Sunday 14 August 2022

Never Say Die - The story of Mona Best and the Casbah Club

"Come with me to the Casbah..."

Thanks to host Andrew Martin Adamson  for inviting myself and fellow Beatles blogger Steve Bradley to guest last week on an episode of his US podcast, Beatles60.

The Beatles60 Facebook group and podcast sticks to a strict timeline by looking back at Beatles' events and news, exactly sixty years ago.

We were invited to discuss the important role Mona Best and the Casbah Club played in the early Beatles' story. 

We talked about how the boys built up a steady following at the club and with Mona promoting their gigs around Liverpool, how they were able to replicate the great sound and following on Merseyside that they had already established in Hamburg.

Subjects covered:

  • A brief history of the Best family
  • How did Mona Best buy 8 Hayman's Green? The 1954 Epsom Derby
  • George Harrison's 'moonlighting phase': Lowlands and the Les Stewart Quartet
  • The birth of the Casbah Club
  • The re-birth of the Quarry Men
  • The Beatles return from Hamburg, December 1960 
  • Why it was left to Mona and Pete to organise the Beatles' booking
  • Early 1961 - Mona Best starts Casbah Promotions
  • Why didn't Mona become the Beatles' manager
  • The reasons behind the closure of the Casbah club 
  • The re-birth of the Casbah in the late 1980s
  • The Liverpool Beatles Museum, the Casbah club and Pete and Roag Best's activities today

By the end of the hour long discussion I hope we'd done enough to convince you, the listener, that Mona Best was a trailblazer, being the first female rock promoter, not only in Liverpool or the UK, but the world.

All this in the new episode available here:

Thanks for having us on the show Andy (and Wrence)!


Tuesday 9 August 2022

The Three Amigos

Speke Secondary Modern
Central Avenue,
Speke, Liverpool L24 

2020 will go down in history, mainly for the wrong reasons which I won’t dwell upon here except to say that there won’t be many of us who weren’t affected to some degree, myself included.  

I’m sure like me, you were grateful for any opportunity to enjoy yourself and forget about what was happening in the world. For me it was having the chance to spend more time with the family, enjoy nice meals (when I could taste them again after contracting Covid), go for a walk in the park, take photographs, enjoy music and of course the opportunity to research and write about early Beatles’ history.

The release of McCartney III was a welcome surprise, not only for the music, which for the most part I really enjoyed, but for the TV and print interviews Paul gave to promote it. Of course some of the questions he was asked were in the usual “I believe the song Yesterday came to you in a dream, can you tell me about that?” vein but over the last few years I’ve noticed that, when given the opportunity Paul will talk freely about the early pre-Beatles days in Liverpool and seems to enjoy doing so, perhaps because he hasn’t been asked about that period every day for the last 50 years.

I’ve said it before and I'll probably keep saying it until he agrees, but I’d really love to interview him in detail about his life up to say, 1963, and get him to fill in the blanks as best as he can remember. That goes for Ringo too. 

When I read Mark Lewisohn’s ‘Tune In’ I was stunned by the observation that there are NO interviews or comments from John Lennon where he discusses Stuart Sutcliffe. This wasn't through any conscious decision by John not to speak about him, but because in all the interviews he gave not one person thought to ask. Of course, when somebody finally realised this omission, it was too late.

As interviews go BBC1’s “Idris Elba Meets Paul McCartney” was a mixed bag so far as the questions went but Paul looked like he was enjoying himself and once again when prompted seemed to delight in talking about his early days in Liverpool, his parents and his extended working-class family who became the yardstick against which everybody he met subsequently was measured.

'Cowboys At The School Dance' (c) Paul McCartney

Monday 1 August 2022

Hope For The Future - LIPA Graduation Day(s) 2022

ACC Liverpool
Kings Dock
Liverpool Waterfront
L3 4FP

Exactly one month after his triumphant headlining set at the Glastonbury Festival Sir Paul McCartney returned to Liverpool to attend the annual graduation ceremony for the students of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA). 

As the co-founder of LIPA in 1996, Paul has shown his continued commitment by attending every graduation ceremony since. 

I was lucky enough to attend the twenty-second LIPA graduation ceremony, held at the stunning art-deco Philharmonic Hall in 2019 and what I witnessed during the 2 hours plus ceremony left me with even more admiration for the former member of the Quarry Men.  

For the duration of the ceremony, Paul and LIPA’s co-founder Mark Featherstone-Witty sit centre stage flanked by ‘Companions’.  Unlike other British Universities, LIPA does not issue Honorary degrees. Instead, it recognises individuals in the world of art and entertainment by awarding them a ‘companionship’ for their outstanding achievement and practical contributions to students’ learning. These companions will often visit LIPA to give masterclasses in their particular field – the former Beatle has himself attended songwriting classes for the students – or to take part in question-and-answer sessions. During the service I attended several well-known faces were made a companion of LIPA including the actor, comedian and writer Stephen Fry (Blackadder, The Hobbit, Wilde), the actor Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean, Blackadder) and musician, singer-songwriter, and former Deputy Chairman of the BPI, Mike Batt (The Wombles, The Planets, ‘A Winter’s Tale’, ‘The Hunting of the Snark’) as well as some perhaps slightly less well known outside of their recognised area of expertise but without whom the performance would not be possible – Lucy Carter (lighting designer), Steve Lewis (music publisher), Sue Gill (author), Tom Pye (set and costume designer), Kenrick Sandy (choreographer) and Andrew Scheps (sound engineer). 

Each new companion dons cap and gown for their induction ‘ceremony’ before they are presented on stage to Sir Paul and Mark Featherstone-Witty. They then give a speech. 

Mike Batt is made a companion of LIPA in 2019 (above). Rowan Atkinson amuses his fellow companions (below).