TOTALLY WIRED: The Rise & Fall of the Music Press by Paul Gorman

The home computer and its promiscuous offspring the internet were wrecking balls, demolishing much that was worth treasuring. Amidst the debris they left behind, the typewriters, fax machines and paper maps, was the UK’s once magnificent weekly music press, the history and culture of which is the subject of Totally Wired

        Unlike the monthly music magazines of today, which rely largely on nostalgia, the institution Paul Gorman writes about was immediate, spontaneous, opinionated and uncontrollable. It stirred battles royal over content and musical direction, drug- and alcohol-induced recklessness and titanic egos that exploded in desperate power struggles. It was a vibrant, messy, unforgiving arena that gave voice to countless writers of note. Bought by millions and read by millions more, that it no longer exists in recognisable form makes Totally Wired a document of great importance for anyone studying the evolution of the UK’s print media during the 20th Century. It is also, in its own way, a despairing eulogy, a tragedy for both aspiring writers and the music industry itself. 

        Herein are documented the rise and fall of scores of music papers, from titans like New Musical Express and Melody Maker to radical papers like Oz and IT, from later, hugely successful, glossies like Smash Hits, The Face and Q to publications that were little more than Xeroxed fanzines, all of them staffed by schemers and dreamers drawn to the bright lights of pop, most of them engaging characters of one sort or another whose work is documented and, to some extent, assessed by colleagues and the author himself. Furthermore, although the emphasis is on the UK, Totally Wired extends its reach to the US with its dry trade journals like Billboard, twinkling teenybop mags like 16 and hard-nosed monthlies like Creem, and where the struggle to outshine Rolling Stone continues to this day.

        Totally Wired begins and ends with Melody Maker, my own alma mater, for the simple reason that, in 1926, it was the first music paper ever to be published anywhere, and, aside from a brief epilogue, Paul Gorman chooses to conclude his book at the turn of the millennium, which is when MM bit the dust. It might surprise some to discover that MM had the field to itself for 20 years, chronologically over a quarter of this book’s time span, until the arrival of Accordion Times & Musical Express, which after a change in ownership became NME in 1952. Thereafter, the rivalry between the two is one of Totally Wired’s many sub-plots, with NME eventually coming out on top, not just because it remained in print for 18 years longer than MM but because once Nick Logan took over the editor’s chair in 1973 it became more daring, more fun to read and sold more copies.

        Lest the impression is given here that the book’s focus is on these two publications, be assured this is far from the case. With the odd exception – see below – just about every music paper you care to name gets a mention, regardless of its significance, circulation or readership demographic. Paul Gorman’s remit is comprehensive – he’s fastidious about quoting circulation figures and largely impartial in his assessments of editorial quality – but while the tone of the book leans more towards the fortunes of the actual papers, the greater fascination for me (because I know or knew many of them) lies in the stories of those who created their content. Prominent among them are NME’s trio of seventies literati, Ian MacDonald, Nick Kent and Charles Shaar Murray, who were pitted against MM’s Richard Williams, Michael Watts and Allan Jones, amongst others, but also in the Hall of Fame of those who shaped our music press we find heroes both sung and unsung: Max Jones, Val Wilmer, Ray Coleman, Penny Valentine, Chris Welch, Caroline Coon, Pete Frame, Mick Farren, Julie Birchill, Tony Parsons, Neil Spencer, Mark Perry, David Hepworth, Mark Ellen, Alan Lewis, Barney Hoskyns, Paul Morley, Jon Savage and Chris Salewicz; and in the US Paul Williams, Greg Shaw, Gloria Stavers, Lisa Robinson, Lenny Kaye, Dave Marsh, Lester Bangs, Jon Landau and Rolling Stone supremo Jann Wenner. In Totally Wired we hear from, or about, them all, and apologies to those I’ve missed from this very selective list. 

There are omissions, among the most glaring Record Collector, launched in 1979 by Sean O’Mahoney, who under the pseudonym of Johnny Dean was also the mastermind behind The Beatles Book, the only periodical authorised by the group, which at its peak sold 300,000 copies per monthly issue, a statistic worth a mention in itself. Other, perhaps more understandable, omissions are Dark Star, the eccentric but discerning music ’zine issued sporadically between 1975 and 1980 that gave my great friend and noted rock biographer Johnny Rogan his first by-line, and Tony Fletcher’s nationally-distributed Jamming!. Also, the impression is given that the music press was limited to the UK and US but this is not the case. In the seventies MM’s content was licensed to Go-Set in Australia, and most counties in Continental Europe boasted at least one rock mag, my favourite France’s Inrockuptibles.  

