Friday, 23 September 2016

Head Girl


Head Street,
Toxteth
Liverpool 8



The Birthplace of Julia Stanley

John Lennon's maternal family was Welsh.  His Great-Grandmother Mary Elizabeth Morris, whose family were all farmers in North Wales, was born on the family farm of Berth-Y-Glyd, in the village of Llysfaen, just outside Llandudno.

At some point she met and married John Millward from Flintshire in North Wales. They were living in Chester, when in 1873 their daughter Annie was born in the famous Bear and Billet Inn in Lower Bridge Street. Annie Millward would be John Lennon's Grandmother.

The Millwards moved to Liverpool when Annie was a small girl. Reportedly a wealthy Welsh uncle left Mary a tidy sum of money, so she bought five or six little properties dotted all around where workmen would shortly commence construction of the Anglican Cathedral in 1904. She rented these properties out and when they became vacant the Millwards would move in until a new tenant could be found. After Annie grew up and met George Stanley they continued living in the various houses and flats.

The story of the Stanley legacy, actually the Millward legacy, has been told verbally by John Lennon's cousin Stanley Parkes, and in print by John's half sister Julia Baird*. The alternative theory put forward to explain why the family had to keep moving addresses is because they were on the breadline and could not afford the rent. In fact there is no hard evidence supporting either explanation. Is it possible perhaps that the legacy story was told to save face whenever one of the kids asked why they had to move house again? Maintaining the right public image to give the impression that they were of a higher class than their neighbours was certainly a Stanley trait as Julia Baird's book confirms.

Annie's future husband George Ernest Stanley was born in 1874 in the Shaw Street area of Everton. John Lennon would know him as "Pop" Stanley. How he met Annie Millward is unclear but what is known is that by 1899 they had produced their first child and uncommonly for the times, did so out of wedlock.

What was common at that time was the heartbreak of infant mortality. Sadly their first two children died, Charlotte Alice in April 1900 (age 9 months) from pneumonia, and their only son, George Earnest in April 1903 (aged just 3 months) from indigestion.

Both children were buried within the grounds of St James Cemetery, just two of the 57,774 laid to rest between 1860 and 1936 in what was then the Liverpool's city cemetery.

Thankfully over the next ten years they would produce five healthy daughters. As a consequence of their living arrangements the five Stanley sisters were all born at different addresses.


Their third child, Mary Elizabeth Stanley (John's Aunt 'Mimi') was born on 24 April 1906 and baptised at St James Church just under a month later on 23 May. At this point the Stanleys were living at 21 Windsor Street, a short walk from the church but they were not here long. When George and Annie were finally married at the Liverpool Parish Church, St Peter's in Church Street, on 19th November 1906 they had moved to Cornwallis Street close to the Public Baths.

In 1908 whilst living at 5 Everson Street, Annie gave birth to another daughter, Elizabeth Jane on 29 November. She was baptised at St James Church ten days later. To John and his cousins she was known as 'Mater'.

Julia Stanley (Left)

Annie ('Nanny') was born in 1911, Julia ('Judy', John Lennon's mother) in 1914 and finally Harriet ('Harrie') in 1916.



Three of the Stanley sisters: Left to right: Mater, Harrie and Mimi 



St James Church, where the Stanley daughters were baptised, is located in St James Place on the corner of Upper Parliament Street and Park Road, within walking distance of whichever property they happened to be living in at that time.  


The church was built in 1774–75 by Cuthbert Bisbrown, who also probably also designed it. The land was presented by Lord Sefton and the church, which costs £3000 was paid for by local shareholders. It was opened for its first service on June 4, 1775. The timber roof was added in 1846 by William Culshaw. The chancel, designed by H. Havelock Sutton, was built in 1900. At its peak in the late 1800s the congregation of St James  was so huge that there were 1,000 children in the Sunday School!

To local historians St James is of huge interest as one of the oldest standing churches in Liverpool. The architectural style of the interior is 'conventionally Georgian'. There are galleries on three sides, carried on slim quatrefoil cast iron columns said to be the earliest remaining examples in the whole country, which is why I was keen to visit it when it was opened to the public during September's annual Heritage Weekend.

