It’s the 1960s – The music has arrived

Sixties school fellow and contributor to the popular ‘Foods and sweets’ series, Barry Ward, leads on this one, with occasional additional comments from me, about us discovering music growing up together in suburban North Liverpool.with_the_beatles

The first music I remember would have been from the radio, nursery rhymes on ‘Listen With Mother’.  We didn’t have a record player until 1963 and so the radio always seemed to be on in our house. I recall programmes such as ‘Children’s Favourites’ on Saturday mornings, and ‘Two Way Family Favourites.’ From these I would have heard songs such as The Teddy Bear’s Picnic, The Runaway Train, Nellie The Elephant, The Laughing Policeman, How Much Is That Doggie In The Window, The Big Rock Candy Mountain, and the was it sinister or did it pre-date Kraftwerk and ELO, ‘Sparky’s Magic Piano’? (Go to 3m 20s here.)MAY_ BILLY _Sparky_s Magic Piano_
The late 50’s wave of (mainly) American Rock & Roll artists such as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Little Richard passed me by at the time though.
“Not quite so for me. Waiting for the bus back home from my nan’s in Bootle we’d sometimes go in a café which had a juke box. I was mainly fascinated to watch how it worked but I remember one day pleading with my mum to put on this ‘Little Richard’ record so I could hear what he sounded like. When he came howling and stomping out of the speaker after some cosy Connie Francis crooning I was beyond thrilled. A wop bop a loo bop!”
I’m pretty sure that I first noticed songs other than the kiddies songs around 1962 when I was 8. By this time my dad had a car with a radio. And although the programmes never seemed to change I think that the range of songs played on the likes of Two Way Family Favourites started to reflect the increasing popularity of newer artists like Cliff Richard, Adam Faith, Frank Ifield, Helen Shapiro and Tommy Steele. I think Elvis ‘post-army’ had become more acceptable to the BBC and I remember hearing a lot of his songs as well.0000154613_500
For me, 1963 was the year when I developed a real passion for pop music, and of course this coincided with the rise of The Beatles and the Merseybeat boom. Around this time there were several new pop music programmes on TV (in addition to the Light Entertainment staples Ronnie mentioned last time, of the Billy Cotton Band Show, the Black & White Minstrel Show and Sunday Night at the London Palladium).TV 101
My favourites were Thank Your Lucky Stars and Juke Box Jury.  Shown in the early evening on Saturdays when the whole family would settle down to watch. I can still recall the sense of pride that so many of the artists in the ‘hit parade’ came from Liverpool. Obviously the Beatles, but also the Searchers, Cilla Black, Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas, The Swinging Blue Jeans, The Fourmost, Gerry & The Pacemakers. The supply seemed endless for a while then.

Brian Epstein with his Liverpool bands. Golden days.

Brian Epstein with his Liverpool bands. Golden days.

And by reading my dad’s Liverpool Echo, I realised that Liverpool was at that time the best place in the world to live.  Plus of course Everton won the league in 1963 and so we set off autograph hunting too. It was a wonderful time to be a child.Palladium
Everyone has their own memories of The Beatles, but in that year they were a phenonemon.  I remember the excitement of being allowed to stay up to watch them on their legendary appearances on Sunday Night at the London Palladium, and some weeks later the Royal Variety Performance. Like everyone else, I was mesmerised and hooked for life. After all, they weren’t all that much older than me and my friends. And they were from here in Liverpool.FPOP86CD
My mum and dad bought their first record player in time for Christmas 1963. It was a square shaped ‘Dansette’ .  One of my Christmas Presents was the Beatles new single ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, while my elder sister, Hilary got ‘Glad All Over’ by the Dave Clark Five. More importantly, she also got the Beatles second LP ‘With The Beatles’.
“Cue one of the central moments in my young life. We didn’t even have a phone, never mind Twitter, but there was still wrapping paper around the room when I burst in to gaze in wonder at Hilary’s LP. My Uncle Danny, who lived nearby, had a radiogram which obviously had come pre-supplied with the South Pacific LP like they all did. And his daughter Diane had some Elvis. But none of these counted compared to holding a whole LP by the Beatles in my hands. Unimagined riches for someone on 2/6d a week pocket money (LPs then cost 27/6d – £1.37 in the ‘new money’).”

