The Greatest Merseybeat Bands in the Universe.

Merseybeat became passé very quickly – just one year in the UK. It lasted longer in the USA where it got caught up with the heavier emerging UK Beat groups.

It’s short period of dominance was mainly due to the sanitised way in which it was produced. What came out was a lightweight Pop. It rarely captured the excitement and rawness of the club scene in Liverpool.

Merseybeat was mainly focussed on Liverpool though there were the odd acts that got in on the scene – such as Freddie and the Dreamers.

There is a tendency to think of Merseybeat as being merely the Beatles. They certainly started the whole interest in Liverpool, and were the only band who kicked on to greater things, but they were far from the only band at that time. Neither were they the best. The best band was probably The Big Three.

So who were the major players? Well I’ll ignore the pop success of bands such as Freddie and the Dreamers, Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas and Gerry and the Pacemakers and follow my appreciation of good exciting live music.

The best of Mersey:

The Beatles obviously top the list. Their first album and singles changed history and sent every A&R man heading for Liverpool. They produced their repertoire of R&B and Rock ‘n’ Roll along with their own songs. That song writing gave them the ability to kick on to other dimensions – something that none of their Mersey compatriots managed.

The Big Three were amazing. Unfortunately most of their studio stuff suffered from the same sanitised production. But we do have that fabulous EP – Live at the Cavern – that shows what a Fab band they were. To think that the whole of that set was recorded but the tape was wiped!

The Merseybeats are renowned for their sentimental love songs but again, one EP – On Stage – captured their more exciting sound.

The Searchers were consistent in providing that high energy R&B sound and also pioneered that jangly Folk Rock sound that was developed by the Byrds. It is a shame they did not write their own songs. I think it held them back in developing further.

Gerry and the Pacemakers suffered from that same Pop production that lost a lot of the rawness but still managed to capture a lot of it. I actually saw them live about ten years ago and they was brilliant – very powerful.

The Mojos were one of the few who managed to capture that excitement on disc. They and the Swinging Blue Jeans produced some great singles.

The Undertakers – what a great cover of Roscoe Gordon!

The excitement of Mersey was captured on the two albums released by Oriole called This Is Merseybeat. They highlighted a number of the best Merseybeat acts and though the performances were not outstanding they did manage to capture the excitement of that club scene and also the great variation in style. These bands were all based on the R&B and Rock ‘n’ Roll brought in from the States by those merchant sailors. There was little in the way of originality though. But what a great scene to be part of? You can feel the sweat and thrill in the performances of Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Faron’s Flamingos, and Earl Preston and the TTs.

5 thoughts on “The Greatest Merseybeat Bands in the Universe.

  1. The Big Three might have been the most popular of the second division bands – and Johnny Gustafson went on to play with Roxy Music for a while a few years later – but Faron’s Flamingos were probably the best stage act. Oriole Records didn’t do them any favours but ‘See If She Cares’ is still a great early 60s single. What should have been their breakthrough record (Do You Love Me?) was covered by Brian Poole & The Tremeloes who got the airplay and the success. When they split, Trevor Morais, the drummer, joined The Peddlers then went on to Quantum Jump. Nicky Crouch joined The Mojos and Paddy Chambers and Faron joined The Big Three. What should have been The Big Three’s breakthrough (Bring It On Home To Me) was pinched by The Animals who took the plaudits.

    The remnants of those years now lives on through MerseyCats – a charity and collection of old beat musicians who play for various causes. Faron’s Flamingos appear regularly but I don’t know who make up the numbers. You can find them on their website and Facebook.

    In addition to your checklist I’d also give an honorable mention to The Clayton Squares (who grew into The Liverpool Scene), Denny Seyton and The Sabres, Kingsize Taylor & The Dominoes, Howie Casey & The Juniors, Sonny Webb & The Cascades (became The Hillsiders) The Escorts, Earl Preston’s Realms (his band after the TTs), Freddie Starr and The Midnighters (yes, the same one), and The Fourmost. There were so many others too. In the early 60s the “What’s On” classified ads in the Liverpool Echo (broadsheet size) on a Friday night would run to nearly a whole page of gigs for Fri, Sat & Sun nights. Practically every church hall or social club would have 2, 3, or 4 acts a night.

    In addition to the This is Merseybeat albums, recently there have been a couple of Unearthed Merseybeat CDs which compile many of the early acts in primitive single track mono. They still convey the energy of the era but have to admit that the musicianship isn’t very good by today’s standards. (I’m constantly amazed at the quality of the unknown backing musicians whenever I go to a concert these days.)

    A great story Opher. You brought back a lot of memories.

    Brian

    1. Brian – thank you so much for that input. You put the flesh on the bones. Great detail.
      What are those Unearthed Merseybeat CDs? Are they called that? I’d certainly like to get a listen of those!

      1. Hi Opher

        I found the Unearthed Merseybeat cds on Amazon a few years ago and got the first two. I see there are 3 or them now but on limited availability so are quite pricey. The mp3 downloads should be OK though because the source material isn’t particularly good quality anyway. Our journeys seem to have gone in opposite directions as I’m down south now, but in tribute to your roots I can tell you that Downliners Sect were the band that worked hardest to win over a sceptical crowd in the Cavern. They finally got their approval, but it took several obvious shifts in tempo and material between numbers to win them over. I still follow the Liverpool music scene and John Power is a fine standard bearer for maintaining the legacy. Saw Thomas Lang in Islington last month and he’s an accomplished ambassador too.

        Brian

  2. Brian – thanks so much for that! I used to love the Downliners Sect. I always felt it was a great shame that they tried to jump on every trend instead of sticking with that R&B stuff they were so good at. That first album was wonderful. They should have made it.
    I will check out those albums! Thank you!

  3. Just checked them out Brian – they look really intriguing!! But very pricey. I’ll have to have a think about them before splashing that sort of cash.

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