Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth

Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth
Click on the cover for information about the book. Available to order now.

28 April 2013

Howie Casey, Hamburg & The Beatles Pt 2

Howie and the Seniors on the train at Lime Street station in Liverpool in 1962 headed for a gig in Ilford
(l-r) Howie Casey, Lou Walters (and friend), sometime second vocalist Freddie Fowell (later known as Freddie Starr), Brian ‘Griff ’ Griffiths, Derry Wilkie, Frank Wibberly

Without the groundwork laid by musicians such as Howie Casey there wouldn't have been a beat scene in Liverpool in the early 1960s from which The Beatles could spring. Howie and others like him fell in love with R&B and swamped the clubs and dance halls with the sounds and songs of Little Richard and Chuck Berry. It wasn't long before Howie and his band, The Seniors, acted as vanguard for the Merseybeat bands and blazed a trail to Hamburg. Having first encountered the (then drummer-less) Silver Beetles in Liverpool and not been impressed Howie was shocked to hear they were also heading for Hamburg and worried in case their youthful incompetence spoiled the gig for the older hands.
But this was The Beatles and they were on their way. Not that Howie was averse to pulling rank on the young upstarts of course... he had the best gig (the Kaiserkeller) and got to sleep on an actual bed, using a Union Jack as a bedspread!Howie has lived in Bournemouth since the late 1970s and shares his story in Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth.
It's adapted here and the second part goes a bit like this...

The Beatles (they dropped the ‘Silver’ and adopted the new spelling just before leaving for Hamburg in August) had a booking at the Indra Club, close to the Kaiserkeller. With drummer Pete Best recruited just a few days before they left home and John’s art school mate Stu Sutcliffe on bass, The Beatles were still a five-piece – John, Paul and George all played guitar.
Their repertoire, like that of The Seniors, was mainly rock ’n’ roll standards with a few show tunes, cabaret standards and instrumentals thrown in. John Lennon later recalled songs had to be extended to fulfil the contracted set times.
“Every song lasted 20 minutes and had 20 solos in it. That’s what improved the playing. There was nobody to copy from. We played what we liked best and the Germans liked it as long as it was loud.”
When Bruno Koschmider, who controlled the Kaiserkeller and the Indra, decided he wanted non-stop music The Beatles and The Seniors used to swap members to give each other a bit of a rest.
“We had this idea to split the bands up so I played with a German drummer, our keyboardist Stan Foster, our singer Derry Wilkie and Stu Sutcliffe on bass. The rest of The Seniors played when we were off stage and the other four Beatles were doing shifts down at the Indra,” says Howie.
“But then we would all mix in together and jam with each other. In between sets we would sit and drink together and talk over our ambitions. We were all pretty much the same in that we wanted to make our living out of music. Like us, The Beatles had that confidence that youth gives you.

“It was the same back in Liverpool. We’d play a session at the Cavern, or The Beatles would, and then we’d go down the road and chat. But I don’t know to what extent we knew each other – it was just we were in the same game, trying to make our way. I was closer with the others than with John. I always felt he had his own agenda. Whereas the others were more sociable, John was always a bit stand-offish.”
Both bands continued the lucrative runs to Hamburg and were joined by others, including Rory Storm and the Hurricanes whose drummer, Ringo Starr, was soon to jump ship and join The Beatles. It was also in Hamburg that both bands met artist/photographers Klaus Voorman and Astrid Kircherr, credited with defining The Beatles’ early stage image by cutting their hair in the famous mop top style.
“I stayed in Hamburg until mid-1962 by which time The Beatles were going in other directions. 
"Brian Epstein wanted to sign The Seniors, but I’d broken the band up the week before! 
"I don’t know if we would have been any different. The Beatles had it all – the talent, the image, the good looks – but we were not the best-looking band in Liverpool!"
:: Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth can be ordered here at the special price of £14.95.