Barry & Ronnie, all grown up now.

Barry & Ronnie, all grown up now.

I guess most parents bought record players (or radiograms) around that time as post war austerity finally ended. I can remember to this day traipsing round to friends’ houses to listen to their records. Ronnie had some of the early Phil Spector produced records – And Then He Kissed Me and Da Doo Ron Ron (was this bought for him because of his name ?). Tony Temple had some of the Searchers records. I first heard the Rolling Stones at Tommy Coulton’s house and of course David ‘Wuzzie’ Wilson liked the Hollies as well as the Stones.  I can’t remember Paul DuNoyer having a record player at the time, but he would spend hours round at our houses listening to our records.
The Ronettes, with Phil Spector

The Ronettes, with Phil Spector

“No, Da Do Ron Ron wasn’t about my name and no one bought me any of the early Phil Spector records. I saved up 3 weeks pocket money at a time and bought them all for myself. I thought then and still think they were as good as pop music could be. But their B sides were crap. Knocked out jazzy doodles, because all the energy and money had been put into the A sides. I remember sternly warning my cousin Diane ‘Don’t let anyone put the B sides on!’ when I proudly took them round for her to borrow for her 21st birthday party.”

We would listen intently to the songs, pore over the information on the record labels, and memorise trivia from the back covers of the sleeves such as ‘Ringo hits out at a loose-skinned Arabian bongo’ on ‘Don’t Bother Me’ (‘a fairly fast number with a haunting theme tune’). We would learn that ‘the boys’ admired American groups such as The Miracles and The Donays as well as covering songs by the likes of Chuck Berry.

The Miracles, featuring Smokey Robinson

The Miracles, featuring Smokey Robinson

And I remember ‘wet playtimes’ at school when we had to amuse ourselves in the school hall.  Although none of us could play any musical instruments, we would get up on stage with tennis racquets, and pretend to be The Beatles, singing ‘Twist & Shout’ or ‘Money’ whilst the girls dutifully screamed at us.  Four Johns, three Pauls, a couple of Georges, with Tommy Coulton gamely thrashing a couple of upturned waste paper bins with a couple of rulers at the back.
“We called ourselves ‘The Earwigs’ (though Barry remembers it as the less embarrassing ‘Nightmares’) and I’ve always thought it was extremely kind and generous of the girls to scream so nicely. Barry, Paul and I (and the rest of the ‘band’?) wrote a song for one of these performances too. You can sing it, if you like – to more or less the tune of ‘Twist and Shout’ –
‘Christopher Columbus (Christopher Columbus) He sailed from Spain (sailed from Spain) To America (To America) And back again (back again)
He had 3 ships (had 3 ships) There were 3 (there were 3) The Nina, the Pinto (Nina, The Pinto) And the Santa Marie (Santa Marie) Aaaaaah, Aaaaaaah, Aaaaaaaaaah!”
1964 was the year that we started buying our own records by asking for NEMS record vouchers for birthdays, or saving up pocket money or money acquired from returning empty lemonade bottles.  The records I remember buying that year were ‘I’m The One’ (Gerry & The Pacemakers’)  ‘I’m In Love’ (The Fourmost) and the Beatles singles of that year.  Hilary must have bought some as well, as I can remember having ‘Do Wah Diddy Diddy’ (Manfred Mann) Anyone Who Had A Heart (Cilla Black) and a couple of Hollies records in the house.

Waiting for 'Thank your lucky stars' to start.

Here we all are. Waiting for ‘Thank your lucky stars’ to start.