Cast and wrought iron were to revolutionise the architecture and engineering of the 19th century and at St James we can see, in embryo, the start of the giant leap into vast light fireproof prefabricated structures, technology employed locally with great success during the construction of Liverpool's docks.

Cast Iron column supporting the gallery. (Left)


The church of St James has often been referred to as ‘the slave church’ as many of the 27 shareholders who contributed to its cost were merchants engaged in the slave trade. 

Inside the church there are 19 monuments dating from the late-18th and the early-19th centuries, many to the memory of people connected with the slave trade.

The burial registers of St James feature the names and origins of people from all over the world, including several who were black, buried without discrimination alongside each other in the church grounds. From about 1900 the graveyard was closed for internment and part of the land was used to widen St James Place. The remaining part of the yard was subsequently grassed over, which is how it remains today. 




In the east window is stained glass designed by Henry Holiday, dated 1881.

On 1 October 1974 the church was declared redundant, and on 9 June 1976 was vested in the Churches Conservation Trust. At one point the church was to be demolished to make way for a new motorway and ring road, plans which saw the demise of the David Lewis Theatre close by.  Luckily the planned road improvements were never made and St James was saved . In May 2010 the church was returned to the Liverpool Diocese and re-opened as the Church of St James in the City.  As it was in a "semi-derelict condition", a marquee was erected within the church to allow the resumption of worship. Repairs are being undertaken to secure the church's structure but as with the restoration of any historic building this will take time and a lot of money.


John Lennon's mother Julia was born on 12 March 1914 at 8 Head Street***, five months before the start of the Great War. At the time of Julia’s birth this was an area of poor quality dwellings as these photographs illustrate. 



Critchley Court. Poor quality 'Court' Housing in Back Chester Street which backed on to Head Street (1911)


The maps show Head street consisted of back to back buildings of mixed height, squeezed into the landscape between Chester Street and Dexter Street. Atrocious court housing, tiny yards and workshops. bookended by the Anglican church of St James and the Catholic church of St Patrick.




Both churches still stand but the streets in between have largely disappeared and today Head Street is a small industrial estate of workshops and small businesses. It retained at least some of the original buildings as late as 1968 but the slum clearances may have started as early as the forties, perhaps with some unasked for help from the Luftwaffe. It is known that the last German bombs to fall upon Liverpool did so on 10 January 1942, landing on Upper Stanhope Street, only one road away from Head Street and, somewhat ironically, destroying the home of Alois Hitler, brother of Adolf.**

  

Head Street (1968) looking towards St Patricks Church. The same view (2015) is shown below. Julia's house would have stood bottom right on the new photo.


Of course, by then the Stanleys had left Head Street. They moved several times after Julia's birth, spending much of the post war 1920s living at 23 Cedar Grove off Lodge Lane. By the 1930s they had resettled at 71a Berkley Street, around the corner from Upper Stanhope Street. The outbreak of war in 1939 saw the family move again, for the first time away from Toxteth and the nearby docks to Wavertree.

Berkley Street features again later in the Beatles' story. I'll cover that in a future post.   

Notes:

* Julias book Imagine This, Growing Up With My Brother John Lennon

***33 Head Street, according to Mark Lewisohn's Tune In.

** Alois Hitler and his family lived at 102 Upper Stanhope Street. Adolf Hitler is rumoured to have stayed with them here during 1912-13. The house was destroyed in the final night of the Blitz and the area is now landscaped.

Link: Watch some fascinating videos about the restoration of St James, presented by the Rev. Neil Short on the St James in the City Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/St-James-Toxteth-Heritage-Hope-Project-417788251655356/










Another view of Chester Street at the time Julia Stanley was born.

Friday, 19 August 2016

A Civil Service

Merseyside Civil Service Club
Lower Castle Street
Liverpool
L2 0SL


I started working in one of the big Insurance companies in Reliance House, Water Street during the summer of 1988. My Dad worked there and thought it would be an opportunity for me to "earn my keep" until I returned to college that September to finish my A-Levels.

Unfortunately I got used to having money and decided to stay. Even now, after all these years, I'm still in Insurance, the job for people who don't know what they want to do when they leave school.



Once I'd worked there for a while and been accepted by the "lads" I was invited to accompany them on Friday lunchtime to a pub called the Castle Court, situated in a back alley off Water Street down the side of the General Accident Insurance office (now the Il Palazzo restaurant) facing the enormous Martins Bank building where I'd take the days banking at 3pm every day.

