Beatlemania begins: the Alloa gig that introduced the world to The Beatles

It’s 60 years since an unknown band took to the stage of Alloa Town Hall and began a musical revolution, finds Sandra Dick

For excitement-starved young people in one of Scotland’s sixties industrial heartlands, the invitation for a night of dancing and entertainment at Alloa Town Hall must have been tempting.

The Beat Ballad Show on offer in 1960 featured Liverpool-born Johnny Gentle, a “crooner” with an Elvis-style quiff who had flirted briefly with chart success, alongside his band and a support act.

And surely after a week working in the town’s breweries, glass factories or surrounding coal mines, the chance to gather until 1.30am for the princely sum of just 4/- would have been hard to resist.

Still, the young folks of Alloa who gathered to be entertained by the smooth vocals of Johnny Gentle and his hastily-arranged backing group on Friday, May 20, 1960, could not for a moment have realised they were about to bear witness to the birth of one of the world’s greatest bands.

For more click here

SOPAC Lights Up Marquee With Beatles Message of Love

Joining several theatres across the country in a musical message of joy, the South Orange Performing Arts Center recently posted the title of the Beatles’ iconic hit song “All You Need Is Love” on its marquee. The performing arts center was looking for ways to communicate with patrons in the area during its virus mandated closure and thought that a simple message of love would lift spirits and remind people of the inspiration that music and great artists bring to the world.

We all can use a positive message as we try to keep our spirits up during these difficult times. What better way to do that than to invoke one of the most enduring songs of one of the most beloved rock bands of all time?” said Executive Director Craig Sumberg. “We look to songwriters, poets, and other visionaries to help us get through tough times with inspiration and beauty. We look forward to opening SOPAC’s doors again in the not-too-distant future and welcoming great artists back to our stage.”

For more click here

Road trips, yoga and LSD with the dentist: what the Beatles did next

Fifty years after the band announced their split, Craig Brown looks back at the Fab Four’s remarkable return to ‘normal’ life

On 29 August 1966, the Beatles closed their set at the Candlestick Park baseball stadium in San Francisco with “Long Tall Sally”, an old Little Richard number that had been part of their repertoire from the very start. “See you again next year,” said John as they left the stage. The group then clambered into an armoured car and were driven away. It was to be their last proper concert.

Their American tour had been exhausting, sporadically frightening, and unrewarding. By this stage their delight in their own fame had worn off. They were fed up with all the hassle of touring, and tired of the way the screaming continued to drown out the music, so that even they were unable to hear it. Having been shepherded into an empty, windowless truck after a particularly miserable show in a rainy St Louis, Paul said to the others: “I really fucking agree with you. I’ve fucking had it up to here too.”

I’ve been telling you for weeks!” came the reply.

For more click here

Ringo Starr pushes back All Starr Band tour due to coronavirus

Ringo Starr is pushing back dates on his upcoming All Starr Band tour “out of an abundance concern and caution for the well being of fans, crew and staff due to the Covid 19 crisis,” according to a news release.

Ringo and his All Starr Band — featuring Steve Lukather, Colin Hay, Gregg Rolie, Warren Ham, Gregg Bissonette and Hamish Stuart — will now launch the tour next year.

“This is very difficult for me,” Starr said in a news release. “In 30 years I think I’ve only missed two or three gigs, never mind a whole tour. But this is how things are for all of us now, I have to stay in just like you have to stay in, and we all know it’s the peace and loving thing we do for each other.

“So we have moved the Spring tour to 2021. My fans know I love them, and I love to play for them and I can’t wait to see you all as soon as possible. In the meantime stay safe. Peace and love to you all.”

For more click here

The 2 Is Coffee Bar – Cliff Richard, Tommy Steele – and Tony Sheridan

In a new article, Beatles and Rock and Roll Tour Guide writes about the 2 Is Coffee Bar. The Beatles never played there, or even visited, but it was an important place in their history. 

For more on Richard’s tours, and to buy his book, ‘Guide to the Beatles London’, go to https://beatlesinlondon.com/

The London area of Soho was always known as an entertainment district that attracted teenagers. It also had a large Italian population. Many Italians started coffee bars in Soho, the first being the Moka Coffee Bar, at 29 Frith Street, which was opened by actress Gina Lollobrigida in 1953.

