On 26th May 1963, I caught the tour at the Liverpool Empire, where the Beatles topped the bill. I remember the cries for the Beatles as Orbison stepped out on stage. I wondered how he could cope with it, but he simply whispered, “A candy-coloured clown they call the Sandman” and he was away. The audience loved him and forgot the Beatles for thirty minutes. Roy Orbison (751): “I remember Paul and John grabbing me by my arms and not letting me go back to take my curtain call. The audience was yelling, ‘We want Roy, we want Roy,’ and there I was, being held captive by the Beatles who were saying, ‘Yankee, go home.’ We had a great time.”
Carl Perkins (752): “I went to England for the first time on tour with Chuck Berry. The Beatles held a party for me as they wanted to meet me and I certainly wanted to meet them. They were down to earth, super-talented, witty people. ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ was very big here and I thought, ‘Man, these cats are going to destroy America.’ The kids would love their music and their clothes with those spike-heeled boots. I said, ‘The only thing wrong is that you need haircuts’, and John said, ‘Oh no, we don’t do haircuts.’”
In November 1963, the Beatles were invited to appear on the Royal Variety Performance at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London. Buddy Greco (753) was also on the bill: “I was working the Americana Hotel in New York and Buddy Rich, bless his soul, was like my brother. We were dear friends and we would send telegrams to each other with stupid names on like Tom Mix or Joe Blow. I got a telegram requesting me to appear on the Royal Variety Performance and it was signed by Val Parnell. I thought it was Buddy Rich sending me a silly telegram, but it turned out to be true. When I got to rehearsals, there were thousands of people outside the Prince of Wales Theatre and I had no idea who they had come to see. I didn’t think it was me and I didn’t think it was Marlene Dietrich, who, incidentally, had a young piano player called Burt Bacharach. The young men were walking around with crazy haircuts that looked like the Three Stooges, and all the magazines and newspapers had the Beatles on the front page. When I saw them at rehearsal and they did a couple of songs, I thought they were just a nice little rock’n’roll band. ‘Melody Maker’ wanted my opinion of the Beatles, and I said very bluntly, ‘If I know my business, the Beatles will be out of business in about a year.’ Little did I realise that they would turn out to be geniuses who wrote wonderful songs.”
Buddy Greco (754) did witness John Lennon’s eccentricity: “I knew John Lennon was a little nuts because while we were talking upstairs, he was putting water in balloons and throwing them into the street. When he said that line about the jewellery, I was backstage and I fell on the floor laughing. It was a great line.” Indeed it is. The funniest line that people recall from a Royal Variety Performance wasn’t even said by a comedian.
Sonny Curtis (755): “Lou Adler was a record producer who got me a deal with Dimension Records. The Beatles were about to hit America and so he and I wrote ‘The Beatle I Want To Be’ together. It was so early that the record company didn’t realise how the Beatles spelt their name and put ‘BEETLES’ on the label.”
In February 1964 the Beatles conquered America with their live performances in Washington and New York and TV appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show”. Pat Boone (756): “I have never seen anything like the audience reaction for the Beatles. The fans would shriek from the moment they came on until long after they’d gone and you couldn’t hear them perform. It was somewhat like that with Elvis and somewhat like that with me, but with us the screaming was at the beginning, at the start of a song they’d recognise, then they’d go quiet because they wanted to hear it and go crazy at the end.”
Bobby Vinton (757): “I had the No.l record in America with a sentimental ballad ‘There! I’ve Said It Again’ and it was a historic moment when the Beatles replaced me with ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’. I was still No.l on a radio station in Philadelphia and the Beatles were No.2, but the Beatles had such hardcore fans that they were threatening the DJ. They said they would break his car window or flatten his tyres. He said, ‘Bobby, I’m sorry you’re outselling the Beatles here but I’ll have to drop you to No.2.”
Gene Pitney (758): “‘24 Hours From Tulsa’ was totally against the grain of what was going on at the time. The British Invasion had happened. All the long hair groups were happening and in the middle of it all, ‘Tulsa’ was a big record. It goes back to having a piece of great material.”
Bobby Vinton maintained his popularity, but the British invasion knocked many American hitmakers off the charts. Brian Hyland (759): “Well, there’s only so much room on the charts – you can only have 40 records in the Top 40 – and what they were doing was a whole new thing.”
Bobby Vee (760): “There was such an influx of British records after the Beatles made it that anyone with an English accent was in demand. It was absolutely essential that the disc-jockeys should be Beatle crazy and English mad. It made a major dent in the careers of so many American pop singers.”
Dion (761): “The British Invasion had an effect on us. New acts were coming in and throwing rock’n’roll back to us. You need new blood to grow and that’s what the British Invasion was all about. They were bringing new ideas to the party.”
Duane Eddy (762): “Trends change of course, but I welcomed it as I had been on the road for five years, only going home to make a new album, and I was tired. I was happy to sit in my home in Beverly Hills and just go to the studio and cut a new album every few months.”
Lou Christie (763): “To be quite honest, it was fine by me. In the middle of the English invasion, when the Beatles were No.l, I was right alongside them with ‘Lightnin’ Strikes’. Most of my friends did fall by the wayside though. I was lucky because I wasn’t packaged as a teenage idol. I knew how to make records and I knew how to write songs, while that was a mystery to some of them. I always approached it as writing the best songs and making the best records for my voice.”
Chris Montez (764): “You could say that the British acts knocked us off the charts, but, in my case, I had a bad contract and I was cheated. I was heartbroken, so I thought I would go back to school and study. It worked out fine. One day I went with a friend to pick up some tapes from Herb Alpert’s company. Herb didn’t like the tapes but my friend introduced me. Herb asked what I was doing and I told him I was going to school. He asked me to record for A&M but I wasn’t interested. A couple of months later I changed my mind and Herb had an idea for ‘The More I See You’ which was a song I’d never heard before. We made some good records – and he paid me.” Chris is also a graduate of the Sunland Conservatory of Music.
Freddy Cannon (765): “I loved the British records but I idolised the Rolling Stones, who made raw records like Chuck Berry. I am a true rocker, and the real raw records are the ones that I like best.”
Dr John (766): “I didn’t like their first records at first, but around the time of ‘Michelle’, I realised that they were doing some hip stuff. That often happens – sometimes you don’t recognise the quality of something when it first hits.”