A blend of the old and new. The Castle Court merged with my recent photograph

Today I can find very little on-line or elsewhere about the Castle Court. At some point it may have been owned by Tommy Smith the former Liverpool FC player. We had a Christmas do there one year and it seemed to be available for functions. I don't know if it was open every day but on Friday's at least it seemed to do good business by featuring a stripper.

Strippers? I was just seventeen (you know what I mean?). The entrance to the Castle Court was about half way along Lower Castle Street* on the left. The door was lower than street level. You had to step down to enter and found yourself at the top of a flight of stairs leading down to a low lit room, obviously a former basement or cellar of one of the buildings on Castle Street.

The bar was straight ahead as you walked in and the toilets were in the far left corner next to it. If my memory serves me the room was covered in dark wood with some lighter paneling nearer the ceiling. Tables and chairs were arranged in the main space and in the near left corner was a stage, though frankly I've seen higher decking in people's back gardens. Nearby was a wall mounted jukebox.

Quite a crowd of men had gathered, most if not all suited office workers, clutching pints and smoking, waiting for the "act" to appear. She didn't keep us waiting long. A pale woman, maybe in her thirties, with a frizzy 80's style hairdo made her way to the stage and ready to begin alluringly purred:
'as anyone got 50p for the jukey?



"What you doin' down there Queen? Oh". A good old fashioned 1980s stripper (perhaps THE stripper) in a Bootle pub. Photo by Steve Conlan.

She wasn't what I'd imagine strippers are like today. Who was she? A full time stripper? A prostitute? A bored housewife trying to make some extra cash?  I can't remember the song but suffice to say by the end of it she'd taken the lot off to the cheers of the baying crowd. Gathering up her clothes and pushing her way through the suits I can still remember one of our admin men - in his late 30's, a bit slow, blonde brylcreemed hair, pencil thin moustache - politely thank her with "it was very nice that". Very civil.

The Castle Court is no longer open. I stopped working in Water Street in 1995. I've no idea if it went before I did or sometime afterwards. There were five Insurance companies and the aforementioned bank there in 1988 but over the next 15 years or so they all closed and moved elsewhere, taking the Castle Court's customers with them.




It's amazing what you find on line sometimes. Shortly after writing the above I found this photo of the Castle Court on the In A City Living website showing the stairs and some of the seating. I remembered the colour scheme. What I'd forgotten (If I'd ever noticed) was the bar was done in the style of a medieval room, hence the white "mock Tudor" paneling and painted shields.

Anyway, let's move away from that perfect pair and focus on a fabulous foursome.

In the 1950s and 1960s this was the social and leisure club for the Merseyside Civil Service. Through one of Pete Best's contacts, the Beatles secured a £5 engagement here on Tuesday 7 February 1961. The club was normally only open to members (civil servants), but guests could be admitted with permission, paying three shillings for the privilege. Here's an extract from Pete's diary confirming the booking:



The Beatles played four further bookings here, consecutive Tuesday nights on 7, 14, 21 and 28 November 1961. While exclusive, these events seem to have been poorly attended.

These November gigs were witnessed by Frank McCormick. I'm amazed by how similar his memories of the layout of the venue are to mine: Late in 1961, aged 17, I first saw the Beatles at the Civil Service Club in Lower Castle Street (a narrow street off Water Street and parallel to Castle Street). In those days we referred to it colloquially as 'Back Castle Street.' In this below ground venue there was a bar room, a card school room, snooker room, and the main function room which had tables and chairs surrounding a dance area, and small dais in one corner for "the groups." In passing, the term 'band' wasn't used then, except maybe for jazz bands which were on the way out more or less. That's how I met my wife. I borrowed her 'Civvy Club' membership card - as I wasn't a Civil servant, but worked for the City Council in the offices at Liverpool Airport.

I saw the Beatles at the 'Civvy Club' about four times in their early Hamburg black leathers worn in the 'Pete Best days.' The only book I ever recall which accurately listed those gigs was something by Bill Harry (of Mersey Beat) published quite a few years ago. We went there for years (got my own membership card eventually, just by being a regular!). Every group played there, Searchers, Pacemakers, Big Three, Derry and the Seniors....the lot. They all played the same songs, but that was fine for us.