But these is minor quibbles. Totally Wired is an exhaustive, superbly researched, 382-page volume about an important subject dear to my heart, illustrated with loads of front covers. The tragedy that is at the heart of the book, the death of our beloved music press, is best summed up by Q and Mojo founder David Hepworth in its closing words: “You’re going to miss the music press,” he wrote, addressing the music industry. “It did the one thing you failed to value. Through its lens it made your acts seem exciting and larger than life, even when they weren’t.”



It was Derek Taylor, the eminent Beatles PR, who gave me my first copy of A Christmas Gift For You, Phil Spector’s classic Christmas LP. It was 1972 and Derek was working for WEA (Warner-Elektra-Atlantic) Records at the time, head of Special Projects I think, but had taken it upon himself to promote a record on a competing label. The edition Derek gave me was a reissue on Apple Records, which had nothing to do with Warner Bros, but he had no compunction about moonlighting for his old chums since Spector, who had produced records by John and George, was sort of family I guess. More to the point, Derek believed in the record and felt, rightly, that it deserved the second chance this Apple reissue offered. 

        Before we go any further with this I ought to state that what follows does not in any way excuse Phil Spector’s conviction for the killing of 40-year-old actress Lana Clarkson, following which he was sentenced to 19 years to life, dying in a prison hospital in 2021. Whatever opprobrium was deservedly heaped upon Spector, however, does not reduce the merits of A Christmas Gift For You nor his skills as a record producer, and Derek Taylor had died six years before all this happened. 

        Recorded at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles over many sessions during the summer of 1963, A Christmas Gift For You was first released in the US on Philles, Spector’s own label, on November 22 that year, by a quirk of fate the same day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Texas. America was in no mood for festive fun, and Spector’s masterpiece died a death as a result. Which is why I was unaware of it until I happened to be in Derek’s office in the week before Christmas 1972. 

        I was too late to join in the merriment to be found in Derek’s Apple office, described in jaw-dropping detail by ‘office hippie’ Richard DiLello in his book The Longest Cocktail Party, but Derek continued to host lower-key, early evening soirees in his corner office at WEA, sitting in his peacock chair and pouring drinks for visiting music writers. It wasn’t unusual for members of The Faces to be hanging out in Derek’s office as they were favourites with the girls who worked there, along with his PA Mandi Newall and the more jovial members of his staff like dapper promo man Des Brown. 

Derek in his peacock chair

        The LP, now retitled Phil Spectors Christmas Album, was playing when I arrived for my festive drink and when I remarked on it, Derek extracted a copy for me from a box of them on the floor beside his desk. “Happy Christmas, old boy,” he said with a twinkle in his eye as I left with it tucked under my arm. When I got back to my flat in Bayswater, I played it for the first time. And I’ve been playing it ever since, though nowadays it’s more likely to be the CD enclosed within the 1991 Back To Mono Spector collection of three separate CDs, 60 tracks in all. 

The Apple reissue I was given 

        A Christmas Gift For You contains 13 tracks; only one of them, the closing ‘Silent Night’ with its monologue by Phil himself, sacred, and from a glance at the titles, you could be forgiven for assuming it was all a bit cheesy. ‘Frosty The Snowman’, ‘Rudolph’ and ‘Marshmallow World’ might appear childish, but from the opening notes of opener ‘White Christmas’, an ascending line on the bass notes of a piano, and Darlene Love’s pronunciation of ‘I’m’ as ‘Ahiyam’, the stage is set for a Christmas record like no other. The wall of sound thunders in and after a couple of verses steps back. “The sun is shining, the grass is green,” Darlene tells us, half talking, half singing. “The orange and palm trees sway. There’s never been such a day in old LA. But it’s December 24th and I’m longing to be up north. So I can have my very own White Christmas. Oooohh yeahhhh… Ahiyam dreaming…” and off we go again, another verse with a closing nod to ‘Jingle Bells’.

        Almost all the tracks are prefaced by brief, melodic orchestral preludes before the Spector mix of guitars, horns, pianos, bass, drums and additional strings kick in, and every track is a joy. “He had a grand idea,” writes my former Melody Maker colleague Richard Williams in Out Of His Head, his Spector book first published in 1972. “He wanted to make a Christmas album. It sounded like a terrible, corny idea, but Spector knew different: playing on the sentimental core hidden inside his freakishness, he decided he wanted to take all the usual Christmas songs and, using all his artists, really do them over differently.”

        Nowadays they’re not so much different as standard, at least in our house. That’s because it’s been played more often than any other Christmas record, so much so that my kids actually assumed that similar sounding ‘wall-of-sound’ tracks by The Ronettes, like ‘Be My Baby’ and ‘Baby I Love You’, and by The Crystals, like ‘Then He Kissed Me’ and ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’, were Christmas songs too, at least until I pointed things out. 

