Friday, 17 February 2017

Strawberry Fields Forever - 50 Years Ago Today!

Strawberry Field
Beaconsfield Road
Woolton
Liverpool
L25





Perhaps the greatest single The Beatles ever made, Strawberry Fields Forever was written by John Lennon and first released as a double a-side with Penny Lane in the UK on 17 February 1967, 50 Years Ago Today!

To acknowledge the 50th anniversary I wanted to write a lengthy piece to accompany the pictures,with my newly created Then and Now blended photo as the centre-piece. In fact, Strawberry Fields was to be the subject of my very first blog post in 2009. Unfortunately, the text still isn't finished (whereas there have been three or four posts about Penny Lane to date). 


Strawberry Field: Then and Now  (c) Mark Ashworth using an original photo (c) Getty Images

Rather than miss the anniversary, here's some photos together with the fantastic restored promotional video for the song filmed in Knole Park, Sevenoaks, Kent on January 30 and 31 1967.    



The beautifully remastered promotional film for Strawberry Fields Forever from the Beatles 1 DVD (Apple)





Links:

The Beatles 1 Video Collection is Out Now. Get your copy here: http://thebeatles1.lnk.to/DeluxeBluRay

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Neston

The Institute
Hinderton Road
Neston
Wirral
Cheshire



In the summer of 1960 the Beatles played six consecutive Thursday night shows at the Institute (now the Civic Hall) on Hinderton Road in Neston.

The dates had been arranged for them by Allan Williams while they were touring Scotland with Johnny Gentle. It’s worth mentioning again that in 1960 Williams was the only person doing anything to find them work. While nobody in Liverpool would book them he did manage to secure them three good contracts across the Mersey  – at the Grosvenor Assembly Rooms in Liscard (with two different promoters) – and for six consecutive Thursday nights here in Neston, much deeper into rural Wirral.

Les Dodd of Paramount Enterprises, Wallasey Dodd had been running 'strict tempo' ballroom evenings at The Institute and the Grosvenor since 1936, and had belatedly began booking rock 'n' roll acts, grudgingly accepting that rock and roll / jive sessions was where the money was. He agreed to pay the Beatles £9 an evening which, as fees went in Liverpool at the time, was above average, and according to Mark Lewisohn Allan didn’t always take his 10% commission.

There was constant confusion over the group’s name because Allan still considered them the Silver Beetles and as he was arranging their bookings this is the name he gave to promoters (who would then advertise them as such on posters and handbills).



Birkenhead News and Advertiser (Heswall and Neston Edition), May 1960


Thursday 2 June 1960



Watching All the Girls Go By. Everyone turns out to see this colourful scene as the young ones in their pretty dresses follow the pipe band which led the traditional walk of Neston Female Friendly Society on Thursday. - Photo by Wm.Cull. (June 1960)

On the first Thursday of June, Neston annually celebrates Ladies (Club) Day. This is a unique marching day with links back to the Neston Female Friendly Society during the Napoleonic War.

On 2 June the crowds had come out as usual to see the ladies walk to the Church followed by tea as they had since 1814. The walk had been extended in 1960 to include girls from local schools as well as the members of the Ladies Club.

On the first Thursday in June …..they shall be provided with a convenient place where they shall be allowed to dance till nine o’clock, at which hour they must break up. Any respectable person (not being a member of the society) may be admitted to the dance on their paying the sum of 1s at the door. Rules of Neston Female Friendly Society (1911)

The tea was at Neston Institute and, after the speeches, the flowers and staffs were cleared the youth of Neston gathered for the evening’s entertainment.


Advance warning had been given that the regular group, Cass and his Cassanovas, would be missing from the Institute that evening. They had started to make a name for themselves and according to the local paper had successfully auditioned to go on tour with Billy Fury. In fact they hadn’t. Mark Lewisohn writes that they never worked with Fury and I have not been able to establish why they were suddenly unavailable for Neston.

It is unrecorded whether the local girls of Neston were disappointed by the replacement act but few would have heard of ‘The Silver Beetles’ in advance.

Songs featured in the Beatles repertoire at this point included Hallelujah! I Love Her So, Wild Cat, Besame Mucho, Matchbox, That’s When Your Heartaches Begin, I’ll Always Be In Love With You, Ramrod, Movin’ and Groovin’, Cathy’s Clown, Youngblood, One After 909, Hello Little Girl, Lend Me Your Comb, Rock and Roll Music, Whole Lotta’ Shakin’ Goin’ On, Red Sails In The Sunset, Money (That’s What I Want), Sweet Little Sixteen, and Long Tall Sally.

