Pam & Tommy
By Pam Beesley
band was playing, clothed in undertaker's garb: long frock coats and top hats. I
remember that the singer was very good looking but I liked the sax player, not
for his looks but because of the sound of the saxophone and the way his cheeks
puffed out like balloons when he played.
The music played by the bands we liked wasn't the popular Mersey Sound, but the
earthy black rhythm and blues stuff like 'You Really Got A Hold On Me', 'Anna'
and 'Wondrous Place' (which summed up the Iron Door club for me).
Joy and I soon became regulars there. One night, having no money, we walked into
town just to stand outside our club and listen, even if we couldn't participate.
But then the bouncer took pity on us and to our delight let us in for nothing.
We saw many bands there but our personal favourites were the Four Clefs who
played the music of Buddy Holly. We followed them around to different venues,
but that's another story.
After a while the owners of the Iron Door decided in their wisdom to extend the
club because Liverpool had become the most desirable place for a night out,
thanks to the Beatles. It just wasn't big enough. Extending the club meant
opening up the next door into what was a vast space with a high ceiling, proper
raised stage and no atmosphere whatsoever!
The original cellar ended up as a landing between staircases. We were
devastated! So along with the other regulars, we voted with our feet and
decamped to the Cavern Club in Mathew Street, leaving the Iron Door forever.
Some years ago my husband Tommy and I had an appointment in Dale Street. We
parked in North John Street and as we were early I begged him to walk down
Temple Street with me to see our old dive. I could have cried, and in fact I
did! The old warehouse had gone and no doubt the cellars filled in to make way
for, yes, you've guessed it - a car park!
was wonderful then in Liverpool. The Cavern and Iron Door were not licensed so
there was rarely any trouble. I can honestly say that I was never offered any
drugs despite all the rumours about the Swinging Sixties. There were numerous
clubs and even more numerous bands so you could never get fed up, you just moved
on. The music was wonderful and different bands had different styles.
Tommy was in a band called the Alaskans. They only ever played one gig at
Barnabus Hall (now Dovedale Towers). Most unlicensed clubs closed around
11.30pm, in time to get the last bus home. Joy and I would walk up to Castle
Street by the Victoria Monument to get our buses home and I never remember
having any trouble being molested by anyone. The buses were busier then and
perhaps there was safety in numbers, but now I shudder to think what could have
happened, especially as I had to go down a deserted country lane after leaving
the bus in order to get home. But I had no fear because you never heard of
anything happening to anyone else.
Saturday afternoon everyone converged on the town centre and you never knew who
you might meet. I remember one Saturday when a guy was thrown out of Marks and
Spencer because of his long hair. So everyone would converge on Church Street to
parade up and down before going home to get ready for the evening.
Joy and I still meet up twice a year in Southport to swap family news. We first
met at Holly Lodge Grammar School, as it was then, in 1957 in our first year and
have always kept in touch despite living some miles from each other.
We left school after O levels in the summer of 1962. I worked in the offices of
the North West Gas board in Bold Street. She went to work for the Co-op
Insurance in Cramond Avenue off Smithdown Road (next door to the Holyoake).
We both liked the Undertakers because of the ominous sounding name and the fact
that they seemed to be the favourite band at the time, playing at the Iron Door
a lot. I also always liked the saxophone and few bands had a brass section.
Brian Jones, the sax player from the Undertakers had no breath control and his
cheeks blew out like balloons when he played. You see I know more about it now
because our youngest son is a professional sax player. We originally saw the
Undertakers at the Knotty Ash Youth Club just before Christmas 1962 and loved
them and their music.
In those days the only access to music was Radio Luxembourg. The reception was
not great if you could get the station at all.
I only got a record player for my 21st birthday and so the music we were hearing
at 17 was all totally new to our ears, and also totally different to the usual
'Housewives Choice' or 'Family Favourites' that our parents listened to.
However, there was a Top 20 on the radio each Sunday and programmes like 'The
6.5 Special' and 'Juke Box Jury' were coming to TV. Before that Joy and I and
many other young people had led virtually music free lives.