        “It was an artistic triumph,” writes Richard. “He truly captured the secular spirit of Christmas. Listen to The Ronettes’ ‘Sleigh Ride’, to the care with which it is produced, to the bells and horses’ hooves, and to the way Ronnie sounds like she’s singing from inside a big fur coat. Listen to ‘The Bells Of St Mary’, on which Bobby Sheen sings his McPhatterish heart out over one of [Jack] Nitzsche’s most brain-storming arrangements, with an occasional interjection from Darlene and [drummer] Hal Blaine at his wildest on the fade.”

        I couldn’t agree more and this was why I determined to put Richard’s Spector book back into print while I was running Omnibus Press. To this end, Richard and I met in an Indian restaurant on Soho’s Bateman Street and over lunch agreed terms for a new, slightly revised edition of Out Of His Head. The date was February 3, 2003, but little did we know that at the exact moment we were digesting our chicken tikkas, over in LA Phil Spector was being arrested for murder. Some coincidence.

The original UK edition of Out Of His Head, published by Abacus in 1974

The Omnibus Press edition of Out Of His Head, published in 2003

        We emailed one another the next day, both of us astounded by this quirk of fate, one that surely ranks with the original release date of A Christmas Gift For You. 

        As Richard writes: Just as A Christmas Gift For You was hitting the shops, the new came that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. Suddenly no one wanted tinkling glockenspiels and horses hooves and songs about Mommy kissing Santa Claus. Phil Spectors magnum opus was dead in the water. It would take ten years and the patronage of The Beatles before the album emerged from the status of collectors item to claim a permanent as a seasonal favourite.


TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS – Live at The Fillmore, 1997

“Oh, baby doll,” exclaims Tom Petty in his endearing Southern drawl at the start of this 2-CD set drawn from six of the 20 nights he and his Heartbreakers played at San Francisco’s Fillmore West between January 10 and February 7, 1997. Then they’re off and into ‘Jammin’ Me’, the song he wrote with Bob Dylan and ace guitarist Mike Campbell, followed by ‘Listen To Her Heart’, two of the 14 originals offered up here alongside a host of well-chosen covers.

    The six Fillmore shows can be found on two packages released last month, a 4-CD deluxe package with bells and whistles and a more user-friendly double CD set that I’ve been playing for the past couple of weeks. It offers a generous two hours plus of music and proves beyond any doubt that Tom’s Heartbreakers vie with Bruce’s E Street men for gold in the US bar-band Olympics. 

    Indeed. Live At The Fillmore 1997 establishes a copper-bottomed claim that Tom and his men are the best tribute band in the world. Between stage patter – “This is going out on the internet… whatever that is” – we get Chuck (‘Around And Around’ and ‘Bye Bye Johnny’), Kinks (‘You Really Got Me’), Stones (‘Time Is On My Side’, ‘Satisfaction’ and ‘It’s All Over Now’), Byrds (‘It Can’t Be Wrong’, ‘You Ain’t Going Nowhere’ and ‘Eight Miles High’, with Roger McGuinn), Led Zep (‘Black Dog’, disguised as ‘Ugly Homecoming Queen’), Them (‘Gloria’) with a touch of Dylan (‘Knocking On Heavens’ Door) and even a sprinkling of Who (‘Shakin’ All Over’, as a Pirates/Who fusion). 

    Almost all of these are performed true to the originals. Mike Campbell pays homage to the group’s heroes by lovingly replicating guitar solos as you expect to hear them, deftly recreating Dave Davies’ ‘ripped speaker’ solo on ‘You Really Got Me’ and getting the fuzz tone dead right on ‘Satisfaction’. Tom pronounces the heavenly door as ‘dooer’, and for my money has always sounded a bit like Roger McGuinn, while the group can sound uncannily like The Byrds when they want to anyway.

    The fun they had is reflected in ‘Heartbreakers Beach Party’, which Tom claims they never played before, and the grungy ‘Louie Louie’ which morphs into ‘Gloria’ but for all the fun and games the highlight of CD1, and for my money the entire set, is the golden triptych of Angel DreamThe Wild One, Forever and a delicious acoustic take of ‘American Girl’, all three drenched in emotion, tenderness and the same brand of understated eloquence that Tom brought to I Need You at the Concert For George in 2002. 

    Playing nightly for a week or more in the same venue is not a new concept. It happens in Vegas all the time and early on The Beatles did pretty much the same thing, first in Hamburg, then at UK seaside resorts during 1963 and finally at their Christmas shows at the Finsbury Park Astoria. The Who tried it at the Young Vic in London in early 1971, an ambitious experiment by Pete Townshend that didn’t really work out, and Eric Clapton did it for years at the Royal Albert Hall. Still, Petty & The Heartbreaker’s stint at the Fillmore West was clearly something extra special, for both the band and the audience.

