(1) THIS IS MERSEY BEAT (1963, two volumes, Oriole PS 40047/8) In July 1963 John Schroeder brought a mobile recording unit to Liverpool and, using the Rialto Ballroom, recorded one local band after another. The albums feature ten bands and are as close as you can get to the atmosphere in the Cavern and other local beat clubs. The bands include Earl Preston and the TTs, Sonny Webb and the Cascades, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, the Merseybeats, the Nomads and the Del Renas. An EP, “Take Six” (Oriole EP 7080), was extracted from the albums. In 1982, Edsel released a 16-track compilation, mostly from these albums, and called “Let’s Stomp! Liverpool Beat 1963″ (Edsel ED 103). It included a four-page fold-out history of the bands. The 28-track “This Is Mersey Beat” (1989, Edsel DED 270 (LP) and EDCD 270 (CD)) duplicates the original artwork but omits Mark Peters and the Silhouettes and adds Oriole singles from Faron’s Flamingos and Ian and the Zodiacs. As an example of the rough and ready nature of the recordings, listen to Derry Wilkie and the Seniors performing Ray Charles’ “Hallelujah I Love Her So”: Derry sings, “In the evening when the sun comes up.” What was this man on?
(2) LIVE AT THE CAVERN (1964, Decca LK 4597) Only four Liverpool bands were featured on this LP – the Big Three, Lee Curtis and the All Stars, the Dennisons and Beryl Marsden. The other acts were Dave Berry, Bern Elliott, the Fortunes, Heinz and the Marauders. The CD reissue (See For Miles SEECD 385) is especially good as it adds the great EP, “The Big Three At The Cavern”. Worth hearing for compere Bob Wooler alone – he describes the Big Three as “the boys with the Benzedrine beat”, which is pretty daring for 1964. The best live album from the club, “Alexis Korner At The Cavern” (Oriole PS 40054), has never been reissued, yet it is far better than the acclaimed “R&B At The Marquee”. Quite possibly, the tapes no longer exist: the original tapes of Oriole’s “This Is Mersey Beat” were wiped clean and re-used, so the reissues have been taken from vinyl records.
(3) MERSEY BEAT, 1962-1964 (1974, United Artists USD 305/6) Andrew Lauder compiled this groundbreaking double-album for United Artists. It was a comprehensive selection of Merseybeat material given that EMI tracks (Beatles, Gerry, Cilla, Billy) and the Searchers’ hits were not available. The 34-track album only contains one Top 10 record (the Mojo’s “Everything’s Alright”) but it’s a well-chosen compilation with standout tracks from Kingsize Taylor (“Stupidity”), the Big Three (“Some Other Guy”), Beryl Marsden (“I Know”) and the Undertakers (“Mashed Potatoes”). If you see this on offer, make sure it also contains Bill Harry’s special edition of “Mersey Beat”. The caramel-coloured outer sleeve is ideal for autographs so if you happen to be at a Merseybeat function, take one with you. I should know as I’ve over 100 signatures on mine. Several Liverpool bands are also featured on the companion double-album, “The Beat Merchants” (1976, United Artists UDM 101/2).
(4) MERSEY SURVIVORS (1978, Raw RWLP 104) Some Merseybeat compilations feature spoken introductions from Bob Wooler or Bill Harry, and I love Bob Wooler’s introduction here. He refers to musicians being ripped off in the 60s, presumably thinking that Raw Records is about to do the same. The 15 tracks by seven acts include Merseybeat stalwarts Faron’s Flamingos, the Dimensions and Karl Terry and the Cruisers. The songs are 60s beat favourites – “I Can Tell”, “Some Other Guy”, “Hippy Hippy Shake”. This album was not marketed outside Merseyside and I hope the performers got their money.
(5) MERSEY SOUNDS (1980, Decca DPA 3081/2) Decca may have turned down the Beatles but they had a fine roster of Merseybeat performers including Pete Best, Lee Curtis, Beryl Marsden, the Big Three, the Dennisons and the Mojos. This 36-track double-album from Decca’s archives looks promising, but several tracks are by outsiders (Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, the Checkmates) and you wonder who put it together. Certainly not sleeve writer Bill Harry who distances himself from the intruders. The album includes some previously unissued material by Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes (“I’m Late”, “I’ve Been Watching You”). Also included are some tracks produced by Joe Meek for the Cryin’ Shames and Freddie Starr and the Midnighters. Freddie Starr’s “Who Told You” is the worst-ever Merseybeat record and Freddie would agree: “I sound like a choirboy being sick,” he says.