Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Scandal in West Derby

Novenber 24, 1961

You'll remember that one of the most important behind the scenes people in the Beatles story is Pete Best's mother Mona, who always believed in the boys potential and even gave her basement over to establish a club for the kids to gather and listen to music.  She must have been very young at heart herself.

And then there is the Beatles longtime friend, Neil Aspinall, who rents a room at the Best residence and who has purchased a used Commer van and has become the Beatles roadie, transporting them and their equipment all over Liverpool for a few shillings per appearance.  (In addition to his regular job as an accountant in training.)
Neil stands in for George at a Sullivan rehearsal

Well, in the seething cauldron that was the Beatles inner circle, this unlikely pair have somehow become lovers.  In about nine months time the undeniable proof of this fact will come into this world as Pete Best's half brother Vincent, known as Roag.  The Beatles, including Pete, seem to have taken it all in stride and Neil, called affectionately Nell by the members of the band, will have a long history with them, heading up Apple almost until his death in 2008.

The Beatles are playing almost everyday at the Cavern with a night at the Merseyside Civil Service Club.  And a very big  appearance at the second of Sam Leach's Operation Big Beat concerts at the Tower Ballroom occurs today, Friday the 24th.  Surprise guests Emile Ford and Davy Jones (black blues singer, not the future Monkee) appear as surprise guests.  The Beatles back Mr Jones and Rory Storm and the Hurricanes do the honors for Emile Ford.  Real recording artists!

And if you happen to be in Liverpool today, get on down the the Albert Dock, by all means.

                                                           Operation Big Beat II 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Rougher Side of Liverpool

Late 1961

The Beatles seem to be marking time, waiting for the next "something will happen".  They are playing many gigs at the Cavern and the Casbah, with a sprinkling of miscellaneous dates at places like Litherland and Knotty Ash town halls and a venue called Hambleton Hall.  It's a good time to reflect on some of the hazards of a life as a north of England rock band.  Hambleton Hall was one of the most awful places the Beatles played.  Sam Leach says of it "It was like a war zone.  It was terrible.  I was scared going in there.  There was gang fighting outside, Teddy Boys, you know."  One night at Hambleton Hall, after the show Paul and George are accosted by a gang of toughs and given a sound beating. I'm sure they saw it as an inconvenience to be avoided where possible and endured when not.  That they could accept this as the price of  following their muse says a lot about their determination.

Page Moss, where Hambleton Hall was located, is still a place of youth gang activity as shown in a BBC "Panorama" in 2008.  A bit of imagination makes clear the kind of proletarian places, with their thinly veiled atmosphere of hopelessness and violence, the Beatles brighten up and enliven with their music.  But that phase of their careers will soon be coming to an end.  They have been well prepared for the next step.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Operation BIG BEAT

November 10, 1961

Coming so soon on the heels of their first meeting with Brian Epstein is yet another very big day in the history of the worlds biggest band.  The first Operation Big Beat, another groundbreaking Sam Leach production, is taking place in the Tower Ballroom, New Brighton.  (No question. As well as being a important cog in the Beatles machine, Sam is an English national treasure.)

New Brighton is a local playground for the people of Liverpool to get a little sun and fun on weekend ferry excursions across the Mersey.  (It's kinda like Coney Island is to NYC.)  The Tower Ballroom has been a place for shows and exhibitions since 1900 and it is ready now, with Mr Leach's help, to put on some or this new rock and roll music. The ballroom itself is named for a large steel tower that was originally part of the building but has long since fallen into disrepair and been removed.  (In those days Seaports, especially Britannia's seaports, often have seaside towers for signaling ships far out at sea.)

Sam, never one to do things by half measures, books five of the biggest Mersey side groups for a mammoth show lasting from 7:30 pm until one in the morning next day.  It's definitely the next step up the ladder for the Beatles, as this venue can hold up to 5000 people.  It is the largest space by far they have ever played!  Hey this is turning into something pretty big.  Just look at all those punters out there!

Lastly a Link for Lucky Liverpudlians

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mr Epstein is Here

November 9, 1961

Spurred on by all the local buzz about this group improbably called "the Beatles", including a request for the record at his store, Brian Epstein makes the long walk 600 feet down narrow alleyways to the Cavern Club to see these boys for himself.  He later records his first impressions in his book "Cellar Full of Noise".

"There on the platform at the end of the cellar's middle tunnel stood the four boys.  Then I eased myself towards the stage, past rapt young faces and jigging bodies and for the first time I saw the Beatles properly...  I had never seen anything like  the Beatles on any stage.  They smoked as they played and they ate and talked and pretended to hit each other.  They turned their backs on the audience and shouted at them and laughed at private jokes.  But they gave a captivating and honest show and they had considerable magnetism... There was quite clearly an excitement in the otherwise unpleasing dungeon which was quite removed from any of the formal entertainments provided at places like the Liverpool  Empire or the London Palladium, though I learned later that the response to the Beatles was falling off a little in Liverpool - they like me were becoming bored because they could see no great progress in their lives."

Very shortly afterward, he decided to invite the Beatles personally around to his office at North End Music Stores for an informal chat.