Mersey Beat Founders' Personal Story Here
All too often, books about the Beatles intimate that the group virtually created the Mersey scene, presuming that it was only in the wake of their success that groups in Liverpool began to emerge. Numerous writers have taken the line that it was only following the Beatles' national breakthrough that every youngster in Liverpool suddenly wanted to join a group.
In fact, the groups were already active in what was probably the most amazing nucleus of youth culture in the world between the years 1958 and 1964. Far from leading to an increase in the number of bands in Liverpool, the success of the Beatles possibly resulted in the local music scene diminishing.
At a time when the British music scene was firmly controlled from London, the Beatles forced a crack in the barrier through which groups from the provinces poured, until the powers that be in the capital closed it again. After 1964 groups from Liverpool, no matter how talented, were personae non gratae.
Talent in the city didn't dry up, as many presumed: it was simply condemned to isolation once more when London regained control of the music business. Yet whenever any enterprising recording manager or entrepreneur did take an interest in Liverpool, they discovered as much talent as they could handle. For example, in 1976 the British charts found themselves with a host of Liverpool bands in the Top 30. They included Liverpool Express, Our Kid, The Real Thing, Supercharge, Buster - then a few years later there were Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark, Teardrop Explodes, Echo and the Bunnymen, China Crisis and Icicle Works. On 28 January 1984 a combination of Liverpool artists old and new dominated the Top 20:
||Frankie Goes To Hollywood
||Pipes of Peace
||That's Living Alright
||Nobody Told Me
||The Killing Moon
||Echo & the Bunnymen
||Love Is A Wonderful Colour
And it took Liverpool band Frankie Goes to Hollywood to repeat fellow Liverpudlians Gerry & the Pacemakers' record of a hat trick of No. 1 hits with their first three releases.
The Mersey scene was unique for its time, yet an acknowledgement of its real contribution to the forging of the Beatles has not really been apparent in the many books that have been written about them.
In fact, the Hamburg scene has been given more prominence in the 'birth of the Beatles' story. But there was no Hamburg scene when the Beatles arrived there in 1960. It wasn't a city like Liverpool, where thousands of youngsters were pouring into venues to listen to hundreds of bands. Rock 'n' roll hardly existed in Germany at the time and the only two British bands to precede the Beatles were the Jets and Derry & the Seniors.
It's true, as I've always pointed out, that the Beatles' initial months in Hamburg, from August to December 1960, were a real baptism of fire. It made them a better group than they'd been previously, but it was their battles with the other bands in Liverpool over the following two years that gave them their edge.
Basically, the Hamburg scene comprised of only three clubs, all within walking distance of each other: the Kaiserkeller, the Top Ten and the Star Club. As a rock venue the Kaiserkeller didn't last more than a year, leaving just two venues.
In contrast, Liverpool had far in excess of 300 venues where groups would play, including those like the Tower and Locarno Ballrooms that were large enough to accommodate thousands of youngsters. However, these were not where the Mersey sound was originally forged.
In the late 1950s groups began to thrive in Liverpool in 'jive hives', the ballrooms and town halls booked by enterprising local promoters such as Brian Kelly, Doug Martin, Wally Hill, Vic Anton, Dave Foreshaw, Les Dodd and Charlie McBain, who are among the unsung heroes of the Mersey scene. They promoted regularly at venues such as the Grosvenor Ballroom, Wilson Hall, Hambleton Hall, Aintree Institute, Blair Hall, Litherland Town Hall, St John's Hall, Alexandra Hall, Lathom Hall, Mossway Hall, Knotty Ash Village Hall and New Clubmoor Hall.
The three music venues in Hamburg were situated in the notorious red-light district of St Pauli, where audiences were generally composed of punters seeking 'adult entertainment' in clubs, which actively encouraged their patrons to drink. In Liverpool it was the youth of Merseyside who crowded the venues, where only soft drinks were available. They went because they loved the music. The kids attended the venues throughout the area in their thousands in what was arguably the first major youth movement in the British Isles.
Between 1958 and 1964 there were probably around 500 different bands in the Merseyside area. The figure at any one time probably stood at 350. When Bob Wooler and I originally compiled a
list of groups that we knew personally in 1961, it ran to almost 300 names.
Next page in this article
1 | 2 | 3 | 4
| 5 | 6