Mersey Beat and Penny Lane

It's 1960 in Liverpool.... Eddie Cochran's 'Summer Time Blues'.... Sound out of the Werlitzer Juke Box of the many coffee bars throughout Liverpool, followed by the Everly Brothers 'Cathys Clown' .. Elvis... Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and 'Great Balls of Fire'.

This is the sound, made up mainly of American pop music which dominated the scene at that time.. UK music was also developing nicely as with 'The Shadows', 'Cliff Richard', 'Johnny Kid and the Pirates' with.... 'Shakin all over'....Billy Fury and 'Halfway to Paradise'..'Johnny Remember me' and Heinz from the Joe Meek 'Telstar' stable. These great US and UK songs were spun for jiving teenagers at many small venues through the city on vinyl records at school hops and sports clubs and even struggling Dancing Clubs still trying to teach the waltz and two-step.

A few years earlier during the mid-1950s, there was a revival in the United Kingdom of the musical form "skiffle" that had originated in the United States and had been popular in the US in the 1920s, '30s and '40s. In addition to its popularity among British teenagers, it also spawned a craze of teenage boys starting their own groups such as The Quarrymen in Liverpool 1956 who went on to morph into The Beatles in 1960...

'Drivin Along' (L05) by Kevin Austin

So popular were these events that bigger venues sprung up throughout Liverpool to accommodate the many evolving new groups. Town Halls such as Litherland, New Brighton Tower, Lathom Hall, Holyoak Hall and many more became rock venues.

Penny Lane also had its own popular venue at St Barnabus Church Hall where once Paul McCartney was a choirboy at the church, and is now a pub called 'Dovedale Towers'. At the time locally it was known as 'Barneys' and once a month it held a 'Saturday Night Jive Club' evening.

No alchohol was served of course ..just Coca Cola and orange juice. But It was the night you wore smart... jeans and leathers were not allowed but this was the night to show off like peacocks your latest fashion attire.. In 1961 for the lads it was Italian mohair suits and white shirts with cutaway collars, and maybe a lavender tie to match the lavender socks inside the prized winklepickers were 'all ago'.. A hairstyle partly inheirited from the Teddy boy era was a mild quiff and DA (Ducks Arse) at the back. For the girls knee length skirts with nylon stockings and satin blouses were popular as with pointed pink shoes with a strap and heel were the craze and shoulder length hair just released from curlers perhaps with a dash of peroxide to give that little upward flick of a curl over the collar or with others a questionable beehive... and always complete with an individual handbag.

Who's playing this Saturday ? its Gerry and the Pacemakers ... and Rory Storm and the Hurricanes... other times it was The Big 3 or Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes... many other times it was The Searchers... Oh ! and The Quarrymen used to play there too in the early days.

'At The Dance' (L06) by Kevin Austin

Breakthrough and Fame

The music and songs the group played were always covers of top of the pops US and UK hits.. generally made up of a mix of Lead, rhythm and bass guitar and drums.. and some solo on vocals. Some exceptions had a piano which Gerry and the Pacemakers had .. and some were different altogether as with 'The Chants' a black all harmony group. Great times with great 'gear' events.

The Beatles along with many other local groups were very popular in Liverpool at that time but largely unknown outside Mersyside.

It was a very astute local business man Brian Epstein who changed everything... Upon watching The Beatles perform at the Cavern he became their manager along with several other Merseyside groups... Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, Tommy Quickly, The Fourmost and Cilla Black, .. With an introduction to music producer George Martin at London Abbey Road Studios, history was made in Oct 1962 when they released their very first own song 'Love me do' with John Lennon famously on harmonica, and made chart history at 17. Then in 1963 a most explosive time occurred when three more of their new songs rocketed to top of the charts... Please Please Me, From Me To You and She Loves You...

At that point, that ground breaking sound of The Beatles transformed pop music in the UK followed just months later in the US came the same phenomenal international acclaim famously establishing the phenomenon of Mersey Beat.

4 years later in 1967 the Beatles released a single with the 'A' side song 'Penny Lane' and the 'B' side song 'Strawberry Fields Forever'.  Both songs are based on the memories of Paul McCartney and John Lennon childhood and teenage years of those special places.

It was such a dynamic time whereby in the mid 60’s UK music which included many other successful UK groups changed the course of pop music on an international scale creating yet another phenomenon known as 'The British Invasion'.

Dovedale Towers Pub