Sunday, June 27, 2010

Stu Sutcliffe

Not much going on for the Beatles performance wise, so I thought I'd say a little about one of the group's lesser known founding members, Stu Sutcliffe.  When John Lennon, with a lot of luck, arrived in Liverpool Art College, he quickly made friends with one of her most promising students of the time, Stuart Sutcliffe.  Stu, very sophisticated for his years, seemed to understand that it is the artist's role to adopt an outsiders viewpoint in order to better see and reflect the reality of the world around him.  John, as was his pattern in all of his life, was drawn to the iconoclastic Stuart and they quickly became best friends.

Stuart was a slightly built, waif-like boy and the acerbic tough guy John became his protector.  Some of the letters that passed between the two of them provide a unique insight into their complex and close relationship.  When Stuart sold a painting after an art exhibition and was paid for a painting, John convinced him that he should purchase a Hofner bass guitar so he could share John's love of making music. There is some evidence that there was, at this time, some competition for John's attention between Paul and Stuart, creating a significant tension in the young Lennon's mind between the talented life stylist and equally gifted musician.

Stuart's contribution to the Beatles was not to be a musical one, he showed little talent for playing guitar.  None the less, his influence on John during this seminal period in the band's development was enormous, mostly from the perspective of the  approaches to art and style that the band adopted.

The official website of Stuart's Art is located here.  You can get a real appreciation of the truly experimental young artist he was by looking at his early, middle and later works.  June 23, 1940 was his birthday.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Keep on Jivin'

June 23, 1960

The gigs right now are pretty scarce.  It's easy to theorize that the only reason that the "Silver Beetles" found work at all was the immense demand created by the popularity of beat music in the North of England at this time and the "jive hives", still enjoyed today at places such as Beauwaters in Gravesend, England.  Today the prototype Beatles, made up of John, Paul, George and Stuart Sutcliffe, were back at the Institute at Neston.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Paul turns 18

The Beatles play the Grosvenor Ballroom on Paul's 18th birthday.  It's fortunate indeed that this venue existed, without it the band would have been in imminent danger of disappearing into the mists of time.  There is a wonderful article in the Beatles wiki about the place, which is still in operation, here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Drummerless again

June 16, 1960

The Beatles return to the the Institute in Neston, this time without any drummer at all.  One gets the distinct impression that John Lennon had resigned himself to playing without one, if that's the hand he was being dealt.  No doubt we are entering a very difficult period for the Beatles.  The novelty of actually being hired to play music wearing off, and the reality of trying to keep at it settling in on them.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Tommy's last bow

June 13, 1960

This being a Monday, the Beatles played the basement room of Allan Williams Jacaranda Club.  They were not paid cash money for these appearances, but were given beans on toast (yum).  I guess they thought of these sessions as practice time.

This was the last appearance with the Beatles of Tommy Moore.  He later gave as a reason for his leaving the abrasiveness of John Lennon. Tragically, Tommy died far too early in September 1981.  Here is a posting to a forum made by a person who knew Tommy near the end of his life.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tommy takes a vacation

June 11, 1960

The Beatles played the Grosvenor Ballroom again.  The Beatles had agreed to meet at the Jacaranda and go to the gig together.  When Tommy Moore didn't show up, they all piled into Allan Williams car and drove off to get him.  At Tommy's residence, his girlfriend informed them in no uncertain terms, that Tommy was finished with them.  He had gotten a job at the Garston Bottle Works.  They found Tommy perched on a fork lift.  In spite of cajoling and pleading, they couldn't convince Tommy to come down and play the gig.  (Still, after this he was persuaded to play one more gig with them.)

The Beatles were without a drummer, but they did have a drum kit.  At the gig, John Lennon, with his usual cheek, asked if anyone in the crowd would like to play drums that night.  That was a very bad idea.  Up stepped a large menacing looking Teddy Boy (with no obvious experience as a drummer) known to Beatles lore as "Ronnie".  He bashed away at the skins that night with such enthusiasm that the regular band members began to worry about what his reaction would be when the event was over and it was time to pack up and go home. Alan Williams came to the rescue and extricated the band from the clutches of the local Teds with no serious harm done.

Here is a pic that I found on that shows just a glimpse of the elusive and enigmatic Tommy Moore behind his kit at the Larry Parnes audition earlier this month.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Back to Neston

June 09, 1960

The Beatles played tonight, a Thursday night, back at The Institute in Neston on the Wirral penninsula.  By this time, their out-of-place drummer Tommy Moore, must have been getting pretty tired of working all day and then doing a second shift at a jive show.  Also, his girl friend's nagging may have been becoming more insistent.  After all, he was not just a kid out for a lark, like the other Beatles, but a grown man, with responsibilities to meet.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Whitsun concert

June 6, 1960

Whitsun is an ancient holy day peculiar to European christian churches.  In a secular context, it marks the coming of warmer weather.  In 1960 the Beatles were hired by Less Dodd to play another date at the Grosvenor Ballroom, this one on a Monday, because the general population had a day off work  This date was also played by Gerry and the Pacemakers,.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Grosvenor Ballroom

June 4, 1960

Les Dodd was another rock show promoter in Liverpool.  The "big beat" shows at the Grosvenor Ballroom would become one of the staples in the Beatles orbit.  This first of their appearances happened on a Saturday night.  At this time, another of the Mersey sound groups to play these shows with the Beatles was Gerry and the Pacemakers, who later recorded Beatles reject "How Do You Do It" and had a hit with "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying".  Remember?  (Love those strings!)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Playing "Over the Water"

June 2, 1960

Having Allan Williams on their side was a big advantage for the early Beatles.  He had lots of connections to promoters who would sponsor "jive" shows that were cropping up all over the North of England.  Today, he found them a series of Thursday evening shows at The Institute in Neston, on the Wirral peninsula, just across the River Dee from North Wales.  Gang fights among teenage boys were as likely as not to break out at these shows.