Picture this: New Year's day 1962, four Scouse chancers, John, Paul, George and Pete turned up at Decca studios in north London to impress the southerners. Unfortunately they sounded like this:
Till there was you, Beatles, Decca audition, 1962
That isn't the worst song (Sheik of Araby probably is) but it is pretty representative. Decca didn't make a mistake in rejecting the Beatles on the basis of this audition tape. They went back to Liverpool, knocked 'em dead at Litherland Town Hall and New Brighton Tower ballroom. At New Brighton there was said to be an audience of over four thousand. That sounds pretty impressive but I remember going to New Brighton Baths in the '60s and there being at least that many people there every weekend. There wasn't room to actually swim. New Brighton Baths wasn't even the only pool around - there was the Derby Pool at the other end of Mockbeggar Wharf and the Guinea Gap in Seacombe. Guinea Gap was where we went with school to learn to swim. But that was a bit later in the '60s.
New Brighton baths, Wallasey
It is said that one of the drivers of Merseybeat was the fact that Liverpool was a seaport and everyone's big brother was forever going across to the States and coming back with a duffel bag full of records by Little Richard, the Isley Brothers and Chuck Berry. My dad was in the merch and he brought back a few records. Unfortunately he was terminally unhip. Have a conversation with him about modern popular music and he'll probably say something like "you don't hear much from that Sarah Brightman these days",
What he did bring home included a trio of classical albums (the 1812 Overture, a family favourite; Holst's Planets; Dvorak's New World Symphony) presumably from a 99 cent bin and a copy of West Side Story. West Side Story was the most popular album of 1962, spending 54 weeks on the chart (some in 1963 obviously). With a limited number of records the same ones got played repeatedly so we got to know When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way from your first cigarette to your last dyin' day pretty well. While this early introduction to gang culture could have led to a life of delinquency I was somewhat put off by the dancing.
When You're a Jet, West Side Story, 1962
There was one record that the Old Grey Feller brought back that had some cred. It was a 10" extended extended play: eight rock 'n' roll songs, two by the Everly Brothers. This is one of them:
Bird Dog, Everly Brothers, 1958
Telstar, Tornados, 1962
Throughout 1962 the Tornados were Billy Fury's backing band. Billy Fury had worked on the Mersey ferries and for some reason had incurred the wrath of my old Nan, who would always refer to him as "that Ronald Wycherley with the tight trousers".
Last Night was Made for Love, Billy Fury, 1962
By the end of 1962 the writing was on the wall . . . in September the Beatles recorded Love Me Do. With three different drummers - first with Pete Best, then with Ringo and third time with Andy White. Released in October in climbed to a heady Number 17 in the charts - most copies reputedly bought by Brian Epstein.
Love Me Do, Beatles, 1962