Wonderful Macca at the Cavern memories by James Ward.

In the first part of a series – James Ward tells of how he saw Paul McCartney’s amazing concert at the Cavern Club

I listened to Paul being interviewed by Jarvis Cocker at LIPA on the Wednesday afternoon, Paul had pretty much signed off by saying he’d be doing a ‘secret gig’ in Liverpool the following day. I had an immediate mixture of excitement and dread. What if I got in? What if I didn’t? Well, there was only one way to find out, and luckily I had a day off work on the Thursday. I live in County Durham around three and a half hours from Liverpool. I decided to wake up, get out of bed (I didn’t drag a comb across my head though) at 0400 and get straight on the road! I’ve had Wingspan CD 1 on in the car now for as long as I can remember, so I belted out Wings classic hit after classic hit all the way down to my destination. I found a car park near the Adelphi Hotel just before 0730, I paid the fee and started sprinting down towards The Cavern, which was about half a mile or so away. As I reached Mathew Street, I noticed a lot of people milling about for that time in the morning and I immediately joined the queue outside The Cavern Club. I’d say there were around 50 people in the queue then, maybe a little more. I noticed straight away that there were German accents, French accents and American accents amongst the clearly excited throng of people, all singing Beatles songs or exchanging stories about past Paul concerts etc. I wondered to myself if they’d travelled overnight because they didn’t have much notice! Proper fans! A man from the Liverpool Echo approached me after I’d been in the queue for a few minutes and asked where I’d came from, and at what time. I told him and he said he’d like to take my photograph because I was wearing a MCCARTNEY t-shirt and it would be great for his website. I was apprehensive because I didn’t want to lose my place in the queue but everybody assured me they’d let me back in, so I obliged. Not long after that, a representative for The Cavern Club came outside and said something to the people nearer the front of the queue, I couldn’t quite make it out. What he’d said was that the tickets weren’t going to be available from The Cavern and we’d have to make our way down to the Echo Arena on the docks if we wanted to try and get tickets. That prompted a scene straight from 60’s Beatlemania. Everybody in the queue started sprinting in the general direction of the docks. Some people hailed taxis, some people frantically started doing Google Maps searches on their phones and some people (me included) just decided to keep sprinting. It’s a good job I’m quite a seasoned runner because that came in really, really handy. It’s about a mile or so from The Cavern to the Echo Arena and I must’ve beaten my personal best over that distance! I reached the arena sweaty, short of breath but ultimately triumphant. I was handed a pre-ticket ticket and I was let inside the arena after I produced my photo ID for security checks. Then I realised, I was actually inside the arena. I’d done it! All that previous sense of dread evaporated into thin air and it became 100% excitement, I could not believe my luck! Only about 100 people were let inside the arena, and then security made everybody else wait outside. Hundreds of people outside. And that crowd just kept getting bigger and bigger because Paul had announced the gig on his social media networks then. We must’ve been given a slight heads up by the wonderful man at The Cavern Club. We had to wait until 1000 for the official on-sale time for the tickets (not strictly on ‘on-sale’ time because they were free, but you catch my drift) then we were very carefully placed into five rows at the box office and given a personalised ticket with our name on it, and an Egypt Station wristband. You could not enter the gig without both ticket and wristband together with photo ID confirming your name on the ticket. This was brilliant, because I have no idea how much touts could’ve asked for for those tickets. I made it outside into the blazing sunshine, still a little dazed from the chain of events, but I was so happy! I didn’t honestly think I would be lucky enough! Upon leaving the arena I bumped into popular band Blossoms who’d tried for tickets and failed and they all wished me the best and that I would enjoy the concert! I rang my Dad and my partner telling them of the fab news and then thought ‘right, well I may as well just go straight up and queue at The Cavern again!’ This turned out to be another lucky idea because when I joined the queue that was only 19 people long at that time, we were told by officials that because we were within the first people to queue, we’d all recieve a hand stamp and that would ensure that whatever happened we’d be the first people to enter The Cavern guaranteeing us an amazing spot at the front for the gig. I could not believe my luck again. Could this day get any better? Well, yes, because I hadn’t seen the gig yet! After we’d been given our hand stamps (which was a number written in sharpie pen and signed by staff) we could go and wait around the corner to see Paul arriving. Lo and behold, just as we’d walked around the corner, there he was! Nonchalantly driving himself to the gig, thumbs up out of the driver’s side window, as only Paul could to a gig of this magnitude! We all cheered and waved and he drove down the back street and hopped out the car and was whisked into the legendary venue! I grabbed some water and made my way back to the queue, this was it! Interviwers from all different newspapers and radio/TV programmes were milling about asking excited fans about their thoughts. Then the time came. We (the first lucky few) were escorted into the venue, security checks done, reminded that we were to switch our phones off (there were numerous signs telling us to switch them off too) and down the stairs we went! I caught a glimpse of Chris Sharrock (ex-Robbie Williams/Beady Eye/current Noel Gallagher drummer), Jamie Carragher and Giles Martin who needs no introduction. We quickly made our way into the Live Lounge (where Paul had played last in 1999) and took our places at the front, I was front and centre right in line with Paul’s microphone! I thought back to getting out of bed at 0400, and I shook my head in disbelief! What a fantastic day so far! The souvenir tickets we exchanged our original tickets for stated that the concert would start at 1400, and at only a few minutes after 2pm, on walks a very relaxed and smiling band led out by Paul! The whole place went absolutely crazy! For only about 200 lucky fans the noise sounded like a football stadium! ‘Liverpool! Cavern!’ Paul exclaimed into the mic, ‘two words that go very well together!’ They launched into a bluesy jam to start with to get the sound levels right and to ease themselves into the gig. But after that it was the song Paul impressed John with over 60 years ago, ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ that had everybody dancing and bopping, straight into a rocking ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ with Paul in very good voice and then the whole crowd was jumping together for a raucous ‘Jet’! I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing, I could see the whites of the great man’s eyes, I could see what shoes he was wearing, he was at arms length away, a complete dream come true! ‘All My Loving’ was next and I could study his right hand as it sped around the fretboard as he sung, simply incredible moments! He told the crowd about how The Beatles would be told off for playing rock ‘n’ roll in the Cavern in the early days as it was a blues club. He launched into ‘Letting Go’ after this and it was one of my highlights of the night. The band were so tight and rocking with Rusty and Brian trading tasty licks, the band smiled at each other and rightly so (quite a few times throughout the gig) because they knew they were smoking hot. More to come… 🙂

James Ward outside the Cavern Club
Paul McCartney at the Cavern Club

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