We left late Thursday evening (14 June 1962), packed our bags--and my camera!--and traveled up to "the Pool", as I found out the locals called it. I loved learning the local slang! As we drove through the town to the home of our host, I couldn't help but notice how dreary things were. Small homes that I only could assume were government housing littered the streets. Nice I suppose, but nothing special, I thought to myself. I didn't mean to sound spoiled or anything, but when you're accustomed to the streets of a nice neighborhood in London, nothing looks quite up to par!
Auntie told me about her friend we were staying with. His name was Brian Epstein, he had opened up a record section in his parents' furniture store, and it had become quite successful. The reason for our visit, Auntie told me, was that Brian had been managing a local rock & roll group. They were performing at local clubs and he wanted us to see them. They had just finished an initial recording session with EMI in London.
We pulled up to Brian's flat about midnight, and I was impressed. After all the ick I saw in Liverpool, this was high class! A smartly dressed man answered the door and was elated to see my aunt. This must be Brian, I said to myself. He was soft-spoken, but very theatrical and direct in his movements. Even though it was quite late, he was still dressed in a checked shirt and gray dress slacks.
"Margaret!" He greeted Auntie at the door with outstretched arms. "So glad you made it safely, it was raining terribly hard up here for a while. And this must be Jill! I'm so glad you could come; I have heard so much about you from your Aunt."
"Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Epstein." We shook hands.
"Oh, please call me Brian. That's what my friends call me, and I am sure that I can consider you a friend!" He really impressed me with his charm and congeniality. As we walked into the entryway, he continued. "So, Margaret tells me that you are helping her update her classical section in her store.."
"Help? Heck, she's doing it all herself!" Auntie quipped.
"Really?" Brian sounded impressed. "Such a large job for a young lady. If you are ever in need of a job up here, let me know. I know of your classical background and your schooling. Do you like the popular music?"
"Of course! I hear you have a great young group you want us to check out."
"Yes, they have a lunchtime show tomorrow, and I told them that Margaret would be coming to evaluate them; they are excited to hear what an outsider thinks of them! And I guarantee to you both, these boys will one day be bigger than Elvis!" he said with a gleam in his eye.
We brought our bags in and turned in for the night. The next morning we had a huge breakfast of eggs, bacon, French toast--I thought I was going to explode! Before lunch we headed over to the Cavern. We walked down some dark stone stairs into this dank, musty cellar...I wrinkled my nose at the smell and the look of the place; no wonder it's called "the Cavern," I chuckled to myself. The stage was quite small, and there were several stone archways. The backdrop for the stage was a crude painting of squares and rectangles, with graffiti written in the shapes. The audience space was modest, too--only room for seven or eight wooden folding chairs in each row. Brian sat with us in the third row, along with Neil Aspinall, who helped the guys out often, usually driving them to gigs. He looked so much like my brother that I accidentally called him "Chris"! Brian was describing the band members to Auntie & me along with what instrument they played, so we would know who was who. I was beginning to get warm, so I pulled my hair back with the white ribbon I had brought. The show started pretty soon--Bob Wooler came out onto the stage and announced "Hello, Cavern dwellers! Welcome to the best of cellars!" I assumed this was his normal intro because several people recited it along with him. The audience whooped and hollered. He responded to their applause with, "Well, I'll just bring 'em on out--here they are, The Beatles!"
