetable warehouses connecting the busy thoroughfares of North John St and Stanley St, throbs to this new sound as the street’s workers mingle with the young office workers on their lunch-break as they soak up the heady atmosphere in this most inhospitable of underground settings…

This was the birth of the music that literally changed the world, thanks to four lads from Liverpool.

There are many Beatles tribute bands around the world today dedicated to keeping their name alive but not many actually capture the hot, sweaty, raw sound that made The Beatles and the Cavern legendary. I have a passion for that period and that sound, the Mersey Sound as it was known then and later, after Bill Harry’s local music paper, Mersey Beat.

There is something primal and fierce about the music that was played in the beat clubs of Liverpool at that time. Something other cities never quite captured and something that I believe was one of the most important ingredients of The Beatles’ and the other local beat groups’ success – Liverpool itself. A tough, uncompromising attitude with a sentimental underbelly, a leftover from a rich Maritime heritage, that made the music unique for the period and gave them the edge over their rivals from other towns and cities.

No wonder Liverpool and Hamburg enjoyed such a close relationship, being very similar in outlook and location (a lot of the beat musicians say they were born in Liverpool but grew up in Hamburg and their hard rocking sound was honed to perfection as a result). However, as the Mersey Sound became popular and exploded nationally, a fair amount of ‘smoothing out’ was required for the hit groups of the day to be acceptable to the great British public at large and the showbiz world they now inhabited.

As music moved on through the years the sound changed, as it must in the name of progress, and the technology gradually improved until it almost took over from the human element in the music. Even the musicians that were around all those years ago embraced these new techniques and changed accordingly with the times, upgrading their sound, giving their old material a new sheen and a more ‘today’ feel.

This, however, in my opinion, is where the magic stopped. The earthy, raw sound of that early sixties period is what made the music so exciting to listen to and, more importantly, feel. The way the guitars clanked and the bass boomed as the drums thinly clattered underneath a hoarse vocal, as it teetered at the top of its range, bellowing out Scouse-tinged, rough–hewn R&B and rock ‘n’ roll like their lives depended on it, which they probably did!

THIS is the sound I love and the sound that The Shakers, bring back to the best of cellars –The Cavern Club. A replica it may be, but it can still provide the sweaty atmosphere that was once legendary down Beat Street, when the mood is right. Our ‘Swingin’ Saturday’ ‘lunchtime session’ and ‘Shakin’ Sunday’ evening beat show are now established favourites in the beat calendar and a must for those wanting to experience the Mersey Sound just as it used to be; up close and personal, raw, sweaty and loud! So, turn up the collar on your leather jacket, sharpen those winkle-pickers and let’s go down the Cavern!

All images courtesy of Tony O’Keeffe

Check out The Shakers on Facebook

 

Tony with The Shakers at The Cavern

 

The Shakers

 

The Cavern stage as it is today

 

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I welcome you to Crackerbox Palace….

From time to time, I venture down south to the posh bit, to visit my good friend Rob in Maidenhead.

Over the years he has become quite fond of Liverpool and all things northern, but despite my best efforts, he still insists that his tea is actually his dinner – and you should have seen his face when I asked for gravy on me chips.

Being a girl, I do, of course, have absolutely no sense of direction and am perfectly happy to admit it. When I read a map I physically have to climb into it – turning the map round to suit the direction I’m actually travelling in. And when I’m shopping, I frequently come out of a shop and head in the completely opposite direction from when I went in. I’m rubbish. And for this reason I hadn’t twigged that Henley-on-Thames where George had lived, was literally minutes away from Rob’s house.

So one day, when he casually offered to pop me round to George’s gaff, I thought he was having a laugh. But no! To my joy, that’s exactly what he did.

Now this isn’t a long blog, mainly because there was no plan to this trip, I wasn’t expecting it and even moreso because George’s house sits right in the middle of a high street, in a spot that certainly doesn’t inspire poetry and you wouldn’t look twice at it unless you knew what it was.

As we pulled up, I got out of the car with the same feeling of excited anticipation that had swallowed me whole on my first visit to Mendips and Abbey Road. The difference was, this was George’s place. The place that, until a horrid night in December 1999, George had cherished and felt safe in. Somehow, the mansion at Friar Park was a bricks and mortar version of George’s personality – it was completely obvious why he’d love it and you can tell how special it was to him in the hundreds of home videos that he filmed there over the years. George has always been my favourite Beatle and visiting his special place made me feel pretty amazing.

