1980s Liverpool Band Hangouts: Brian’s Cafe, Stanley Street.
Above Photo – Brian’s Cafe, Stanley Street, Liverpool, in the early 1980s. (Inacityliving, Facebook)
There was a small café in Liverpool city centre called Brian’s Café in Stanley Street, which used to be a popular haunt for Liverpool Punks, Eric’s members and late 1970s and early 1980s Liverpool bands. As such, Brian’s gets a mention in Bombed Out!, my Punk and New Wave music memoir of the time.
It was owned by a friendly husband and wife couple called Brian and Gloria McCaffrey, although as an ex-boxer, Brian might have been handier than most café owners if trouble ever erupted in his joint – which it never did, as far as I’m aware.
Brian’s was a very popular meeting point for Eric’s-goers and Liverpool bands back then, and I frequented it with members of both bands I was in.
The Teardrop Explodes and Echo and the Bunnymen also frequented Brian’s, as can be seen in the below film, shot in 1984, of the Bunnymen actually playing live in the café.
On the video, the Bunnymen perform two great acoustic versions of their songs – Villiers Terrace (from their first album, Crocodiles – although in these lyrics McCulloch says Liverpool Football Club wouldn’t let them film in the Kop) and Silver, from their Ocean Rain album, the latter being recorded in someone’s Victorian house, and not Brian’s.
In my time in Liverpool bands I was too broke to eat much food in there. I was paying my mum for my keep, massive HP payments on my Marshall bass amplifier and just travelling into town each day was killing me financially.
When I started seeing Liz, my girlfriend whom I met in Eric’s in 1979, we had to quickly decide on some important priorities – were we going to have food in cafes during the day, or booze in Eric’s at night with our meagre dole-cheque resources? You can guess which one we chose.
So my best memories of being in Brian’s are hanging out and drinking (or nursing) cups of very cheap tea and coffee as other people ate great-looking food, discussing the next single/EP/tour and other Liverpool band gossip, before heading back to Eric’s to rehearse with Pink Military during the daytime; all of which is recounted in detail in my Liverpool band memoir Bombed Out!.
In the below video a former Eric’s member, Bernie Connor, is interviewed and makes some good points, especially about the nationally-hyped Liverpool band scene in 1979-1980, when there were really only 3 Liverpool bands of note – Echo and the Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, and Pink Military. The rest was journalistic bullshit, until a new new wave of Liverpool bands appeared shortly afterwards.
But what you don’t get from the programme is how important Brian’s café was to the Eric’s, Punk, New Wave and Liverpool music scene back then. Near Eric’s, the choices were either hanging out in Brian’s or in the Armadillo Tea Rooms on Mathew Street, which I’ll deal with in another post.