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