On this day, March 21, back in 1961, The Beatles played their first night-time concert at Liverpool’s legendary Cavern Club. Before this momentous event, the Fab Four had reportedly played 11 afternoon sets at the incredible music venue – but it seems they were not at all prepared for the gig.
Spencer Leigh’s book, The Cavern, explored the history of the venue, and how it became synonymous with The Beatles.
Ralph Ellis, was the guitarist of the evening’s headline band, The Swinging Blue Jeans (previously Blue Genes). He recalled that The Beatles were simply not ready for the massive event.
Ellis said: “Their singing was very rough and their guitars were out of tune. We rehearsed a lot to get our sound right.”
He went on to add that, despite how unrefined The Beatles’ performance was, they brought along their audience, so they had an incredible reaction from the large number of people watching.
“We weren’t too happy to see The Beatles going down so well,” Ellis continued. “With something they’d only rehearsed five minutes before.” (Via The Beatles Bible)
“[The Cavern Club’s owner] Ray McFall had booked The Beatles for our guest night without telling us,” he recalled. “And we were very annoyed about it. They played so badly then.”
Ennis also complained about the band’s audience, adding: “The Beatle fans had annoyed our fans by getting there early and sitting in the front rows. They watched us and it was like: ‘What’s all that?’ They wanted The Beatles.”
The concert hall’s owner, McFall, noted that the headliners even “tackled him” after it was announced The Beatles were playing before them.
McFall said in The Cavern book: “Afterwards, three of the Blue Genes tackled me in Mathew Street and they were most upset. As far as they were concerned The Beatles didn’t have the musical talent and they weren’t clean, fresh and well-organised.”
He, rightfully, told the band: “If the place is full, there are a lot more people watching [you].”
While The Swinging Blue Jeans were not happy about The Beatles’ booking, other onlookers were entranced by the stars’ performance.
Joey Bower, of The Four Jays, was in the audience during his monumental gig. And he was adamant they delivered a standout performance in the Cavern Club.
Bower said: “This was the first time I had seen The Beatles and they were in black leather and dripping with sweat. They were doing songs that I’d never heard before and I wondered where they had got them from.”
He added: “They did an absolutely fantastic version of Besame Mucho, one of the best things I’ve ever heard on stage.”
The Beatles went on to play at The Cavern Club a reported 300 times across the next few years.
Their final performance at The Cavern Club took place on Saturday, August 3, 1963.