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 band-mates 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 acquired 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

The tragic death of Julia Lennon: 60 Years on.

Sixty years ago today Julia Lennon died.

Tuesday 15 July 1958

My mother was a housewife, I suppose. She was a comedienne and a singer. Not professional, but she used to get up in pubs and things like that. She had a good voice. She could do Kay Starr. She used to do this little tune when I was just a one - or two-year-old. The tune was from the Disney movie - 'Want to know a secret? Promise not to tell. You are standing by a wishing well.'

There were five women that were my family. Five strong, intelligent, beautiful women; five sisters. One happened to be my mother. My mother just couldn't deal with life. She was the youngest and she couldn't cope with me and I ended up living with her elder sister.

My mother and father split when I was four and I lived with an auntie, Mimi
(John Lennon, The Beatles Anthology) 

From 1946 John lived with his Aunt Mimi (Mary Smith) and Uncle George in their house, 'Mendips', at 251 Menlove Avenue, Woolton, Liverpool. Depending on whose account you read, Julia's decision to hand over the care of her son to them was made willingly with the self acceptance that she could not cope with him - the version John seems to have been led to believe -  or after being put under immense pressure to do so by Mimi and their oppressive father, 'Pop' Stanley - the version given by her daughter Julia Baird, John's half sister.

Mimi told me my parents had fallen out of love. She never said anything directly against my father and mother. I soon forgot my father. It was like he was dead. But I did see my mother now and again and my feeling never died off for her. I often thought about her, though I'd never realized for a long time that she was living no more than five or ten miles away. 

She was actually a lot closer. Julia was living at 1 Blomfield Road, only 1.5 miles from 'Mendips', a half hour walk. Although she had tried to visit John when he went to live with Mimi she had eventually been asked to keep away, Mimi arguing that it always upset John when she left. Effectively Mimi curtailed her sister's contact with her own son.

Sometime in late 1953, early 1954 John's cousin Stanley, visiting from Edinburgh decided to go and visit Julia and, without telling Mimi, took John with him for what was later described as a joyful reunion.

I started going to visit her at her house. I met her new bloke and didn't think much of him. I called him Twitchy. Julia became a sort of young aunt to me, or a big sister. As I got bigger and had more rows with Mimi, I used to go and live with Julia for a weekend. 

Her 'new bloke' was John Dykins though Julia confusingly called him 'Bobby', reportedly because she already had a John in her life.

[Twitchy was] otherwise known as Robert Dykins or Bobbie Dykins. Her second husband - I don't know if she married him or not; little waiter with a nervous cough and the thinning, margarine-coated hair. He always used to push his hand in the margarine or the butter, usually the margarine, and grease his hair with it before he left. He used to keep his tips in a big tin on top of a cupboard in the kitchen, and I used to always steal them. I believe Mother got the blame. That's the least they could do for me.

With the benefit of hindsight, reading or listening to Lennon's responses to questions about his mother reveals how little factual information he knew about her or her common-law husband. For example, he seems to think Dykins' christian name was actually Robert. Clearly he only knew what Mimi wanted him to know. 

When I was sixteen my mother taught me music. She first taught me how to play banjo chords - that's why in very early photos of the group I'm playing funny chords - and from that I progressed to guitar. 

I used to borrow a guitar at first. I couldn't play, but my mother bought me one from one of those mail-order firms. It was a bit crummy, but I played it all the time and got a lot of practice. 

I played the guitar like a banjo, with the sixth string hanging loose. My first guitar cost £10. All I ever wanted to do was to vamp; I only learnt to play to back myself
(John Lennon, The Beatles Anthology

Julia bought John his first guitar, a cheap Gallotone Champion acoustic "guaranteed not to split". Julia shared John's love of rock and roll music, despite Mimi's disapproval, and saw her son playing in the Quarry Men.

John's world came crashing in on the evening of 15 July 1958

She got killed by an off-duty cop who was drunk, after visiting my auntie's house where I lived. I wasn't there at the time. She was at the bus stop and he ran her down in a car. 

That was another big trauma for me. I lost her twice. Once when I was moved in with my auntie. And once again at seventeen when she actually, physically died. 

Julia died on Menlove Avenue shortly after leaving Mimi's house. Crossing the road to get to a bus stop she was struck by a Standard Vanguard car driven by an off-duty policeman, 24-year-old Eric Clague.

I am Constable 126 C, Liverpool City Police, and live at 43 Ramilies Road, Liverpool 18. I was the driver of the motor car (private) LKF 630, which was involved in this occurrence. I have heard the statement said to have been made by me to Police Inspector Harte and I agree with it....

Eric Clague
Inquest statement, 1958

Mrs Lennon just ran straight out in front of me. I just couldn't avoid her. I was not speeding, I swear it. It was just one of those terrible things that happen.

Eric Clague

Nigel Walley and John Lennon on Lime Street, Liverpool, May 1958. Two months before the tragedy.

Mimi would often accompany Julia to the bus stop but on this evening she had her slippers on and didn't have time to change into her shoes before the number 4 bus arrived. They parted at the gate -  Julia, Mimi and her long time lodger Michael Fishwick. 

Just as Julia was leaving Mendips, Nigel Walley, turned up looking for John: I went to call for John that evening but his Aunt Mimi told me he was out. Mimi was at the gate with John's mum, who was about to leave. We stood chatting and John's mum said 'Well, you have the privilege of escorting me to the bus stop!' I said 'That will do me fine. I'll be happy to do that.'

