Monday, 30 July 2018

Thank U Very Much

This is something nice I found when I was recently trawling the archives of the Liverpool Echo 


Liverpool Echo, 16 November 1981

Monday, 16 July 2018

Colin Hanton

Last week I visited St Peter's Church Hall in Woolton to pick up a signed copy of  Colin Hanton's new book Pre:Fab written in collaboration with Colin Hall.

Unfortunately I was too late for the actual book signing though I did manage to buy the remaining signed copy.  Nor did I catch the authors in person (they'd called it a day shortly before I arrived, I expect so they could get home and watch the England game) but I'm sure our paths will cross soon, by which time I should hopefully have finished the book and be in a position to ask them about it.

As I say, I've nowhere near finished the book yet but I can confirm that my first impressions are that it's well written and, just as importantly it's accurate. For a gentleman nearing his 80th birthday Colin Hanton's memory is great  while Colin Hall, the National Trust's custodian of  John Lennon's former home 'Mendips',  does a fine job of placing these recollections in the appropriate chronological order.

It also passes the test I apply to any new Beatle publication that appears. Put simply, I open the book at random and look for errors. If I find some in such an arbitrary way I can usually guarantee that there will be more. I'm also prone to check any photograph captions to see if the given date and location is correct.

I'm pleased to say I've found no such issues wiith Pre:Fab! which is a great relief as I've been looking forward to it since meeting with Colin in February this year at the Penny Lane Development Trust.

I was on Jackie Spencer's  'George Harrison 75th Birthday Tour' and she had arranged for Colin to meet us there and share his memories of how George came to join the Quarry Men. During the meeting Colin confirmed the date he expected his book to be published and was kind enough to give us preview of some of the stories it contains (on the condition that we bought the book when it came out!)

The tour party for Jackie Spencer's George Harrison 75th Birthday Tour, with Colin top centre.

I'll do a full review when I finish it. In the meantime here's a promotional interview with Colin by Grace Macaskill which appeared in the Daily Mirror on 23 June 2018:

"Beatles fans give Liverpool pensioner a wave on Penny Lane - unaware he was once part of the band"

Loads of Beatles fans trundle along Penny Lane and get a wave from the man who played drums with John, Paul and George.

They wave back – blissfully unaware the Liverpool pensioner they have just encountered could have been a really big Starr.

This isn’t Ringo, the fourth member of the legendary band. It’s Colin... Colin Hanton – the man who turned his back on the group after a bust-up at a gig.

He is 79, lives just a few long and winding roads from Penny Lane and says of greeting the daytrippers: “To them I’m just a grey-haired old bloke on his way to get the morning paper – but they’ll give me a wave back.”

Colin left the Beatles – then called the Quarry Men – after a fallout with George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Three years later they struck gold with Love Me Do, and Ringo was on the drums.

But there’s no bitterness from Colin, who says: “I was at a different stage of my life from the others. At 18, I was the oldest.

“I had an apprenticeship as an upholsterer and that meant something in post-war ­Liverpool. I also had a steady girlfriend who went on to become my wife.

“To be honest, I don’t understand why everyone makes such a big fuss of me being part of it all. We were just young lads having fun and I went along with the ride.”

(L) Colin and Me at the PLDT, February 2018.


And when the band stopped being fun Colin ripped up his ticket to ride – literally.
It was January 1959 and he stomped off a bus after he and his bandmates fluffed a gig in front of a talent spotter.

He goes on: “I don’t think I could have coped with all the fame. Paul McCartney was in Liverpool the other week and he couldn’t go anywhere without being spotted.  It was ‘Paul is doing this, Paul is doing that. Paul has stopped off for the toilet’. I couldn’t have coped with that level of attention.” (Note: Colin is referring to Paul's visit with James Corden, see my earlier blog).

But Colin has enjoyed fame on a quieter level as a member of the original Quarry Men, the band Lennon formed in 1956 and which morphed into the Beatles.

Until recently Colin and fellow former Quarry Men Rod Davis, 77, and Len Garry, 76, were still playing gigs around the world. 

Colin was first asked to join in 1956 “because I was one of the few people around with a drum kit”.

He borrowed £34 to buy it and was still paying it off when McCartney joined in October 1957 and Harrison came on board in early 1958.

Britain was enjoying skiffle, a kind of folk music with blues or jazz influences. But the landscape was changing with the arrival of Bill Haley’s Rock Around the Clock and Elvis Presley’s Hound Dog. And Colin was keen to get in on the act. In vain, his parents warned him to “stay away from that Lennon lad” – considered to be a difficult pupil who “fancied himself as a bit of a teddy boy”.

Life as an early Quarry man was far removed from the grandeur and adulation that the Beatles would enjoy.

Colin recalls: “We’d get the bus everywhere. I’d stick my drum kit downstairs and we’d all go upstairs for a smoke. I was the oldest and the only one who could drink.

There was no chance of the other lads getting hold of alcohol either because the only pint you could get was in a pub or at an off-licence attached to it.” And he laughs: “The only drugs that were around the scene were aspirin!”

He tells how the band “entered every talent contest around”. They were spotted by promoter Charlie McBain, who fixed up gigs around Liverpool throughout most of 1957.

Colin says: “We got 10 shillings – 50 pence – for each gig so it wasn’t big money and I was the only one in the band earning anything at that time as an apprentice upholsterer.

 “But we were having fun and lots of it. We didn’t take ourselves that seriously.

The Quarry Men (L-R) Colin Hanton, Paul McCartney, Len Garry, John Lennon, Eric Griffiths at the New Clubmoor Conservative Club, Norris Green in 1957.