So…there it was. Friar Park. Or was it? I could see a gate and the very pretty gatehouse, which was bigger and more grand than anything I’m ever likely to afford, but the estate was walled and wired for as far as the eye could see, in a sad display of what George had been reduced to.

However….what lies beyond the gates is magical and mysterious and as I stared through the iron railings, my imagination ran riot….and I smiled as I heard George say “We’ve been expecting you…”

The Gatehouse at Friar Park. Nice.

 

A proud pilgrimage

And this little lot is what's hidden behind the gate. Go George!

 

 

 

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Blogging from across The Pond

The Cavern Blog is very happy to welcome its first guest blogger!!

I was really touched to get an email from Susan from New Orleans, who, following a very personal and emotional trip to Liverpool back in 2008, now considers it to be her second home.

Susan was drawn here by Julian Lennon’s White Feather Exhibition – a collection of memories brought together by Julian and Cynthia Lennon in remembrance of John.

It was obviously a very poignant trip for Susan and yet another example of how Liverpool touches people in a way we can’t quite explain.

Susan writes (as Viola Russell):

I made two trips to Liverpool following my mother’s death in 2008.  On my first journey, I was on a mission.

I’d heard about the White Feather Exhibition and how the idea for the Foundation had come to Julian.  I visited London first, a city with which I was very familiar, and then moved on to Liverpool.

I immediately fell in love with the city. The Dock reminded me of my own hometown, New Orleans, and I revelled in the friendliness of it all.

I spent a wonderful night at the Cavern, dancing with a mad Aussie while Marcus Cahill performed his fabulous Lennon show.

Visiting the White Feather Exhibition, I felt a mixture of tenderness and sadness while I toured the exhibits – and I left the city feeling as if I hadn’t explored enough.

So the next year, I returned to Liverpool. The city called me with its Siren Song, and this time I explored more fully.  I flew directly into John Lennon airport where friendly airport workers directed me to an inexpensive shuttle service.  I stayed at the Albert Dock again, and this time toured Liverpool with a vengeance.

I decided on a taxi tour which took in LIPA, St. Peter’s Church, Eleanor Rigby’s grave,
Strawberry Fields, and Penny Lane and I visited  the homes of the
former Beatles, taking the National Trust Tour of Paul’s home in Forthin Road and John’s house Mendips, on Menlove Avenue.

Whilst taking pictures of George’s and Ringo’s homes in Arnold Grove and Madryn Street, I was struck by how similar they were to the stories my parents had told me of growing up in the 30s.

I also visited the Maritime Museum, The Slavery Museum, Liverpool Tate and St. George’s Hall and was struck by St. Luke’s wild beauty as it stands as a testament to the destruction of war.

I saw the Peace Monument, a tribute to John Lennon, and shed a tear.

I drank cider at the Cavern. Hail Liverpool!

Cavern Blog writes:
Thank you so much for sharing your ‘memories of Liddypool’ Susan – hope you manage another visit soon.

Julian and Cynthia unveiled The Peace Monument on 9 October 2010 - John's 70th Birthday ©Cavernblog

 

The Peace Monument. Opinion is divided, but I really like it, although I still think the guitar should have been a Ricky
©Cavernblog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Classic Beatle

Hello Cavern Bloggers and thanks for bearing with me these past couple of weeks while my blogging has been quiet. The truth is, my job involves staring at a PC for most of the day and when things get busy it’s not always easy to stare at another one when I get home. The good news is, during the break I’ve been scribbling down loads of ideas that I hope you’ll find worthy of a read, so stick with me.

For a little while now I’ve been teasing you with promises of rare and exclusive Beatle pics and guest blog interviews. They’re all on the way – in fact only 2 hours ago I was rummaging round my attic in search of hidden Beatle treasure to share with you and boy, did I come up trumps. But first another memory……

I daresay the debate on whether pop musicians should venture into classical music will rage on. Classical diehards probably sniff disapprovingly at the very idea that Sting should attempt to revive Elizabethan lute music – and let’s be honest, how many pop fans actually approve of Katherine Jenkins or Charlotte Church being in ‘our’ charts? Nuff said. So when the two collide, it’s always going to attract opinion.

What my opinion is on this subject, I’m not quite sure – and those of you who know me will realise that doesn’t happen very often – I’m usually more than certain what I think and more than happy to share. I’m often ‘accused’ (though I happen to take it as a compliment) of being a little bit black and white in my approach, well guess what, here lies a little grey area for me.