The audience cheered enthusiastically as the band came out and started right in with "Some Other Guy". The bass player (Paul? Or was that Pete?) welcomed the audience. Apparently it was one of their first shows back from another stint in Hamburg, at The Star Club; the place was packed, and the audience was welcoming back their hometown heroes with open arms. The band played several more songs, some covers and some that they wrote themselves. Brian metioned to me that if there was a popular single out that everyone knew, they would learn the "B" side, and usually they'd be the first band in Liverpool to perform it. One of the originals was quite a rocker, I absolutely loved it; I think the title was "Seventeen", the bass player (dang it, what was his name!) sang it, complete with Little Richard-style screaming. One of the guitar players (George--his name I remembered!) called attention to Brian sitting in the audience. Brian stood and accepted the applause from the audience. I took that time to take a good look at the guys. The drummer bothered me, he didn't do much interacting with the audience, and frankly I didn't think he was that good of a drummer. My mind kept going back to Jeff Gilberts, a percussionist I knew at school--he could play this drummer out of the water! The two guitarists were good, and were very jovial with the audience, and both were fairly good-looking. One of them (the one who wasn't George--man, I was SO bad at names!) seemed to be a bit of a goof-off. The bass player struck me as the most professional-acting, and the most attractive. But overall there was this boundless energy and incredible stage presence that was overwhelming. The fact that they were all quite attractive helped, too!
After the performance, Brian had to get back to work at NEMS (short for North End Music Stores); Auntie was going to go with him. I guess they wanted to compare notes. When George came out from backstage, Brian informed him that I was to hang out with them for the afternoon.
"Ah, so these are the birds you were telling us about!" He bowed to us and said in a phony distinguished accent, "I am very pleased to make your acquaintance, ladies." We giggled, and I must have been blushing since that's how I usually dealt with guys my age. He sat down next to us. "The other lads'll be out soon, I'll keep you company," he said, falling into an odd British drawl.
George took an interest in me being American, he wanted to know everything about my life overseas. He told me that he had a sister who lived in southern Illinois--small world! We kept chatting and the remaining three came out. George introduced me to the rest of the Beatles. We talked a bit more, mostly about me being American, plus I finally learned their names! We also discussed plans for the rest of the day. Pete (the drummer) was going home. John (the other guitarist) and George were going to work on some guitar chords. They said goodbye and nice to meet me, and left the Cavern, leaving Paul (the bass player) and me.
I was normally fidgety, but it always got worse around guys, especially attractive ones, and this day was no exception. I thought I would fidget myself right out of my seat! We were chatting there for a while, and he even bought me a drink. We talked about family, friends, schooling, music, and movies. I was a bit shy at first, but his gentle demeanor helped me warm up to him quickly. I guess the subject of movies triggered an idea; Paul suddenly asked, "I was going to go to the cinema this afternoon to see Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and I hate going by myself, would you be interested?"
Marilyn Monroe was my favorite actress; I had even bought a small bottle of Chanel No. 5 just because she wore it! I certainly wouldn't pass up this opportunity to see one of my favorite Monroe movies. I didn't think about it as if it was any sort of date--just two people who ended up hanging out together. So it wasn't such a big deal. I nodded and said, "Sure, what time does it start?"
I rang NEMS to tell Auntie of my plans. She was busy helping a customer (just like her to jump in like that!), but Brian took the message and told me to have fun on my date. I had hung up before I realized what he had said.
I enjoyed the movie; I had already seen it in the States when it first came out, but it was good to see it again. By the time the movie was over it was late afternoon, about 4:30, almost dinnertime. We were outside walking, talking about the weather (we couldn't believe the sun was out after about a week straight of rain and clouds), just small talk. We ran to cross a street before a car came up on us--Paul grabbed my hand and yelled, "Let's run for it!" Once we got across the street, he didn't let go of my hand...but then again, I didn't let go of his. We looked at each other and smiled, just a smile that said, "this is good." And it was good--I really hadn't had any guys pay attention to me in a while, so I certainly wasn't complaining.
We walked to NEMS and went in, I had to go home with Auntie and Brian anyway. It didn't occur to me that holding Paul's hand might cause a stir; just my own naivete, I suppose! When we went in, I saw Auntie leaning on the counter talking to Brian. They turned to see who had come in, and both of them looked at us with wide eyes, looked back at each other, and started laughing. We were bewildered--did I have food on my face? Did Paul have toilet paper on his shoe? What was so funny? Auntie stopped laughing first and asked Brian, "How much do I owe you again?"
"What's this about?" Paul asked as he let go of my hand and walked up to the counter.
