The coffee shop is something that everybody relates to. They’re on every street, and all serve a similar purpose — a warm, sheltered space, perfect for working in or meeting with friends. No wonder they serve as one of the most popular tropes in fanfiction — it’s a huge part of modern society. They’re a familiarity, almost a liminal space, a blank space for stories to be born. Many published authors began writing in coffee shops, and many fanfiction authors also likely wrote in these spaces too. It’s something every fandom can engage with in one way or another — the mundanity of an everyday place gets reborn into the setting for a love story.
But travel back nearly 60 years, and we see the coffee shop as instrumental to the Beatles in their early years, too. Allan Williams owned ‘The Jacaranda Coffee Bar’, known colloquially as ‘The Jac’ — where Paul, John and George met poet Royston Ellis. Mona Best owned the Casbah Coffee Club, where they played on a residency. The original third verse of In My Life referenced ‘the Dutch’ — that is, The Old Dutch Cafe. Clearly this held significance to John, for him to mention it all those years later. Paul would later write Cafe On The Left Bank with Wings — here, it serves as a place to people-watch and (possibly) for Paul to reminisce on his 1961 trip to Paris with John. John remembers how he and Brian ‘…used to sit in a cafe in Torremolinos looking at all the boys and I’d say, ‘Do you like that one, do you like this one?’ I was rather enjoying the experience, thinking like a writer all the time: I am experiencing this, you know.’ In other words, he was experiencing freedom. Freedom to think like a writer, and freedom to talk, or joke, somewhat openly about Brian’s sexuality.
These are also instances of stories being born in cafes. The Beatles would be very different without these spaces. They gave inspiration to write, or a space to practice, or a space to meet bohemian-types who would open their minds to new possibilities. Their story was shaped, somewhat, by the existence of a coffee shop.
And interestingly, it’s almost circular. There are (currently) ten coffee shop AUs on the AO3 page for The Beatles. Of course, this is natural for any sizable fandom. It’s a popular trope and has been for years. But the fact that the coffee shop played such an important role in creating ‘The Beatles’, and now people are recreating The Beatles inside coffee shops is fascinating.
So here’s to creation in coffee shops. From creating key moments for one of the world’s finest bands, to creating fanfiction of the members in that band meeting in a coffee shop, 50 years later.
Daisy is an English Literature student and co-hosts the podcast ‘All About The Girl’. She is currently writing her dissertation on how Yoko Ono has been represented in Beatles biographies. Twitter: @daisymaybe7