    Tom wanted to get away from the soulless stadiums he and his band had graduated towards, and the whole crew felt the need to do something other than play the same set, their best-known songs, night after night, as they had felt obliged to do when facing audiences of 10,000 or more. This is the result, loving compiled by Mike Campbell now that his boss is no longer with us. “I will always remember those nights with joy and inspiration,” he writes in a preface to the top notch booklet notes by Joel Selvin, rock critic on the San Francisco Examiner



Around about this time one year ago there was a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth in our little village. The Gomshall Mill, the historic pub on the main A25 road that links Guildford with Dorking, closed its doors for what many of us thought might be the last time. Just before Christmas, too. The Mill was a victim of Covid, of course, but an additional factor was its location over the River Tillingbourne which flows beneath it and, from time to time, backs up at the point where it enters the tunnel underneath and floods the ground floor.

        The building which houses the Mill dates back to the 11th Century, and it was still grinding flour until 1953. Inside, encased behind thick glass, you can see the old waterwheel that was once turned by the river, though in reality the Tillingbourne is nowadays a gentle stream less than six feet wide. Only in torrential rain does it back up, but that’s occurred three times since we moved to the village, with disastrous results for the Mill. Fortunately, we live above it. 

        Long before we moved here, the Mill was the village post office, then a tea shop run by a couple of elderly ladies. Later it became a pub and restaurant. When we arrived it was run by the Bluebeckers chain, then it was taken over by a London based company called Brunning & Price, which operates over 80 pubs around the UK. When they opted to throw in the towel last December, the doors were padlocked, a security firm installed cameras all around and up went a For Sale sign. Because we live close by, I opened up email communications with the company’s Operations Manager, name of Tamsyn, seeking to establish when and if a new owner had been found.

        About eight months elapsed. Two or three times, Tamsyn told me they were showing around prospective buyers. Two or three times, Tamsyn told me there were no takers yet. I spoke to one who was mooching around and bigged it up. I complained to Tamsyn that the Mill, once the pride of our village – there are brown signs on the roads approaching Gomshall drawing attention to it as a ‘historic building’ – was looking a bit derelict and that the back garden was badly overgrown. To her credit, gardeners were sent to tidy it up, but the weeds beneath the paving stones on the front patio gave the Mill an unloved, run-down look unbefitting a Grade II listed building. 

        I was told the Mill would be auctioned off last April but it never happened. Opposite it, on the same level, is a huge car park with room for perhaps 70 or 80 cars, and there were fears this might be sold separately. The phrase change of use was heard. It had an ominous ring. Then in July, Tamsyn emailed me again: “We are preparing it for sale. I believe it will be with a new owner imminently.” 

        The room in which I do my writing looks down on the Mill’s extensive back garden and not long after receiving that email I spotted two gents down there, sat at a table. I decided to join them. They eyed me suspiciously as I approached. “Are you going to buy it?” I asked. One of them, name of Julian, said maybe. I bigged it up again. 

The view from my office window, with the Tillingbourne running beneath The Mill

        In the event it never went to public auction. Julian Clarke’s company, New Dawn Pubs, bought the Mill at a price rumoured to be in the region on £720,000, which is a snip as three-bedroomed houses in this village can sell for more than that and the Mill is hardly small. The catch, of course, was that according to a local builder pal of mine it needed over £1m spending on it. The roof tiles were crumbling. One of the walls had cracks in it, and the interior was in dire need of some TLC. The kitchen equipment was probably old and playing up. 

        So, for the past four months I’ve looked down on all-hands-to-the-pump restoration work going on at our old Mill, and – praise be, as they say in Handmaids – it re-opened with a villagers-only party last week. Although work continues on the exterior, The Gomshall Mill is now up and running again.

        And while it’s lovely to have our pub back, what’s even nicer is reacquainting ourselves with the community spirit that the Mill’s closure somehow took away. Covid and no Mill had distanced us from friends and neighbours in our village but at the party in the newly opened pub, and when we called in for a drink last Friday, the atmosphere was warm and welcoming. It was also packed. We said hello to dozens of friends we know from the village but hadn’t spoken to for a while. Everyone was smiling. Everyone agreed that it was wonderful to have our pub back and that it looked fabulous. 

        Pubs are closing down left, right and centre these days which is a tragedy, not just for the licensed trade but for the communities they serve and which supports them. The Mill’s reopening exemplifies that old adage that Joni used for the lyrics in ‘Big Yellow Taxi’: You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. Thanks Julian and your partners for reopening our pub. Just in time for Christmas, too. 