Personally, if music touches me, I don’t descriminate based on genre. I admit to liking Take That when the mood is right, but can also be found getting hammered to Zep.  I love Brenda Lee and Dolly Parton, but just a few CDs along on the shelf you’ll find Kate Bush and Stevie Nicks. I don’t care who thinks what of my collection – it’s my collection – that’s the point. So when I  hear a soothing string quartet or a thundering brass ensemble, if it makes me shiver, I’m gonna listen.

When I heard that Mr Mac was venturing into classical, my ears pricked up in anticipation. More Frog Chorus??? (ah come on…we all loved that!!) But no – this time he was serious. We were talking opera singers, a conductor, a cathedral – the lot.

Around early 1990, Liverpool’s Royal Philharmonic Society approached Paul for a contribution to their forthcoming 150th anniversary celebrations.

Paul set to work with renowned composer/conductor/husband of Ma Boswell, Carl Davis, on an eight movement classical oratorio which would be a semi-autobiographical portrayal of Paul’s Liverpool upbringing.

A year and a half later, on Friday 28th June 1991 (a year to the day since he played the Kings Dock), Liverpool’s glorious Anglican Cathedral played host to the Liverpool Oratorio’s World Premier Performance, which, along with TV crews, celebs and politicians, was attended by the man himself, Mr Mac.

Now before I attempt to get a review of my first live operatic experience down on paper, let me tell you what happened in the run up, cuz it was a bit good.

I am quite friendly with the guy who runs the Beatles Shop and he has the inside goss on absolutely EVERYTHING that’s happening in Beatledom. (Although I still haven’t forgiven him for not tipping me off when Del Amitri’s Justin Currie was popping in..) Anyhoo, the day before the Oratorio he dropped into the conversation that Paul was due in town on the day of the show, for a rehearsal and a press conference. Not only did he tell me that, he told me the times, the places and that not many people knew about it…’you ain’t seen me..right?!’

So Friday 28th came – in the morning my friend Christine and I slipped into our camouflage gear and took up our position in the trees at the back of the Cathedral, where Paul was due for a rehearsal. Sure enough, after a long, cold wait, with lots of nervous whispering and anxious ramblings about what we’d do if the Rozzers turned up, we got what we came for – Paul and Linda arrived in a black Range Rover, pulled up outside one of the back doors of the cathedral and got out. Losing all sense of dignity and self-respect, Christine and I shot to the fence, and with faces pressed into the railings like mutant zoo animals, we shouted his name and were rewarded with a wave and a very scouse “Hello!”

Did that just happen?? Paul and Linda McCartney had just looked us in the eye and shouted Hello, right?! Luckily for us at this point they made a sharp entry into the cathedral, because what followed from Christine and I can only be described as cringingly moronic and not at all how I would have wanted Paul to see me.

Now as if that wasn’t enough, we still had the press conference. So, with Paul safely tucked up in his rehearsal, we embarked on phase 2 of the operation.

The press conference was to take place at 2pm in the Philharmonic. We’d been tipped off as to what entrance he’d be using, so gathered there around 1-ish and waited. As the minutes passed, the crowd grew slightly, but not much. It was fantastic – only about 40 people to share him with. We waited.

Bang on time, the black Range Rover appeared with Paul in the passenger side. With just a small entourage, Paul emerged, suited and booted looking very handsome and very happy (of course..he was with Linda). He didn’t stay outside long, but promised he’d be back after the conference. We waited.

After an hour, the rear stage door creeked open and out popped Paul, complete with jazz hands and air guitar, much to our delight.

He stayed in the doorway for about 5 minutes – just long enough for me to snap away, securing myself some treasured memories. I snapped for a final time, then realised he was stood right in front of me and I was looking at him through a lens. What was I doing wasting my valuable McCartney time looking through a lens? I lowered the camera and savoured the moment of just looking at him with my bare eyes. How completely wonderful!

Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t/didn’t lust after Paul or any of the Beatles for that matter – they don’t blow my skirt up in that way at all -  although I fully appreciate what a beauty Paul was in his day. Nope, my state of wonderment was borne from my admiration of where he’d come from and what he’d achieved. This man had been a Beatle – and I love him for that!

Whatever was to follow in the evening was gonna have a tough job topping our brief encounter at the Phil, and I won’t pretend the Oratorio changed my life – cuz it didn’t. However, the sense of awe that was created inside the venue was something I won’t forget in a hurry.

I remember I’d bought a new outfit for the occasion – still a little bit 80s (well…the 90s just didn’t know what they wanted to be) I donned a fitted, bright red double-breasted jacket over black leggings (or ski-pants as they were fondly known back then) with a new pair of heels and a sparkly new bag. And yes, there were shoulder pads.

