SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing The Merseybeats / The Merseys: I stand Accused – The Complete Merseybeats and Merseys Sixties Recordings 2CD Set

I STAND ACCUSED   The Complete Merseybeats/The Merseys 60’s Recordings 2CD Set)

Probably one of the best of the bands that emerged from Liverpool in the early 60’s giving rise to the term Merseybeat. This handsome new digipack 2CD collection contains absolutely everything a fan of the band could wish for. It features every known recording by both incarnations of the band, including demo’s, outtakes, alternate versions and even home recordings. It also includes side projects recorded in the same time frame and rare sides that collectors highly prize.  In a city swamped with bands as Liverpool was with The Beatles & Gerry & The Pacemakers leading the field it must have been hard to stand out in a morass of quite frankly similar sounding bands, The Merseybeats originally started life as The Mavericks in 1960 the founders were two 15 year olds Tony Crane and Bill Kinsley. In 1962 the famous MC and Booker of The Cavern Club Bob Wooler had taken an interest in the band  re-dubbed them The Pacifics which only lasted a week before that changed yet again to The Merseybeats, a name the band initially thought a bit corny but they stuck with it. Like everyone in the local scene they knew Brian Epstein and were hoping he would take them on and guide them as he had done with his other famous acts. He promised them this would be the case but the guys got tired of waiting and then, in what they admit now as a rather silly fit of pique, they went their own way when Epstein refused to buy them suits! ‘He’d bought The Beatles suits but not us’ admitted Bill & it hacked us off. They had made a couple of home demos by now ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’ &’So How Come’. For the full and fascinating story of these early days the accompanying 24 page booklet to this new set is an excellent and comprehensive read. But in short by 1963 the band had made the pilgrimage to London and signed with Fontana Records. They scored their first hit with ‘It’s Love That Really Counts’ the track that opens CD1 a Burt Bacharach number written originally for The Shirelles it gave the band their first taste of success hitting No 24. However it was their second hit that really defined the bands image. ‘I Think Of You’ was a beautifully crafted ballad written by Peter Lee Stirling, later to have his own success as a singer under the alias Daniel Boone with ‘Beautiful Sunday’. It wasn’t really the direction the band saw themselves going in as basically balladeers, they were more beat orientated but you can’t argue with that sort of success. ‘I Think Of You’ went Top 5 and i think still stands as one of the classiest records to stem from the Liverpool scene. But even as they were riding high founder member Bill quit the band unhappy with their management. He was replaced temporarily by Bob Garner (later of The Creation) & then permanently by Johnny Gustafson of The Big 3.  With Johnny on board the band had 2 more hits with another excellent ballad in ‘Don’t Turn Around’ & ‘Wishin & Hopin’ also a hit for Dusty Springfield. In 1964 Bill returned to the fold but although they continued to issue a steady stream of good records further chart success eluded them. By 1965 the ‘beat boom’ was over and Merseybeat had become passe. It was at this point that into Tony & Bills lives stepped 2 people very well known to myself (as my future bosses) Kit Lambert & Chris Stamp of Track Records & most famous as being behind The Who. Kit had seen the guys playing in a London club and was interested. However Kit & Chris were expending their energies on The Who and it wasn’t until after ‘Anyway Anyhow Anywhere; had provided the band with their second hit that Kit signed The Merseybeats and started producing them. He produced 3 singles ‘Soldier Of Love’ a cover of James Browns ‘I Love You’ Yes I Do’ and ‘I Stand Accused’ all good records but commercial failures. In January 1966 the news came that The Merseybeats had split up. Again the full story behind that makes for some fascinating reading in the booklet referred to earlier. Bill & Tony emerged as a duo with their name shortened to The Merseys. They went on tour supporting The Who and then cut what would become to my mind one of the greatest singles of the 60’s in ‘Sorrow’. Originally a ‘b’ side to The McCoys single ‘Fever’ which flopped, it was taken up by Kit and as well as Bill & Tony the original studio version recorded also featured Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Jack Bruce & Tornados drummer Clem Cattini. Strangely their label Fontana rejected this first version and it was re-recorded after they had got shot of Page! (that couldn’t have happened too often). ‘Sorrow’ was a Top 5 hit and has become an iconic 60’s record, loved by millions including Bowie who recorded his own cover version for his Pin Ups album. Sadly in terms of commercial success ‘Sorrow’ would prove to be the bands last hit despite some fine follow ups, including ‘So Sad About Us’ Pete Townshend’s composition later to appear on The Who’s ‘A Quick One’ album.  By 1968 and their final single ‘Lovely Loretta’ the band had become unhappy with the way things were and their management. They returned to being The Merseybeats and played the ‘cabaret’ and nostalgia circuits. This didn’t suit Bill who left to work as Liverpool Express in the 70’s. Things came full circle in 1993 when Bill & Tony re-united once again as The Merseybeat’s and continue to play regularly across the UK & Europe. This retrospective is an often fascinating and rewarding look at a band that has now spanned 60 years. As previously mentioned i believe as both The Merseybeats & The Merseys they made some of the classiest records of the 60’s and you will find plenty to enjoy in this 63 track compilation. It’s all housed handsomely in a digipack with a wealth of photo’s and as already mentioned the package contains a well written and absorbing history. Enjoy.

