Recalling the Cavern
There was also the Cavern ‘look’… a wild manic stare, which accompanied the dance, combined with an attempt at social ‘nonchalance’ (listen to the Searcher’s ‘When You Walk Into The Room’ for further explanation). The Cavern Stomp was best portrayed by people with names like Baron Von Rooter, Marigold, Lacie, Twang, Freddie (who was in fact a Liverpool Bus conductor with a derisive attitude and a strong resemblance to that fellow from Manchester with a group named the Dreamers) and a red headed lad of elfin proportion known as ‘Ginger’ who tended to take off on his partner and leap through the air with careless abandon.
But we came in our legions for those lunchtime performances by the best groups Liverpool could offer and we were hungry for the sounds of the Escorts, the Merseybeats, the Swinging Blue Jeans, the latter undoubtedly DJ Bob Wooler’s favourite performers whose live rendition of ‘Too Late Now’, and their popular cover of Chan Romero’s ‘Hippy, Hippy, Shake’ or ‘You’re No Good’ and ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ was truly remarkable.
There was Faron’s Flamingoes whose success sadly did not take them to the heights much lesser performers achieved. Their drummer Trevor Morais was perhaps one of the best in the country and their live performances were incredible. Faron, resplendent in his sun-glasses and tee shirts long before they were rock fashion statements, was an exciting performer also prone to wild leaps and jumps (no mean task on a stage as small as The Cavern’s was) always landing on his knees and still singing.
Morais’ drum solos were nothing short of sheer brilliance. Their local hit song ‘See If She Cares’ had ‘Do You Love Me’ as the flip side, clearly a programming mistake which probably cost them their chance of superstardom. When the band broke up Faron and Paddy joined the Big Three and Nicky Crouch went on to the Mojos both very popular groups at the Cavern, and Trevor Morais joined the Peddlers.
The Chants were another group who were popular in the Cavern but way ahead of their time. It’s no Mersey legend either that they were sometimes backed by the Beatles when they performed. At the Cavern their rendition of the street corner American Doo Wop ‘Baby I don’t Care’, ‘She’s Mine’, ‘Come Go With Me’, ‘A Thousand Stars’ and every thing the Four Seasons did complete with a Southend Liverpool accent was best described by Lennon as ‘Powerful Lar’. Yet outside of the local fans they just didn’t get the support or have the original material to rise to the stardom they deserved.
By far the one of the most exciting sounds to ever blast through the Cavern’s speakers was from the Roadrunners. Their ‘Roadrunner’, ‘You’d Better Move On’, ‘Slow Down’ and ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ was the ultimate for R&B connoisseurs. George Harrison hit the nail on the head when he said they sounded better than the Rolling Stones. At the time they certainly were.
When the Roadrunners introduced American sax player Johnny Phillips to the Cavern audience it was so overwhelming that I almost dragged the poor kid off the stage during the performance. Some say he couldn’t get a work permit in the UK, I’ll bet he was afraid of Liverpool girls after this his first Cavern venture and headed back over the pond to the safety of the surfer girls.
Trudging back up the stairs to the sounds of ‘On The Horizon’ an obscure song particularly liked by Bob Wooler or Gerry Marsden’s ‘I’ll Be There’ meant the end of the lunch time sessions and the cold reality of school, work or the never-ending search for a job. Legging back up the uneven cobblestones of Mathew Street’s warehouse district meant scrutinizing the outside of the Grapes Pub to see it any rock royalty was hanging about. If you had a group in those days networking and appearing in Mersey Beat was a must.
In the past four decades a few live recordings and collector’s items recorded by lesser known groups who played at the Cavern have been on the market. While they really don’t capture the real magic of the old Cavern there’s still no doubt why this place was so popular.
Much has been said about the Sixties and drugs but for the most part kids went to the Cavern for the music. In the few years that I was a regular I saw no real violence, illegal drinking, drug abuse or anything other than young people having fun, singing, dancing and enjoying some of the best popular music performers in the world.
The Cavern had no equal in England and other clubs were tame by comparison. It was dark, smoky, loud, and sweaty but it had a heart, soul with a pulsing sound that was unique to the diversity of Liverpool’s population. The brilliant and often underrated musicians showed the best of us!
When the original building was demolished in 1973 the pulse of the Mersey Sound stopped and was gone forever. Nothing, even the 1984 rebuilding and restoration, however well intended, can replace it or that particular period of Liverpool’s unique history.
The question has frequently been raised why more performers didn’t reach the superstardom of the Beatles. The answer must surely be that so few of the groups wrote their own material. The lads had the edge and for a brief moment in time so did the Cavern. What was birthed in a Victorian warehouse, nurtured by Mersey Beat magazine and Liverpool fans became the catalyst of social change for the world. There was no other place to be in the early sixties and I am very proud to have been part of it.