Brian replied, still giggling, "Well, Margaret and I had a bet going that you two were on a real date this afternoon. She said that Jill would never start anything since she's going back to school in a couple months, but I just had an inkling you two would hit it off. You can call me the matchmaker, I suppose!" He kept giggling, and put out his hand to receive his payment, which got Auntie started again--no wonder these two wanted to spend the afternoon together! They were giggling like a couple of schoolkids.
Dinner plans were set--Auntie and I were to have dinner with Brian and his family. Paul was leaving to go home, and he pulled me outside and around the side of the building as he left.
"What are you doing?" I asked as he was pulling me so hard that I almost tripped.
He stopped in the alleyway, turned around to face me and took my hands. "How long are you in town? I must see you again."
His actions took me by surprise; I had to take a second to regain my composure. I had just assumed that his holding my hand and taking me to the movies and spending time with me was just because I was new in town and he was just trying to be nice. I didn't think he actually wanted to spend time with me. My fortune was never that good. "Um...I think we are leaving Monday morning. Other than dinner tonight, I think I should be free the whole weekend, I don't think there's anything planned really."
"Well, we have an evening show tomorrow night at the Cavern, but other than that, I'm all yours," he said softly.
Our eyes locked. It was a strange look, a different look. Not a look I hadn't seen before, but it had been so long since I had seen a guy look at me like that, I swear I'd forgotten what it looked like...and how good it felt when someone looked at you like that. He leaned into me, and we kissed. Just a little kiss, nothing deep or serious or mind-blowing...just a nice kiss. We broke apart from the kiss and he said, "I'll ring you at Brian's tonight, about 8 or 9...is that too late for you to go out?"
"No, I've stayed out that late before," I teased. "But what's there to do around Liverpool at night?"
"We can go to the pubs, listen to other bands...I think Rory Storm and the Hurricanes are playing tonight. They played in Hamburg, too, they're great live. Their drummer has even stood in when Pete had a bit too much drink."
"Sure, I'll go ask Auntie..."
"Ah, you won't need to." He put his arm around me as we started back up the alleyway. "I'm sure Brian has been telling her what a nice lad I am, and how safe it is to be out with someone proper like me late on a Friday night." I chuckled as I was studying his face--that smile, those eyes...yeah, he was definitely the most attractive out of the group. He kissed me again, this time it was a little more involved...not that I minded. "See you tonight, luv?"
"Sure, see you tonight," I answered, still reeling from that second kiss.
He left me in the alleyway. As my mind wandered and I did a little tap dance to the alley entrance, I watched him walk down the street, recalling the day's events. I waved back to him when he turned around halfway down the block and waved to me. All I had been expecting out of that weekend was just a short trip out of London; I certainly wasn't counting on this! I couldn't put my finger on it--was it his soft smile, his sparkling hazel eyes, the way he would listen to me and be genuinely interested, his spirited laugh...what was it that attracted me to him? Probably a combination of all that, I thought as I sauntered back into NEMS. I really don't think my feet had touched the ground since he first held my hand crossing the street. I guess I had a pretty goofy smile on my face, 'cause Auntie was trying to stifle another laugh. "So, where have you been for the past five minutes?" she asked.
Five minutes? Yikes, guess that second kiss was a bit more involved than I thought! "Um, just planning the evening's events. After dinner we'd like to go see another group, name's something about hurricanes or tornadoes or something...some sort of natural disaster. May I go, Auntie?"
She shook her head a little and said, "Hmmm...after what Brian has told me about these scruffy lads he took under his wing...they drank a lot on stage, and heaven only knows what goes on with the groupies...rock stars and all, you know."
No, she couldn't say I couldn't go! Could she? If she just gave him a chance, he really wasn't just some "scruffy lad"...he was quite nice! I squeaked out a despondent, "But...I..."
She laughed that laugh that I always found endearing and comforting. "Oh, Jilly-Dilly, I am kidding! Of course you can go with your new friend...but I want you home at a reasonable hour, young lady," she said in a matronly tone as she shook a finger at me.
On to Chapter Three
Back to Chapter One
Copyright © 1999-2006, Winona Patterson.