A splendid time is guaranteed for all

So you think you’ve heard it all before? There’s definitely a case to be made for Sgt Pepper being the most over-rated album ever. For years, it regularly topped ‘best album’ polls whether voted for by critics or fans. But at some point over the last 15 years, it started to fall from favour. Overfamiliarity means it is now often passed over, with Abbey Road having become the more highly regarded album from The Beatles output (I prefer A Hard Day’s Night, Revolver and the White Album myself, thanks for asking!). Pepper may still make the top ten in these polls, but it’s not the talking point it once was.

However, giving the album my full attention for the first time in many years the other night (and at high volume), I found myself hearing it with fresh ears and a new perspective. Part 1 of the Merseybeat mixtape (covering the years 1963 to 1967) put the album firmly in context, and clearly showed what a huge leap forward this brilliantly inventive album was at the time. McCartney’s fluid and melodic bass playing throughout the album steals the show. The Indian percussion on Within You Without You is another highlight, as is Lennon messing around at the end of Lovely Rita. While listening, I found myself noticing long-forgotten small details and was thoroughly swept along by the music, smiling and laughing along the way.

Overrated or underrated? Listen again…

Anyway…

My thanks to Steve Roberts for choosing two great albums and sharing his stories of the Liverpool music scene. Whilst Sgt Pepper may have been familiar to most who were there, I think it’s probably fair to say that very few had heard the Rockin’ Horse album before, myself included. It’s the mark of good songs that after just one listen (and several days later) I still find myself humming them. With echoes of Badfinger and latter day Beatles, the nearest comparison I can draw is the first Big Star album, particularly the songs of Chris Bell. Definitely one to check out if you’re partial to a bit of 70s power pop.

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I’d also like to thank Roy Berry for sending me a couple of Merseybeat rarities to include on the ‘mixtape’, and to Brett, Matt, Rick, Jonathan and the other Steve for bringing Liverpool records to share. An extra ‘thank you’ to Matt for the photos.

The next session is on Thursday 10th April – Sun Records and The Million Dollar Quartet, hosted by record club regular Bill Jubb. More details soon.

MUSIC PLAYED

Listen to the digital highlights mix here.

The Beatles – I Feel Fine (7”, Parlophone, 1964)
Cast – Alright (7”, Polydor, 2005)
The Teardrop Explodes – Bouncing Babies (7”, Zoo Records, 1979)
The Teardrop Explodes – Books (7”, Zoo Records, 1979)

The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Parlophone, 1967. 2012 reissue)

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Side One: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band/With A Little Help From My Friends/Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds/Getting Better/Fixing A Hole/She’s Leaving Home/Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite

Side Two: Within You Without You/When I’m Sixty-Four/Lovely RIta/Good Morning, Good Morning/Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise)/A Day In The Life

The Tambourines – Taxman (live) (She Blows My Mind EP, Long Beach Records, 1991)
Kenny Everett – Nice Time (7”, Deram, 1969)
Freddie Starr and The Midnighters – It’s Shaking Time (7”, Decca, 1963)
Rain – Lemonstone Desired (7”, Columbia, 1991)
Unknown – Eleanor Rigby (white label)
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Souvenir (Architecture & Morality, Dindisc, 1981)
The Wild Swans – Revolutionary Spirit (12” Zoo, 1982)
Frank Sidebottom – Twist And Shout (Medium Play EP, In Tape, 1990)
The Hokum Clones – Breakin’ From A Jailhouse Blues (7”, For Us Records, 2003)
Echo & The Bunnymen – Rescue (Songs To Learn And Sing, Korova, 1985)

Rockin’ Horse – Yes It Is (Philips, 1971. Sing Sing reissue, 2012)

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Side One: Biggest Gossip In Town/Oh Carol, I’m So Sad/You’re Spending All My Money/Baby Walk Out With Your Darlin’ Man/Don’t You Think I Ever Cry/Yes It Is

Side Two: Stayed Out Late Last Night/Delicate Situation/Son, Son/Golden Opportunity/I’m Trying To Forget You/Julian The Hooligan

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The Real People – The Truth (7” Columbia, 1991)
Half Man Half Biscuit – Dickie Davies Eyes (7”, Probe Plus, 1986)
The Norrie Paramor Orchestra – Theme From Z-Cars (7”, Columbia, 1962)
The Lightning Seeds – Pure (7”, Ghetto Recording Company, 1989)
The Scaffold – Lily The Pink/Thank U Very Much (EP, EMI, 1977)
Ken Dodd – Tears (20 Golden Greats, Warwick Records)
Lily Savage – Tough At The Top (12”, Nightmare Records, 1988)
Alexei Sayle – Play That Funky Music Jewish Boy (Panic, CBS, 1985)
Norman Vaughan – Things Are Swingin’ (A Touch Of The Norman Vaughans, Pye Golden Guinea, 1968)
Arthur Askey – I’m A Little Wrong Note (Hello Playmates, Oriole, 1957)
Jimmy Tarbuck – Let’s Dance (Jimmy Tarbuck, RCA Victor, 1968)

