The Casbah Coffee Club

June 21 2016, 0 Comments

A Casbah, or Kasbah, is defined as a type of fortress in the Arab quarter of a North African city, so how did a coffee club in the suburbs of late 50s Liverpool acquire such an exotic name? And how did this small basement venue go on to play such a pivotal role in the story of popular music?

It all began with the owners, Mona ‘Mo’ Best and her husband John. Both had worked all over the world, Mona as a nurse in the British Red Cross and John had been a physical training instructor for the army. After travelling the globe together they began to settle down in Madras, India, welcoming son number one, Peter, into the family in 1941. When Pete’s brother Rory followed in 1944 the family made the decision to return to Old Blighty, more specifically Liverpool, the ‘Gateway to the World’.

Photo: Casbah Coffee Club, Lipinski 2010         

The Bests eventually settled in the West Derby area of Liverpool. A win on the horses meant they were able to buy a huge Victorian house, number 8 Hayman's Green, which was complete with fifteen bedrooms and, most importantly, a large basement. 

"With a little help from their friends, the two brothers set to work decorating their new basement members club...."

Several years later, in 1957, there had been a global surge of interest in popular music with skiffle and rock ‘n’ roll taking centre stage. It gripped Pete, now 16, Rory, 13, and their friends like it had almost every other teenager in Liverpool. Wanting to find a place where her sons could entertain their friends and their new found passion for music, Mona realised they had all the space they needed literally right beneath their feet. So, with a little help from their friends, the two brothers set to work decorating their new basement members club.

Saturday 29th August 1959 was the official opening night of The Casbah Coffee Club. An actual coffee club during the week and a booming basement club on weekends. Within one year of its opening, it accrued over 1000 members all itching for sets from bands playing that new Mersey Beat sound. Crazy murals adorned the walls and ceilings of the different rooms, each having been painted at least in part by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ken Brown, then known as skiffle outfit The Quarrymen.

Between the birth of the Casbah and its closing night in 1962, The Quarrymen became the Beatles, and many iterations of the Beatles’ lineups came and went - Pete joined, Stuart Sutcliffe left, and eventually, of course, Ringo replaced Pete.

 

They left the club to take Hamburg by storm, returned after it all went pear shaped, then went on to conquer the world. But, for the short time the Casbah was open, it became a real beacon for music in the city and helped to drive the Mersey sound to a global audience.

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