The Beatles were acutely aware that every group in Liverpool was playing the same songs, as Paul McCartney would later recall: There were millions of groups around at that time - There was a group called the Blue Angels that sounded exactly like Roy Orbison; they were immaculate....The Running Scareds - but they were mostly lookalike groups; The Shadows and Roy Orbison had a lot of followers. The Remo Four did a lot of Chet Atkins stuff, with clever guitar picking. So we decided we couldn't keep up, we couldn't better any of them, we had to find our own identity.

I think we sussed early on that we weren't going to get anywhere unless we were different; because if you weren't original you could get stranded. An example: I used to sing 'I Remember You' by Frank Ifield. It went amazingly well anywhere I played it; but if the group on before us did 'I Remember You', that was our big number up the spout. We'd ask bands, 'What numbers do you do, then?' If they ever mentioned 'I Remember You', it was, 'Oh dear.' So we had to play numbers no one else had or, if we'd both got the big number, trade off with the other band. And because we had the unusual songs, we became the act you had to see, to copy. We realised everybody and his uncle knew all the tunes we knew, so we started to move towards the В sides and the more obscure tunes like Ritchie Barrett's 'Some Other Guy' (1962].

I had this very diverse little record collection from which I was culling material. I remember I had the Coasters' 'Zing Went the Strings of My Heart' [1958], which was on the В side of 'Yakety Yak'. I can look back on these records and see what it was I liked. With 'Besame Mucho' by the Coasters [1960], it's a minor song and it changes to a major, and where it changes to a major is such a big moment musically. That major change attracted me so much. (Paul McCartney)
There wasn't much pop radio. You had Radio Luxembourg on a Sunday night, that was it. Through the merchant seamen you could get a lot of American records that weren't being played in England. And whichever of the bands heard a record first got to do it. So if Gerry Marsden found a number before everybody it, it was as if they were copying Gerry (Neil Aspinall, the Beatles road manager)
Of course you only had to do 'em once and everyone had 'em. Arthur Alexander's 'Shot of Rhythm and Blues' [1962], Gerry and the Pacemakers did it. But we always feel we did it better. 'Let them do it, doesn't matter, we'll do it better.' We took James Ray's 'If You're Gonna Make a Fool of Somebody' [1961] to the Oasis Club, Manches­ter, and Freddie and the Dreamers had it the next week! It was one of our numbers. That was a waltz, a funky soul waltz, and nobody did waltzes. We were looking to be different because we realised the competition out there. We had too much material anyway. We couldn't record it all when we did get a deal, so other groups took songs from our act and made hits out of them - like The Swinging Blue Jeans with 'The Hippy Hippy Shake', which was one of my big numbers.

We looked on Bo Diddley В sides, we looked for obscure rhythm and blues things: 'Searchin" by the Coasters [1957], 'Anna' by Arthur Alexander [1962]. We did the Shirelles' 'Soldier Boy' [1962], which is a girl's song. It never occurred to us. No wonder all the gays liked John. And Ringo used to sing 'Boys' [1960], another Shirelles number. It was so innocent. We just never even thought, Why is he singing about  boys? We loved the song. We loved the records so much that what it said was irrelevant, it was just the spirit, the sound, the feeling. The joy when you did that 'Bab shoo-wap, bab bab shoo wop'. That was the great fun of doing 'Boys'. 

So at the Cavern we started to introduce a couple of our own songs along with these obscure В sides. We thought, There's one way they can't do it, they wouldn't dare do one of our songs. The first couple of songs we did of ours were rather laughed off, but a couple of girls in the audience quite liked them and would request them. 'Like Dreamers Do' was one of the very first songs I wrote and tried out at the Cavern. We did a weak arrangement but certain of the kids liked it because it was unique, none of the other groups did it. It was actually a bit of a joke to dare to try your own songs. (Paul McCartney)

Notes:


*I'm not sure if Liverpool is unique in this respect but it does have a number of alleys situated behind a main street or road given the suffix "Lower" or "Back". In fact Lower Castle Street is often referred to as Back Castle Street.

Neil Aspinall quote from "The Beatles Anthology" book.