 

 

 

 

 

Our seats weren’t great – we were sat quite a way from the front and as we settled into the cold, echoey hall of the cathedral, Peter Sissons and Neil Kinnock settled in front of me. Not much of a who’s who, granted, but all the A-listers were at the front!

So the music started and as soon as Kiri opened her mouth, the hairs on the back of my neck shot straight up. The atmosphere was incredible. And it went on…..and on….and on.

I fell asleep.

OK I admit..it got the better of me – but at least I’m honest. And guess what, I’ve got some kick-ass snaps to show you, as always.

Download a PDF of the Liverpool Oratorio Promo leaflet here

 

Paul arrives for the press conference at the Philharmonic Hall

 

 

 

 

Paul emerges and happily gives us a round of applause

 

After the conference he popped out for a chat as promised - priceless

 

Left-handed Hofner air-bass!

 

 

My best shot

All images © Cavernblog 2012

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All Those Years Ago

In my recent blog It was 20 Years Ago Today, I got quite excited about sharing my memories of a very special Paul McCartney gig back in 1990. And as fantastic as that night was, there is one that tops it.

I think it’s safe to say, that in my 40 years on this planet, the particular date in question goes down as one of the absolute best nights of my life. So in anticipation of reliving the feelings all over again, I have settled down to write this blog with a glass of wine, a huge smile and All Things Must Pass banging very loudly from iTunes.

I agree, Paul puts on a great show and happily, for hundreds of fans around the globe, he tours fairly regularly. George, however, did not.

In my early days as a novice Beatles fan, my favourite Beatle changed from day to day, from song to song. John was a sharp wit and undoubtedly walked a fine line, Paul was undeniably pretty and a very polite PR man, whilst Ringo was the missing piece of the Beatles puzzle and despite many differing opinions on the subject, was, as far as I’m concerned, the only man for the job. But deep down, the one who really and truly won me over, was, and always has been, George.

I’m not easily fooled by phonies and I can spot a blagger a mile off – so judging by the personality he displayed in public, George always seemed to me like something of a joy. Cheeky and adorable, in a slightly ‘wet behind the ears’ kind of way, he would always make me laugh unexpectedly, without the feeling of angry sarcasm that would often project from John.

I loved the fact George was kinda shy, yet obviously not. He had a sense of peace about him and always seemed to be smiling. OK, maybe with the exception of the “I’ll play whatever you want me to play or I won’t play at all if you don’t want me to play” incident, but Paul WAS being a pompous ass and George did well not to lamp him (in my opinion).

Anyhoo, one day in early 1992, as I sat behind the counter of the council shop – awaiting the next barrage of abuse from an angry punter complaining that his front door had come off during a domestic altercation with “me Mrs” and “what the council gonna do about it?” – the phone rang…and it was for me. Happy for an excuse to escape frontline misery, I took the call, completely unaware of the joy that was to follow.

My friend and fellow Beatles nut Christine had by chance had a day off work. By chance she had been listening to Radio 2, when by chance they mentioned that George Harrison was going to be supporting The Natural Law Party in their election campaign. His support was to take the form of a gig. Had she heard that right??

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, Christine had decided to phone the ticket hotline, just in case, by chance, she might get through. And get through she did. Tickets were in the bag.

Answer me this. How on earth is any normal person expected to concentrate on their work after a revelation like that?! I was immediately filled with enormous butterflies which emerged from my throat as a childish shriek every time I tried to get my head round what had just happened.

I apologise if you’re reading this in any other capacity than that of a Beatles fan, because you are probably asking yourself whether it was actually such a big deal. Well believe me, not only did the entire music world buckle at the news George was going to be appearing live, but little 80′s-perm-Perrins, had only gone and got herself a ticket. It was like peeling back the wrapper of a candy bar and finding a golden pass into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Best of it was, we hadn’t all that long to wait, but at that very moment, Monday 6 April 1992 seemed like a lifetime away.

My Golden Ticket - 20 years old and still in perfect nick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t remember much, if anything, about the events leading up to the gig on the actual day, so I’ll cut to arriving at our seats in the Royal Albert Hall.

You can see from the ticket, that we were in Row 8. As 7.30 arrived, a little bit gutted not be at the front, we listened patiently as the leader of The Natural Law Party did his bit for peace, love and transcendental meditation. Any other time, I’d have been completely openminded to learn something new, but surely he knew why we were all there? Even so, he was determined to rattle on.