The two chatted and laughed their way the 200 yards up the street to the corner of Vale Road where they parted. As Nigel would later recall We walked down Menlove Avenue and I turned off to go up Vale Road, where I lived. I must have been about 15 yards up the road when I heard a car skidding and a thump. I turned round to see John's mum going through the air. I rushed over but she had been killed instantly.

I rushed over. It wasn't a gory mess but she must have had severe internal injuries, To my mind, she'd been killed instantly. I can still see her gingery hair fluttering in the breeze blowing across her face.

Where Julia and Nige said goodbye. The  corner of Vale Road is on the right, the house on the extreme left is on the corner of the Vineries and Menlove Avenue.  The bus stop is just to the left of the street lamp.

Menlove Avenue in 1932. The trams ran down the centre of the road, the tracks screened on both sides by hedges to protect pedestrians and other road users. Within a few years of this photo being taken 'Mendips' would be built on the land just past the car on the left heading towards Hunts Cross.

This is the same view taken in the early 1960s. Trams stopped running in 1957 and eventually Liverpool corporation covered most of the tracks with tarmac, or in the case of Menlove Avenue, created a central reservation by turfing over them. The hedges that screened the tram tracks were also removed. 'Mendips' and the neighbouring houses can now be seen on the left. The aerial show below shows the scene of the tragedy as it looks today. 

It seems Julia cut through the hedges screening off the old tram tracks.  She was struck as she stepped onto the road from the hedge. Clague probably had no chance to avoid a collision.
Contrary to John's belief, Clague was not drunk at the time, and he was driving under the 30mph speed limit. He was, however, a learner driver who was driving unaccompanied.
Mimi and Fishwick had just reached the kitchen when they heard the screech of tyres and bang. For a split second they looked at each other before running out of the house and across the road where a small crowd of onlookers had gathered. One said that an ambulance had been called. 

Mimi cried hysterically as they waited for an ambulance.

At about 9.45pm the deceased left my home (in Menlove Avenue) and went in the direction of a bus stop on the opposite side by The Vineries. Shortly afterwards I was informed that she had been injured. I went to the scene... she was unconscious. I went with her to Sefton General Hospital... she was dead on arrival.

Mimi Smith
Inquest statement

I was staying with Julia and Twitchy this weekend. The copper came to the door, to tell us about the accident. It was just like it's supposed to be, the way it is in the films, asking if I was her son and all that. Then he told us, and we both went white. 
(John Lennon)

John and Dykins rushed by taxi down to the morgue at Sefton General hospital but John refused to take a last look at his mother. 

We got a taxi over to Sefton General where she was lying dead. I didn't want to see her. I talked hysterically to the taxi driver all the way, ranted on and on, the way you do. The taxi driver just grunted now and again. I refused to go in, but Twitchy did. He broke down. Twitchy took it worse than me. Then he said, 'Who's going to look after the kids?' And I hated him. Bloody selfishness.

He also wouldn't speak to Nigel Walley for months afterward: whether it was because seeing him reminded John of what had happened, or because on some level he blamed him, 'Nige' wasn't sure: I didn't see John much after that because he became a bit of a recluse. It worried me because, deep down, I wondered whether he blamed me for the accident and was thinking 'If only Nigel Walley had stayed a minute longer talking to my mum'. But hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Julia had not married John Dykins. She was still Julia Lennon and actually 44 years old. A post-mortem examination revealed she had died of massive brain injuries caused by skull fractures, The next report gets it right.

An inquest held a month later recorded a verdict of death by misadventure . Eric Clague was acquitted of all charges. When the verdict was announced Mimi reportedly stood up and rushed to the dock threatening Clague with her walking stick. She was pulled away by the courts ushers and collapsed on a chair, weeping.

At the time I thought of sending the family my condolences, but I thought it would only make matters worse. They were very angry and upset by what had happened, naturally so, I suppose.

Eric Clague, 1998

In 1964, when The Beatles became world-famous, Clague realised he had killed the mother of John Lennon.

Like everyone else I started reading in the papers about them and they were never off the TV. I read that John Lennon's mother was dead and that he used to live in Menlove Avenue.

I put two and two together and realised that it was his mum that I had killed. Everything came back to me and I felt absolutely terrible. It had the most awful effect on me. The Beatles were everywhere, especially in Liverpool, and I couldn't get away from it.
Eric Clague

Clague later left the police force to become a postman.

My postman's round took in Forthlin Road, where Paul McCartney (lived). At the height of The Beatles' fame I used to deliver hundreds of cards and letters to the house.

I remember struggling up the path with them all. But of course they just reminded me of John Lennon and his mother.
Eric Clague, 1998

Julia was buried in Allerton Cemetery, a short walk from Blomfield Road. 

Her death deeply affected John:

It was the worst thing that ever happened to me. We'd caught up so much, me and Julia, in just a few years. We could communicate. We got on. She was great. 

It made me very, very bitter. The underlying chip on my shoulder that I had got really big then. Being a teenager and a rock'n'roller and an art student and my mother being killed just when I was re-establishing a relationship with her.

I thought, 'F*ck it, f*ck it, f*ck it. That's really f*cked everything. I've no real responsibilities to anyone now.' 

John would later refer to her in the songs Julia, Mother and My Mummy's Dead. His first son, Julian, was named for her.