Teenagers flocked to the new coffee bars that opened, and they became the place for teenagers to ‘hang out’ – pubs were for old men. Even though the coffee bars couldn’t sell alcohol, many would bring their own to put in their coffee.

Soon, coffee bars sprang up all over Soho, and all over London. Many had jukeboxes, playing the latest rock and roll records, but not live music.

The 2 Is Coffee Bar was at 59 Old Compton Street, next to another coffee bar ‘Heaven and Hell’.

The Irini brothers, Sammy and Freddie, used the first letter of their name for the venue. But it really started to become known from April 1956 when the lease was taken over by Ray “Rebel” Hunter and Paul “Dr.Death” Lincoln, both Australian wrestlers. They thought that the prime location between Wardour Street and Dean Street would ensure abundant passing trade, but they were soon becoming concerned as the whole Street was jam-packed with other Coffee Bars. As a result, trade was not as good as they’d hoped, and we looking for ways to get more people to come in.

 

However, fate was at hand. The summer of 1956 saw the annual Soho Fair, which, on July 14th 1956, included a procession around its narrow streets. One of the attractions was The Vipers Skiffle Group, who were playing on the back of a flatbed truck. During the procession, their truck stopped right outside the 2 Is – so the Vipers went into the coffee bar and started playing some songs inside.  . While they were in the 2 Is, people following the procession came in too, and bought lots of coffee. The owners of the 2 Is asked the Vipers to come back in when they wanted, and the Vipers became the house band of the 2 Is.

 

In September 1956, the Vipers backed their mate Tommy Hicks at the 2 Is. In the audience was A and R man of Parlophone records, George Martin. Martin was unimpressed by Hicks, but signed the Vipers.

Publicist John Kennedy had seen Tommy Hicks playing at the 2 Is and told Larry Parnes about him. Parnes signed the newly named Tommy Steele to a management contract, and started signing up more acts, and changing their names to suit their images. Ron Wycherly became Billy Fury, Reginald Leonard Smith became Marty Wilde, John Askew became Johnny Gentle. Many of his artists appeared at the 2 Is, including Johnny Gentle.  Gentle was backed by the Beatles on their first professional tour, or Scotland in 1960.

Some of the future stars who performed at the 2 Is were Cliff Richard, Hank Marvin, Jet Harris, Tony Meehan, Brian Bennett, Brian ‘Licorice’ Locking, The Vipers, Tommy Steele, Tony Sheridan, Rory Blackwell, Joe Brown, Clem Cattini, Screaming Lord Sutch, Mickie Most (as The Most Brothers), Paul Gadd (who became Paul Raven and later Gary Glitter), Johnny Kidd, Big Jim Sullivan, Terry Dene, Carlo Little, Richie Blackmore, Wee Willie Harris and Eden Kane. Peter Grant was employed there as a ‘bouncer’ prior to his career as the manager of Led Zeppelin and Marc Bolan worked there as a waiter. The bar was featured in Cliff Richard’s second film, ‘Expresso Bongo’, made in 1959.

The 2 Is became a famous location and often appeared on TV.  On November 16th 1957, the Best family of Hayman’s Green, Liverpool, were watching the TV show, ‘Six Five Special, which was so called because it went out at 6.5pm (6:05pm) on Saturday nights. Normally it was broadcast from BBC studios, but this night it was live from the 2 Is Coffee bar.  They were very taken by what they saw and decided to use the basement of their large house into a coffee bar with Rock and Roll. They called it the Casbah Club, inspired by the film ‘Algiers’ where the star, Charles Boyer, says ‘Come with me to the Casbah.

Tom Littlewood was employed as the day-to-day manager of the 2 Is in 1960. He was good friends of Liverpool entrepreneur Alan Williams and inspired Williams to start his own coffee bar with music in Liverpool – the Jacaranda.

Tony Sheridan – the 2 Is to Hamburg

The only guitarist at the time who was any good was Tony Sheridan – Jimmy Page

“Soho was, in effect, an island, vaguely resembling Greenwich Village in its aims and trends, especially in the music field. Everything happened in Old Compton Street, Wardour Street, and there were about 40 regular personalities that meant something”. – Tony Sheridan

“Saturday Night in St Pauli made Soho look like a sleepy village fete.” Rick Richards of the Jets

The Beatles backing Tony Sheridan in Hamburg

 

Born on 21st May 1940 in Norwich, Anthony Esmond O`Sheridan McGinnity, was the son of an English mother and Irish father. Known as Tony Sheridan, he grew up in a home strongly influenced by classical music and learned the violin at an early age. Artistically talented, he dropped out of grammar school to attend art school, and changed his violin for a guitar. In 1956 he formed his first skiffle group.