There were 2 record shops nearby. NEMS in The Square and one in Deyes Lane at the top of Eastway.  I preferred the latter as they always had a great display of EP’s on the wall. We would stand in there for hours, while Alan, the friendly shopkeeper, let us listen to the records and agonise over what to spend our money on.
“I remember queuing up outside here one day in 1964 to buy ‘Can’t buy me love’ the day it came out. I was mildly disappointed and still think the B side, ‘You can’t do that’ is miles better.”
I used to love EP’s, great value and a picture cover. The first ones I bought were Twist and Shout and ‘The Animals Is Here’ which contained The House Of The Rising Sun, I’m Crying and their B-sides.R-2735141-1298665572
Music was thrilling and exciting to us then. The sixties were beginning to take shape. Top Of The Pops and Ready Steady Go were a welcome addition to TV. Looking back at that period up to 1964 most of the music, with a few notable ‘light entertainment’ exceptions, was uncomplicated and very enjoyable to our pre-teen ears. Pop stars seemed in the main cute and presentable (even Keith Richards in those days). It was, in fact, very bliss in that dawn to be alive.

Keith, back then.

Keith, back then.

But change was to come. Protest songs, pirate radio stations, long hair, going psychedelic or even ‘heavy’, girlfriends, pop festivals and drugs. And we were only 10 years old!
Roll on 1965.

12 thoughts on “It’s the 1960s – The music has arrived

  1. Paul Du Noyer

    Thank you Barry – and Ronnie – for reminding me of all this long-lost fabbosity. The Sixties consumer boom never quite reached our house and I didn’t have a record player until I inherited a second-hand Dansette in the Seventies, but your rudimentary record collections (and Hilary’s) were the absolute beginning of a lifelong obession for me. So thanks again. I don’t recall my exact contribution to ‘Christopher Columbus’, but one thing I learned from the music business is that songwriting royalties are the real jackpot, so let’s hold out for the day when Rihanna sees fit to do a cover version. Or even One Direction. I’m not fussy.

    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Hi Paul, in that case we should probably start the ‘who wrote what bit?’ arguments now, before the royalty cheques start rolling in.

      And you might not have had a record player in this episode, but I’m sure your fabulous Grundig reel to reel will be turning up in the next one, as that of course, albeit with a hand-held mic, allowed us to copy records. Oops, more royalties arguments.

  2. jbaird

    Thanks, Barry and Ronnie, for a nostalgic photo/commentary trip back to the sixties, a time of great music, as well as great changes in our culture. You grew up indeed in the heart of it all: Liverpool. The song “Ferry Cross the Mersey” will never be the same to me now. I heard that record players are coming back into style. Amazing!

    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Thanks Jan, yes it was lovely growing up in the place ‘they’ came from.

      And I never pass a record player in a shop without gazing at it longingly. Even though I now possess no records whatsoever. Barry, on the other hand, still has all of his!

  3. cheethamlib

    A wonderful review of early sixties music, I remember all of the songs you have mentioned. I started my record collection in the 1950’s, mostly popular musicals of the time and those old heart throbs, Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole, Pat Boone etc. How we girls at boarding school dreamed of love romance in company with those names. I remember spending all of my Xmas money (5 pounds,a huge amount at the time) on my first 33LP – Gigi – to my mother’s horror at such a waste of money. We didn’t have a radiogram at home but to my joy I was actually given my own portable record player for my 16th birthday.It looked like a small suitcase and travelled with me to boarding school. Although we liked rock and roll caution prevented us from actually acquiring that music for our record collections. By the way I loved the picture of the “Dansette”.

  4. The Accidental Amazon

    What a fantastic group of photos! Did you know that LPs are the new old thing these days?? I can hardly believe it. But I’ve seen several artists releasing their latest music on LPs, and teens & twenties are once again haunting shops for both new & old ones. Once again, my inability to part with my old LPs has been validated.

