The Beatles first appeared at The Cavern when they were just The Quarrymen, back in early 1957. It wasn’t until February 1961 that as The Beatles, thanks to Mona Best, made their first appearance at the legendary Cavern Club on Mathew Street. It was a lunchtime session, and it wasn’t long before they made their debut in the evenings too. It was later in 1961 that Brian Epstein walked into The Cavern and saw The Beatles: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best. Within weeks he had signed them and arranged an audition for them at Decca.
Between their first appearance and their last appearance on 3rd August 1963, they played nearly 300 times. Their final show did not go without incident.
The fab four: “please please me”
The Beatles were by now nationwide stars, and touring the country after the success of their singles and number one album, “Please Please Me”. The Fab Four were moving away from Liverpool, and setting up home in London, where the national media was located. That last night at The Cavern would be their last, even though they didn’t realise it at the time.
“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. 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.” Paddy Delaney, Cavern Club doorman
Brian Epstein promised they would return
Tickets for the final show had gone on sale at 21 July at 1.30pm, and sold out within 30 minutes. The fees for their last Cavern show were £300, a lot more than they received for their first appearance. By then, The Beatles could command almost any fee they wanted. With only 500 people there, at 10 shillings each, it was impossible for The Caverb to make money that night. Brian Epstein promised the club’s compère Bob Wooler that The Beatles would return, but they never did.
“The Beatles were very professional: there was no larking around and they got on with it. We all felt it was their swan song and that we would never have them at the Cavern again. Brian Epstein still owes the Cavern six dates for The Beatles as he kept pulling them out of bookings by saying, ‘You wouldn’t stand in the boys’ way, would you, Bob?” Bob Wooler
“When i’m sixty-four”: The first live performance
The show lasted from 6pm-11.30pm and The Beatles were joined on the bill were The Escorts, The Merseybeats, The Road Runners, Johnny Ringo and the Colts, and Faron’s Flamingos. However, during The Beatles’ set, there was a power cut – which was not unusual at the Cavern – and so they couldn’t use any of their equipment. As the show must go on, Paul McCartney moved over to the piano, and played a song the crowd hadn’t heard before, and wouldn’t hear on record for a few years: ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ from the legendary Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Having shown that The Beatles had outgrown this primitive club, Lennon was not happy:
“We were on just before The Beatles and we were delighted with our reception as everybody was cheering and going mad. The Beatles all had long faces and John Lennon was saying, ‘We never should have come back here.” Tony Crane, The Merseybeats
Although this was the last Cavern appearance, it wasn’t their last Liverpool appearance, which happened in December 1965 at the Empire Theatre.
But for those Cavernites, it was the last time they saw their hometown heroes, The Beatles, in The Cavern.
Beatles History: July 1962. The Beatles – John, Paul, George and Pete Best – made just the one appearance at this venue in the seaside town of Southport, just 20 miles north of Liverpool. Brian Epstein took action to get The Beatles out of the rock ‘n’ roll clubs, and this was all part of his strategy.
Cambridge Hall is now the Southport Arts Centre. (Featured in Liddypool)
On this occasion they were supporting one of Britain’s top acts, Joe Brown and his Bruvvers; The Beatles regularly covered Brown’s hit records. Brian had recently received news that they had a Recording Contract with Parlophone, and now Brian acted, sooner rather than later.
The following day, Brian approached the first drummer as a potential replacement for Pete Best; and it wasn’t Ringo Starr! Beatles history was about to be made. (The full story is in Finding the Fourth Beatle)
If you want to know the key events in Beatles History, then this is the page for you. This will help you navigate the website, to find the history you need to know. Each link will take you to a different page on the site, where a post, article or interview is located. I will be constantly updating the site, so check back for the latest in Beatles history, discussing Beatles names, Beatles members, Beatles drummers and who the original Beatles were.
When Flora MacDonald in 1746 helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape from the English to the Isle of Skye, and then to France, little did they know it would help Brian Epstein sign The Beatles! Seriously? Yes! read on.