Paul McCartney quote is an amalgam from "The Beatles Anthology" and "Many Years From Now"

Outside the M.C.S. Club on Lower Castle Street looking towards Water Street and the former Martins Bank building.

Monday, 8 August 2016

International Beatleweek 2015

International Beatleweek 2015
Adelphi Hotel
Ranelagh Place
Liverpool
30 August 2015 




I wrote most of this last year straight after attending the convention, didn't get around to finishing it and ultimately I forgot about it until I started thinking about this years convention due to take place at the end of this month. So, better late than never as they say.



For over 25 years the last bank holiday weekend in August has seen hundreds of fans flock to Liverpool to attend the annual International Beatles Week. Organised by Liverpool’s leading tour operator Cavern City Tours, this is a week long programme of Fab Four related activities, including exhibitions, memorabilia sales, guest speakers, video shows, sightseeing tours and live music featuring 70 bands from over 20 countries at a number of venues around the city centre culminating in the Bank holiday Monday convention at the Adelphi Hotel.


I'm not particularly interested in Beatles' tribute bands so the Adelphi convention has always been the biggest draw for me as it gives fans the opportunity to meet and greet a number of guests who grew up with, worked with, or even married one of the Beatles.  Over the years I've met some great people including Bob Wooler, Allan Williams, Pete Best, Cynthia Lennon, Alastair Taylor, Tony Barrow, Alf Bicknell, Astrid Kirchenerr, Klaus Voormann, Barry Miles, May Pang (John Lennon's girlfreind in the mid-1970s), Denny Laine, Steve Holley and Laurence Juber (all members of Wings),  some not so great guests - Alan Parsons springs to mind as despite engineering the White Album and Abbey Road and other Beatles themed projects he had NOTHING to say - and some perplexing guests - I remember watching Tony Sheridan perform with a band he'd picked up in Liverpool whom I imagine quite reasonably expected to be backing him on Beatles and Rock n Roll standards - instead he decided to perform Leonard Cohen's First We Take Manhattan…. I'm not sure the backing band had even heard of the some of the songs never mind played them. Not only wasn't Tony on the same key, I'm not sure he was even in the same port...

I think my first convention was around 1988 which I attended with my old mate (or at that time, 18 years old mate) Chris Turton. I remember us queueing outside the Adelphi with an American dressed like George in A Hard Day's Night and somebody began burning a copy of Albert Goldman's "The Lives Of John Lennon" biography to great cheers.  We were on the lookout for bootleg tapes and LP's of rare Beatles recordings, this was a couple of years before bootleg CD's became commonplace and decades before you could download pretty much anything you wanted - if you know where to look. We went for the next few years before life took us elsewhere. 

By chance I saw the guests booked for this years….. and decided it was time to return. I mentioned it to Chris and he promptly bought a ticket while I was still thinking about it. Now there was an added reason to go - we probably hadn't been to the convention together for about 20 years. The most important reunion since the Threetles was on.

The IBW 15 promotional material from Cavern City Tours says you don't have to be a Beatles Fan to enjoy the festival though it probably helps. In truth I think if you're NOT a Beatles fan you'd be crazy to go anywhere near it.




We spent the first hour walking around the "flea market" a daft name really to describe what in some cases are stalls dealing in expensive Beatles memorabilia. It was great to catch up on some familiar faces here - my old mate Dave Glover from the Fab Forum days, Steve Holmes, and Dave Ravenscroft who was acting as roadie/assistant for the day to Beatles expert and author Mark Lewisohn, more of whom soon.


(Left) How much Steve?!!!!!
























As the souvenir programme of events shows, there's so much happening during the day it pays to make a rough plan of what you really want to see and do pretty much as soon as you arrive. I'd come wanting to get photos for the blog and listen to the interviews with the guest speakers figuring I'd mooch around the stalls in between and have a couple of pints. 

Chris was happy to go along with it so just before 11am we made our way over to the ballroom where Mark Lewisohn was about to conduct his first interview of the day. First up was Denny Seiwell, the first drummer in Paul McCartney's Wings from 1971-1973. He told some great stories including how he first met Paul and Linda McCartney in New York, how he came to join Wings, their recording sessions, getting busted for pot in the UK and later in Europe, and how he came to leave the group just as they were about to fly to Lagos to start recording the next album (which would become "Band On The Run" generally agreed to be one of Paul's finest).