Merseybeat (…and beyond) mixtape

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The Big Three – Some Other Guy (1963)
Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas – Bad To Me (1963)
The Fourmost – I’m In Love (1963)
The Swinging Blue Jeans – You’re No Good (1964)
Gerry & The Pacemakers – Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying (1964)
The Eyes – She (1965)
The Mojos – Everything’s Alright (1964)
The Merseys – Sorrow (1966)
The Kirkbys – Penny In My Pocket (1966)
The Searchers – Popcorn, Double Feature (1967)
Wimple Winch – Save My Soul (1966)
Koobas – Gypsy Fred (1967)
The 23rd Turnoff – Michael Angelo (1967)
The Remo Four – In The First Place (1967)
Jackie Lomax – Sour Milk Sea (1968)
Stealing Sheep – Genevieve (2012)
Miles Kane – Better Left Invisible (2011)
The Coral – Don’t Think You’re The First (2003)
The La’s – Feelin’ (1990) Shack – Cup Of Tea (2006)
Ian McNabb – Liverpool Girl (2001)
Half Man Half Biscuit – The Trumpton Riots (1986)

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March’s Record Club: Merseybeat with Steve Roberts

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Glossop Record Club returns in March for the first of three consecutive sessions helmed by guest curators.

On April 10th, rock & roll historian (and a familiar face at GRC sessions) Bill Jubb hosts an evening centred on the legendary impromptu ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ session at the studios of Sun Records in Memphis featuring Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. And on May 8th, author of Last Shop Standing Graham Jones will be sharing his tales of the UK music industry and record shops.

But before all that, on Thursday 13th March, Glossop-based singer-songwriter Steve Roberts presents Merseybeat, an evening of music from Liverpool including a landmark album by The Beatles and a lost classic by Rockin’ Horse. There’ll be records by other Liverpool bands too from the 1960s to the present day (get looking through your records to see what you can bring) and quite possibly a lively debate on what constitutes Merseybeat post-1960s.

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Here are a few words from Steve about the session:

Merseybeat was a sound that changed the world, or, at the very least, the music industry. The sound was prominent for merely three years or so in the 1960s, and the band that defined it were also the band that killed it off. The Beatles.

They killed it with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (although Revolver in 1966 had already caused a wounding), an album that at the time was as revolutionary as the band’s initial impact. Music was now an art form treated with the same deference as Monet or Henry Moore. Sgt. Pepper is a colourful blast of invention and soundscapes, wordplay and mad imagination. All recorded on a 4 track tape machine in the first half of 1967.

Musicians back in Liverpool found it hard to adapt in this new musical landscape and fell from public consciousness, but they never stopped playing music. In fact many of them still do so 50 years later.

One of Liverpool’s unsung musical heroes is Jimmy Campbell. A maverick in any sense, his is a tale of missed opportunities and a reckless life. Well-known on the local scene throughout the ‘60s with The Kirkbys and The 23rd Turnoff, in 1971, along with Billy Kinsley of The Merseys, he formed Rockin’ Horse with the specific intention of playing a simpler music – of going back to the cellars and dance halls and reviving Merseybeat. The album Yes It Is was of course doomed to failure, but it is a wonderful slice of power pop packed with melody and wit. Billy continued to find success with Liverpool Express in the ‘70s, while Jimmy dropped completely off the radar with only a couple of ignored solo albums to show for it. He died in 2007.

Merseybeat defined Liverpool as much as country and western did Nashville or jazz in New Orleans, and for a short while it ruled the world.

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We’ll be listening to both albums in full alongside music by other Liverpool acts – from the original Merseybeat boom of the 1960s, the city’s re-emergence as a musical force in the 1980s, to the Britpop era in the 90s and beyond. Here are a few choice names to get you going… The Big Three, The Searchers, Deaf School, Echo & The Bunnymen, The La’s, The Real People, Cast, Shack, The Coral… That’s not even the tip of the iceberg.

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Merseybeat with Steve Roberts
Thursday 13th March, 8-11pm.
Glossop Labour Club, Chapel Street, Glossop, SK13 8AT.
FREE ADMISSION.

Click here for venue and travel details.

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