This opening night at Neston was their first advertised headlining appearance anywhere and although that referred to them as The Silver Beetles a Wirral newspaper reporter from the Birkenhead News and Advertiser (Heswall and Neston edition) spoke to the group this first evening and the resulting article got it right – they were The Beatles with an “A” (and they are). 

Interestingly, John excluded, the stage names adopted for the Scotland tour by Paul, George ('Carl') and Stuart were still in use. The article appeared on the front page of the 11 June 1960 edition. John was given a copy of the cutting in 1964 and still had it in 1975, referring to it as ‘possibly the first review of Beatles ever’ (and it was).


Despite the rural surroundings violence was rife in Neston and the Beatles saw plenty of it. According to Tommy Moore ‘John Lennon loved the fights’ and had a peculiar delight in watching somebody take a beating. In fact the violence was so bad that in October 1960 a 19 year old boy was kicked so severely in the head outside one such dance that he died.



Thursday 9 June 1960

Left: Paul McCartney and Tommy Moore (May 1960)

Despite his bad experiences on the Scotland tour (for the most part caused by John Lennon) drummer Tommy Moore had stuck with the group. Until now. Around the second week of June (perhaps 11th) Tommy failed to show for a gig at the Grosvenor. Sick to death of Lennon and perhaps under more than a little pressure from his lady Tommy had decided to quit the group and concentrate on his job at the Garston bottle factory. Allan Williams drove the Beatles there to try and get him to change his mind. He didn’t that night and while he may have played on one more occasion (at the Jacaranda on the 13th) to all intents and purposes the Beatles were drummer-less again, only half way through their first regular bookings.

Luckily they did not have to put in much effort to find a replacement. Sitting in the Jacaranda on Slater Street Paul heard the sound of a drummer practising in one of the buildings opposite. On making enquiries in Jacksons Art Shop he was introduced to their picture-framer, Norman Chapman, who had been playing his drums in an empty attic on the corner of Slater and Seel Streets. Unable to practise at home because of the noise, he’d brought his £20 kit to town so he could play without disturbing anyone. Paul met him and asked if he would sit in with them that night, which he did, and that was that. Chapman, later described by Allan Williams as ‘one of the best (drummers) they had, a tall and very friendly man’ was suddenly in the Beatles.

On Tuesday 14 June the Beatles spent their entire wage from one of the gigs by putting down a deposit for an Selmer Truvoice amplifier at Hessys. With George down as the main name (probably because Hessys thought he still had regular income from his job at Blacklers – he’d actually quit) they had until the middle of 1961 to repay the £63. The new amplifier was quickly put to good effect in Neston.

Thursday 16 June 1960

The format, as best I remember, was two groups each Thursday, I do remember Gerry and Pacemakers, also the Sundowners. To be honest, the groups didn't distinguish themselves... all good loud jive music. At that time lots of teenage boys were part of a group, jamming and hoping in a garage. Lots of pubs had a group every night, there were so many hoping to be discovered.
(Ann A, a member of the audience)

Supporting the Beatles were the Heswall group Keith Rowlands and the Deesiders. Their guitarist Pete Bolt would later recall: It was the first time I’d heard people singing in harmony, They weren’t just a backing group with a singer out front, it was the two of them together at the microphone, most unusual, and good. I was also impressed with their clean starts and finishes to songs and how they engaged the audience with a bit of chat, especially some girls who positioned themselves around the stage. (Interview with Mark Lewisohn on 12/8/2010)

The 25 June 1960 edition of the Birkenhead News and Advertiser (Heswall and Neston edition) (see left) mentioned that Keith Rowlands (the Deesiders' guitar playing vocalist) had been ‘singing as a guest artiste with the Beatles’. Many years later he confirmed that it was was on one occasion during some technical difficulties.

Like Bolt, Rowlands was also impressed by the headlining act: There was something different about them: you knew it straight away. (Interview with Mark Lewisohn on 25/2/13) 

Incidentally, the Beatles never went on tour with Dickie Pride (although their stage suit trousers did allow a generous amount of freedom so I can't be 100% sure).

Thursday 23 June 1960

Paul McCartney celebrated his 18th birthday on Saturday 18 June. While John and Stu enjoyed the freedom of Liverpool Art College and George had left his job and, temporarily, his home, Paul still had to get up every morning for school so these Thursday nights in Neston must have been difficult for him. Playing on the Wirral until 11.30 pm it must have been getting on for 1 am by the time finally reached Forthlin Road. John and Stu had their flat in town and George was currently living with them so Paul had to rely on a lift to get back to Allerton or use his share of the night’s fee for a taxi. A few hours later he was up and out heading back to his A-Levels at the Liverpool Institute, over the street from where John, Stuart and George were probably still asleep.

