Just lately there have been a number of programmes on UK television showing shots of what was known as “Beatlemania” back in that part of the 1960s that was still in black and white!
The old newsreel film showed young girls screaming themselves into dead faints at the merest glimpse of the four floppy–haired Liverpudlians. I don’t know why John, Paul, George and Ringo ever bothered to sing at their concerts – nothing could ever be heard unless you were within a few feet of the loudspeakers!
The fans would then be shown (as in many scenes in the film “A Hard Day’s Night”) chasing the band to their car while the objects of their desire set unofficial sprint records to avoid capture!
And it was while the family were passively watching it all unfold that I threw in my little bombshell!
“I used to hate it when they chased ME like that”, I said, casually!
There was a slight pause followed by a couple of snorts of derision and unsuccessful attempts at not laughing out loud!
They didn’t take me seriously, knowing full well that when the Beatles began in late 1962 I was all of 9 years old!
Which just goes to show – your children don’t actually know everything!
In 1963 I was in the third year (under the present UK school numbering system that would be Year 5) at Luther Road Primary School in Ipswich. It’s now called Hillside Primary – a more accurate name because while it IS on a hill it was NEVER in Luther Road but rather surrounded by Belstead Road, Maidenhall Approach and the railway line. I just mention that in case you want to look it up on Google Earth or something similar.
My best friend in the school was Paul Adams. Actually we had 2 Paul Adams’ in my class so my friend was usually designated “Paul Clifford Adams” – the other one didn’t have a middle name. As I was only friends with Paul Clifford, I shall just refer to him as Paul for the rest of this article.
Paul had something that the rest of didn’t have – a singing voice! By which I mean he was a choir boy at the local church and was therefore TRAINED to sing. He had been trying for some time to get me to join the choir too; while I was perfectly willing my parents made various excuses that I didn’t understand at the time. In fact they were looking at moving to another part of town in the next year or so and didn’t want me to get into anything that it would upset me to give up.
And then along came the Beatles!
After they became well established with a few hits Paul and I came upon the idea of performing some of their songs in the school playground and set out to find an appropriate stage.
In the corner of the playground was an enormous metal grid covering the chute down which the coal which fired the school boiler was delivered. To keep out the elements this grid was covered by a sloping wooden frame covered in the stuff they use to waterproof shed roofs. This made a “stage” about 4 feet deep and maybe 10 feet wide and, despite the way it sloped slightly forwards, it was ideal for our purposes.
I cannot particularly remember our first performance but I know we had prepared well, learning the words from a “pop” magazine, and had briefly practised who was to do what in the cloakroom at breaks and lunchtime. For information Paul did lead vocals (whether it was a Lennon or a McCartney lead in real life) while I did all the “Yeah, Yeahs”, “Oooos” and repeated lines that would be done by the other three.
We didn’t know it but it is just possible that two 10 year old boys in Ipswich invented the Tribute Band!
I do, however, recall that there wasn’t much of an audience the first few times we got up there but word soon got around. We did all of the hits: “Please Please Me”, “I want to hold your hand”, “Twist and Shout” and, eventually, “She Loves You”.
I don’t understand the psychology of young girls or what it is that makes them fixate on things but it wasn’t long before we were having the same trouble as the Beatles! We could hardly hear ourselves sing for the screaming and when we had finished we had to leg it for our classroom with a hoard of seven, eight and nine year old girls chasing after us!
Eventually we managed to time things so that the bell for the resumption of lessons would ring just as we started our run to safety and most of the crowd would have to head for another door, taking the pressure off us.
I do, however, wonder what on earth they thought they were going to do if they caught us!
After a while we began to tire of doing the same “concert” once or twice a week by public demand and started to think of ways to branch out. During a series of wet lunchtimes we sat together in the cloakroom and tried to devise lyrics for instrumental songs from the charts.
We managed, eventually, to compile what seemed to be apt words to the tune of “Telstar” by The Tornados. I don’t recall them all but one line remains with me. It went “Star above, send a message to my love”, which given that the original commemorates the first communication satellite seems pretty clever to me!
I understand that some artists with a few hits under their belt experience a situation where they can’t put out new stuff because live audiences only want to hear the hits – and that’s what happened to us.
The “faithful” didn’t want to know anything but Beatles’ hits so that was what we had to stick with. Fortunately the “Fab four” were churning them out regularly so the repertoire wasn’t too monotonous but it would have been nice to be appreciated for something original as well.
What would have happened if my parents had not moved us to the other side of town in January 1964 cannot now be known! I commuted across by bus every day until the “11 Plus” exams were finished around Easter and Paul and I performed for our fans until I finally left.
Paul went to a different Secondary school to me and my pop career did not progress from that point onwards. His, however, did move on. I found out later that he became lead singer with an Ipswich band which was pretty popular there in the early to mid 1970s called “Fourth Gear”. I don’t ever remember hearing them perform live so I can’t say what type of music they played but I DO wonder whether they would have been able to go further if our song writing partnership had taken off.
Just think! I might have been half of a new Lennon & McCartney and immensely famous and wealthy by now!
Ah yes – but would I have been HAPPY?!