Mark Lewisohn: So Denny, tell me about the one that got away?




















Following each guest's hour long interview was a meet and greet session where you had the opportunity to get a photo with them and have something signed. It sounded simple enough but the execution was flawed. The guests were interviewed in the ballroom at the back end of the hotel whereas the meet and greets took place in Jenny's bar near the front entrance. After each interview the guest heading for the meet and greet would have to make their way through the main flea market hall, which by lunchtime was packed, leading a procession of eager fans following from the ballroom, me included.

Thankfully, the meet and greets were well organised (my friend Jean Catharell was looking after the guests) and fans were happy to wait their turn, sometimes for some considerable time depending on whether it was one of the "bigger" guests just for a minute or two with them.

Things I learned at the convention in 2015 #1: Read who the guests are going to be in advance and then look for a portable, fairly small sized item that you'd like signed by the guest and be happy to carry around for the rest of the day.

I knew Denny was going to be one of the guests and that morning contemplated bringing my Wild Life or Red Rose Speedway LP's to get signed. But they were too big to lug round all day so I didn't bother. Of course, I should have brought the much smaller CD versions with me but didn't so I asked Denny to sign my program and mentally kicked myself.



Me  and Denny Seiwell. A great guy. 

After our meeting with Denny we shimmied back through the main hall to catch the end of Mark Lewisohn's interview with legendary rock photographer Bob Gruen, probably best known to Beatles fans for taking the famous John Lennon "New York City" t-shirt photographs. The ballroom was now rammed and standing room only and I'm sure I heard some wag next to me ask "Is Bob minding Phil Spectors' wig while he's in prison?".

Bob Gruen talks with Mark Lewisohn 

There was no stampede to meet and greet Bob as he'd unfortunately been scheduled to go on right before the guest who, in our opinion, was the big draw of the day, George Harrison's first wife Pattie Boyd making what I believe was her first appearance at a Beatles' convention. As a result most of the ballroom audience stood firm and waited for Mark to introduce her. 

Pattie was shy and looked visibly nervous but after a few of her stories got a laugh or applause from the audience she began to relax, and Mark Lewisohn wasn't the only person completely charmed with her.

She started by telling the well known tale of how she first met the Beatles on the set of A Hard Day's Night when she was a teenage model . One day her casting agent called and told her to go for an interview. When she got there she saw the Director Richard Lester and as she had previously made some TV commercials with him assumed the interview was for another one.

Understandably she was shocked when her agent called her later and told her she had got a part in a Beatles film!

She only had one line and I was delighted when Mark asked her to say it, which she did to huge cheers from the audience.


Prisoners ?


Pattie's first day of filming was on a train running to the West Country and back and as the cast and crew were packing up for the evening George Harrison asked her to go out with him for dinner.  Pattie recalled she said 'I'm sorry, I can't, I'm seeing my boyfriend'.  George looked crestfallen so she added 'you can join us if you like'!

Her boyfriend was quickly dispensed with and as George's girlfriend - and from 1966 his wife - she quickly became part of the inner circle present for some of the key events in their career.

In this extract from the interview Pattie talks about their first experience of LSD in 1965.

Whenever you see pictures of the Beatles' wives together Pattie is usually with Cynthia Lennon so I was surprised when she admitted that during that period the one she felt closest to was Jane Asher because like her, she hadn't come down from Liverpool and known them before they were the famous Beatles (and also I suspect that coming from London and having their own careers they felt more sophisticated and worldly than their northern counterparts).  As well as tales about the Maharishi there were some great lesser told stories too, one involving the day a dirty bearded tramp turned up at the door of the Knightsbridge flat George and Ringo were sharing. Pattie and Ringo's girlfriend Maureen were inside. Patti: He wanted to come in and I was trying to push him out of the door, and so was Maureen. Then suddenly he started laughing and said 'it's me, Paul'. He'd tried to fox us, and he did!



