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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
“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
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.
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.
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.
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.