For more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk

Till next time… stay safe… Colin

 

Alan Esdaile… Colin, I agree on ‘I Think Of You’ and love your description ‘classiest record to stem from the Liverpool scene’.

The Valiants – The Adur Pub – Portslade 1979.

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photos by Marie-Louise. supplied by Colin Norton

Colin Norton… I lived in Switzerland between 1975 and 1996… On one of my trips back to the UK in June of 1979 I met up with a bunch of old mates in a Pub. After a little ‘liquid refreshment’ we decided that it might be fun to put together an instant band and play a couple of gigs. We found a willing venue (The Adur Pub in Portslade) and the next weekend we played two gigs playing mainly rock’n’roll stuff that we all knew (Just as well because we didn’t have time to rehearse).  Anyway, here are a couple of photos from that event. The line-up was: Colin Jenner – Vocals/Guitar, Ken White – Vocals/Piano, Tony Langford – Bass/Vocals, Steve Denyer – Lead Guitar, Colin Norton – Drums. On a sad note … I am the last surviving member of this line-up which was known as The Valiants for the gigs on June 15th and 16th. They were all dear friends and I miss them.

Patricia Maslin… you speak of Tony Langford on bass.  Is that the same Tony Langford who was in The Black and Tan Group.  I’m asking on behalf of his son as Tony (his dad) has now passed away, and I wondered if the photos you posted were of him with the beard.  It would be nice to show Chris (his son) if it was the same Tony Langford.

Colin Norton… Yes, it is most certainly the same Tony Langford that was in the Black and Tan. In fact, I met Chris Langford in September so I am pretty sure that he knows about these photos.

Chilli Willi and The Red Hot Peppers plus Strife – Hastings Pier 15th June 1974

autographed poster supplied by Peter Houghton

Pete Houghton… Both Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers and Strife were bloody fantastic great concert by both bands.

Phil Gill… Chill Willi were fabulous. Great country style guitarist, who I talked with afterwards and who was happy to talk guitars for ages. He gave me the best advice ever – always practice first thing in the morning and it sets up your fingers for the rest of the day. He was right, been doing that now for 45 years and it still works for me. Funny how a chance encounter can change your life so much.

Pete Fisher… Maybe that was Philip Lithman – read in wiki he’d been over to San Francisco before the band formed, and went back there after they split…I think you can hear a bit of West Coast maybe even Grateful Dead influence here…lovely guitar anyway, oh and good advice BTW – wish someone had said that to me – evenings after work not always the best time…

Mick O’Dowd… Chilli Willi. Excellent! Bongos Over Balham. Excellent album!

Pete Houghton… yes it’s an Excellent album

Nick Patching… Mick, Pete Thomas on drums (from Seaford) who went on to hit the pig skin for Elvis Costello

Grimms – Eastbourne College – March 1972

Who remember Grimms (Bonzo Dog/Scaffold/Liverpool Scene)?

Mick O’Dowd… Remember the College was renowned for putting on “alternative” type bands. Martin-Casson put on Alberto Y Los Trios Paranoious and went with Paul Casson to see them. Good stuff.

Alan Esdaile… Yes remember we used to book a lot of groups their and Alberto.. were great. Still got their rider somewhere.

Michael Gibbs… I saw them in Brighton

Mick O’Dowd… Yes Alan. They were good. Wasn’t the rider something like a copy of the Dandy & Beano and a Brillo Pad? In contrast to Alex Harvey whose rider made it impossible to book them so MCA turned them down.

Alan Esdaile… and nipple stimulators Mick and more! They put on a good show though. Yes some riders were a none starter and having negotiated the price, some big name groups had to be cancelled because they then asked for us to supply full pa, specialist lighting systems and then they wanted an extended stage!

Ivy & the Features -Beat Time 1964

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supplied by Colin Fox and Colin Norton

Colin Fox…..Ivy and the Features, played several gigs around Sussex in the 60´s. I remember Ivy was from Kingston near Lewes and they used to practice in Uckfield,

Robert Searle…..Another classic picture Colin

Andre Martin…..Laurie did he not come from Lewes ? I  am sure that Laurie was one time member of the group from Eastbourne called SKANDELLE who did a lot of work for me 1977-79 including Coombe Haven Caravan Park for a Summer season. Touch of the old Eastbourne Beat Scene, with Lawrie on Lead.

Colin Norton……Hi Colin, Thanks for posting this photo. Yes, we used to say that we were from Uckfield because we were based in the Hideaway Coffee Bar in Uckfield although none of the band were actually from there. We played a lot in Eastbourne (Diplocks, Pier Hotel) in 1964 and used to see the Spooks regularly.

Colin Norton….Hi Andre, Lawrie Broadway was from Ringmer, Nr. Lewes but currently lives in Eastbourne. He took up keyboards sometime in the late Sixties but has recently reverted to the guitar. I am not sure if he was in a group called Skandelle but could have been.

Andre Martin…..yes knew him well back in the days before he took up the organ and played in several groups, the in mid 80s decided to branch out and become more Bar/Cabaret entertainer, knew he did do some work for Butlins in this field. he was a member of the group SKANDELLE with Debbie Lee James as the vocalist.

Colin Norton… Above is an old newspaper clipping from June, 1964 – Mid-Sussex Times. It’s funny to think that we were once 17 and 18 years old but it must be true because it says so in the newspaper .