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Q: Did Rory Storm & the Hurricanes make any recordings while Ringo was a member of the group?

Not officially. By the time I'd arranged for them to record with Oriole, Ringo had long left. Many years later, after Rory's death, I was chatting to Rory's sister Iris. During the conversation she mentioned that among the possessions left to her she had a tape recorder which was a full performance of Rory Storm & the Hurricanes on stage at the Cavern with Ringo on drums. Imagine the excitement I felt! I immediately got onto my friends at Abbey Road Studios and they were equally excited and said that no matter how primitive the tapes may be they had the technology to improve them and were looking forward to me delivering the tapes and an album could be released. I got back to Iris who said she'd got the tapes and played them. They began with Bob Wooler announcing the 'Golden Boy' Rory Storm….and then a Cliff Richard programme from the radio took up the rest of the tape. Apparently, Rory's mother had used the tape to record Cliff Richard on the radio, wiping out the Cavern performance we'd all been longing to hear!

Q: What effect did Ringo's sudden departure have on Rory Storm & the Hurricanes, both professionally and personally? Were there any hard feelings on their end?

In some ways I think the heart went out of them. They had a series of great drummers ranging from Gibson Kemp to Aynsley Dunbar, but things never seemed to click. Initially there may have been a sense of betrayal because Ringo left them in the lurch during their Butlin's season, leaving immediately without fulfilling his obligation to complete the Butlin's booking. They had to get someone at the camp to sit in for him. I wrote about it in a feature in Mersey Beat which suggested 'The Ghost Of Ringo Still Haunts This Group.' Ringo, of course, arranged for Brian Epstein to record them, but I have the feeling that Rory didn't have all that much ambition outside of Liverpool.

Q: To those of us outside Liverpool, and Great Britain as well, Rory Storm is basically known for his association with Ringo Starr, but he seems to fade from the history pages after Ringo left the group. Did he stay active in the Liverpool music scene until his death in 1972 and what became of the other members of the Hurricanes?

Rory was actually a disc jockey in Amsterdam when he heard of his father's death and returned to Liverpool. It always amazed me that someone which such an impediment as a noticeable stammer could be a D.J. Also, his stammer completely disappeared when he sang. There had been various member changes in Rory Storm & the Hurricanes in the years before he went to Amsterdam, but the heart seemed to have gone out of the group with the loss of Ringo and the death of Ty Brien.

Q: When the Beatles moved to London, how much contact did you have with them?

Paul McCartney & Bill HarryA social relationship still existed. Initially when I moved to London I concentrated on journalism with columns and articles in Weekend magazine, Marilyn, Valentine, Music Now, Record Mirror and Record Retailer. Then I was asked to take over publicity for the Kinks, the Hollies, the Pink Floyd etc. Similar to our life in Liverpool, Virginia and I spent our time 24/7 with the groups, attending the weekly TV shows, going to all the gigs and festivals. Bobby Darin invited us to move into the house he rented in London with him - he even helped me to write a song!, we'd accompany Keith Moon to drinking clubs, get up to mischief with Peter Noone (he'd buy stink bombs and things at a magician's shop and throw them into crowded pubs and run away!), I'd take the Pink Floyd to the BBC Radiophonics workshop, was continually challenged to wrist wrestling by Allan Clarke of the Hollies and so on.

I'd be with the Beatles and Stones regularly at the Scotch of St James club and then I became pr for the main London in-clubs frequented by the Beatles and other groups - Tiles, Blaises, the Revolution and the Speakeasy. We'd be at parties for the Bee Gees at their homes, attend Savile Theatre concerts and so on. When Apple began, I'd be invited there regularly to listen to their new releases in advance and to spend time with Derek Taylor in the press room (heavy smell of pot and lots of lager to drink!). I brought the Beach Boys around to Apple and also my former pen pal the science-fiction writer Mike Moorcock and the Beatles gave him £1000 to help him publish his New Worlds magazine. It was at the Apple party that John introduced me to Yoko and John often gave Virginia and me a lift from the Speakeasy to the Bag O' Nails club. We were sitting at the Bag O' Nails on the next table to Paul one night. Paul told Virginia he'd just returned from Liverpool where he'd visited Rory Storm's house and saw a picture of Virginia and Iris together. Then Chas Chandler came up and introduced Paul to Linda.

However, there was so much to do in those days, traveling to the continent and America with the various bands I became press officer for and going around to the gigs with the artists I represented, who included Procol Harum, Ten Years After, Jethro Tull, Christine Perfect, David Bowie, Free, the Beach Boys, Mott the Hoople, the Pretty Things, Alexis Korner, Led Zeppelin, Supertramp, Nazareth and numerous others. Then, following the break-up of the Beatles, I continued as pr and other acts included Suzi Quatro, Hot Chocolate and Kim Wilde.