Like the audience Mark was utterly charmed by Pattie

The program of events stated that each meet and greet with the guest would only last for 30 minutes but such was the procession following Pattie out of the ballroom there was no way she would be out of Jenny's Bar after half an hour. And so it proved, the queue snaked out of the bar along the corridor and up the stairs back to the main entrance. As a result we saw none of May Pang's interview with Mark but we did get to see some notable characters in the bar while we were waiting including the Quarry Men sitting with their families (I nabbed Colin Hanton and got an autograph while he was ordering  drinks), Howie Casey, Joey Molland (Badfinger) and a Sid Vicious lookalike that everybody seemed to be going up to for photos. I'm ashamed to admit I didn't realise he was the legendary guitarist Earl Slick (probably most famous for his work with David Bowie and John Lennon). I have it on good authority from someone looking after him that day that he was an absolutely lovely guy.


On a personal level , the nicest guest I met was Mark Hudson. After first rising to prominence as a performer, songwriter and TV personality in the 1970s as a member of the Hudson Brothers trio Mark achieved independent success as record producer and songwriter – working with a broad variety of artists including Cher, Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Harry Nilsson and for ten years starting in 1998 Ringo Starr. He appeared on several series of the X-factor as a vocal coach and, as composer, achieved his first UK No.1 in the Top 40 singles charts in 2006 with a song he had written for the X Factor contestant Chico Slimani entitled "Chico Time". Yes, that one.



I'd missed Mark's interview in the Derby Suite as it co-incided with Pattie's but as I was queuing to meet her he came through into the bar so I seized the opportunity.


What a warm, friendly guy. He couldn't do enough for me. He was happy to sign the programme and dedicating it to me checked that I spelt my first name the same was as him ("the right way").



Chris took a photo of us at the table and then Mark said "Why don't we get one over there" suggesting we move to a better position. So we did.

As I say, apart from his work with Ringo I knew very little of him before then but by giving a few minutes of his time he made a brilliant impression on me which would be heightened even further when I saw him in concert at the Royal Court Theatre the following evening. I'll post photos from THAT event shortly.



When we finally got to the front of the queue for Pattie I reckon she'd spent well over an hour posing for photos and signing autographs and I may be mistaken but she looked like she was starting to tire (let's not forget the lady is 71 now).


Pattie was selling her book "Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me" which she was signing for fans but she was happy to sign other items including my Beatles Anthology Book which I decided years ago would make a great autograph book for all the people connected with the Beatles.  It looks great signed but it's a huge book to lug around all day. 

The still lovely Mr Christopher Turton (top) and me with the still lovely Pattie Boyd


We realised that by queuing for Pattie we'd missed some of the interview with the other "Star" guest, Sixties folk legend Donovan. Racing back to the ballroom we caught about the last ten minutes of his interview with Mark Lewisohn. He was everything you'd expect , a lovable psychedelic old hippy still extolling the virtues of Transcendental Meditation and his life was clearly all the better for it.

Chris couldn't face another queue and went for a pint but I had to get Donovan to sign my Anthology book so it was back through the Adelphi to wait my turn for the meet and greet. This time I didn't even get down the stairs before the line ground to a halt. I think next year the Adelphi really should consider hosting the signings in a room closer to the ballroom.  I spent the time chatting with a couple of Americans, one of whom had brought a copy of Donovan's "Sutras" CD to get signed, figuring that because the album was so obscure (i.e. it didn't set the charts alight) Donovan would recognise him as a true fan. He certainly had a good chat with him when it was his turn to step forward.

I felt bad not buying Donovan's latest greatest hits CD but I have several previous versions and he was gracious enough to sign my Anthology book. When I asked if I could have a photo with him he stood up and said 'sure, let's do that thing where we press heads' which was a first for me, and slightly surreal but here's the photo to prove it! He's a one off.

Pressing heads with the Hurdy Gurdy Man. How could I refuse?!

I found Chris in the ballroom listening to Peter Asher talking with Mark Lewisohn. I'd missed all the chat about his pop career as a member of Peter and Gordon and they were already deep into the troubled history of the Beatles Apple corporation where Asher was in charge of signing new artists, his major find of course being the American singer songwriter James Taylor. Peter came across as quite laid back with a dry sense of humour, and not especially fazed by working for the Beatles. His working relationship with them wasn't particularly affected when his sister Jane split up with Paul and when asked what he thought of John and Yoko's experimental albums and he had no hesitation in admitting he thought they were a load of sh**!