Last week I was interviewed for a forthcoming music documentary in which the subject of being ‘bigger than The Beatles’ cropped up. I pointed out to the interviewer that at one time or another all sorts of acts – usually boy bands – have been described as ‘bigger than The Beatles’ but only for two or three years, at which point they cease to be ‘bigger than The Beatles’ until the arrival of another one that is claimed by someone or other to be ‘bigger than The Beatles’. 

        However, no one ever says that this or that band is bigger than the last act that was said to be ‘bigger than The Beatles’. No act is ever described as being bigger than, say, The Bay City Rollers, or Take That, or One Direction, or BTS, or whichever boy band, or girl band – for a while the Spice Girls were ‘bigger than The Beatles’, as I recall – is currently doing pretty well. Being ‘bigger than The Beatles’ is a meaningless comparison drawn by lazy commentators seeking a standard with which to measure popularity, and the only standard ever worth applying is The Beatles.

Meanwhile, statistically, dozens of acts can claim to be ‘bigger than The Beatles’. In the years since The Beatles were active as a group, everyone from Michael Jackson to Shania Twain via Pink Floyd, The Bees Gees and the Eagles, have released albums that sold many more than any single album by The Beatles. Indeed, on most lists of all-time best-selling albums to be found on the internet, The Beatles don’t even make the Top Ten. Michael Jackson’s Thriller tops the list with over 50 million sold, while The Beatles’ best-seller is their hit collection 1, languishing somewhere in the late teens in the list with sales of around 23 million.

        Similarly, attendance figures at Beatles’ concerts have been overwhelmingly surpassed by pretty much every act that’s risen to arena or stadium status in the past 50 years, not least their sixties rivals The Rolling Stones. On internet lists of highest grossing tours, The Beatles don’t even get a look in. 

        Nevertheless, as a measure of popularity, it’s The Beatles – and only The Beatles – who are used as a yardstick, which merely serves to solidify their impregnable status. It seems to me that the more acts who claim to be ‘bigger The Beatles’, the bigger The Beatles become. As I said in my interview last week: “Loads of acts have been bigger The Beatles at one time or another but at the same time none have ever really been bigger than The Beatles – or ever will be.”

        Go figure. 



Christine Perfect with her Top Female Singer award at the 1969 Melody Maker Pop Poll awards at the Waldorf Hotel in London. 
(Photo by David Cairns/Express/Hulton Archive)

Among the many books I edited for Omnibus Press was A Promoter’s Tale: Rock At The Sharp End by Geoff Docherty, who promoted rock concerts in the UK’s north eastern cities by all the big names during the late sixties and seventies. In his book Geoff describes how in November, 1969, he promoted the opening concert of a UK tour by Christine Perfect who’d recently left Chicken Shack to strike out on her own. She’d just won the Female Singer Award in Melody Maker’s Poll – and would do so again in 1970 – so he thought the Locarno in Sunderland, which held around 1,500 people, would sell out easily.

        Alas, Geoff was optimistic. Only about two dozen fans bought tickets and when Christine arrived it was his depressing duty to inform her of the situation. She was tearful when he told her about the miserable turnout. Geoff assumed she wouldn’t want to go on. 

        He was wrong. Christine did perform. She composed herself and walked out on to the stage, and as she began to play those who were there left their seats to come down to the front and, eventually, gather around her on stage while she sat and sang at the grand piano provided by the venue. The small crowd eventually all sat down on the stage while Christine played for them for over an hour, some blues, some favourites from her repertoire, an original song or two. The fans cheered her and wanted more, and she finished with her Chicken Shack tour de force, ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’.

        “She was magnificent,” wrote Geoff. “It was a brave and inspired performance. From that day on, whenever things got tough for me, her display of triumph over adversity was an example I always sought to follow.

        If I was asked to name my favourite member of Fleetwood Mac I wouldn’t hesitate. Christine McVie, of course. Stevie was a bit OTT, Lindsay seemed a bit full of himself, Mick was a bit too gangly and John a bit too shadowy. Christine was nothing like them, discreet, a team player content to stand her ground unobtrusively at stage right, usually playing a small electric piano until called upon to sing those lovely songs of hers from the Fleetwood Mac catalogue that, in my view, were largely responsible for the multi-million sales figures their albums racked up. 

        She was disarmingly modest in a quiet, decent, English way, with a sweet but slightly husky alto voice entirely lacking in ostentation. She didn’t need to over emote because her songs spoke for themselves: ‘Say You Love Me’, ‘Over My Head’, ‘Warm Ways’, ‘You Make Loving Fun’, ‘Don’t Stop’, ‘Over And Over’, ‘Think About Me’, ‘Wish You Were Here’, ‘Hold Me’, ‘Little Lies’, ‘Everywhere’ and, of course, ‘Songbird’, her delicate, understated masterpiece. Her songs, always effortlessly melodic, were outnumbered by those composed by the other members of Fleetwood Mac, but in terms of quality, song for song, her yield was superior to them all. 

