I Saw Them Standing There. Continued

Don Maddocks was the lead guitarist with the Strollers and was also to play with the Tommy Burton Combo. Like most of the other local group players he realised that the Beatles were special:

"It was the Plaza Old Hill gig which really brought the Beatles to everybody s attention round here. Word got round the groups and everyone started to listen very carefully to this new group and their sound. It was so different from Cliff and the Shadows. It meant that we all needed to look at ourselves and decide in which direction we were going."

"The Strollers were to achieve something which very few other local groups achieved and that was to play in Liverpool. We may not have played the Cavern but we did get to play at the Iron Door which was probably second only to the Cavern. That was one hell of an experience for us. Liverpool had become the music capital of the world, almost overnight, and we got to play there."

Strollers. One of the only Wolverhampton groups to make it to Liverpool, not the Cavern but the next best thing, the Iron Door. The original group included George and Don Maddocks, Curly Davies and Martin
de Vries. (Don Maddocks)

"While we were in Liverpool we were wandering the Mount Pleasant area and we could hear a practising. We pushed the door open and we found Mojos were the group playing. It was their original line up. That was the first time we got to see them but became quite regular visitors to the town. We played them at the Woolpack if I remember right. But experience seemed typical of the city of Liverpool at time there were groups absolutely everywhere."

It was estimated in 1963 that the city of Liverpool had something in the region of 350 beat groups. While the vast majority were probably quite ordinary, there were many who would have their individual 'moment of glory' with a successful record in the charts. But, however many groups might come out of Liverpool and Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham, London etc. it was the Beatles, and later the Rolling Stones, who dictated the style and set the wheels in motion which led to the Beat Boom and the emergence of British R&B in the mid-60s. As a result there was also an incredible increase in the number of groups in almost every corner of the country, including Wolverhampton and the immediate surrounding area.

The Beatles broke with the custom of having a recognised lead man who inevitably sang the lead vocals, dressed differently and got the vast majority of the fans' (girls) adulation. The Beatles were a 'democratic' line-up in which each member had equal standing. Their sound and line-up moved away from the twang and the 'echoey' sounds of the Shadows and the conventional 'backing' group bolstering the 'frontman'. It was now rock 'n' roll but with harmony. The Beatles could not really be described as handsome, although they did dress uniformly and smartly and appealed to both sexes. However, their appeal (especially that of John Lennon) was far more a product of their anti-hero image. This image was reinforced by their fresh and honest love for rock 'n' roll and black music. They also moved right away from Tin Pan Alley and its professional songwriters by penning most of their own material. All of these factors had effects on all of their popular musical contemporaries, including many of those in our local area.

As John O'Hara remembers about the emergence of the Beatles and the Mersey Sound and its effect on many of the local groups (in his case, the Tremors):

"We had been copying most of the chart stuff, especially the latest from Cliff and the Shadows and so on. When the Beatles came on the scene, along with the other Liverpool and Manchester groups, it was a case of getting hold of their latest records as soon as they came out and quickly learning the words and arrangements. We prided ourselves on hearing the record on the Friday and performing it on the Saturday, and performing it well, just as had happened with Cliff numbers."

"It was necessary to brush up on your harmonies because so much of the popular stuff was very harmonious. It was not just the lead singer taking the lead vocal and the rest of the group throwing in an few oohs and aahs, now each voice had its role and place within the group’s sound"

One of the other important results was that established groups who had survived were once again able to play some of the Rock 'n' Roll and R&B numbers which they had played a few years earlier, and some of the newer groups now 'discovered' the music. This was largely because the Beatles and the other groups which emerged on to the national scene at the time re-popularised that music. The songs of Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Larry Williams and some of the less well-known black American R&B artists were 'back in the public eye'. The Beatles included numbers like Anna, Baby It s You, Boys, Chains and Twist And Shout on their first album and would regularly include numbers like Roll Over Beethoven, Long Tall Sally, Kansas City, Sweet Little Sixteen, Matchbox, Lucille etc. in concert appearances and on radio. If such music was good enough for the Beatles, it was good enough for every group!

Roger Bromley describes his taste in music and how firstly the emergence of the Beatles and then more importantly the Rolling Stones proved most influential to his group, the Soul Seekers:

"When we became the Soul Seekers in 1963, the changes which were occurring in music fitted in perfectly with my personal tastes and those of most of the group. The Beatles, and more especially the Stones, were bringing back the music of Chuck Berry and other less well-known R&B performers.”

"Many of the new groups had a raw and raunchy sound while the Bobbies and the more insipid performers who had been in vogue for the previous few years were really tame. They were little more than glorified ballad singers with a beat.”

"It now meant that we, and most of the other local groups, could start to play music which best suited each of us as a group. In our case the music of the Stones etc. really suited the voice of Graham (Gomery) who had been Dane Tempest in the original group, because he had the sort of raw sound which fitted the R&B or blues style perfectly. I particularly liked that sound and we, as a group, wanted to play that music.”

John Howells who sang with the Vendors and the original 'N Betweens, describes the changes which occurred with the group and their material when the Mersey groups and R&B appeared on the scene:

"When Dave Hill joined us we were able to play Chuck Berry numbers better than ever because he was such a good guitarist. We stopped playing the old out and out rock and started to play R&B and some of the Mersey group numbers, especially by groups like the Merseybeats.”

