Liverpool’s Cavern Club celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2017 and the legendary venue is quite rightly receiving a lot of attention. It is not only the 50th anniversary of The Beatles iconic ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ LP, but also one that means an awful lot to former avid attendee Debbie Greenberg. The 72 year-old has just released a memoir called Cavern Club – The Inside Story (Jorvik Press).
The reason for this book having meaning is that Mrs Greenberg was not only there when the venue moved from being a jazz club (based on those in Paris at the time), it then by the early 1960s progressing onto the skiffle band scene sound and then into the rock ‘n’ roll club that we have all heard such amazing stories about. Debbie was also there when The Beatles played their very first gig under that name in 1961 (February 9th), original drummer Pete Best joined George Harrison, Paul McCartney and John Lennon at that time. Ringo Starr followed on a short time after, to form the ‘Fab Four’ line-up we all know and love to this day.
They (as a band) took the scene by storm and made the venue even more popular than ever. The Mersey Beat scene went from strength to strength. The leather clad Beatles commanded the stage, provided a fresh injection of energy to the way their music was embraced and they could pack out the club lunchtimes and evenings alike.
The teenager never realised then that this old bomb shelter and warehouse (which was declared a potential death trap, minus proper ventilation, drainage and fire escape) would become a part of the rest of her life.
"It smelt of cigarette smoke, steaming leather (as it was not cool to remove your coat), sweat and felt like we were in a steam bath," she says in her book.
Her love for the club was such that she would queue for hours to ensure admittance. "There could have been 900 people there in an afternoon," explains Greenberg.
This was the place to try to get a gig in as an up and coming band in Liverpool, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Swinging Blue Jeans and even (former Cavern cloakroom girl) Cilla Black saw their careers soar by appearing there.
The black-leather clad Beatles she says were "Intoxicating, so sexy. It was an incredible experience to witness the changeover to Ringo from Pete. I saw them as often as I could between 1961 and 1963 (the band played the Cavern 292 times)."
"It was with mixed feelings we said farewell to the band in 1963, as they embarked on their triumphant US tour and we got to hear ‘Please Please Me’ (the number 1 hit). We lost the band to the world in a way, but they will always be ‘our Beatles'," adds the author.
The clubs demise and rise from the ashes of defeat is also well documented in this memoir. There are numerous exclusive and rare photographs, interviews and pieces of trivia fans of the club (and The Beatles) will adore.
In 1964 the club was forced to close and yet salvation came from Debbie’s father and his business partner, who invested £5,500 in purchasing the venue.
Cosmetic changes were made. The business was expanded and it was even approved by the then British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who was present for its re-opening in 1966. They may have lost their most famous performers to the globe, but things picked up as celebrities and music legends kept things ticking over.
From comedians Spike Milligan and Ken Dodd, to actors and soon to be chart-toppers such as Chuck Berry, Bill Haley (with his Comets), The Who, Rolling Stones and even Elton John made appearances.
The club was also where you (if you were there at the right time) could have seen early incarnations of Queen, Slade and masters of three-chord rock Status Quo.
According to Greenberg’s book one of her personal highlights was when in 1968. This was an event that means a lot to her. It was when Paul McCartney and his soon-to-be wife Linda (Eastman) popped by to see - in McCartney's words - "where it all began."
The club was eventually sold in 1970 and was unfortunately demolished.
There was some good news though, as a new version was recreated near to its original site. It is a superb way to get the feel of just what those lucky Mersey Beat fans in the 1960s-1970s were so fortunate to be able to witness live.
Debbie’s book is one for fans of not only the Beatles, but the entire music scene in Liverpool at that time to enjoy.
This celebration of The Cavern Club’s 60th anniversary (Cavern Club: The Inside Story) ties in very nicely with the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and is available via Jorvik Press.
There are numerous Beatles releases available at present and many more to come. They take the form of limited edition CDs, LPs and the band seem to be more popular than ever.