Think of Liverpool’s music scene and images of four tousled haired young blokes rocking an underground club to the screams of hundreds of adorning fans springs instantly to mind. The Beatles are still big news in Liverpool, but today the city’s music scene is just as vibrant…
It was February 9th 1961 when the music scene in Liverpool, and some would rightly say the world, changed. The moment the Fab Four plugged into the sound system at the Cavern Club at 10 Mathew Street, the way music was made started to change.
The Beatles would go on to perform at the Cavern Club an incredible 292 times, but it was in November 1961 that the band’s rise to superstardom really began. Legendary music mogul Brian Epstein watched the band perform at the Cavern Club, signed them, and the rest is history.
The Beatles may have been the catalyst for the Merseybeat sound in the early 60s, but there were many bands from the Merseyside area who rose to prominence at the time – The Hollies, The Dakotas, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Merseybeats, The Mindbenders, The Searchers, Swinging Blue Jeans, and the unforgettably named The Undertakers.
While on the subject of great Liverpool bands of the Swinging Sixties, let’s not forget another of Brian Epstein’s acts – the late Cilla Black. Though remembered for her 80s and 90s TV shows, Surprise Surprise and Blind Date, Cilla was a terrific singer – who could forget her heartbreaking rendition of the eponymous theme tune for the 1966 film Alfie, starring another 60s icon, Sir Michael Caine.
From pure pop to Britpop
The passing decades have not dulled Merseyside’s musical output. The 1970s saw bands such as post-punk experimenters The Teardrop Explodes, soul group The Real Thing, punk band Big In Japan, and the sublime singer-songwriter Elvis Costello.
If the 70s witnessed an eclectic music scene grow up around the River Mersey, the 1980s was nothing less than an explosion of talent. The decade featured pioneers of pop such as synthpop band and experimental hairstyle aficionados A Flock of Seagulls, ‘Wonderful Life’ singer Black, new wave band China Crisis, classy pop band The Christians, dance band Dead or Alive, post punksters Echo & The Bunnymen, chart-topping pop band Frankie Goes To Hollywood, surreal band Half Man Half Biscuit, new wave group Icicle Works, and synth popsters Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD).
Meanwhile, in the 90s a band from down the M62 in Manchester burst on to the music scene heralding the Britpop era. Admittedly, Oasis led the way, but Liverpool had its share of the 90s radio airplay with bands such as The Boo Radleys, Cast, The Farm, The La’s, and Lightning Seeds. The decade also saw Mercury Prize winners Gomez, dance act Apollo 440, girl band Atomic Kitten, singer Sonia, and even pioneering death metal band Carcass emerge from the Merseyside music scene.
The past two decades have been no less fertile for the Mersey music scene. Indie rock band The Zutons, pop/rock group BB Mak, indie band The Coral, 2010 X Factor finalist Rebecca Ferguson, and singer-songwriter Marsha Ambrosius all have roots in the Merseyside area.
Still alive with music
With such a rich and diverse musical history, it should come as no surprise that Liverpool not only embraces music, it positively exudes it. In 2015 Liverpool joined a select group of cities to become the UNESCO City of Music, rubber-stamping the city’s credentials as one of the premier cities in which to experience the thrill of live music.
Obviously, anyone with a passing interest in music should go to the Beatles Story based at the Albert Dock, but to get the authentic up-close-and-personal experience you need to go to one of Liverpool’s clubs, pubs or music venues.
After 60 years, The Cavern Club is still a great place to see live music. The venue welcomes performers from mid-afternoon to late evening. At the other side of the music venue richter scale, the Echo Arena Liverpool has seen some of the world’s biggest selling artists from One Direction to Sir Elton John.
Reopened in 2013, the East Village Arts Club on Seal Street is the go-to venue for intimate live music in the city, where you can see everything from hard rock to synth-based pop.
Situated on the corner of Catherine Street and Caledonia Street, The Caledonia pub has been entertaining drinkers for over 50 years. You can enjoy great live jazz, rockabilly, folk, or just about any genre of music while you down an excellent pint or two.
Based in Liverpool’s Ropewalks on Slater Street, The Shipping Forecast is another pub with a full-to-bursting calendar of music. You can sip on a craft beer, listen to live music or a DJ, wile tucking into a great plate of food.
Over on Parr Street you’ll find two of the best live music venues in the city under one roof. Formally a recording studio graced by musical luminaries such as Coldplay, Black Sabbath, Bjork, The Smiths, and Take That, among others, Studio 2 is now a bar which hosts jazz and acoustic nights. Situated above Studio 2 is The Attic, where revellers can enjoy funk, soul and indie music while enjoying their famous hotdogs and retro ambiance.
For those who prefer their music loud, Maguire’s Pizza Bar on Renshaw Street is a no-nonsense bar serving exactly up what you would expect – rock music and pizza. No more no less, but isn’t that what a music venue should be…
The Dovedale Towers on Penny Lane is the venue for you if you want to catch a local band, a pie and a beer. Another simple formula, but, again, it works perfectly.
And don’t forget the Phil…
For many people live music is a rock band, a DJ or a singer-songwriter with a beat-up guitar sitting on a stool, but you can’t think of live music in Liverpool without a nod towards the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.
The impressive venue on Hope Street attracts over 260,000 visitors each year, and hosts not only the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, currently under Chief Conductor Vasily Petrenko, but also musicians from quintessential Californian singer-songwriter Jackson Browne to perennial favourite Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.
The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s latest season is brimmed full of unmissable performances with guest stars including the great bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel.
Liverpool is a spectacular city whose past, present and future is underpinned by music of all genres. From the theatrical grandeur of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra to the intimate surroundings of the Cavern Club, the city has somewhere to experience the excitement of live performance.