Eventually, he started to deliver what sounded like an intro….for someone very special who was supporting their cause.

The Albert Hall went quiet. You could hear the goose bumps sprouting in anticipation. Finally, George emerged from the wings. Sweet, sheepish and obviously a little nervous.

I was shocked at what followed. The Albert Hall erupted into a standing ovation – the love for George was never in question. But no-one moved from their seat. Was it in a bid to remain polite in the presence of The Law Party’s spiritual leader? Or was it because we could see that any sudden movements might have sent Jumpy George running straight back into the wings? In hindsight, whatever the reason, it was a very respectful act, but hey, I hadn’t come all the way to London to be NICE.

I looked at Christine. Christine looked at me. Within one split second, we had kicked back our seats and made a run for it. Before they knew what was happening, the front row had lost their prime position (survival of the fittest I believe it’s called) and my elbows were firmly planted on the edge of the stage. Like a tree standing by the waterside, I would not be moved.

Once the kerfuffle (it’s not often you get chance to type that) had subsided, my position suddenly struck me. My elbows were 6 inches away from a certain pair of Harrison size 9′s. I looked up – and there he was. I had the best view in the house, and could see right up the very nose that created the gorgeously adenoidal scousisms that came through in his vocals.

I was pretty much dumbstruck throughout but will never forget the awkwardness of catching George’s eye on a number of occasions during the gig. I was stood slap-bang in front of him so it was hard not to, but George was clearly uncomfortable with our proximity. What do you do when your favourite Beatle stares right at you? I didn’t quite know where to put my face.

As the night went on, everyone, including George, relaxed and the entire Hall was revelling in his Greatest Hits. The guest line-up was impressive to say the least – Andy Fairweather Low from Amen Corner, old favourite Ray Cooper on percussion, Joe Walsh from the Eagles and the late, great Gary Moore. Rumour had it that Eric Clapton should have been there but didn’t turn up due to a pre-gig barney with George – not sure whether that was true, but to be honest, as cool as it would have been, we didn’t need him. I did, however, get a lovely surprise when George introduced Mike Campbell from Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers. I’d been to see them not long before this gig and had fallen madly in love with Mike, largely due to the unbelievable way he handled a mandolin. Sighhhh…..

George sang everything we could have possibly wanted him to sing, even Piggies. I feel so lucky to have been there. I can’t remember which song he did as an encore (maybe someone reading might have been there and could refresh my memory?) but the best was yet to come.

George’s last guest was the irreplaceable…..Mr Richard Starkey. Now I’ve heard some crowds go wild at gigs before, but jeez, this was off the planet. Two Beatles on one stage for the first time in God knows how long, was quite an emotional treat. There were middle-aged men crying behind me, their childhoods staring them right in the face. That’s pretty great.

In fear of not doing the night enough justice, it feels too soon to draw this blog to a close, but I do have one last thing to share. A picture can speak a thousand words and one thing I failed to mention earlier, is that I had my camera with me.

If you didn’t believe me when I said I was staring right up his nose, here’s my proof. My apologies for the copyright, but these pictures are so precious to me that I couldn’t risk anyone using them. They have never been seen before by anyone other than my family and friends.

George seemed to be a truly sweet soul and remains not only my favourite Beatle but one of my all-time favourite people. Martin Scorsese’s recent documentary made me love him even more and looking at these pictures really makes me smile. Enjoy them. Thanks George xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With Mike Campbell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With Gary Moore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dhani Harrison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On The Waterfront

I’ve decided to shake things up a bit and jump forward a couple of years. You probably know that Paul McCartney has this week completed his ‘On The Run’ tour with a closing gig at Liverpool’s Echo Arena. I didn’t go.

I had a number of reasons for not going. When I found out when the tickets were going on sale, I vowed I’d give it an hour. An hour of trying to get through – one hand on my landline, one hand on my mobile and my elbows controlling my PC mouse. If I couldn’t get one, that would be that – at least I’d have tried.

This, in fact, was a step further than I actually thought I’d go when I found out he was touring. I’ll be honest with you, I love Paul but these days I find him a little uncomfortable to watch and I don’t feel unjustified in saying it. He’s a great man and probably the world’s most famous living musician – his melodies are simple, yet powerful enough to envoke tears – and whatsmore there are hundreds of them. Genius little riffs and quietly poetic masterpieces that masses of iconic artists wish they’d thought of first. But what I really want to do is freezeframe 1990, when Paul still had a thick floppy mop of gorgeous grey hair, when he could belt out the tunes for hours without a hint of suffering in his voice and before he turned into a very subtle caricature of himself.

