Earlier this year I took a trip to 8 Hayman's Green, in West Derby, Liverpool to visit the home of the Casbah Coffee Club. A large detached Victorian villa, built circa1860 in red brick, with stone dressings it is two storeys with an attic and more importantly a basement. This basement is unique because it housed a coffee and music club dating back to 1959 which was the true birthplace of The Beatles.
I was met by Roag Best, the brother of Pete Best, the original member and first drummer of the Beatles from 1960 to 1962. He joined them on 12 August, 1960 on the eve of the group's first Hamburg season of club dates.
The Casbah was the brainchild of Mona Best who was born on 3 January, 1924 in Delhi, India, to Thomas (an Irish major) and Mary Shaw. Mona met and married Johnny Best, who came from a family of sports promoters in Liverpool, that once owned and ran the Liverpool Stadium. She has three sons, Roag, Rory and Pete Best, the 5th Beatle.
Mona acquired the house in Haymans Green by pawning all her jewellery and placing a bet on a horse, that was ridden by Lester Piggott in the 1954 Epsom Derby called "Never Say Die", which won at 33–1 and used her winnings to buy the house in 1957. Mona’s sons and their friends were had taken over the house and it was her suggestion that they take over the basement and use that for their music and as a place to meet. She later had the idea to open it as The Casbah Coffee Club. Her vision became a reality and the result will be forever embedded in British pop cultural history, BBC World News described it as “ Popular cultures Sistine Chapel” a fitting description indeed for The Casbah Club in Haymans Green, where it really all began. Mona died on 9th October, 1988.
The first thing you notice about this impressive building is The Casbah Coffee Club sign which still hangs on the wall at the front of the building, the entrance to the club however is at the back of the house. Roag took me in through the doorway at the rear and just inside is the original ticket counter where Mona would check club passes as people entered the Casbah. Once inside the first room you can see a ceiling painted by John Lennon, “this ceiling was painted three times by John” Roag tells me, the first attempt featured pot bellied caricatures, Mo (Mona) hated that, the second time he painted it green and the third time, with a little persuasion from Mona who had just given them a residency, John painted a Mexican Aztec design that she wanted. When he had finished he sent word upstairs to Mo to say that it was done, it and not expecting her to come straight away John began carving his name onto one of the wooden panels on the wall. Roag told me that “He got as far as John and Mona caught him doing it and gave him a smack on the back of the head, she didn’t want anyone messing with the walls of her nice new club”.
The club opened on the 29th August, 1959, and the first band to play there was the Quarrymen, the line-up: John, Paul, George and Ken Brown. Although Ken seems to have been lost in Beatles history he was a significant cog, in that, he brought George onto the scene and it was through Ken that Pete took up the drums.