The Beatles played at Liverpool’s legendary The Cavern club just under 300 times during the first few years of their career, the venue becoming their second of sorts. Their final performance at the club took place on August 3rd, 1963, when The Fab Four played a riotous show at the venue, leaving it drenched in Beatles history forever.
The band had already scored a number one record in the UK with Please Please Me earlier that year and had outgrown the venue by this point—but they weren’t going to go out without a bang. Without The Cavern, which is a location where the band cut their teeth, things could have easily gone very differently if it wasn’t for a series of events that unfolded at the club.
The Merseysiders began playing The Cavern on February 9th, 1961, a time when they were paid £5 for a lunchtime session. The most poignant moment came when a local record store manager named Brian Epstein came to watch on a suggestion from a customer and was absolutely blown away. He then offered to become the band’s manager and the rest is history.
“The crowds outside were going mad. By the time John Lennon had got through the cordon of girls, his mohair jacket had lost a sleeve,” said former Cavern doorman Paddy Delaney in Spencer Leigh’s book The Cavern. “I grabbed it to stop a girl getting away with a souvenir. John stitched it back on. They may have altered their style elsewhere, but they didn’t do it at the Cavern. They were the same old Beatles, with John saying, ‘Okay, tatty-head, we’re going to play a number for you.’ There was never anything elaborate about his introductions.”
Their final appearance at The Cavern was very much a last-minute event, one which came about as a power play from manager Epstein. That August appearance only took place because Epstein couldn’t pull them out of an appearance at the Grafton the night before. Les Ackerley [actually Albert Kinder] said: ‘I’ve got them under contract,’ and Epstein was furious because, by then, he had other things in mind for them. He was calling Ackerley all sorts of names, but he didn’t use four-letter words as he never did that,” said Bob Wooler in the same book.
Wooler added: “Ackerley had a barring clause preventing The Beatles appearing in Liverpool before but not after that appearance, so Brian asked us to take The Beatles for the Cavern on the following night, which was a Saturday. I resented this as he was only doing it to get at Ackerley, and anyway, I had booked all the groups for Saturday 3 August. If I’d said no, he would have gone to Ray McFall, who would have said, ‘Of course we’ll take them’.”
Their set was a roaring success even if there was a power cut during the show which could have ended the performance early—but Paul McCartney had other ideas. He grabbed an acoustic guitar and treated the audience to a stripped back rendition of ‘When I’m Sixty Four’, a song which wouldn’t be released for another four years.
The venue actually made a loss on the night after paying The Beatles £300 for their appearance, with admissions only totalling to £250 plus staff wages which meant that The Cavern was down. It’s fair to say, however, that in the long run, The Cavern has certainly benefitted thanks to a Beatles connection that has made the venue such a historic-cultural landmark.
See some rare footage, below.