Tony started to visit London in late 1957, and became a regular at the 2 Is. He remembered that ‘Roy Young was screaming out Little Richard songs the first time I went down there’.

In January 1959, Tony formed a new band called ‘Tony Sheridan and the Wreckers.’ The Wreckers featured Jimmie Nicol on drums. Tony Sheridan said of Nicol “Jimmie was an exemplary drummer – one of those drummers appreciated by all musicians, though they might not admit it! It was one of those things really, right time, right place, right chemistry.”

However, as Tony Sheridan and the Wreckers were about to go on to the lucrative ballroom circuit, Larry Parnes moved Nicol out of the Wreckers and into ‘The Quiet Three’ – the backing band of one of his major artists, Vince Eager. Jimmie later became a session musician, until he briefly filled in for Ringo Starr in the Beatles, when Ringo fell ill before their world tour in 1964.

1959 Dick Rowe announced he had signed Tony Sheridan to Top Rank Records. However, disagreements with Tony’s then manager, Tom Littlewood, scuppered the deal.

Tony was on the Eddie Cochran/Gene Vincent tour in 1960. On April 17th Eddie and Gene were involved in a serious car crash.  Tony said, “God, I’d have given almost anything to get a seat in the car taking Gene and Eddie from Bristol back to London on that last date of the tour in the spring of 1960. Instead, for the first (and last) time in my life I purchased half a bottle of whiskey and proceeded to down it in the theatre dressing room. Next morning, we learned that Eddie was dead, the car having crashed not too far from Bristol”.

Tony made 9 appearances on the TV show ‘Oh Boy’ – but “lost interest and ‘forgot’ my guitar or made a general nuisance of myself. Felt used or under-rated”

Tony backed Cliff Richard on a couple of occasions but as Tony says, “In those days I was a wild man – Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch were relatively docile chaps, and willing to back Cliff accordingly.”

Tony met his first wife, Hazel, at the 2 Is. She had an unplanned pregnancy and she and Tony had a ‘shot-gun wedding’ with future Shadows Brian ‘Liquorice’ Locking and Brian Bennett as joint best men. The marriage was not a success, and Tony was looking for a change…

It was around this time that Hamburg club owner, Bruno Koschmider, bumped into musician Iain Hines, who recommended a group (which then didn’t exist!) who could play in Hamburg. However, Hines got a group together quickly, that was made up of musicians from the 2 Is.  Tony Sheridan became part of this group – that were called ‘The Jets’.

In July 1960, Liverpool booking agent, Allan Williams brought the Liverpool band Derry and the Seniors to London to play at the 2 Is. He owed them work, as he’d promised them a summer season in Blackpool, but promoter Larry Parnes pulled out of the deal at the last moment. However, Derry and the Seniors had given up their regular day jobs and were now desperate for some work. In an amazing twist of fate, Bruno Koschmider was in the 2 Is that night, looking for another act to take to Hamburg. The Jets had gone down so well, he needed another group for the Kaiserkeller Club. Koschmider loved the band, and an agreement was made on the spot for Derry and the Seniors to go to Hamburg.

Derry and the Seniors went down a storm in Hamburg too, so in early August 1960,  Koschmider got in touch with Allan Williams again to see if he had another band to send to Hamburg. This time it was the Beatles turn…

 

 

 

 

 

VIRTUAL FEST FOR BEATLES FANS

Starts Tonight!
Friday at 5PM thru Sunday 11PM

 

This experiment, bringing as much of The Fest For Beatles Fans that we all know and love ONLINE has been certainly a thrill. Here we have a schedule of events that will take place across our social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, and now Zoom!

There are multiple ways to watch and participate!

Tune in for Beatles Magic and surprises, as we can HELP! each other through these trying times… (and likely some technical difficulties 😉

We are thrilled that most, if not all of the Special Guests originally scheduled for this weekend are participating in the Virtual FEST experiment, plus other surprise guests, too!!