"We supported the Rolling Stones at one of the St. Giles gigs in Willenhall and they were great. It wasn't long before we started to play that style of R&B. I think it best suited my voice and the sound of the group as a whole."

"Playing with such groups, watching them and talking to them could only help you to improve and consider different styles and modes of presentation. I know the music of the Stones had that effect on us."

Dave Jones joined the Vendors as bass guitarist, having played with a couple of the early Birmingham groups, the Globetrotters and Sirius and the Planets. He recalls the influence that his new group had on him:

"Most of the groups had been under the influence of the Shadows and of Hank Marvin in particular. I joined the Vendors at the time when the R&B thing was really becoming popular. I was not that keen on R&B originally but after a short time with the Vendors I had to change my opinion."

Vendors. It was from this Bilston group that Slade would ultimately evolve. In those early days they had a very earthy bluesy sound thanks to the excellent lead singer, John Howells (back right). It was the arrival of Dave Hill (front left) which led to the group attempting the R&B sound of Chuck Berry and others. (John Howells)

Mick Brookes who played with the Californians when they were at their most successful, had previously been with the Rockin' Rustlers and the Cobras. It was his time with the Cobras that he remembers here:

"We were not too bad a group at all and were willing to have a go at most anything but it was the music of the Beatles and some of the other Northern groups like the Hollies and the Searchers which we found particularly appealing."

"The arrival of the Beatles had completely blown the whole scene. It was no longer a case of playing the Shadows instrumentals and some of the latest pop tunes, it was the Beatles and the Mersey sound all the Way."

"The kids started to demand that the groups play the Mersey groups' numbers and attempt to reproduce them as near as damn it to the original. The Beatles stuff was very different because of the harmonies and it provided a test for most of the local groups, but the effort was worth it, especially with the reaction of the kids to the sound."

Cobras. Another group which came out of Bilston and included both Mick and Mel Brookes. (Mel Brookes)
The reaction of local kids to the efforts of local groups to 'replicate' the sounds of the Beatles and the other popular beat groups was nothing when compared to the reactions of those same kids to the 'real thing'.

In 1963 the Beatles appeared at the town's Gaumont Cinema on two occasions, in March and in November. Their first appearance was 'third' on the bill, below two American performers, Chris Montez and Tommy Roe.

While hindsight obviously colours judgements, a number of Wulfrunians who witnessed that first performance (by a trio, since John Lennon was ill) provide the following statements:

"I went to see Chris Montez because I really loved Let's Dance but the three Beatles really stole the show because they played such exciting music. It was at the time when Please, Please Me was in the charts so many of us had already heard the Beatles but their live performance was something else."

"I had seen the Beatles at the Plaza in Old Hill so I knew what to expect because they had blown the place apart with their sensational beat. In fact they probably weren’t as good at the Gaumont as they had been at the Plaza.”

"I had always been mad on Rock 'n' Roll but there had been very few real rockers among the British acts. I reckon the Beatles were the first true rock 'n' roll group I ever heard from this country. That performance at the Gaumont was my first experience of the Beatles. The next day I went out and bought their recording of Please, Please Me."

"I went to see that package show with two school mates from the Grammar School. We had actually gone to see Tommy Roe but the Beatles were the stars. They closed the first half, if I remember right. The kids who were there thought they were great. I bet the local sales of Please, Please Me quadrupled after that show."

"I didn't even know that the Beatles were a quartet but I thought they were superb that night, even as a trio. Paul McCartney's voice was fabulous."

The second appearance of the group at the Gaumont came eight months later and shortly after the 'official' outbreak of Beatlemania, one of the strangest phenomena of the past forty years.

It was in October 1963 that hundreds of teenagers besieged the London Palladium on the Sunday (October 13th) when the group was due to appear on Sunday Night At The London Palladium. Such scenes became fairly commonplace wherever the Fab Four appeared, including Wolverhampton.

Gaumont Bill. There they are in splendid majesty (at the bottom of the bill).

 As the Express & Star reported on Wednesday November 20th 1963 (the day after the Beatles appeared at the Gaumont Cinema):


'Mass Hysteria. That is the only adequate way to describe last night’s visit to the town by the Beatles. One girl feigned suicide in an effort to get into the Gaumont. Two screaming girls rushed the stage during the group's act and had to be forcibly removed Bottles and jelly babies showered on to the audience and stage alike. Hundreds of teenage girls wept uncontrollably as they left having shouted themselves hoarse.

Two girls made a sort of suicide attempt. One had been following the Beatles about for a week. She had hitched from her Surrey home to Bournemouth and Coventry. They did not have tickets for either of last night's performances and so they bought 100 aspirins and one of them took a handful of the tablets. She was violently sick. Both girls got tickets from a tout.

All through the two shows thousands of screaming youngsters kept up a vigil underneath the dressing room windows hoping to see bill toppers. They were kept off the road by crash barriers and the ever patient police.

Scenes inside the cinema were fantastic with fans shouting continuously. It would be true to say that if extra staff had not been brought in there would have been an ugly riot. But due to efficiency almost everything went without hitch. Unfortunately two girls fought wildly with attendants in a vain attempt to get to the stage. They were removed, with difficulty, from the stalls.’

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