After only one previous visit, this was my fifth trip to The Cavern Live Lounge in fifteen months. As with most of these gigs, this was for a nostalgia fest – going back well before my time for The Merseybeats, one of the key players in the scene that shared their name in the early 1960’s.
There are two founding members remaining, singers and guitarists Tony Crane and Billy Kinsley. However, bassist Bob Packham has been with the band since 1974! They are joined by drummer Lou Rosenthal and Tony’s son Adrian on keyboards and guitar.
The band were first formed in 1961 as The Mavericks, being offered a residency at The Cavern by DJ Bob Wooler, who thought their name sounded too country-ish, so they called themselves after the local music paper.
They had seven Top 40 singles, and one final Top 10 hit as The Merseys in 1966 before their hit-making time was up. I knew plenty of their songs beforehand, as I’ve owned a compilation CD of theirs for twenty years.
There was an actual queue at the bar (as in a single line of people waiting to be served!) when I made it into the Live Lounge, after a quick double back from the venue upon realising I’d forgotten to go to the cashpoint en route.
The air conditioning was working this time, which was perhaps on a little too strong, making for a cold wait while I slowly supped my Hop House 13 lager. I was, as expected, definitely at the lower end of the age spectrum amongst the crowd for this one.
The DJ was in full-on laid back mode, as The Shakers’ very Merseybeat-sounding A Whole Lotta Shakers! album got played at least twice through, which includes original songs in the style, alongside covers of the likes of Love Of The Loved, Soldier Of Love and A Taste Of Honey.
I’d got there handy assuming there was to be a support act, but instead The Merseybeats played two sets, with the first kicking off with Some Other Guy, which The Beatles can famously be seen performing in the only known live footage of them from The Cavern with sound.
I was stood in front of the sound desk, and bizarrely got asked to move to one side to keep a pathway clear, even though the venue was not as packed as on previous occasions I have attended, and I was stood exactly where I had been for Mary Wilson – see my review here, Motown lovers.
Other early tunes included The Fortune Teller (b-side of their 1963 debut single It’s Love That Really Counts), also recorded by the likes of The Who, The Hollies and The Rolling Stones, and Mr. Moonlight, another b-side, this time of the same year’s I Think Of You, and later made much more famous when it appeared on 1964’s Beatles For Sale album.
Before launching into a not-nearly-as-rock-n-roll version of Little Richard’s Rip It Up, one of the band leaders told the story of how Bob Packham had played with Ringo Starr in Germany – something I have been unable to find any more details of online. Anyone know any more?
Adrian Crane stepped out from behind his keyboards to play guitar for the first time on This Time, with an even less necessary guitar solo featuring on Eddie Cochran’s Twenty Flight Rock.
So Sad was introduced as a “beautiful harmony song”, though sadly their harmonies are not quite up to the standards of more than fifty years ago, perhaps unsurprisingly. After Larry Williams’ Slow Down and their first ever single, It’s Love That Really Counts, the band went off for the intermission.
I headed into the main room of The Cavern for a change of scene, taking advantage of the better stocked bar to get a pint of their special 60th Anniversary Ale, brewed by Liverpool Organic. However, a lame cover version of Don McLean’s American Pie being performed by the act on stage there led me to beat a hasty retreat back to the Live Lounge.
The DJ had thankfully switched CDs, but was still hardly stretching his mixing skills as I got to hear nine songs in a row by The Kinks.
From previous announcements, it had seemed as though the second set was going to be newer material, which didn’t fill me with a lot of confidence. However, this mostly seemed to mean songs from 1964 and 1965, rather than 1963!
First up was a cracking song called Poor Boy From Liverpool, a track of unknown vintage to me, but one that certainly goes back to the 1990’s at least, as can be seen from this video of it at the Last Night Of The Kop concert in 1994 (dig those outfits!):
There then followed covers of various early 60’s songs that they had played back in the day, such as Wishin’ And Hopin’ and Del Shannon’s Runaway, as well as their 1964 #13 hit Don’t Turn Around, complete with far too piercing keyboards.
They revealed they had played a role of encouragement in the early days of The Walker Brothers, playing their The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore). Bassist Bob Packham gamely sang Buddy Holly’s Peggy Sue, with Adrian Crane’s guitar solos on Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode much more fitting than earlier in the evening.
The ‘final’ two numbers were their biggest hits, I Think Of You from 1963, and then Sorrow which was released as The Merseys, climbing one place higher to #4.
They said their goodbyes and thanks but never left the stage, pretty much going straight into a version of Jeff Beck’s Hi Ho Silver Lining (which I remember always used to get played near the end of the Scout and Guide discos I attended in my early teens!), complete with decent guitar solo, this time by Tony Crane.
After more goodbyes and thanks, and again without leaving the stage, the very final number was You’ll Never Walk Alone, with Billy Kinsley negating any potential gripes from Evertonians by suggesting that “this is not about football, it’s about justice”.
I hadn’t been expecting great things from tonight’s gig, as The Merseybeats were a decent if not great band in their heyday, probably suffering mainly due to having to rely almost exclusively on songs written for them or covers, with very little of their repertoire being just their own. However, it was an enjoyable evening nonetheless.
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Here is much of the music from the night on Spotify: