Following on my SOAP series – (Story of a Photograph)
Number 5: The Cavern
From 2007 to 2012 I undertook a series on gig/band photography. Gig/band photography is nothing new; for me it began as a college assignment that overflowed its initial one-month duration and ended up, before I knew it, five years in length. I shot predominantly amateur bands on the make; gritty dark smokey clubs (you could still smoke in clubs back then) in the north of England mostly and occasionally further afield, working the clubs most weekends and not getting home until the small hours was my routine, my way of life. I continued on because, well…
Looking back I am not entirely sure why I did it, there was little reward in reality, but what there was, was something oddly addictive about the amateur music scene, particularly at that time. New live music venues were springing up almost every month or so (such as my mainstay, the WA1 club), alongside more established clubs (The Manchester Academy, Scala London and others), it felt good to be a part of that, to feel that I was connected in some way to a world that was to most unknown and yet at the same time to those who knew it, so alive; a musical shot in the arm that left you entranced and truly alive. The clubs were as big a part of it as the bands themselves; unique, full of character, decrepid, vibrant, smokey, loud, hidden, smelly, colourful, and a thousand other adjectives all vying for a place in my mind and heart. It is almost impossible to describe to someone what these venues felt like to the people who went, it was a time, a place, never to be repeated; it will always be a time I will have strong/fond memories of.
The photo above was taken in the famous Cavern Club in Liverpool, made famous by the Beatles. People will tell you that it isn’t the original club but simply a replica, this is only partly true:
The original club closed in 1973 and demolished during building of an underground rail line. The present club is situated in a cellar next door and was built using many of the original bricks and to the same design, it is as near to being in the original as you can get, so I guess we should be thankful for that; it still hosts live music almost everyday as well as being a city tourist attraction. (Whenever I am in Liverpool I make a point of visiting).
It is a shot of one member of rock group Slydigs just before they headed out to play their set. I remember being backstage with them as they relaxed before the gig; having a drink, a smoke, cracking a few jokes and thinking how this could be a moment even more important than the gig itself, at least photographically. I didn’t know it at the time but the band were about to go onto bigger and better things, being signed to a record label and even backing up legends The Who on tour. But this was before all that, this was still early days.
Dean was sat on a red leather couch, deep in his own thoughts, a black trilby-like hat perched on top of his fair hair, a ringed finger slid behind his head. I remember crouching and grabbing the shot, then moments later they were gone, on stage and playing to an eager crowd, me following to get more shots of them live in action. It is a simple image, a guy on a couch chilling before a gig; but for me it is more, a photograph that is the key to opening up the memory-chest that takes me back to a time…
a time that is still as vivid as it was those ten years past.