My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean
The Scottish folk song that recorded that story was called “My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean”. When, in 1961, German Producer Bert Kaempfert decided to make a record with Tony Sheridan, backed by The Beatles (as The Beat Brothers), he wanted a song that the German people would know, but was also performed by the British musicians. He chose “My Bonnie” and “When The Saints Go Marching In”.
Recording “My Bonnie”
Kaempfert combined melody with lush orchestral strings and brass. As well as orchestral and jazz-oriented records, he wrote the music for “Strangers In The Night”, recorded by Frank Sinatra, “Wooden Heart” recorded by Elvis Presley, as well as hits for Nat King Cole and Al Martino. Kaempfert must be one of the few, if not only, to have worked with Elvis, Sinatra and The Beatles.
Bert worked for Polydor, who often recorded at a school theatre in Hamburg Harburg. But this was no ordinary theatre, as I found out when I visited there in 2017. Kaempfert had The Beatles and Tony Sheridan, who had been playing this song together at the Top Ten Club, set up on the stage. This is where myth and fact combined to create urban myths!
Some say Kaempfert removed Pete Best’s bass drum and other drums, because he was so bad. This, they claim, became the first of many producers to be dissatisfied with Best’s drumming. There is no evidence for that.
What we do know is that Bert Kaempfert was happy to use The Beatles as a backing band, having seen them several times at the Top Ten Club. We also know that he never used heavy rock ‘n’ roll drums on any track, as he was into Easy Listening music. He therefore asked Pete Best to only use his snare drum and hi-hat cymbal, which he used to great effect, as you can tell when you listen to the record. We have evidence of that. Best’s drumming is superb!
Because there are so many myths, misunderstandings and deliberate mistellings, I was determined in our book, Finding the Fourth Beatle, to ask real drummers what they thought of Pete Best’s drumming on “My Bonnie”. As I said in the book; I am not qualified to offer a professional opinion on drummers, as I am not a drummer, just an author.
Feedback from the drummers
“As Pete Best is not using his bass drum or floor tom, he does a really good job. Maybe Pete at that stage wasn’t experienced or talented enough maybe to play quieter. That is great drumming and a really good, high-speed drum roll in perfect time. How could anyone criticise that?” Mike Rice
“Very tight drum rolls at speed which is hard to do and keep in time. Especially as he didn’t use his full kit, he is very inventive in the use of the snare, with good flicks on the hi-hat, using it like a crash cymbal. A very technical piece of drumming, expertly executed.” Derek and Andrew Hinton
“My Bonnie” and other Songs
What songs were recorded, and in what order, is not known as there is little paperwork completed at the time. It is generally accepted that seven songs were recorded with Kaempfert. On the 22nd June, and possibly on the 23rd June 1961, four songs were committed to tape: “My Bonnie”, plus a German vocal as “Mein Herz Ist Bei Dir”; “The Saints (When The Saints Go Marching In)”; “Why”, written by Sheridan, and “Cry For A Shadow”, George Harrison’s skit on the Shadows, with a virtuoso solo performance, credited to Harrison/ Lennon.
The Beatles were also invited to perform another song, and John chose “Ain’t She Sweet”, one of his favourites, and one that would probably have fitted in with Kaempfert’s desire to record easy listening, old-time songs, that the German listener could identify with. However, what John produced was the harder, rockier sounding vocal performance that they would have done on stage, which didn’t really do him, or the group, justice. There were to be no vocal harmonies that would become their trademark in years to come.
It is also thought that they recorded “Take Out Some Insurance On Me, Baby (If You Love Me, Baby)”, probably at the same sessions, but there isn’t any documentation to confirm this. Sheridan, ably assisted by Paul on bass and Pete on drums also recorded “Nobody’s Child” as well.
This was the Beatles being recorded for the first time as a group, in a studio, with a bona fide producer.
“My Bonnie”, Brian Epstein and The Beatles
To complete the story, Brian Epstein became interested in The Beatles when local fans started asking to order “My Bonnie” by The Beatles. This brought them to Brian’s attention, who, as a record retailer, was interested in a local group who could sell records. (Read the interview with Alistair Taylor for more on that story).
And so, the story that started with Bonnie Prince Charlie’s escape from the English way back in 1746 led to Brian signing The Beatles.
