In Search of Captain Beefheart – A Rock Memoir – Chapter 1 continued.

This book is a record of a life spent in Rock Music. It was essential:

I grew up with the Beatles and they were a bit part of my musical voyage. As Rock Music progressed and developed into the revolution of the 1960s they were always there at the forefront on the leading edge.

I never got to meet any of the Beatles or even see them play though I got very close. When Roy Harper was recording at Abbey Road studios I was invited along to the sessions. I spent a lot of time there in the early 1970s and all the Beatles dropped in for various projects. I happened across loads of other musicians there but I never bumped into any of the Beatles though. On one occasion I took this American girl along to a Harper recording session. She had been staying with us and turned out to be a bit of a pain in the arse – a typical strident American whose boyfriend was a college jock. – That about summed it up! Liz had got really pissed off with her and suggested I took her out to get her out of Liz’s hair. I took her to Abbey Road where, true to form, she proceeded to piss Roy and everyone else off. She eventually went for a wander and found Paul McCartney and Wings recording in the next studio. She actually barged in while the red light was on and they were in the process of laying down a track and got severely bollocked by Paul McCartney. So the irony is that I went along all those times and never saw them once and she went once and got to meet Paul. Ho hum.


So why the Beatles? Why not Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Eddie, Buddy or Elvis? That’s what Mark Ruston asked me.

Well I loved all those early rockers and the music they made and I still do. I was excited by them but they weren’t mine. Somehow they were from the era before. I was too young when Rock ‘n’ Roll started up in 1956 to really get in to it. I caught up with it five years later. But in 1963 (the year sexual intercourse began – as Mark pointed out) the Beatles were mine. I felt like they were playing just for me. Crazy huh? Their image, the attitudes, the sound was all new. We were creating a new vision for the world, a sixties idealism. It was vital, alive and full of optimism. They blew away the drab post-war drabness of Britain with the Ena Sharples (an old Coronation Street harridan) old ladies in dowdy coats and hairnets. Right from that first track in Tony’s bedroom I felt the energy, excitement and possibility. We were a new generation, with new ideas, a new way of looking at the world. Our horizons were way broader than our parents. We weren’t tied to the strictures of conformity to old ways of dressing, living and thinking. We were making up our own rules. I sensed all that ravelled up in that first track.

Then as the 60s progressed we all grew together. It wasn’t a fan thing. It was a synergy. As our minds expanded with art, poetry, literature and music so did theirs. We mirrored one another. We fed off each other. The sixties scene was an explosion of possibility. There were no leaders. We all evolved along the same lines.

The Beatles were my gateway drug into the hard stuff of the 60s. They were mine – all mine.

As an aside – back in the 1980s I started doing tapes to play in the car. Interestingly I found I could fit all the songs I wanted to listen to of Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Jerry Lee Lewis and even the legendary Little Richard on one side of a C90 while the Beatles ran into 5 complete C90s – that about sums it up for me.

(Recently I tried to get Roy Harper to put together a box set and managed to narrow down the essentials to nine CDs!)

By the end of 1963 Merseybeat was dead in the water. Only the Beatles and Searchers really survived. A whole new bunch of bands had appeared with a bluesier, harder sound, a scruffier long haired image and had usurped the besuited Mersey Bands with their chirpy ‘Boy next door’ image. Longer hair was ‘in’ coupled with a surly attitude and ‘Bad Boy’ image.

I did catch Gerry and the Pacemakers in Hull a few years back at a matinee at Hull New Theatre. I went along out of interest and wasn’t expecting much. The original band had reformed and they were performing a show that was their story. Gerry narrated it, told his anecdotes and jokes, and played the music. They ended with the original line-up doing a short set. It was surprisingly good and the when the band kicked in they were really loud and powerful and nothing like the twee Pop stuff they’d charted with. As it was a matinee there were coach-loads of pensioners (mainly old ladies) who had come along to see the nice little Pop group. I’m not sure they appreciated all the stories from Hamburg’s red light district and when the band kicked in at the end they were putting their hands over their ears and complaining. I was impressed. They were good!

Ironically the rise of the new Beat music coincided with the storming of America by the Beatles and every Tom Dick and Harry from England who could pick up an instrument.

We watched in pride, disbelief and ecstatic delight as the Beatles had seven singles in the US Top Ten and Beatle mania was rampant in the States.

Britain was no longer a musical backwater on a par with Finland. We were the centre of the universe and Elvis no longer ruled. There were big differences though. In the States all the new Beat bands somehow got mixed up with the old-hat Mersey acts. There was no progression or distinction. All the Merseybeat bands got a second lease of life.

One of the weirdest downsides of the British invasion was that Herman’s Hermits became one of the biggest acts. It was Cliff all over again!

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