Thursday 30 June 1960

Earlier on this day Paul bought himself his first proper electric guitar, a Rosetti Solid 7 to use with the new amp. Using some of his birthday money he put down the deposit and began weekly ten-bob repayments on the £21 instrument which, although it looked great was actually a bit of a dog. He soon learned ‘you got what you paid for.’  Paul recalled Dad instilled in me 'Never get heavily in debt’, as a result of which i bought a cheap guitar’ which had the worst action ever’ (the strings were too high above the fretboard making it physically harder to play).

Paul with his Rosetti, August 1960 


Thursday 7 July 1960

The Neston engagements came to an end on this night. Norman Chapman would continue to play with John, Paul, George and Stu at the Grosvenor in Wallasey and the Jacaranda but only for a few more weeks. Born in 1937 Chapman was one of the last to be called up for National Service and in August 1960 he received his call up papers and was sent to Kenya for the next two years. The Beatles were drummer-less, again. 





























The Beatles’ links with Neston don’t end there. Though nobody could have predicted it in the Summer of 1960 within four years the Beatles would conquer the world. By September 1964 they could command a fee of $150,000 for one show (playing 32 minutes) in Kansas City, a far cry from their £9 a night fee for the Neston Institute. As a consequence Paul McCartney had money, and when he asked his Dad if he fancied retiring from his £10 a week job as a cotton salesman Jim didn’t have to be asked twice. 

Paul also suggested that Jim might wish to move house (by 1964 their home in Forthlin Road was too well known to the fans) resulting in the purchase of ‘Rembrandt’ a five bedroomed detached house on Baskervyle Road in Gayton, Lower Heswall, only a 7 minute from the Neston Institute. 

Jim and Mike moved in during the second half of 1964 and Paul was a frequent visitor thereafter, using the house as a base when visting relatives in Liverpool. In November 1964 Jim married Angela Williams and legally adopted Ruth, her daughter from a previous marriage and they too moved in. 

I had a very good friend who lived in London called Tara Browne, a Guinness heir – a nice Irish guy, very sensitive bloke. I'd see him from time to time, and enjoyed being around him. (Paul McCartney, Anthology)

Tara Browne was the son of Dominick Browne, 4th Baron Oranmore and Browne, a member of the House of Lords since 1927 and Oonagh Guinness, heiress to the Guinness fortune. By the age of twenty Tara had been schooled at Eton, privately tutored in Paris, married and fathered two children. Due a million-pound inheritance when he turned 25 he had no need to work in the meantime and so lived his life in the fast lane, partying at his home in Belgravia, driving fast cars, taking drugs and mixing with the likes of the Rolling Stones, The Pretty Things, and Paul and Michael McCartney.

Tara and Nicki Browne (Michael Cooper) 

He came up to visit me in Liverpool once when I was there seeing my dad and brother. I had a couple of mopeds on hire, so we hit upon the bright idea of going to my cousin Bett's house.
(Paul McCartney, Anthology)


On Sunday 26 December 1965, Tara and his wife Nicki decided to take up Paul and Mike McCartney's invitation to visit them on the Wirral. Jumping into Tara’s AC Cobra they sped north up the M6 towards Liverpool and arrived at ‘Rembrandt’ that Boxing Day afternoon.  


The Cross, Neston (1960). Camerons Cycles is to the left of the White Horse, just past the bus stop. There was a showroom and workshops at the back of the premises. The shop was later sold to a chemists but the workshops continued until the early 90s. Clive Watkin now runs an estate agents on the site. Note that the former White Horse has been extended past the bus stop since the first photograph was taken.  



Paul had rented a couple of mopeds from Camerons’ Cycles in nearby Neston. That night, after smoking a few joints, Paul suggested that he and Tara use them to visit his cousin Bett who lived about 5 miles across the Wirral in Higher Bebington. Nicki Brown would later recall that she gone up to Jim's wearing a very nice red and white scarf. It was knitted, very long, like a football scarf. They were all the mode at the time. It cost a fortune. Eight pounds or something like that. So they were going off to see Paul's (cousin) and it was chilly, Paul said he was cold, so I said 'Take my scarf".
Paul took it.

We were riding along on the mopeds. I was showing Tara the scenery. He was behind me, and it was an incredible full moon; it really was huge. I said something about the moon and he said ‘yeah’, and I suddenly had a freeze-frame image of myself at that angle to the ground when it’s too late to pull back up again: I was still looking at the moon and then I looked at the ground, and it seemed to take a few minutes to think, ‘Ah, too bad – I’m going to smack that pavement with my face!’ Bang!