Some photographs don’t need much of an explanation. The above photo of Jimmie Nicol says everything; 300,000 people screaming to sitting alone in a matter of days.
On their last few hours together, the five Beatles headed back inside for their next interview with the waiting journalists. As with the first interview, the banter between John, Paul, George and Ringo was as funny as ever, with Ringo prominent throughout. It was as if Nicol was the invisible Beatle; Ringo was back and all was good, except for Jimmie Nicol. At one point, a reporter asks him about his plans while the other Beatles are still being interviewed. He is quickly shut down.
On reflection, Nicol was asked about how he was treated and how he felt sitting in for Ringo in the biggest group on the planet. “After Ringo returned, they changed. It was like welcoming a close member of the family back. They treated me with nothing but respect as a musician. And I think they thought I was very good. John once told me I was better than Ringo but that I just missed the ship. When I was on the plane back to London, I felt like a bastard child being sent back home from a family that didn’t want me. When you have had the best, you can’t accept anything else.”
The Beatles were under curfew, instigated by Brian, and overseen by Derek Taylor and Mal Evans. However, it was Nicol’s last night in Australia, and he wasn’t going to abide by any curfew. After all, he had sneaked out before and had fun, going mostly unrecognised. This time, it was different. He had only been out for a short time when Taylor and Evans turned up at the bar, grabbed Nicol and took him back to the hotel. After all, he was still a Beatle! Everything had changed, because not only had Ringo arrived, but Brian Epstein as well. Nicol’s short career with The Beatles ended not in a blaze of glory, but a mild whimper.
Back Home – Hello, Goodbye
On 15th June 1964, Brian took Jimmie to the airport before he could even say goodbye to the Fab Four, who were still in bed. If ever there was a photograph that needed no caption, it was the one of Jimmie sitting all alone in a near empty airport with nobody paying any attention to him. How things had changed in just a matter of days. When asked about that photograph, and if he felt lonely, Nicol said: “That’s a beautiful picture. Well, if you look at that photograph, that answers your question.” (Evert Vermeer) No words were needed.
However, a TV reporter spotted him, and Nicol gave his final interview as a Beatle, reflecting on his exploits in Australia. He was asked, in a different way, the same question about what he would do next. “Well I hope to do something that I want to do. Now there might be a possibility that I might be able to do something….maybe earn enough money to study in America. That is what I want to do, is study drums in America and American music. And learn to arrange.” (The Beatle Who Vanished)
With Brian sitting nearby, the television interviewer brings him into shot to say an awkward ‘thank you’ on camera to Nicol. “I’d just like to say to you Jimmie that The Beatles and I are very, very grateful for everything you have done. You carried out a fine job for us and we’re very, very pleased. We hope you have a great trip back to London and every success to you in the future.” Jimmie’s response? “Thank you very much Brian.” It looked and sounded staged, broadcasting an obvious lack of emotion between the two men. In front of the camera, they were both professional, but Nicol, like so many people who featured in the story of The Beatles, had his part to play and then retired to virtual anonymity.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
In his interview with Teutsch, Nicol reflected on his time with The Beatles.
T: “Did you ever see them after the tour?”
JN: “I had a band (The Shubdubs) and Brian put us on the same bill with The Beatles and the Fourmost one night (12 July 1964 at the Hippodrome Theatre in Brighton). Backstage, we talked, but the wind had changed since we last saw each other. They were pleasant.”
T: “Why do you think you were forgotten after all this?”
JN: “When the fans forget, they forget forever. After the Beatles thing was over for me, I played around for a few years then got away from the music scene. I mean, when you’ve played with the best, the rest is just, well, the rest.”
T: “Any regrets?”
JN: “None. Oh, after the money ran low, I thought of cashing in in some way to other. But the timing wasn’t right. And I didn’t want to step on The Beatles’ toes. They had been damn good for me and to me.”
SHUBDUBS, LIVERPOOL, SPOTNIKS, MEXICO………
When he returned home, he formed a band, The Shubdubs, who had a couple of singles, but not much success. He joined Swedish group The Spotniks, who had international hit albums and tours, when he ended up, after a disagreement, stranded in Mexico, where he stayed for a while, working on a number of projects, before coming out of hiding in 1984 in a Beatles Unlimited show in Holland. It was 20 years since Jimmie had played there with The Beatles. Nicol got up on stage with a local group, and promised a book would follow. It never did.