    My dad was a musician, in a band as the singer, keyboard player and arranger for years, playing covers of 1940’s & 50’s standards. He gigged until I was about six. He also used his old P.A. system to serve as a DJ at local dances. Our basement was always filled with all manner of audio equipment, and recorded music of every stripe. In the womb, I listened to everything from Tchaikovsky to Benny Goodman to Nat King Cole. It was fantastic! Plus we had an old piano.

    For us Americans, the Beatles’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1963 was like the arrival of a benign hurricane. My whole family watched that night. The studio audience was filled with shrieking young girls!! Suddenly, the whole world knew about Liverpool. Somewhere in there, my parents gave me my own record player for my birthday. And my dad had a good pal who owned a music store in Boston & used to give him free promo copies to take home to me of the latest 45’s & LPs of pop, rock & Motown bands. For years, my record collection grew without my having to spend a dime. Wow. Believe me, I knew how lucky I was!! I’ll always be grateful to my dad for the gift of music. And what a time to enjoy that gift! Great memories. xoxo, Kathi

    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      I love ‘the arrival of a benign hurricane’ – it was like that wasn’t it? Unlike the show-biz types the new groups all seemed like our own.

      And I’m very jealous of your free music supply. The best we had was Alan, up at Cray’s in Deyes Lane, who’d helpfully and drastically discount singles for us as soon as they moved even slightly down the charts. At least it saved him from having us pleading and whining in his shop ‘When’s ‘Needles & Pins coming down?’

  5. Tommy Coulton

    Great to hear you two old fogies still remember the fabulous times of the late fifties and sixties. Having two older sisters I was lucky enough to not have to buy any singles from that era so I was influenced by what they bought. Luckily for me one liked the Beatles and the other (obviously a rebel) liked the Rolling Stones. My first musical impressions were from my parents, we had an old radiogram which used to hold a stack of about ten singles and would drop onto the turntable and play. I remember fondly listening to Alma Cogan (my wife bought me her greatest hits cd a few Christmas’s ago) Dickie Valentine, The Batchelors, Dean Martin and many others. Like the others I remember the Billy Cotton Band Show, Black and White Minstrels Show, Sunday Night at the London Palladium and my own favourite The Pinky and Perky Show where they used to have a puppet fox with real hands playing the piano.

    As for myself the first single I actually got round to buying was Hello Suzie by Amen Corner,I went into NEMS in Maghull Central Square to buy Give Peace a Chance by The Plastic Ono Band but they had sold out and with my 1s/3d (I think) burning a hole in my pocket I had to buy something.Thanks for the happy memories and if anything else manages to seep through the fogged up brain I will let you know.

    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Hi Tommy, Great to hear from you (and less of the ‘old fogies’ you precisely same-aged git!)
      I too have discovered a fondness for Alma Cogan in recent years, though I couldn’t stand her at the time. The Beatles really liked her and her mum (called her Mrs McCogie) so that should have been good enough for me. As for your other favourites Tommy, here are Pinky and Perky singing ‘Let’s Twist Again’ – featuring a twisting duck.

      And by the way, I think you’re way out on the 1960s prices of singles – 6s/8d as I recall?

      For other readers, Tommy is one of ‘The class of 65’ along with me, Barry, Paul – and where are the rest of you?

      1. Tommy Coulton

        Thanks Ronnie for the nostalgia trip, the main song I remember from the Pinky and Perky Show was Bobby Darin singing Things. I must have been thinking of the price of a loaf of bread 1s/3d, a throw back to my vanlad days at Scotts Bakery.

        I do recall a record shop in Ormskirk (on Church St I think) that specialised in American imports and spent many an hour looking through the catalogue and ordering old Motown and Northern Soul singles which I still have in my loft. I don’t think I’ve been to Ormskirk for many a year even tough I live quite close, it could be the sight of St Bedes’ putting me off!

        Thanks again Ronnie and will certainly be in touch.

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