- See pictures behind the unveiling in the slideshow at left.
During the recent International Beatles Week in Liverpool, Beatles artist Shannon MacDonald, better known as Shannon, unveiled a new painting of the Beatles at the world famous Cavern Club. It took months of planning for the journey to Liverpool for the new painting, which began with a phone call, she says.
“I received a call from Cavern Club owner Bill Heckle a few months back. He explained they were upgrading The Cavern and wanted a huge painting representing The Beatles at The Cavern / their very last show. They had a space that was 8 foot (wide) by 9 foot (high). Bill said I could make it any size I wanted as long as it didn’t exceed those particular dimensions. I thought if it is 8’x9.’ Hell, I am gong to fill its entirety. I sent my plans and was hired,” she said.
Shannon came up with a concept for the painting. “Rather than painting a giant 8’x9’ painting on one canvas I decided to break it up into six parts: four Beatles and two different Cavern logos. It worked out well!”
She also decided to use a new waterborne paint from PPG which was safe for the environment and fit well with her effort to work in a green studio.
The real madness took place the day the painting was to be dedicated, she says.
“The day of the unveiling was crazy. I worked all night finishing George and had one-hour sleep in a 48 hour span. The adrenalin was the only thing keeping me going and I had come down with a sore throat and a cold. Great!”
And all did not going according to plan. “As usual, all things you would expect to go well did not go as smoothly as we expected and things we thought would be a giant bother went rather smoothly. The big pain was that the size was off by about a 1/4 inch inch on one side (but every inch counted as we ended up just a tiny bit larger – the right side of The Cavern wall was slightly smaller than 9 feet high. OOPS! Somebody goofed.). So we had to fix that quickly.”
Time was growing short as the crowd was assembling. “We were 15 minutes away from unveiling time when the plexiglass protecting the enormous project would not go into place. It was, of course, too big. Everyone watching the project being installed immediately went into 100% overtime mode trying to fit this piece of glass. It finally went into place but dirt was lodged between the image and the glass. Damn, it had to come out again! But…it didn’t want to. In a struggle and a lot of cursing flying about it finally was persuaded and removed. We cleaned the glass and dusted the painting and tried again. This time – success!”
But now the real tension began, she said. “We were running five minutes behind and we (and the crowd) were feeling it. The tension ran all over everyone’s faces aong with beads of sweat. “What you didn’t know…Bill Heckle’s daughter went into labor the night before so Bill had left; our unveiler, Wings drummer Steve Holley, had to leave unexpectedly; and Dave Jones, Cavern wwner, was thrown into the ring at the last moment with no knowledge of the project’s unveiling details. Poor Dave was sweating Liverpool bullets.”
A substitute was quickly found. “A new unveiler stepped up to the plate — the UK representative of IWATA, Shannon’s exclusive airbrush company, Phil Barber and as the black curtain was pulled back…everyone that was there to see it (as they say in merry ole England) was ‘gobsmacked’!”
Shannon said she tried to make the paintings as would befit the Cavern Club atmosphere. “Although I never was in the original Cavern Club,” she said, “those that have actually played there say the new Cavern gives you the feel of the old. It is ridiculously hot and humid, the walls do sweat, the cigarette smoke is thick, and the intense feeling you get from the audience when you are on stage is amazing. I have had the pleasure to play on both stages (front and back) so I can truly paint what it might have been like to play at The Cavern. (The only difference is it is smoke free now. The first time I was on stage it was NOT).
“So I painted The Beatles as I saw and felt fit…raw, sweaty, thrilled, gallant, happy, perhaps a little egotistical, and absolutely ready to take on the world.”