Rare images emerge of the Beatles playing the Cavern Club in 1961

<span>Photograph: Tracks Ltd/PA</span>
Photograph: Tracks Ltd/PA

Rare photographs have been discovered of the Beatles playing at the Cavern Club in Liverpool before they had officially released any music.

The images were captured in July 1961, more than a year before the band released their debut single Love Me Do. They show John Lennon and Paul McCartney at the microphone, with George Harrison on guitar and a partially obscured Pete Best, the group’s original drummer.

Beatles historian and author Mark Lewisohn said: “Set inside Liverpool’s cramped and dank Cavern Club, these previously unseen photos capture the Beatles playing for a lunchtime or evening audience in July 1961.

“Just back from Hamburg – slogging 500 stage hours in 90 days – the Beatles are whippet-thin undernourished lads of 20 (John), 19 (Paul and Pete), and 18 (George).

“So slender has this marathon made them, it’s as if their heads and bodies are stranger. A look emphasised by the unusual clothes – leather trousers and cotton tops. No other photos show them dressed this way.”

The Beatles playing the Cavern Club in July 1961
A second photo of the Beatles playing the Cavern Club in July 1961. Photograph: Tracks Ltd/PA

Three months after the pictures were taken, John and Paul went to Paris and returned with what became known as “the Beatle haircut”, Lewisohn added.

“Days later, Brian Epstein saw the Beatles in the Cavern, offered to become their manager and set them on [a] course that changed our world.”

Best was dropped from the band in 1962 and replaced by Ringo Starr.

Starr, now 82, has cancelled a North America tour with his All-Starr Band after contracting Covid-19. His management said he was recovering at home. “As always, he and the All Starrs send peace and love to their fans, and hope to see them back out on the road soon.”

To mark the 60th anniversary this month of Love Me Do’s release, Chorley-based dealer Tracks Ltd is offering free rare music memorabilia valuations. The valuation day takes place at The Beatles Story exhibition at Liverpool’s Royal Albert Dock on 5 October between 11am and 6pm.

Meanwhile, musicians have recalled the impact the Beatles’ debut had on their life and career. Def Leppard’s Joe Elliot said “it was the first song I ever sang”, while for Kiss’s Gene Simmons: “the lyrics were simple rhymes of ‘do’, ‘you’, and ‘true’ but this odd little song grabbed me”.