I'd seen John right up to the time he left for America, saw George for the last time at the Speakeasy, Ringo at Tramps and Paul at a couple of his Buddy Holly luncheons.

Q: The circumstances of Pete Best's ousting from the Beatles differ widely depending on who is telling the story. Pete's supporters say he was fired because the others were jealous of his popularity, especially with the girls. The other side says he was not a very good drummer. Is the truth somewhere in the middle or were there additional factors at play?

Pete Best - 2004The Beatles were a fantastic group when Pete was with them. During those two years the Beatles matured and developed and John was to say that they were at their best in Liverpool and Hamburg - well, that was when Pete was a member. At times I felt that John got on better with Pete than with the others - in so far as having a drink and a laugh were concerned, not regarding his musical collaborations with Paul.

It's a fact that in Liverpool Pete was the most popular member of the group. There is much evidence to substantiate this. Take the major article on the Beatles which Bob Wooler wrote for Mersey Beat, for instance. The only Beatle mentioned by name was Pete Best, who Bob called 'mean, moody and magnificent.' Girls used to sleep in his garden just to be near him - they didn't act that way with the other members. Wooler regarded him as so popular that he suggested that the Beatles should have Pete in the front with the others behind him. This was unheard of - but they took his advice. However, when it happened, the girls went berserk and dragged Pete off the stage, so they couldn't do it again. This never happened with any of the others. On their return from Hamburg Pete had developed 'the atom beat', a dynamic style of playing which helped to establish the Beatles sound - and which was copied by other Liverpool drummers.

Mersey Beat OnlineWhen they went down for their EMI audition, George Martin suggested that for the actual recording session which would take place at another date, he'd like to use a session drummer.

This was the excuse used to get rid of him. When Mona Best phoned him about it, George Martin told her, "I never suggested Pete Best should go. All I said was that for the purposes of the Beatles' first record I would rather use a session man. I never thought Brian Epstein would let him go. He seemed to be the most saleable commodity as far as looks went. It was a surprise when I learned they had dropped Pete." When Ringo went down to record, he was deemed unsatisfactory and session man Andy White was hired - I don't know why so many writers seem to ignore this. Over the years, due to hindsight perhaps, George Martin has changed his story, probably influenced by the myths.

Over the years Pete was disparaged many times. It was bad enough that he was summarily sacked without the slightest compensation after two years in which he was part of establishing the Beatles name, reputation and music (this wouldn't happen today), but the Beatles tried to explain why they sacked him by various innuendos (except for John who maintained that the sacking of Pete was a shameful act). They said that he was always off sick. In fact, during the two years he only missed three gigs because of genuine illness - and informed them in advance each time. There was the suggestion that he wouldn't conform with the moptop hairstyle - but he was never asked to and Astrid said she didn't want to style Pete's hair anyway because it was too curly to suit a moptop. Ringo Starr stated in a Playboy interview that Pete took drugs - this was completely untrue, he was the only one who refused to take Preludin in Hamburg. Pete rightly sued and won his case. Generally, the excuse that he wasn't a good enough drummer, which had been used over the years, was finally denied by Paul in his 'Wingspan' interview a few years ago.

Q: I once heard Klaus Voorman say that when he heard the Beatles' first record, he was very disappointed because it didn't capture what they were really like on stage. Do you think they deliberately toned down the energy they showed on stage during their early years to make themselves marketable to a wider audience?

No. There were other brilliant Mersey bands that were magic on stage but their talent didn't seem to translate to recordings. It was just a matter of learning the difference between stage work and studio work - look how the Beatles recordings matured during their 'studio years.'

Klaus Voorman & Astrid Kirchherr - 1998The main example is what happened with Pete Best. A&R (artistes and repertoire) managers in London often hired session drummers for recording. This happened throughout the Sixties. When the Beatles recorded their first audition for Parlophone, George Martin explained that he would like to have a session drummer because a stage sound was different to a studio sound, that although it didn't matter with singers and guitarists, in the case of drummers they liked a specific technique in the studio. He explained that this was no reflection on Pete, just the fact that session drummers were more used to what was required in a studio. George and Paul used this to get rid of Pete. Yet when Ringo came down to record, George Martin, Ron Richards and even Paul McCartney weren't happy with Ringo, which was why Andy White was hired as session drummer for their first record.

The Beatles didn't specifically tone down their stage energy, they were directed in the studio by George Martin to record in a way standard to recording studio techniques…but the energy was still there, just listen to John on 'Twist and Shout.'

For their Decca audition, they'd listened to what Epstein had advised - and were to regret it. John later told him not to interfere with their music, just to concentrate on the percentages. So when they recorded their first album 'Please Please' me they tried to replicate their stage act.

 

In Part 3, Bill Harry discusses the later years of the Beatles, the end of Mersey Beat, his recent projects and more. If you would like to receive an e-mail notification when the publication date for Part 3 of the interview is announced, click here to sign up for the message board (your information will never be shared with any third parties).

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