Now I know loads of you may hate me for saying it, but I’m just being honest. You’re reading the blog of someone who’s life has been moulded by this man, so no-one could respect him more than I do, but I understand that in 6 months time, he is 70 and of course, his gigs are never going to be what they were, so for this reason, part of me wanted to just remember him…as if it were 1990.

But when I managed to get through to a ticket agent on-line, I was surprised to find myself thinking, ‘you know what, ‘sod all that, I’m off to see Macca in Liverpool – how cool is that!’ Alas, at £175 for the worse seat in the house, it was not to be and my previous excitement had now morphed into rage, that Mr McCartney would actually let this happen to the ‘minions’ who wanted to part with their hard earned cash to see his concert.

That was that. I refused to be ripped off and wasn’t overly disappointed at the outcome.

So back to 1990. In May of that year, Liverpool’s Pier Head had played host to the John Lennon Memorial Concert. I had waited patiently for 14 hours for my front row position and will tell you all about it in a future blog.

But the following June was a very special month. On Thursday 28th June 1990, I was travelling to Liverpool for the gig of the decade – Macca was playing his hometown for the first time in about 20 years and his set-list would, for the first time, include Beatles stuff. It was a big deal.

My ticket (check out the price..)

I drove into the city along Otterspool, approaching the Dock along Wapping, past The Baltic Fleet pub which proudly donned a huge hoarding welcoming home Liverpool’s Number One Son. The atmosphere in the city was electric and Liverpool couldn’t wait for Paul to appear.

I spent the day in the city, soaking it all up with my friend Janis who at the time I hadn’t known very long. We had met a few months earlier in the Cavern and she will be happy to learn that I intend her to be the subject of a future blog, so will leave it at that for now!

We had booked into The Shaftesbury Hotel on Mount Pleasant (long since demolished) and from there headed down to the Kings Dock site at about 7ish. Little did we realise that people had been piling into the arena for ages by then and we were SO disappointed that the back of the crowd was now quite a way from the stage. But not to be defeated, Janis is a Geordie, and as such, has the cheeky, yet endearing ability to get away with murder.

She raised her hand as if waving to someone further forward in the crowd. She looked back at me and cried “Look Nic, there’s Trace, come on!” She grabbed my arm and ploughed me through the crowd, all the time alerting ‘Trace’ of our pending arrival. Luckily for us, Trace had pitched up right by the stage in front of the middle mic. Tracey was my hero. Of course, there was no Tracey.

Thousands of us were gathered….and thousands of us made absolutely no noise.

He was about to come on.

And God, when he emerged, did Liverpool know about it. I won’t even try to describe the elation of that city at that precise moment on 28th June 1990,  I don’t have the words. All I know is that we LOVED him and he gave us every single last note of everything we wanted to hear.

Of course, this wasn’t just a normal City to Paul. It was His and he had planned something a little bit special just for us. As dusk fell, it was perfect timing for the cigarette lighters to shimmer, while Paul, in tribute to his Bezzy Mate, sang ‘John’ songs.

Liverpool didn’t want him to leave.

As the concert came to a close, we wanted the chorus of Hey Jude to last forever. We’d all sung it a million times before, but this time we were singing it with Paul and every ‘Na na na na’ drew us closer to what we didn’t want – the end of the gig and the end of a perfect night.

As we made our way out the arena, Janis and I spotted a row of undamaged gig posters on the walls of a dimly lit street. We looked at each other, tipped a nod, and proceeded to peel them off gently. A couple of them were enormous, but yep, I got one, and it now sits carefully rolled up in my attic where no-one can man-handle it. Another was a little smaller, though still impressive, and as I got to the very last corner without ripping it, I knew this one would eventually take pride of place somewhere special.

I bought my first house in Liverpool in 2008 and my fab, bright yellow gig poster, framed and protected, now stares down at me from the wall as I write my blog. Which, I hasten to add, would not be complete without a big Thank You, to the 2 Rozzers who graciously gave us a hand to get the posters down safely, without arresting us for vandalism!

So all that remains, is for me to share 3 very special pictures with you. I had bought a new Olympus Zoom especially for the occasion, and whilst most of my pictures were a little fuzzy with all the excitement, I had a few of the best ones enlarged. When I look at them now, it makes me glad I didn’t go to the gig this week. It could never have topped Thursday 28th June 1990 and my memories remain unspoiled. I hope you like them.

Watch Paul’s Tribute to John here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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