        I never had much to do with Fleetwood Mac professionally, though in 1972 I was sent by Melody Maker to interview the pre-Buckingham/Nicks group at their country house, Benifold, near Borden in Hampshire. Having just released their Bare Trees LP, the group seemed to me to be in the pleasant position of not having to work too hard and were unworried about their diminishing profile in the UK. 

        Christine sipped from a mug of tea and told me she’d had her fill of slogging around Britain. “In England it means travelling by road and coming home each night in the early hours,” she said. “But in America you are staying in hotels and it doesn’t feel like such a tiring drag over there.” 

With Bob Welch and Danny Kirwan elsewhere during my visit, I spent a pleasant afternoon with Mick, John and Christine in the rehearsal space they’d created for themselves in this elegant but untidy country mansion. They all believed their future lay in America, though, of course, they weren’t to know then how utterly correct they were in this regard.

Thereafter chance delivered me elsewhere whenever Fleetwood Mac played concerts near where I lived and I never reviewed a show of theirs for MM. The renaissance brought about by the arrival of Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham occurred just as I my time on MM was drawing to a close, and I’d left the paper by the time they played Madison Square Garden in June of 1977. I was working for a music biz company in New York that summer, however, and copped free tickets so I did manage to see the Fleetwood Mac supergroup just the once. Cresting a wave, they were outrageously good and brought the house down. I also copped an invite to an aftershow party and recall seeing the five of them sat together in a swanky restaurant. Dressed and looking just like they do on the cover of Rumours, they were surrounded by well-wishers, unrecognisable from the group I met in Hampshire five years previously. With flashbulbs going off all round them, they positively glowed.

Just like Christine did at the Sunderland Locarno in 1969. 


THE BEATLES 1963: A Year In The Life By Dafydd Rees

It is a testament to the everlasting affection in which The Beatles are held that books like this exist, not to mention the effort that goes into their research and writing. The concept is simple: a precise and detailed account of their activities on every single day during the year of their UK breakthrough, the first year of Beatlemania, accompanied in the most part by first-hand reports from many of those who were around at the time, whether in the audience for a show, or in a support band, or who just happened to encounter them somewhere or other.

It is an extraordinary book and it will take me weeks to read it all, though I have already fast-forwarded to dates of greater than usual significance. It invites dipping but if I were to devote eight hours a day to reading it straight, from page one to page 544, I might finish it by Christmas. I am reliably informed by its editor that the word count is 309,000. Author Dafydd Rees actually delivered 477,000 and was asked to it cut back to save on print costs. 

        Even more so than the exhaustive books written by Mark Lewisohn, who evidently lent his support, Beatles 1963 is the ultimate Beatles’ nerd book but at the same time utterly gripping, at least for those of my generation who were smitten by them. If, like me, you occasionally drift back nostalgically to the summer of 1963, when ‘She Loves You’ topped the charts, when it seemed as if The Beatles were the answer to our prayers, a gift from the Gods, then this is the book for you. At the beginning of the year we didn’t know one from the other. By the end their names were carved on our hearts for ever. 

The book is also curiously moreish. I pick it up intending to spend half an hour with it, or read the entries for two or three days, and end up spending an hour or more reading the entries for a whole week. Mark Lewisohn’s books have more insight, context and comment and are written from a more scholarly perspective, but the detail that Dafydd Rees has brought to his book is mind-boggling. 

Let’s look at a random entry. I open the book at page 208, June 9. At the top is the second half of a lengthy description of the June 8 show in Newcastle, carried over from the previous page, by Heather Page, a housewife from Tyne And Wear. In a nutshell, Heather says it wasn’t a sell-out and fans weren’t screaming. But when she tried to get tickets for the Beatles’ next appearance at the same venue there were queues around the block and she couldn’t get in. 

Next up we learn that the drive from Newcastle to Blackburn took three hours, and that there were two shows at the 3,500-seater King’s Hall, their last on a 21-date UK tour with Roy Orbison. “During the second house, a group of girls got past the police cordon and rushed the stage,” writes Rees. “Eileen Tripper, a pupil at Rhyddings Secondary School, was intercepted before she could reach her favourite Beatle, John. One male teen climbed on to the ledge of the balcony. Another teen shouted ‘Up the Rolling Stones’ and was duly thumped with an umbrella by a girl nearby.”

The Blackburn Times reported: “A seething mass of fans made it to the stage at the end of the first house, but their passions had nothing on the second. Then, even a barrier of policemen failed to quench their enthusiasm, and a few succeeded in mounting the stage – almost delirious when they had actually touched a Beatle! But many more were dragged unceremoniously away, to be pitched back into the rabble.”