Riding along Brimstage Road the front wheel of Paul’s moped had hit the kerb and he went over the handlebars. Tara helped him back up. Perhaps because Paul’s pain was numbed by the substances he decided they should continue to Bebbington.

There I was, chipped tooth and all. it came through my lip and split it. But I got up and we went along to my cousin’s house. When I said, ‘Don’t worry, Bett, but I’ve had a bit of an accident,’ she thought I was joking. She creased up laughing at first, but then she went ‘Holy…!’ I’d really given my face a good old smack; it looked like I’d been in the ring with Tyson for a few rounds. So she rang a friend of hers who was a doctor.

Dr. ‘Pip’ Jones arrived almost immediately. He came round on the spot, took a needle out and, after great difficulty threading it, put it in the first half of the wound. He was shaking a bit, but got it all the way through, and then he said, ”Oh, the thread’s just come out – I’ll have to do it again!’ No anaesthetic. I was standing there while he rethreaded it and pulled it through again.

They returned to 'Rembrandt' a few hours later. Paul’s face was all swollen and stitched up and Nicki’s scarf was soaked in blood. Mike McCartney was shocked by Paul’s appearance but complied with his brother request to go and fetch his camera to take photos of his injured face. He would later recall:

I said ‘Oh My God!’ and he said ‘No, it’s fine’. They’d been taking some sort of substances and he was still high. He said ‘You must take a picture! You’ve got to! Michael’. He kept saying ‘this is the truth. This if life. This is reality’. It was mind expanding drugs is what it was.

Nicki was equally horrified at the state of her expensive scarf. Paul’s stepmother Angie took it and said she’d wash it. I said well, I really think it ought to be dry-cleaned’ because it was wool and I knew it was going to come out of the washing machine looking like a tie. I said ‘Please don’t put it in the washing machine’ and she said ’I have to wash it because it’s got Paul McCartney’s blood on it and you could sell it’. So she did wash it – and, yes, she ruined it’.

News leaked out quickly making the Daily Mirror on 31 December 1965 under the headline ‘No Fight, says injured Beatle”. It read: Beatle Paul McCartney denied last night that his gashed eyebrow and cut lip were the result of a fight. He said he had fallen off his moped during his Christmas stay with his father near Liverpool’.


Ouch!

One of Mike’s photos from the night of the accident was later stolen from Paul’s home and subsequently appeared in an Italian magazine to support a story about ‘wild Beatle drug parties in swinging London’. Little did they know the real action was happening up on the Wirral! 


Twelve months later Tara would be involved in a motor accident which would claim his life. His death is said to have inspired John Lennon to write the opening verse of A Day In The Life.

However Paul McCartney, has denied this: The verse about the politician blowing his mind out in a car we wrote together. It has been attributed to Tara Browne, the Guinness heir, which I don’t believe is the case, certainly as we were writing it I was not attributing it to Tara in my head. In John’s head it might have been. In my head I was imagining a politician bombed out on drugs who’d stopped at some traffic lights and didn’t notice that the lights had changed. The ‘blew his mind’ was purely a drugs reference, nothing to do with a car crash.

Note:

In the Beatles Anthology Paul claims that it was this moped accident that led to him growing a moustache: It was pretty embarrassing, because around that time you knew your pictures would get winged off to teeny-boppery magazines like 16, and it was pretty difficult to have a new picture taken with a big fat lip. So I started to grow a moustache – a sort of Sancho Panza - mainly to cover where my lip had been sewn. It caught on with the guys in the group: if one of us did something like growing his hair long and we liked the idea, we’d all tend to do it. And then it became seen as a kind of revolutionary idea, that young men of our age definitely ought to grow a moustache! And it all fell in with the Sgt. Pepper thing, because he had a droopy moustache. 

In fact Paul grew what became his ‘Sgt Pepper moustache’ as part of the disguise he adopted when he went travelling in late 1966 – a full 12 months after his accident. 

He may well have grown a moustache in early January 1966 to cover the split lip but a lack of  contemporary photos seem to prove otherwise. He was also in no particular hurry to have his front tooth fixed as evidenced by the Paperback Writer and Rain promotional films made in May 1966, a full five months after the crash. 


Eventually Brian Epstein was asked to comment:  Last mid-December, Paul injured his lip and chipped his tooth in the moped accident. He honestly thought no one would notice the chip, for it is so small. I told him three times he should do something about it. It is in a place where there are no nerve ends, so there is no pain. Paul assured me that he would have the tooth capped, but – unfortunately – he has not done so. Could he be afraid of the dentist? It is my opinion that he will just let it be.

He eventually had it capped in June 1966.


Neston today showing the position of the Institute (now the Civic Hall) and Cameron's cycles. 




Source:






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