The Beatles - Cavern Club tapes (partially found recordings of British rock band; early 1960s)

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The beatles at the Cavern.jpg

The band performing with original drummer Pete Best.

Status: Partially Found

The Beatles were a British rock group that formed in Liverpool, England, active from their formation in 1960 to their breakup in 1970.[1] The band's lineup went through several changes before the classic lineup of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr was established. They've received widespread acclaim and sold over 1 billion records worldwide by 2014, more than any other artist.[2] Rolling Stone ranked them #1 on their list of "100 Greatest Artists."[3] Richie Unterberger of AllMusic claimed The Beatles "introduced more innovations into popular music than any other rock band of the 20th century."[4] Prior to their international success, the band was mostly known locally for their performances at The Cavern Club from 1961 to 1963.

The Cavern Club

The outside of The Cavern

The Cavern Club was originally opened by Alan Sytner on January 16th, 1957, as a jazz club.[5] The club later allowed performances blues and skiffle, and became more rock-centered in the mid-1960s[6] In addition to The Beatles, musicians such as Stevie Wonder, Chuck Berry, Elton John, Adele, and many others performed at The Cavern, in addition to groups such as Queen, The Rolling Stones, Oasis, and The Kinks.[7]

The original club was demolished in 1974 for the construction of a railway ventilation duct. The ventilation duct never underwent construction, and the area was used as a parking lot instead. The club was reconstructed near the original location in 1984 using bricks from the original site and the original blueprints.[8]

The Beatles

The Beatles first performed at The Cavern on February 9th, 1961.[9] They played a minimum of 155 lunchtime shows and 125 evening shows (the exact number is unknown).[10] Brian Epstein would visit The Cavern after reading about them in Mersey Beat magazine. After seeing the group play, he believed that they had great potential and would later become their manager.[11] Brian later fired Pete Best because producer George Martin was unhappy with Pete's drumming after a failed EMI audition. Local drummer Ringo Starr would replace Pete.[12]

They gave their final performance on August 4th, 1963, during the group's rise to stardom.[10] During their time performing at The Cavern, several recordings are known to have been made.

Known Recordings

Brian Epstein Recording (Lost)[13]

Brian Epstein

Tony Barrow, future press manager of the band, was the writer of a review column in a London newspaper during 1961 when Epstein inquired if he could write about the group. Barrow stipulated he couldn't write about the group until they released a record. Brian later gave Gordon an acetate of them performing live at The Cavern, which he claimed was a part of an upcoming TV documentary about The Cavern.

In Apple to the Core, Barrow recalled that it was a recording of poor quality plagued by background noise. Barrow also remembered that he agreed to Epstein that he'd attempt to secure an audition with Decca using "the strength of the recording."

Preparing for a 2001 interview, Barrow stated that "It was impossible to distinguish any music or the vocalist," and all that could be heard other than the crowd members' response was a suppressed rhythmic beat.

Audience Member Recording (Lost)

On August 29, 1985, an 18-track recording of a performance (made by an audience member) from Mid-1962 was put up for auction at Sotheby's.[14] The auction was won by Paul McCartney with a bid of ₤2,310. Very few details of the tape are known. Mark Lewisohn stated in the special edition of Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years: Volume 1 that he heard the tapes prior to the sale and the quality "was so atrocious it was hard to make out which songs were being played.”[13]

The setlist of the tape was as follows:

  • Words of Love
  • What's Your Name
  • Roll Over Beethoven
  • Ask Me Why
  • The Hippy Hippy Shake
  • Til There Was You
  • Hey! Baby
  • If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody
  • Please Mister Postman
  • Sharing You
  • Your Feet's Too Big
  • Dizzy Miss Lizzy
  • I Forgot to Remember to Forget
  • Matchbox
  • I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate
  • Memphis, Tennessee
  • Young Blood
  • Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)

Granada TV Recordings (Partially Found)

On August 22nd, 1962, after receiving many letters about the group, Granada TV recorded the band performing 2 takes of Leiber and Stoller's "Some Other Guy" and 4 minutes of extra footage for cutaway shots.[13] The footage was recorded in black and white and suffered prominent grain. The audio was poor because only one microphone was used.[15] The footage has been used in various documentaries and has appeared on bootlegs.

Compilation of aforementioned material

2 weeks after the shoot, sound technician Gordon Barrow was sent to the club to record higher quality audio to sync to the footage. Gordon recorded an hour's worth of audio during his visit.[16] The program meant to feature the recordings was canceled due to legal issues with other artists appearing.[15] The footage wasn't broadcast until the band became a national success.[17]

Gordon made 5 acetates of the group's performances of "Some Other Guy" and "Kansas City" at the request of Epstein, who meant to use them for promotional purposes.[15] Gordon auctioned one of the copies at Christie's in 1993 for £16,000 to Apple Corps, the label founded by the band.[16] The performances of "Kansas City" and "Some Other Guy" both saw use in Anthology and have appeared on bootlegs.[16] The hour-long recording was ordered to be destroyed.[13] The original source recording for Gordon's acetates was found in a desk in 2015.[15]

The recovered audio from Gordon's recording.

Rehearsal Recordings (Partially Found)

The band recorded themselves rehearsing several times. It's likely the recordings were made for the review of their performances.

A rehearsal was recorded on January 22nd, 1962, no other details are known.[13]

A rehearsal, recorded sometime between October and December 1962, has circulated on bootlegs. The circulating audio features one take of "I Saw Her Standing There," two takes of "One After 909," and two takes of "Catswalk."[13][18] Because the combined length of the tracks is relatively short for such a recording (12 minutes), it's debatable that they were part of a longer recording.

Compilation of the known audio from this rehearsal.

The January 1963 photo

Mike McCartney, Brother of Paul McCartney, stated in his autobiography The Macs: Mike McCartney's Family Album that he recorded the band rehearsing several times and still had one of the recordings. He claimed he was the only one that had heard the recording, though it's possible it's the source of the aforementioned bootlegs.[13]

A photograph taken during a rehearsal in January 1963 shows a portable tape recorder at the bottom, suggesting that this rehearsal, as well as others around the time, were recorded.


  1. Biography page of Paul McCartney 30 Nov '18
  2. Guinness World Records page on records held by the band Retrieved 25 Mar '18
  3. Rolling Stone list of the greatest artists Retrieved 27 Mar '18
  4. AllMusic artist biography 27 Mar '18
  5. BBC article on The Cavern's 50th anniversary Retrieved 27 Mar '18
  6. BBC article on The Cavern Retrieved 27 Mar '18
  7. Cavern Club website page mentioning musicians who have played at the club in the past Retrieved 26 Mar '18
  8. Daily Mail article on The Cavern going up for sale Retrieved 27 Mar '18
  9. Telegraph article on the group's first appearance Retrieved 25 Mar '18
  10. 10.0 10.1 Beatles Bible page on the group's final performance at the club Retrieved 27 Mar '18
  11. Beatles Bible page on Brian's first meeting with the group Retrieved 27 Mar '18
  12. UltimateClassicRock page on Pete's dismissal Retrieved 26 Mar '18
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 Unterberger, Richie (2014). The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film [Revised & Expanded Ebook Edition]
  14. The Daily Beatle post on unreleased material Retrieved 22 Mar '18
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Cavern Club website page on the discovery of the tape Retrieved 24 Mar '18
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Beatles Bible page on the date Retrieved 27 Mar '18
  17. Beatles Bible page on The song Retrieved 27 Mar '18
  18. Everett, Walter (2001). The Beatles As Musicians: The Quarry Men Through Rubber Soul. pp. 129