There’s follows an account of the show by Carole Donnelley, a solicitor’s legal assistant, who lives in Darwen. According to her, one fan jumped on stage and nicked Roy Orbison’s glasses. 

It helps the book that during 1963 The Beatles worked as if their lives depending on it. On nights off during tours they played one-nighters here there and everywhere, and when they weren’t performing they were recording, or taping shows for BBC radio or TV, or doing interviews or having their photographs taken. The only let up occurred during the second half of September when they all took a holiday, George famously visiting the USA, the first Beatle to do so, to spend time with his sister Louise, his travelling companion his elder brother Peter. Included among precise details of this trip is an account of the night George, completely unknown in the USA, played with a local band in Eldorado, Missouri. “It was like someone threw a switch in that room,” says an onlooker. “The difference was dramatic.” Louise remembers people banging their fists on tables and stamping their feet, and someone else later saying to a member of the group: “That new kid that’s trying out for your band. You’d be crazy not to take him on.”

These two extracts represent less than a quarter of a percent of the entire book. It is clear from the entries that Dafydd Rees has spent years poring through old editions local newspapers to gather his information and seeking out fans through correspondence. It’s the fans’ recollections that carry the most weight. Their memories are vivid and somehow more authentic, more personal, for their matter-of-factness. The miracle is that all these boys and girls, as they were then, remember their encounters so clearly. They are memories they will take to their graves, and they prove beyond doubt that there was far more to The Beatles than simply the music they made. Exactly what is was that caused so many of the post war generation in this country – and later the world – to accept John, Paul, George and Ringo with such passion has always been somehow inexplicable, though many have tried. Beatles 1963 might not provide the answer but it takes you there and leaves you with a sense of wonder that this really did happen. 

The book is illustrated throughout, with many photos unseen, or rarely seen, before, and all quoted contributors have supplied contemporary pictures of themselves. There is also an eight-page colour section, eight pages that seek to answer myths, and detailed source notes. RRP is £25, £18.75 on Amazon. 


BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – Only The Strong Survive

I remember... I was introduced to soul music through Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band whose 1966 album Hand Clappin’ Foot Stomping’ Funky-Butt… Live! retains a cherished place in my diminishing LP collection, and back then I always headed for the dance floor at the sound of Stax and Motown. That album formed the basis of sets performed by The Black Sheep, the premier band in my home town of Skipton, and no one sat down as they raced nonstop through ‘Ride Your Pony’, ‘Up Tight’, ‘Hold On I’m Coming’, ‘You Don’t Know Like I Know’ and a dozen more soul classics. 
        It was somehow very cool to like soul music in those days and on the cover and accompanying artwork of Only The Strong Survive, Bruce Springsteen looks fabulously cool as he leans against a cucumber-green Pontiac GTO*, its lines as sleek, smooth and retro as the music within. Like the music, this model Pontiac was produced in the sixties, between 1963 and 1974; a classic car to frame 15 classic soul covers, a few well-known, most not so, all performed with affection and enthusiasm, a lockdown inspired left turn from Bruce’s role as leader of the E Street Band, though their horns feature prominently, alongside producer and multi-instrumentalist Ron Aniello and engineer Rob Lebret. 
        It was a labour of love for this trio, of course. Their respect for this music is evident from the attention to detail – the arrangements don’t stray much from the originals – and the depth of feeling Bruce injects into the songs. On Graham Norton’s BBC TV chat show last Friday night, looking a bit uneasy alongside an eye-catchingly underdressed Anya Taylor-Joy, star of The Queen’s Gambit, he explained how soul music was his musical education, and how it has informed his work ever since. Come to think of it, the E Street Band has always played more like a soul revue than a basic rock unit. Nowadays there’s at least ten of them, often more if you count the fluid brass section. The Black Sheep only managed six, but they did have Kevin on trumpet.

        “I remember,” the opening words of the opening title track, sung by his female backing vocalists, sets the scene for all that follows, in this case a nostalgic wander down memory lane to where music made largely within a 100-mile radius of Memphis somehow managed to combine romantic heartbreak with a pulsating beat drawn from gospel churches where praising the Lord was and remains a serious business. The more enthusiastic the congregation, the more likely they were to ascend their stairway to heaven. 
        Bruce’s covers are immaculate, as you would expect, the music uplifting, joyful, a free and easy journey into Bruce’s treasure chest of favourites. There’s no attempt to update or put his own stamp on the original recordings and the emphasis is on Bruce’s vocals. He’s joined by Sam Moore on a couple but on his own for the rest, singing like a soul veteran with a direct line to the spiritual origins of Wilson P, Eddie F, Joe T, Otis R and all the rest of those guys who ushered us on to the dance floor in the sixties.
        Of the songs with which I am most familiar, ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shone Anymore’ doesnt stray from the arrangement used by The Walker Brothers but loses the theatrics; ‘7 Rooms Of Gloom’ lacks The Four Tops’ silken vocals but adds drama; ‘What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted’ is throatier than Jimmy Ruffin but just as despairing; and ‘Someday We’ll Be Together’, the closer, is chock full of longing, just like Diana.
        Of the rest, I’m now a fan of ‘Nightshift’, the Commodores elegy for Marvin and Jackie, and ‘Do I Love You’, the Northern Soul classic originally recorded by the little-known Frank Wilson, for which Bruce has filmed an energetic video with a gospel choir. But the truth is every track is a winner on a gloriously uplifting side project from the man who simply doesn’t know how to stop.

