Friday 17 February 2017

Strawberry Fields Forever - 50 Years Ago Today!

Strawberry Field
Beaconsfield Road

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).


The Beatles 1 Video Collection is Out Now. Get your copy here:

Saturday 11 February 2017


The Institute,
Hinderton Road,
Neston, Wirral, 
Cheshire,CH64 9PE

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 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)

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

The tea was at Neston Institute and, after the speeches, the flowers and staff 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.

Saturday 4 February 2017

Liverpool: Then and Now

Liverpool Art College
Hope Street
Liverpool 1

I have an app on my phone that let's me overlay an old archive photo with a photograph of the same view that I've just taken to create an interesting then-and-now composition. I now carry a phone full of old photographs of Liverpool and the Beatles for whenever the opportunity presents itself. I've used the results occasionally on this blog.

Superior results can be obtained using Photoshop which I have to admit is technically a bit beyond me at the moment. For me the absolute master of this is Keith Jones who you may be familiar with from the incredible photographs he posts on his Facebook page Liverpool: Then and Now.

Keith was keen to get out yesterday lunchtime and do some new photographs and invited suggestions on his page. With my previous post still in mind, and planning to try and do a composite shot at some point in the future myself I thought why not turn over the Art College photo to Keith and let the expert do it. He was happy to oblige. 

As you can see from the finished result, he's done a fantastic job. Look how soot blackened the Art College was in 1960!

If you haven't already I strongly recommend that you head over to Keith's page (click the link below):

But beware, you can lose hours on there!

Cheers Keith.

The original photo © Tony Carricker.  Then and Now © Keith Jones (2017)