It was time for a pint and a sit down for the first time all day. After 5 solid hours conducting interviews with the guests it was time for Mark Lewisohn to take the hot seat for a questions and answer session in the Empire room. Nabbing a front row couch we sat down as my old mate Dave Ravenscroft took the microphone and announced to the audience that for "those of you who came in the eighties, you may remember a little section called "Ask Mark", so we've revived, for one day only - "Ask Mark!"

Mr Lewisohn pointed out that Dave must have confused him with someone else because he wasn't around in the eighties, he wasn't even born then!

So followed, an interesting and often humorous chat, predominantly, but not exclusively about the first volume of Mark's Beatles' trilogy "Tune In". Pleasingly the entire session was filmed and later uploaded on Youtube. You can watch both parts here.



















I got to "Ask Mark" two questions. 

In my opinion one of the main things that sets "Tune In" apart from previous Beatle biographies is that this is the only one to have had access to Neil Aspinall, a schoolfriend of Paul and George who after running the Beatles Apple corps for nearly 40 years decided when he retired in 2007 that the time was right to finally talk to an author about his part in the story. Tragically, having spoken to Mark on only a few occasions he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and died in 2008.

 I asked Mark whether he had got enough material from Neil before he passed away. Yes, he had got a lot of information, but not nearly as much as he would have liked. A great shame.

My other question concerned whether Mark had received any feedback or comments from the people who were likely to have been affected by some of the findings of Mark's research. Two in particular spring to mind. For years there has been an element of mystery about just why Pete Best was sacked from the Beatles. In my opinion, "Tune In" answers the question. While Pete was a nice guy, his personality simply didn't fit in with that of John, Paul and George, and his drumming never really improved to the level that their musicianship did. They asked him to go with them to Hamburg at the last minute because no one better came along and they were always planning to ditch him the minute somebody did. According to Pete's brother, Best agreed with some parts of the book but not all of it.

More unfortunate was Mark's admission that since the publication of his book, Julia Baird (née Dykins, John Lennon's half sister) would no longer speak to him.


















During his research Lewisohn discovered that in the summer of 1958 John Dykins, Julia's father, was arrested for drink-driving on Menlove Avenue, which resulted in him losing his job. With no income he could no longer afford to feed himself, Julia (John's mum), their two daughter's Julia and Jackie and have John stay with them too. Lennon would have to go back to his Aunt Mimi's. So it was that on 15 July 1958 Julia Lennon visited her sister Mimi and explained the situation. Mimi agreed to take John back. No doubt relieved, Julia bade her farewell and made her way back to the bus stop on Menlove Avenue. She was about half way across when she was struck down and killed by a car driven by an off-duty policemen. Without any sensationalism "Tune In" suggests that Dykins' arrest set forth a chain of events which ultimately led to Julia's tragic death.

In all likelihood Julia Baird had lived her entire life knowing nothing of this until the publication of  "Tune In".  After nearly 60 years one can only imagine the fresh heartache this revelation must have caused. It must be difficult for an author having to make the decision on whether to include information like this, knowing that there are people still alive who could be adversely affected.

With the "Ask Mark" session concluded it was time for a final mooch around the stalls before saying our goodbyes and heading for home. In summary, it was a great day which I enjoyed immensely.  It was nice to go and be a fan for the day. The guests were all great during their interviews and really friendly afterwards during the meet and greet sessions. Although it was nice to see a few old faces during the earlier part of the day I didn't get a chance to speak with any of my friends working during Beatle weekend who only turned up later in the day. Time seemed to fly by (admittedly a lot of time was spent running from one end of the Adelphi to the other after the guests). I don't think I bought a thing from the flea market but I recommended some essential Beatles books for Chris and I think he got them all. A great success then for Cavern City Tours who continue to promote Liverpool in a positive way and bring in hundreds of visitors each August. Chris and I are already talking about going again this year when one of the guests will be Micky Dolenz from The Monkees (I'm currently rather enjoying their new album "Good Times").


The following evening I was back out on the Beatle track, spending Monday night at the Royal Court Theatre for a show entitled "With A Little Help From My Friends - The Boys Who Knew The Lads". You can read all about that fantastic night shortly. 

A massive thank you to Jean Catharell, without whom,  Jimmie Rudolfsson for the "Ask Mark" video, Dave Ravenscroft and me old mucker Mr T.


See you all at the Adelphi, August 2016

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Liverpool , United Kingdom