In May 2004 I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of hours with Alistair Taylor on a trip from his home in Matlock, Derbyshire to Liverpool. Alistair was known as The Beatles ‘Mr. Fix-it’ and was a vital cog in the day-to-day operation of NEMS Enterprises. He was Brian Epstein‘s P.A. and the man to whom John, Paul, George and Ringo turned if they needed anything.
As we collected him, he said that he was tired and that we weren’t to be offended if he dropped off to sleep on the journey. Yes right, Alistair!
Alistair taylor and the beatles
For the next two hours I enjoyed the company of one of the nicest men you could hope to meet. He was great fun, entertaining, and yet humble and full of stories. Alistair didn’t see the need to talk up his part in The Beatles’ story, something he has been accused of. He spoke lovingly of his wife Lesley who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and their long and happy marriage. Sadly, within a matter of weeks, Alistair passed away, and was soon followed by his beloved Lesley.
Alistair was born in Runcorn, Cheshire, to the south of Liverpool, on 21 June 1935. After a brief spell in London, where he met Lesley, he returned north to work for a timber merchant, William Evans in Widnes, though this didn’t satisfy him.
So Alistair, how did you come to work for Brian epstein?
“I saw an advert in the local paper for a Sales Assistant in NEMS, ‘apply to Brian Epstein’. Naturally, I quickly answered the ad. When I met Brian, we got on really well and talked about all aspects of music. My love was always for jazz, which was different to Brian who loved classical music. At the end of the interview, which lasted for two hours, Brian said I was over-qualified for the position that was advertised and he couldn’t pay me enough for the position on offer. My heart sank.
But then he said he wanted to employ me as his personal assistant, for £10 per week. I didn’t really understand what he wanted, but of course I said yes! It was the beginning of a great relationship with Brian, which had its highs and lows. He sacked me four times, and I resigned a couple of times too!
Brian was gay. I knew that. He knew that I knew that, and it didn’t matter. He knew I wasn’t gay, and was happily married. It never interfered in our business relationship.”
Alistair’s voice suddenly became more serious.
“I loved him”
“At this point, I want to say something that has been edited out of interviews in the past. I loved Brian. It doesn’t have to be complicated by homosexual overtones. It wasn’t like that. I loved him. He was awkward, irritating, annoying and frustrating, but I loved him. Full stop.
Once I had started working there, Brian and I had a little bet on each big record coming out. We would have to say if it was going to be a hit or not. Needless to say, even though he didn’t like pop music, he could hear a hit a mile away. I rarely got it right; I can’t remember him getting it wrong, ever! The bet was only a G & T (Gin and Tonic) but he was incredible.
He introduced this remarkable system of record ordering with these little tags so that we knew when we had to re-order. In the end, if Brian put in a large order for a particular record, the other retailers would order them too. Brian was that impressive, and his opinion was often sought.”
What about Raymond Jones, Alistair?
“I was Raymond Jones. Kids were coming into the shop and asking for this record ‘My Bonnie’ by The Beatles. We didn’t have it and, until somebody put in an actual order, Brian wouldn’t do anything. You see, Brian had this claim that if you ordered a record by anyone, anywhere, he would find it. However, no matter how many people asked for it, nobody had ordered it by paying a deposit. Particularly as this was a German import, this was even more important.
I knew we would sell lots of copies, so I made out the order form and paid the deposit from my own pocket in the name of Raymond Jones, one of our regular customers.
“My bonnie” by the beatles?
Now we had an order, Brian and I set about tracking it down. Of course, it was recorded in Germany, and was recorded under the name of Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers. Brian ordered the first batch and they sold out in no time at all.
So, a few years ago, I announced that I was Raymond Jones. And that is it, it was me.”
the real Raymond jones?
How does this fit? Local radio presenter and writer Spencer Leigh tracked down the real Raymond Jones a few years ago. Bob Wooler even had an address for him at 48, Stonefield Road, Liverpool. Therefore, there was also a local lad called Raymond Jones, who asked Brian Epstein for the record and told him, when asked, who The Beatles were and where they were playing. But what about Alistair’s tale?
