In 1961, shortly before their rise to fame, the Beatles played a local gig at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. Now, rare photos of the group—including original drummer Pete Best—from that performance have been discovered. The band would release its first single, “Love Me Do,” a year later.
Paul Wane, managing director at Tracks, a music memorabilia company based in the United Kingdom that owns the photos, tells CNN’s Jack Guy that the photos were taken by a fan who followed the nascent pop band in the early 1960s, before they had officially released any music.
“Not many people had cameras back then,” says Wane. “That’s why there are so few shots of the Beatles in the Cavern. There’s very, very, very few.”
All of the Beatles were born in Liverpool, and the city is where the band formed. Lennon and McCartney first performed there together in 1957.
The newly discovered photos feature John Lennon, 20, and Paul McCartney, 19, singing and playing guitar; George Harrison, 18, also plays guitar, while Best, 19, plays drums behind them. Drummer Ringo Starr wouldn’t join the band until 1962, a little over a year later, completing the “Fab Four.”
Historian Mark Lewisohn, who has written a number of books about the Beatles, says in a statement that the photos show the band members in “leather trousers and cotton tops,” before they had figured out their signature looks, per BBC News. “No other photos show them dressed this way.”
At this early stage of their career, the band members were still roughing it, having just returned from a 90-day tour in Germany, where they played 500 hours of music, according to Lewisohn. But their luck—and the course of musical history—was about to change.
“Three months from here, John and Paul went to Paris and returned with what became known as ‘the Beatles haircut,’” Lewisohn adds. “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.”
The Liverpool-based fan who took the photographs is still alive, but he doesn’t want his name made public. “He followed the Beatles at some of the very early gigs,” Wane tells CNN. “He was on speaking terms with them.”
Tracks is publishing the images to mark the 60th anniversary of “Love Me Do,” which the Beatles released in October 1962.