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.