Live: Casbah Coffee Club, Liverpool

This was the opening night of a new social club for teenagers, based in the cellar of a large Victorian house at 8 Hayman’s Green, Liverpool.

The Quarrymen on the opening night of the Casbah Coffee Club, Liverpool, 29 August 1959

The club was run by Mona Best, mother of one Pete Best and owner of the house. She had bought it after winning a horse racing bet in the 1954 Epson Derby; it had previously been owned by the West Derby Conservative Club, and had 15 bedrooms and an acre of land.

Mona Best had the idea for opening the club after seeing a television report on the 2i’s Coffee Bar in London’s Soho district. The Casbah was intended as a members-only club for Pete, his younger brother Rory, and their friends.

She charged half a crown for annual membership, and served soft drinks, snacks and cakes. The Casbah also had, unusually for the time, an espresso coffee machine. When there weren’t live performances Mona played records on a small Dansette record player, amplified through a 3″ speaker.

The Quarrymen rocked the Casbah on seven occasions. The other dates were 5, 12, 19 and 26 September; and 3 and 10 October 1959. The Beatles played the venue a further 37 times: 17 and 31 December 1960; 15 and 29 January; 12, 19 and 26 February; 5, 12, 19 and 26 March; 6, 13 and 27 August; 10 and 24 September; 22 October; 19 and 24 November; 3 and 17 December 1961; 7, 14, 21 and 28 January; 4, 11, 18 and 25 February; 4, 11, 18 and 25 March; 1, 7 and 8 April; and 24 June 1962.

At this point their line-up was John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ken Brown.

The Les Stewart Quartet, with George Harrison and Ken Brown on guitars, had been booked to perform on the opening night, but they cancelled after Stewart and Brown had an argument: Brown had missed a rehearsal as he had been helping Mona Best decorate the club.

The Quarrymen on the opening night of the Casbah Coffee Club, Liverpool, 29 August 1959

As 300 membership cards had already been sold, Mona Best didn’t want to cause disappointment on the club’s opening night. Harrison suggested the Quarrymen play instead, and so they went round to arrange the booking.

While there, all four helped Mona finish decorating the club. Cynthia Powell also helped, and painted a silhouette of her future husband John Lennon on the wall; it can still be seen there today.

John, Paul and George went around to see Mona, who told them they were welcome to play but she was still painting the cellar for the club’s opening the following week. The three boys grabbed paintbrushes and helped her finish it off. John mistook gloss for emulsion – because of his short sight – which took days to dry.

The boys played at the club’s opening on August 29, 1959, and I was there to watch them. They played with another lad, Ken Brown, on guitar, but without a drummer, as they couldn’t find one. About three hundred people came along that night, and the boys played rock and roll hits for a couple of hours. The place heaved, with kids jiving and swinging, and the temperature soared until it was hard to breathe.

That was the evening when we first met the Beatles’ future roadies, Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans, both friends of Pete, but Neil was also his mother’s boyfriend and the father of his younger brother, Roag [born in 1962].

Cynthia Lennon
John

The Quarrymen performed at the Casbah for for 15 shillings each. They had only one microphone, connected to the club’s small PA system. John Lennon later persuaded Mona Best to hire an amateur guitarist called Harry to open for them, which allowed the group to use his 40-Watt amplifier.

The Casbah remained open as a music venue until 1962. It is now a Liverpool tourist attraction, still with its original decor preserved.

Also on this day...

Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.

Leave a reply