I am currently working with my mate Mike Green, who used to be the Roadie with Free, Bad Company and Robin Trower, on doing some Radio Programmes about Rock Music. We are both obsessive idiots and musos.
I started mapping out a few shows and got carried away a bit. I have outlined a mere 75 shows. I know – but it’s a start!
We aim to get these recorded and tout them round a few radio stations to see if anyone is interested. It is basically us enthusing about all the great music we both love. We are looking at various times and genres that we lived through and thought was great. Neither of us do Pop or crap and though our tastes are slightly different they complement each other. We do, of course, have aspirations to be the John Peels of the future. Though we’re in fact knackered old gits having a good time.
If nothing else we love doing it and it keeps us off the streets!
Here’s the first one! Hope you like it!
Programme 1 – When Britain ruled the world.
I’m Chris – I’m Mike – and this is Lonnie Donnegan
- Lonnie Donnegan – Rock Island Line.
Chris – That was Lonnie Donnegan’s Rock Island Line. Pretty good – huh. We’re going to tell you why it was the most important record in British musical history.
Where it came from
How it changed British pop music for ever.
Mike – This is what it was like in 1956
- Stargazers – Twenty tiny fingers – excerpt
Mike – comment on Stargazers
Chris – well fortunately Skiffle came along.
Mike – Skiffle was black American slang used to describe loose acoustic jam sessions, jug bands, often performing at rent parties – where a hat would be passed round to pay the rent.
Chris – It was exciting times when young British kids rocked up US Folk and Folk Blues giving American Folk singers like Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly the treatment on cheap or home-made instruments.
Mike – Lonnie Donnegan led the way followed by Vipers, Ken Colyer, Chas McDevitt & Nancy Whiskey etc.
Chris – Life was austere in post war Britain. At fourteen you went into long trousers and became your dad. In the post-war greyness and uniformity every kid wanted to be in a skiffle group. The craze took over the country and every town sprouts bands with washboards, tea-chest basses and cheap guitars.
Mike – The Beatles roots were in the Quarrymen Skiffle Group.
The seeds of British Rock were sown in the 1950s when Skiffle emerged out of the embers of British Trad Jazz.
Chris – Skiffle failed to make an impact in the US and we sailed along as a minor backwater. And thus we would have stayed.
Mike – The legacy of Skiffle meant that thousands of kids were playing music and had got used to the excitement of being on stage. It had also created a vibrant club scene with thousands of small bands playing to teenagers in search of that excitement.
Chris – In the ports, like Liverpool and London, the merchant seamen were bringing back R&B and R&R rarities not played on the staid old Beeb and not featuring in British charts.
Prior to British Beat music the scene was very sanitised, overproduced and Poppy. The Beeb set the tone by only playing crap.
- Mark Wynter – Venus in blue jeans – short excerpt
Mike – That’s enough of that.
Chris – It all came to a head in 1963 when the Beatles burst upon the scene.
- Beatles – I saw her standing there
Chris – That was the first track on the second side of the Beatles first album. It was also the first Beatle track I was aware of hearing. I remember sitting, as a thirteen year old, in Tony Hum’s bedroom. He played it to me and it blew my mind. I’d never heard anything so exciting.
Mike – For the rest of that year Brian Epstein’s stable dominated the charts, with a few others getting in on the act – a nice cleaned up stable of acts all in suits with infectious chirpiness of the boys next door.
- Gerry & the Pacemakers – How do you do it?
Mike – It was a massive sea-change that swept most of the establish stars away. No longer did Cliff and the Shadows rule
Chris – They delved into US R&B with bands like the Drifters being fair game.
- Searchers – Sweets for my Sweet
Mike – The charts were full of Billy J Kramer, Fourmost, Merseybeats, Freddy & Dreamers and, of course, the Beatles.
Chris – But behind this homely façade was the real thing. Brian Epstein had taken his boys out of Leather jackets, jeans and cowboy boots, and barbered their greased hair, but the rawness of the music was still evident in the clubs and came through onto vinyl every now and again.
- Big Three – What’d I say
Chris – I would have loved to have been there in that sweaty cavern club. What an atmosphere and those three guys were arguably the best band to come out of Liverpool.
Mike – That live EP was tremendous – just 4 tracks. And to think that they recorded the whole show and wiped the tape.
- Merseybeats – Shame
Chris – What a different sound to all their soft little chart singles. I Think of you, It’s love that really counts.
Mike – And of course there were a few singles put out that captured something of that raw excitement that was to be found in the clubs. Things such as – Everything’s Alright by the Mojos and Hippy Hippy Shake by Swinging Blue Jeans.
