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Q: Did your experience with Mersey Beat come in handy when it came to your later job as rock & roll PR man?

Yes, 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?

Virginia Harry and Pete BestI'm 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 days.

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 in Blundellsands.

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 the projects.

 

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Our thanks to Bill Harry for sharing so many wonderful stories and anecdotes throughout the entire interview.

Please visit Bill Harry on the web at www.mersey-beat.net and www.rockandpopshop.com