Rare, Previously Unseen Photos Show Beatles Performing at a Club in 1961
Unseen photos of the Beatles performing at the Cavern Club in Liverpool have come to light, with a fresh-faced John Lennon and Paul McCartney singing on stage.
Also on the dingy stage is guitarist George Harrison with Pete Best playing drums, Ringo Starr was yet to join the group when the photos were taken in July 1961.
The historical images were taken before the band released their first single Love Me Do with Lennon then aged 20, McCartney at 19, and Harrison just 18 years old.
Paul Wane, managing director at Tracks who procured the photos, tells CNN that the photos were taken by a fan who, unusually for the time, owned a camera.
“Not many people had cameras back then,” Wane says. “That’s why there are so few shots of the Beatles in the Cavern. There’s very, very, very few.”
According to Wane, the photographer is still alive and lives in the suburbs of Liverpool but is not interested in any sort of notoriety.
“He followed the Beatles at some of the very early gigs,” adds Wane. “He was on speaking terms with them.”
The anonymous photographer lost the negatives but still has the original contact sheet that was taken from the roll of film.
On the Verge of Superstardom
According to historian Mark Lewisohn, who has written several books about the band, the black and white photos were taken just after a grueling tour of Hamburg, German where they played 500 hours on stage within 90 days.
Lewisohn describes the young Beatles as “whippet-thin under-nourished lads,” to the Irish Independent.
“So slender has this marathon made them, it’s as if their heads and bodies are strangers,” he says.
“A look emphasized by the unusual clothes — leather trousers and cotton tops. No other photos show them dressed this way.”
While the Beatles were unknown to the world at this point, the photos were taken just a year before the U.K. release of Love Me Do. The single was released in the United States in 1964 where it became a number one hit.
The photos are believed to have been taken during a lunchtime gig and it was one of these daytime performances where manager Brian Epstein would discover them. Epstein ran a music store just around the corner from the Cavern Club.
“I was immediately struck by their music, their beat, and their sense of humor on stage—and, even afterward, when I met them, I was struck again by their personal charm. And it was there that, really, it all started,” Epstein later said about the band’s performance.
Image credits: Photos courtesy of Track Ltd.