Well, we know that Raymond Jones came into the shop and talked to Brian about The Beatles and the record, but maybe did not place the order and paying the deposit required before Brian would track it down. Therefore, Alistair told me that he simply used the real Raymond Jones’ details for the order, and paid the deposit himself. Not the normal practice but, as this was a German import, taking a deposit was the standard for NEMS.
Whatever the motive, in this small way Alistair became ‘Raymond Jones’ but the real Raymond Jones remains an integral part of the story.
brian and Alistair visit the cavern
Of course, the big event was the trip to The Cavern on 9 November 1961. What exactly happened?
“Brian wanted to go and see The Beatles who were so popular. Everyone was talking about them and we had sold so many copies of the record. Brian didn’t know where The Cavern was, which of course I did as I had been there when it was a jazz club. He was amazed to realize how close it was.
the beatles were loud, awful, and not that good
“We went down into the cellar, and that smell of rotting fruit and vegetables never left The Cavern. It was smelly and horrible, and Brian and I looked out of place in our smart suits. We sat at the back and watched while the place went mad for these scruffy musicians. The noise was terrible. They were loud, awful, unprofessional, scruffy and frankly not that good. But we both couldn’t help tapping our feet to the rhythm. They had something. Don’t ask me what it was, because I don’t know. If I did I would have been a rich man. I call it ingredient ‘X’.
“They played five songs I think, but the one that made us stop and take notice was when they introduced a song of their own called ‘Hello Little Girl’, which The Fourmost later recorded. It wasn’t just that they were prepared to play their own song but that it went down well. Maybe that is what Brian saw in them.
“Anyway, we left and went to the Peacock Restaurant as planned, and that is where Brian dropped the bombshell. He asked me ‘Who do you work for? Me or NEMS? What would you say to me managing The Beatles?’ I was a little lost for words.
the biggest mistake
“Brian was a man who was bored easily, and The Beatles came along at the right time. He then made me the offer, which could have made me a wealthy man. He offered me a percentage of The Beatles, there and then. I couldn’t contribute anything financially, so I said I couldn’t accept his offer. Brian understood but asked me if I would work for him in managing The Beatles. Of course I would. I would have done anything for him. And so that is where it all began. It was the biggest financial mistake of my life, but you can’t change things”.
How did you get this title of The Beatles’ ‘Mr. Fix-it’?
“Whatever The Beatles wanted, I fixed it for them. I was Brian’s general manager, so I stayed at home while the boys went on tour, because I looked after all the artists for Brian, not just The Beatles. Later on, I sorted out cars, houses, trains and planes and even buying an island. Whenever they went on tour, I made the arrangements. I loved it; it was great fun. I was there when they signed their management contract with Brian, which, of course, Epstein didn’t sign. I signed as witness, but Brian wouldn’t; in my opinion, I think he wanted a way for The Beatles to get out of it if it didn’t work out. He was an honourable man, and was stepping out into a new world. If it did go wrong, he didn’t want them tied into a long, complicated contract. That’s what he was like.
“They just went along the line and signed, and then I did. I remember Paul saying something like, ‘We’re going to be stars, but if we don’t make it together, I’m going to be a star’. That was Paul for you”.
What do you remember about the beatles in Liverpool?
“They were always hanging around the shop. I remember John and Paul coming into NEMS and asking if they could borrow a typist, called Barbara I think. They brought song lyrics in on scraps of paper—once it was on toilet paper—and she typed them up and then threw the scraps in the bin. Imagine what they would be worth now”.
the beatles; scandals, girls
So Alistair, with their fame bringing untold riches, and the pick of the girls, surely there must have been scandals and claims?
“The Beatles had managed to get into trouble with local girls, and most of the girls who were pregnant were looked after by Brian. I often had to be the one to hand out the cheques. It is true that many of these girls could have come forward and destroyed the image that The Beatles had tried so hard to portray, but they were willing to settle without undue publicity”.
George harrison: “I’m no longer a beatle”
We started to discuss the time when he thought The Beatles had had enough of touring. Most people know that after their last concert in 1966, George famously said that he was no longer a Beatle. But to my amazement, Alistair recalled a much earlier conversation.
“George told me back in 1963 that he was already starting to have second thoughts about fame”.
He recalled an incident when The Beatles were flying to London from Liverpool Airport, but George hadn’t turned up. The others went to London, leaving Alistair to contact George.
“I rang him at home to find out what was going on. George said, ‘I don’t want to be a Beatle’. In a panic, I went round to talk to him and George said he didn’t like all the pressure and the frenzy of the crowds and the fans. Thankfully, he came to his senses and the matter was never discussed again until they finished touring in 1966”.
Brian was determined to get the beatles a record deal, wasn’t he?
“Oh yes. I remember seeing him at his desk crying. In the end, he virtually resorted to blackmail. NEMS was the biggest record retailer around, and so he threatened to withdraw his business”.
Was NEMS that big? How does that work?
“He could buy his records through a different company, like Decca. It was only anything on HMV (His Masters Voice) that he had to buy from EMI direct, and that wasn’t a big concern. The rest of the records he could get elsewhere, so that was a lot of business to them. I believe it was only this that made them do something. Of course, they just fobbed him off on to George Martin who was looking after comedy records, but at least it was something”.
It all went ‘pear-shaped’ at Apple, didn’t it?
“I was the face of Apple for the advertising. McCartney asked me to pose as a oneman band in the newspapers to get people to send in their tapes for consideration. Then everyone sent stuff in and it all quickly went mad. Money was being wasted and I could see it. People were leeching off them—it was a disaster.
“The end was no great surprise to me. I was out at a business lunch when I received a phone call from the office. They told to come straight back. I told them I couldn’t as I was in a business meeting. The message was, ‘come back now’. I had a feeling what was going on. I made it back to Peter Brown’s office. He basically told me that I was out and I had the afternoon to clear my desk.
There was Allen Klein’s hit list and I was number one on the list—I saw it. I went home and Lesley knew straight away there was something wrong. She even guessed that I’d lost my job. I wanted to get in touch with the lads, not to beg for my job back—I had too much pride for that—but to see if they knew what was happening. I rang them all—one of them I know was in the background when I called—but they wouldn’t speak to me. That hurt me.
After all I’d done, they couldn’t and wouldn’t speak to me. I was closest to Paul, spending time at his house more than the others, because he was still living in London.
the beatles; “hello, goodbye”
The whole ‘Hello, Goodbye’ thing happened at Paul’s house. I was round there one night and I asked him how he wrote songs. We sat at his piano and he said, ‘I’ll say one thing, you say the opposite’ so we went black, white, yes, no, hello, goodbye. Not long after, the song ‘Hello, Goodbye’ was written, so I like to think of that as my little contribution”.
Alistair was done with The Beatles and, to their shame, he was left to eek out a living washing dishes in a little Bed & Breakfast in Derbyshire. He could have had millions thanks to Brian, but turned his opportunity down. When he was sacked from Apple, they could have looked after him, but they didn’t.
Alistair and I had a great journey together and he gave me his phone number to follow up. He gave an interview to Fulcrum TV and then sadly, a few weeks later he died quite suddenly. He had seen so much and been so close to The Beatles’ inner circle, and yet had been let down by them.
However, being the gentleman that he was, he didn’t bear any grudges against them, but rather talked fondly of them.
It was great to meet you Alistair—hello and goodbye.
In this little hall on 7th September 1962, in between The Beatles two EMI sessions on 4th September and 11th September, John, Paul, George and Ringo played here at Irby Village Hall on the Wirral. Although the hall was packed, they hadn’t raised enough money to pay Brian Epstein, who had to return for the balance of the money.
George Harrison’s forgotten suitcase
George Harrison also left a suitcase behind, full of guitar strings and those bits and bobs of electrical gear. George never collected it. How quickly their world changed from here. Only 15 months later, they were appearing before over 70 million Americans on the Ed Sullivan Show. They earned their success.
From this photograph, you can see that it wouldn’t hold that many people. Irby Village Hall is one of over 100 local venues featured in Liddypool, my first book.