“Paul changed us, smartened us up. Before Paul, we just wore what we wanted. But before long he and John were wearing white jackets, white shirts and black ties. John went with the flow but I knew Paul was going somewhere. He was diplomatic, more cautious. Paul was a big influence and everything he did was carefully thought out. Without him, the Beatles might not have made it.”

As older members of the Quarry Men drifted away to “get on with their daily lives”, Colin played drums on the first single that John, Paul and George ever recorded – their version of Buddy Holly’s That’ll Be The Day.

But in 1959, Colin quit over a boozy gig. He explains: “The owner of the Pavilion Theatre in Liverpool had come to check us out but nobody had told me he was coming.

“The first half went brilliantly. But during the break we had a pint and one pint led to two...

“I was dancing on the tables. Me, Paul and John staggered back on stage as three drunks. Only George was sober – he was too young to drink. Things didn’t go well. I’d no idea we were being scouted and I saw it as a lost opportunity. It erupted into a row in the club which carried on when we got the bus home. And that was that. The end of me and the Quarry Men.”

Colin went on to marry his teenage sweetheart Joan and they had two daughters. He also ran his own business as an upholsterer. He adds: “Dad was keen on me finishing my apprenticeship. That was everything. I had no regrets when I left the Quarry Men.”

The Quarry Men reunited in 1997 – initially to raise cash to restore St Peter’s Church in Woolton, where Lennon first met McCartney while playing at a garden fete. And while McCartney is now worth an estimated £904million, his former bandmate is philosophical about the hand he’s been dealt.

“I have lived a lovely life with Joan and we had two fantastic daughters. Life couldn’t have been better. I don’t mind if those tourists coming to Penny Lane don’t know who I am.”

But he adds wistfully: “Of course I wouldn’t have left the band if I knew what was to come...”

Colin’s book Pre:Fab! – written with author Colin Hall – is on sale now, priced £10. 

Sunday, 15 July 2018

"Bring Your Flash"

Heath Road
Liverpool 19
(and elsewhere)

Monday, 15 July 1963

On a more humorous note, this happened 55 years ago today.

Following a Sunday night engagement at the ABC Theatre in Blackpool the Beatles returned to Liverpool, where they spent the next day visiting friends and family.

These days off were becoming increasingly rare. This is how they spent the rest of this week in 1963:

Tuesday 16 July - The Beatles recorded 3 episodes of their 'Pop Go The Beatles' radio show at the BBC Paris Studio in London - a total of 18 different songs.  They'd actually arrived late for the 10.30am session which suggests they left Liverpool later than expected.

Wednesday 17 July - Still in that London the Beatles recorded another BBC radio session, this time for the 'Easy Beat' show at the Playhouse Theatre.

Thursday 18 July - The Beatles commenced recording sessions for their second album (to be titled 'With The Beatles') at EMI Studio 2 in Abbey Road, London. The songs were You Really Got A Hold On Me, Money (That's What I Want), Devil In Her Heart, and 'Till There Was You, all cover versions from their Cavern repertoire.

Friday 19 and Saturday 20 July - The Beatles performed at two sold out shows in the Ritz Ballroom, Rhyl, North Wales (which I've covered in an earlier blog).

But back to Monday 15 July 1963. 

At some point during the day George and John were together at 'Mendips' visiting Mimi, Cynthia and three-month old Julian. We know this because they brought a portable tape recorder with them and recorded six minutes of themselves chatting while an album played in the background.

You can hear George discussing their upcoming schedule for the week with Cynthia, telling her that on Thursday they'll be recording a show for broadcast on Sunday and they'll have to wear suits (for radio!) because it's in front of a live audience. This is the show 'Easy Beat' which they actually recorded on the Wednesday. 

He also confirms that they're travelling to London tomorrow and will be there until Thursday. As noted above, on the Friday they appeared in Wales.

The tape was among those left in the possession of the Beatles' chauffeur Alf Bicknell which later found its way onto a bootleg CD entitled Maybe You Can Drive My Car. 

Talking of cars, what George did next that day was also captured for posterity.

Just under a year after buying the Ford Anglia Harrison was making some good money and could afford to trade it in for a flash Jaguar Mark 2.

On 29 June 1963 George wrote to his sister Louise who was living in Benton, Illinois. In his final PS he wrote 'I am buying a new car soon, possibly a Jaguar (Big-head!) which he did within two weeks of writing the letter.  He may actually have acquired it on the 15 July as he had very few days off in the fortnight leading up to it  - for almost one week he was playing a season in Margate.

In any event, having shown off his new wheels to his parents and neighbours on Mackets Lane he wasted no time in driving over to Forthlin Road where he knew he'd find Mike McCartney, and more importantly, Mike's camera.

Mike recalls the night in his book Remember: When he knocked at our Allerton front door demanding photos of his latest acquisiton I protested ' but George, it's getting dark'.

'Bring your flash' came the reply.

'And it's raining!' I added.

'Bring your umbrella,' he finalised.

And so, they went for a little drive around the area, George, Mike and Tony Bramwell according to the man himself.

They first look to have stopped on Mather Avenue... 

...before pausing on Heath Road, outside what is now the Bridge Chapel centre.

Me in a 2017 recreation. I had to wait until it was raining to get that moody authenticity!

.... before ending up on the approach road to Allerton Golf Course*, just as they had in August 1962 when George aquired the Anglia. 

Both cars had been obtained through a friend of Brian Epstein called Terry Doran who had a garage out in Warrington, George returned the Anglia to Doran and traded it in for the Jaguar.


* Though to me this could equally be one of the entrances to Camp Hill off Hillfoot Road, Woolton.