Q: Did your experience with Mersey Beat come in handy when it
came to your later job as rock & roll PR man?
because I had interviewed so many of them when I wrote for Mersey
Beat, Music Echo, Record Mirror etc and had formed a bond. We used
to drink together in pubs and clubs and most of the interviews were
conducted in pubs over a drink anyway. It was far more relaxed and
laid back then. Also, I was known for giving the musician his or
her own opportunity of expressing themselves, rather than just going
through the standard routine of predictable questions.
I'd also developed something of a rapport and it was more than
just journalist interviewing artist. I suppose Virginia and I lived
the rock and roll lifestyle, our entire world revolved around the
artists and the music - throughout the day and six nights a week:
we usually took a rest on Sunday! Also, with me being p.r. for the
'in clubs' Revolution, Blaizes, Speakeasy and Tiles we were spending
time, right up to the early hours, socializing with the artists.
Q: Why did you decide to launch a web version of 'Mersey Beat'?
I have never been able to escape my past. Although I have done
so many things since the days of the Mersey Sound, hardly a day
goes past without people asking me about that particular part of
my history, which covered a period of around six years. Then I began
to see what other people had written and the history appeared to
be distorted, even by some of the people who were around at the
time. What particularly alarmed me was that people were re-writing
MY history. There are many examples. So I decided to revive Mersey
Beat online and put the real story down. Since Liverpool becomes
the City of Culture in 2008 I hope to have most of the history on
the site by then. What I aim to do is to get the artists, fans,
anyone who was around at the time - managers, agents, promoters,
bouncers, road managers - to present their own stories and experiences.
I wanted to try and capture the essence of the Scouse humour, the
atmosphere at the time, the fashions, lifestyle, financial hardships
- to give an insight into what it was really like for the many interested
people who want further information on the Mersey scene.
These are the stories of the people who were really a part of it
all, some of the groups who made it, lots of the groups who didn't
- but I find all of their stories fascinating.
Q: Most people are aware that the Cavern is back in business,
though not in its original location. Are any other popular venues
from those days still in existence?
Yes, but very few. The main rival, the Iron Door is a car park
- well, the Cavern site also became a car park for years, didn't
it? The Mardi Gras was knocked down and is now a car park (heaven
and car parks - Joni Mitchell!). The Tower Ballroom burned down,
the Locarno became a bingo hall for a time, the Jive Hive (St Luke's
Hall) has become a drinking club - but some of the original bands
still appear there. Times change and the trend is for dance clubs
- darkness, strobe lights, booze and E's. I went around Liverpool
with a TV crew and we went to club after club after club - and there
wasn't a single live group in any of them. The Mersey Cats (original
members of the Mersey groups) still play charity gigs at a couple
of the venues - and Litherland Town Hall occasionally plays host
to such promotions.
Q: Do you still maintain friendships with any of the performers
from those early years, Beatles or otherwise?
a bit of a recluse and rarely go out. Virginia and I spent over
20 years, virtually every day listening to live groups in clubs,
in concert - hundreds, probably thousands of gigs. I suppose we
burnt ourselves out. We also live in London. I've already mentioned
the last meetings with individual Beatles. Pete and Roag Best are
still friends and we keep in touch and I also like the company of
people like Jankiel Feather, another old friend from Liverpool,
who lives in Brighton, but through the Mersey Beat site I am now
re-acquainting myself with a lot of old friends from those extraordinary
Q: I know you have lived in London for some time. What do you
feel now when you visit Liverpool and see the old places that were
such a big part of your life back in those days?
Liverpool is sad, in a way. I walk the streets and there are just
hundreds of coffee bars and fast food outlets, lots of the intriguing
and interesting shops are gone. It's as if the city has become a
big stomach. I look at the concrete monstrosity in Mount Pleasant
and remember the Mardi Gras as it looked, the cinemas are gone,
places are boarded up, big stores like Lewis's have seen their better
days, even the premises of the former NEMS has become a sex shop.
Rushworths, Hessy's, they've all gone. It's a different city full
of pizza huts and trendy bars, so the old places don't really exist
except in my memory and the memories of the people who were there
- who will write about their experiences on the site. I don't actually
go to Liverpool on my visits, Virginia and I stay with her sister
Q: In addition to the Mersey Beat website, do you have any new
projects in the works?
Since 1996 I've been trying to establish a Mersey Beat Village
in Liverpool - but it seems that they only want to build apartments
there and all the prime land is being taken over by speculators
building housing and retail units - I can imagine tourists from
Japan, the States and Europe wanting to flock to Liverpool to look
at the apartment buildings and shops! The Mayor of Osaka has more
vision. He arranged a meeting and wants the Mersey Beat Village
on the Osaka waterfront. I've also had enquiries from Tokyo to establish
a Mersey Beat Experience there. If I can find a publisher, there
is a ten-volume series of books on the Beatles I'd like to write
based on over 40 years of research. Mirage Films is making a 90-minute
documentary with me on the Mersey Beat newspaper called 'Tales Of
Mersey Beat'. I'm also launching a rock memorabilia site 'RockAndPopShop'
plus I'm working on a Cavern box set and a 100 track Mersey Beat
box set and have a few more book ideas. They are just a couple of