TV team, a German film crew and leading journalists such as Nancy Spain, George Melly and Derek Taylor. No wonder Ginsberg was to say: "Liverpool is, at the present time, the centre of the consciousness of the human universe." The club, affectionately known as 'The Blue', was the after-hours watering hole of us all during the heyday of the Mersey scene.
next to an antiquarian bookshop at the top of Seel Street, near the
city centre, it had previously been operating as the Wyvern Social Club.
Allan Williams (left), who ran the nearby Jacaranda club in Slater Street,
took over the premises in 1960. I'd been spending a lot of time at the
Jacaranda, along with John Lennon, Stuart Sutcliffe, Paul McCartney,
George Harrison and Pete Best, who were playing some gigs in the coffee
Allan had co-presented a rock'n'roll concert at the Liverpool Stadium with Larry Parnes, where Gene Vincent topped the bill and several local acts had supported. Parnes was impressed with the groups and mentioned to Allan that he was looking for a backing band for Billy Fury. Auditions, organised by Allan, were set up at the Wyvern. On May 10th 1960, the groups who auditioned were Cass & The Cassanovas, Derry & The Seniors, Gerry & The Pacemakers and Cliff Roberts & The Rockers.
|The Silver Beetles (whose drummer at the time was Tommy Moore) were a last minute addition to the occasion due to Stuart Sutcliffe asking Allan to give them a chance. When it was time for The Silver Beetles to play, their drummer hadn't turned up, so Johnny Hutchinson sat in with them for the first few numbers. Moore then arrived and took over. The Silver Beetles appealed to Fury, but Parnes told him the drummer wasn't suitable. Not only had he turned up late but he was dressed differently from the other group members and was at least ten years older than them. However, Parnes booked them on a short tour of Scotland backing Johnny Gentle. He also booked Howie Casey & The Seniors to back another of his acts, but it was cancelled at the last minute. As Casey and his band had given up their day jobs to appear on the tour, Howie and singer Derry Wilkie turned up at the club to give Williams a serious talking to, but Allan was always able to talk himself out of a hole and persuaded them that he would drive the group down to the 2I's club in London. They were able to perform at the 2I's, where they were spotted by German club owner Bruno Koshmider. As a result they became the first Liverpool band to be booked into Hamburg. Right: Allan Williams Interview (You Tube)|
dream was to operate a sophisticated night club. He'd visited the Blue
Angel club in London and decided to adopt the title, decorating the
main stairway with a huge blow-up of Marlene Dietrich from the film
'The Blue Angel'. The Blue opened on March 22nd 1961 with cabaret artist
Alma Warren, backed by The Terry Francis Quartet.
The club achieved a degree of media attention because Allan granted membership to his friends at the Press Club, in particular to Bill Marshall the local rep for the Daily Mirror newspaper. Press stories included the tale of the female snake charmer - who lost her snake at the club - and the real bullfighting sessions which took place with a baby bull. The Beatles and ourselves weren't initially granted membership as Allan didn't want elements of the local music scene around - he was trying to build an affluent and sophisticated clientele. However, the club didn't succeed as a cabaret venue (unlike the Cabaret Club in Duke Street) and Allan dropped his veto on The Beatles and other groups.
By that time Virginia and I had launched Mersey Beat, the local rock'n'roll scene was now attracting attention and, for the next few years, The Blue became one of the most interesting clubs in the world. Initially the place was crowded with members of groups who'd arrive shortly before midnight after finishing gigs around the city.
|I'd become friendly with The Rolling Stones soon after The Beatles had visited them in Richmond and when I heard they were playing in Southport, phoned their hotel, told Mick I was in The Blue and invited them down. They drove over from Southport in their van, with their equipment, and got up on stage and gave us a show. The Blue was a compact club, entered through a large copper-coloured door guarded by a bouncer. The ground floor had a grand piano, various fruit machines and a corner bar, with a door leading onto a patio. The basement featured a larger bar, a stage and a passage leading to the gents' toilet. The first floor sported two rooms, one with a large statue of a nude woman, the other with Sans Souci, a casino run by Barry Chang, Allan's brother-in-law. The second floor harboured the ladies' room and an office. Live entertainment was provided by resident bands and there were regular jam sessions. John Lennon and I usually drank in the downstairs bar. At one time I asked him if he had a song he could give to Beryl Marsden, a 15-year-old singer who was Liverpool's equivalent of Brenda Lee. He said he had one in mind, 'Love Of The Loved.' Next time I asked him about it he was apologetic: Brian Epstein had told him that, as manager, he would decide who would be given the Lennon & McCartney songs and he wanted to use them for his own stable of acts.||
were various resident bands who played at The Blue, including The Escorts
(at the time Ringo Starr's cousin was in the band and it was Ringo who
arranged their residency) and The Nocturnes. Alun Owen liked The Nocturnes
and they were hired to appear as 'the beat group' in the stage musical
'Maggie May.' Another friend of ours, Geoff
Hughes, who worked as a salesman in the car showroom next to the Mersey
Beat office, also managed to get a part in 'Maggie May.'
Another of the resident bands were The Masterminds, who were signed up by Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham following the night I’d got them to back Cilla. Each night there were up to thirty members of the various local groups down at The Blue and there were always lots of girls.