- Mojos – Everything’s alright
Chris – It didn’t take much to see the girls reaction. Suddenly every kid wanted to be in a Beat group.
Mike – There was a whole catalogue of unheard 50s R&B and R&R out there in the States and new stuff emerging from the Black R@B labels. Most of it had never been heard over here because the Beeb had rather a cultured attitude. One DJ even went so far as to say they were saving the British public from an onslaught of rubbish.
Chris – So what was this rubbish?
Mike – Well there were most of the US Rockers, now shut up in the US by the payola scandal. But artists like Chuck Berry were rich pickings.
- Chuck Berry – Rock n Roll Music
Chris – Chuck had homed in on the teenage market with songs about fast cars, school and young love. His career was blighted with his arrest and imprisonment on what was likely a trumped up charge of taking a prostitute across a State line. It was probably the US’s campaign to shut down Rock n Roll which they considered to be a bad influence on US Youth.
Mike – Chuck’s songs, such as Roll over Beethoven, Rock & Roll Music, and Maybelline were staple Merseybeat fodder. They were covered by Beatles, Gerry and most other bands.
Chris – Other R&B acts were not quite so well know and there was quite a range to choose from.
- The Contours – Do you Love me?
Mike – The contours were an R&B vocal group who were feeding the various dance crazies that were sweeping the States – the Twist, Mash Potato, Pony, Hully Gully, Shake etc. These dances did not all catch on in England to the same extent as in the States but Do you Love was a big hit for Brian Poole & the Tremeloes as well as the Dave Clarke 5. And Shake Sherry Shake was performed by Faron’s Flamingos.
Chris – this was a guy who was popular with the Stones & the Beatles – Arthur Alexander.
- Arthur Alexander – Anna go with him
Mike – Arthur Alexander was another obscure R&B singer who provided a number of songs covered by Merseybeat and then Beat bands. These included You better move on, You’re the reason, Right string baby but wrong yoyo, need a shot of rhythm & Blues. Covered by Beatles, Gerry & Pacemakers and later the Rolling Stones.
Chris – Girl vocal groups were also prime candidates for covering by Merseybeat groups. This was the time when the Ronettes, Shangri-Las, Supremes and Crystals were riding high. This is the Cookies.
- Cookies – Chains
Mike – The Cookies were a rather more obscure girls group who backed a lot of other singers such as Little Eva on the Locomotion and were arranged by Carol King. The Beatles covered this on their first album. This is the Marvellettes.
- The Marvellettes – Please Mr Postman
Chris – Another rather better known female vocal group covered by the Beatles. But then this guy started up Tamla Motown – Berry Gordy.
- Berry Gordy – Money
Mike – Yep Berry set up Tamla Motown. Money – his first release was a must for nearly every band at the time.
Chris – Other popular artists to cover were the Coasters, Isley Brothers, Larry Williams, Carl Perkins, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Lloyd Price, Smoke Robinson, Ray Charles and Gene Vincent
Mike – In 1964 it all suddenly broke in the States. First the Beatles erupted. You can’t imagine it. There was pandemonium. Beatlemania took on a new dimension. When they arrived there were 7 out of the top ten Beatle songs. Albums were selling like singles. Ed Sullivan had its biggest audience ever, Beatle wigs and merchandise were selling like hot cakes, Radio stations were playing non-stop Beatles. It was hysteria.
Chris – They were bigger than Elvis. These British bands took American R&B and Rock & Roll back to American white kids and rocked America to its core. Rock and Roll was back with a vengeance. This is the early Beatles.
- Beatles – She loves you
Chris – I remember hitching round France when I was fourteen and all the short haired French kids stepping out into the road to let us pass and shouting ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’ at us.
Mike – Britain was suddenly the hippest place on the planet.
On the back of this every Merseybeat Band broke in the US and even Herman’s Hermits went down a storm.
Chris – Ironically it was all over in England. Merseybeat was a dead duck. Only the Beatles and Searchers would really survive. The rest fell by the wayside to be superseded by a rawer more bluesy sound with a bunch of British Beat Bands that went on to dominate the world.
Led by the Rolling Stones, Who, Animals, Yardbirds, Kinks, Them and Smallfaces the next wave were rowdier, more unkempt and even more original. Tin Pan Alley was left to rot.
Mike – Britain went on to lead the way and took the world by storm, waking up the sleeping giant of the States in the process. For the next decade it was Britain who ruled the world.
Chris – But then that’s another story or two.