JENNY BOYD
BILLY J. KRAMER
LAURENCE JUBER
STEVE HOLLEY
DON DANNEMANN (THE CYRKLE)
GREGG BISSONETTE
Just added:
PETER ASHER
MARK LEWISOHN
Others?!?!

John Lennon’s “Imagine” returns to ‘Billboard’ chart thanks to celebrity-filled viral video

Universal Music GroupA popular viral video showing a variety of celebrities separately singing the classic 1971 John Lennon ballad “Imagine” while they self-quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic has helped propel the late Beatles legend’s original version of the tune onto Billboard‘s Hot Rock Songs chart.

“Imagine” re-enters the tally at #15, after notching 1.3 million U.S. streams and 1,000 downloads sold during the most recent tracking week, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data, a respective increase of 7% and 138% over the previous week.

“Imagine” reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 back in November 1971. It’s last appearance on the Hot Rock Songs chart was in February 2018, when it rose to #23 after four Korean singers performed the tune during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

“Imagine” also landed at #13 on Billboard‘s latest Rock Digital Song Sales chart, marking the first time it’s returned to that tally since December 2015.

The aforementioned all-star “Imagine” video was posted on Instagram on March 19 by Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot, who’s featured singing parts of the tune along with Jimmy FallonLynda CarterNatalie PortmanSarah SilvermanWill FerrellKristen WiigNorah JonesSiaAmy AdamsMark RuffaloMaya Rudolph and others.

For more click here

London’s Abbey Road repainted amid coronavirus lockdown

(CNN) — One of the most famous streets in the world has had an unexpected makeover thanks to the coronavirus lockdown in the UK.
London’s iconic Abbey Road, which is normally a tourist magnet thanks to its appearance on the Beatles album cover of the same name, is now empty as locals hunker down inside.
That has provided a rare opportunity for municipal employees in the UK capital to give the famous crossing a new coat of paint.
But there’s more to caring for the legendary northwest London crosswalk — or zebra crossing, as the Brits would say — than simply waiting for the crowds to disperse.
In 2010, Abbey Road was given protected status in the UK, making it the first street crossing to get the same level of recognition as famous buildings and monuments.
[includes a video from our event for the 50th anniversary of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road]

‘ABBEY ROAD’ CROSSWALK HAS BEEN REPAINTED

With London on lockdown due to the coronavirus, the city has decided to refresh the crosswalk made famous by the Beatles‘ Abbey Road with a new coat of paint.

The oft-visited crosswalk, designated a national landmark by the British government in 2010, was repainted by a Highways Maintenance crew on Tuesday.

On the morning of Aug. 8, 1969, the Beatles spent roughly 10 minutes walking back and forth through the crosswalk, located near the convergence of Abbey and Grove End Roads in St. John’s Wood and steps away from the studio where the group recorded most of its albums. With a policeman blocking traffic, photographer Iain Macmillan stood on a ladder and took six shots, with the fifth in the series ultimately used as the one for Abbey Road‘s famous cover.

The decision by Apple Records art director John Kosh to not put the group’s name on the cover got him in hot water with EMI Records chairman Sir Joseph Lockwood. Kosh recalled receiving a phone call from Lockwood one night, consisting of “a string of invectives” because, he was told, without “The Beatles” on the front cover, no one would buy it. That, according to Lockwood, would “destroy the Beatles.” The next day, Kosh told George Harrison about the call, and Harrison told him not to worry.

Since then,the cover has been frequently referenced by other artists, both as tribute and parody. Visiting the crosswalk has become somewhat of a pilgrimage for Beatles fans visiting London; there are concerns about the safety of tourists, particularly in the summertime. Last year, an estimated 3,500 people made their way to the site on the 50th anniversary of the photo shoot, with some fans coming in costume, including one dressed as Paul McCartney proposing to his girlfriend.

For more click here

 

 

Olivia and Dhani Harrison Donate $500, 000 to Fight COVID-19

The Material World Foundation, created by George Harrison in 1973, is today donating $500,000 to the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund, Save the Children US, and Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) charities, which are providing much needed aid and care during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Join The Inner Light challenge by sharing a verse, chorus, or line from this Beatles song and post it with the hashtag #innerlight2020 to help raise an additional $100,000 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sing it, play it, hum it, strum it, paint it, chant it or meditate to share the love. Check out Dhani Harrison‘s version here and look inside and see what you can find. Click here for more information: materialworldfoundation.com #innerlight2020