19 April 2013

The Ballad of John and Sandbanks

This week in 1969, John and Paul recorded what was to be The Beatles' final number one single, The Ballad of John and Yoko.
The song chronicles the events of 16 March to 1 April and covers John's marriage to Yoko, an episode that began in the car en route to Aunt Mimi's home at Sandbanks that John had bought for her four years earlier.
He called it "the most beautiful place I know" and had visited many times, initially with Cynthia and baby Julian, but also on his own and with Yoko.
Stories continue to circulate locally that John made a couple of clandestine visits to see Mimi after his departure for New York with Yoko in 1971. If he did return to the UK during that time he managed to keep it very quite. It seems impossible to imagine that, even when he was keeping a low profile following Sean's birth in 1975, he could have flown into the country and not been reported or photographed anywhere.
It could be possible that be arrived by boat, perhaps at Poole, or even Southampton - in a reverse of the events related in The Ballad of John and Yoko - but, again, could John Lennon, famous ex-Beatle, have enjoyed a quick visit by the shores of Poole Harbour without being noticed?
It's an on-going inquiry...
What is known about John and Mimi at Sandbanks - and some photos - is contained in Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth, which can be ordered here.
As for the recording session itself, that is extensively catalogued by The Beatles Rarity by the ever-thorough Happy Nat.

7 April 2013

Howie Casey, Hamburg & The Beatles Pt 1

Howie Casey is a name every Beatles fan should know. He was right there at the start of it all, honking his sax as rhythm & blues got a grip on Merseyside and elbowed skiffle out of the way. It's not that The Beatles wouldn't have existed without Howie, but they would have sounded a lot different.
Howie has lived in Bournemouth since the late 1970s and shares his story in Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth.
It's adapted here and the first part goes a bit like this...

John Lennon famously said although he was born in Liverpool he grew up in Hamburg, but if one of Merseybeat’s unsung heroes had his way Lennon and his Beatles running mates may not have even made it to Hamburg.
The first Liverpool band to make the trek to the bright lights and fleshpots of Hamburg was a rockin’ R&B outfit by the name of Howie Casey & the Seniors.
Led by the imposing sax man Howie Casey, who’d honed his instrumental skills in the late-50s during three years in khaki in the King’s Regiment, the Seniors got together in 1958 united behind Howie’s love of sax-driven R&B as practiced by the likes of Little Richard, Lloyd Price and Fats Domino.
By 1960 the band featured vocalists Derry Wilkie and one Freddy Fowell, later to achieve huge fame and no small degree of notoriety as Freddie Starr, and landed a booking to replace singer Tony Sheridan at the Kaiserkeller club in Hamburg, playing at least five sets a day – 45 minutes on, 15 off – six days a week and living in filthy unlit digs behind the stage.
“We were having the time of our lives,” says Howie. “As band leader I had the only bed and slept under an old Union Jack flag I found, like I was lying in state. The other lads had to go top-to-toe on a settee and armchair pushed together. We washed in the only hand basin in the club’s ladies loo. But it was a great place for a young musician.”
Earlier that year The Seniors had auditioned with a host of other Liverpool bands for a summer season in Blackpool promoted by Larry Parnes, the manager who christened Merseybeat’s original hero, Billy Fury. Among the other acts at the audition were The Silver Beetles – the first time the word ‘Beetles’ had appeared – and Howie was unimpressed.
“Their drummer [Tommy Moore] hadn’t shown up so they asked Johnny Hutch [Hutchinson, from Cass & the Casanovas] to sit in with them. This is where the famous story comes from, that I was the man who tried to stop The Beatles being sent to Hamburg. That story has haunted me ever since. As I said, we were having a great time in Hamburg and didn’t want anyone to spoil the party. When I heard that Allan Williams had booked The Beatles I wrote to him begging him not to in case they blew it for the rest of us.
“And ever since I’ve been telling people that when I saw them again in Hamburg they were a different band – a huge improvement. I was asked about it at a Beatles festival in Liverpool recently and I jokingly said: ‘I never said that.’ Then there was a cry from the back of the hall, ‘Yes you did!’ It was Allan Williams – and I just said: ‘There speaks the voice of veracity.’ Some things you just can’t escape!”
:: Emile Ford had a number one hit with What Do You Want To Make
Those Eyes At Me For? in 1959 and was still a top draw when The Beatles supported him in 1962 just before their season at the Star Club, Hamburg. Howie and the Seniors were also on the bill
:: Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth can be ordered here at the special price of £14.95.