*I am indebted to my old pal Frederic Manby for identifying the make and model of the car, though he had to consult another car expert, Phil Huff. Frederic and I worked together long, long ago and he went on to distinguish himself as the long-serving motoring correspondent for the Yorkshire Post. He, too, danced to The Black Sheep back in the day. 


DAVID ENGLISH – A Story You Won’t Read Anywhere Else

David English with England T20 cricket captain Jos Buttler

Yesterday’s celebrations following England’s win in the T20 World Cup in Melbourne were no doubt tempered by the news of the death of David English, who, uniquely, forged illustrious careers in the worlds of both music and cricket. I knew David when he was an employee, and later senior executive, of RSO Records, the label run by Robert Stigwood, the manager of Eric Clapton and The Bee Gees. 

        Later, however, he made a name for himself in cricketing circles, founding the Bunbury Cricket Club that raised vast sums for charity. He created the Bunbury Festival which offered opportunities for young cricketers. He worked at Lords for a spell. International players from all the test playing nations knew and respected David for the work he did.

        The England and Wales Cricket Board noted David’s death on their website, as follows: “In 1987, he created the annual U15s Bunbury Festival. Its impact in bringing together each year the country’s best young players has been colossal. Its graduates include Michael Vaughan, Andrew Flintoff, and Joe Root. By 2021, 1,044 Bunbury Festival players had gone on to play first-class cricket and 118 had earned international honours with England. Everyone at the ECB is saddened at the news of David’s passing.” 

        The David I used to know was a boisterous character. He acted in a few films, wrote children’s books in which cricketers became cartoon characters – Ian Buntham and Goldenhare Gower were my favourites – and he sent me one in which The Bee Gees were portrayed as furry animals. 

        He was always the life and soul of the party, forever cracking jokes, and I hope he’ll forgive me for relating this tale. 

        Each January there takes place in Cannes on the French Riviera the annual Midem Festival at which music industry business, mostly to do with song publishing and foreign licensing, is transacted, and in 1971, aged 23, I attended the event to report on it for Melody Maker. I had been told that high-class hookers from Paris come down to Cannes for the Midem week and that some were to be found in the expensive Hotel Martinez at the eastern end of La Croisette, the wide, tree-lined boulevard that separates the town from the beach and the Mediterranean beyond. So, on the second night of my week’s stay in Cannes I went to the Martinez for a late night drink to check out the action for myself. 

The Martinez bar was crowded and amongst the throng were several music industry types that I knew. One of them informed me that contributions were being sought for a kitty which would be used to engage the services of two or more girls to put on a sex show in someone’s hotel suite. Was I interested in contributing? I certainly was, so I handed over my money and waited until I was summoned.

About ten minutes later, negotiations having been satisfactorily concluded, I found myself in a spacious hotel room, waiting for the show to commence. Sufficient money had evidently been collected to secure the services of three girls, all of whom were young, slim and beautiful, two brunettes and one blonde. We sat in silence while they clambered onto a double bed, removed each other’s dresses and frolicked around in their underwear. Next, they took everything off and simulated sex, both oral and manual, but the performance was sterile, mechanical, lacking even a hint of eroticism, and some members of the audience conveyed their dissatisfaction by whistling and suggesting the girls put more effort into their work.

Eventually the guy who had arranged the show approached the girls to discuss matters. The outcome of this was that one member of the audience would be permitted to join them on the bed and they would pleasure him while we watched. It certainly wasn’t going to be me but one intrepid fellow I knew quite well, who worked for an independent record label, offered his services, stripped down to his briefs and climbed onto the bed with the girls. They soon had his underwear off but try as they might the girls were unable to stimulate him sufficiently, a situation that caused no little amusement amongst the audience which no doubt exacerbated his inability to perform. It was all slightly embarrassing. After less than ten minutes they gave up and announced that the show was over, the agreed time limit of 30 minutes having expired. As one they grabbed their clothes and headed off to the bathroom to get dressed again and we all trooped out, back down to the bar, all of us convinced the whole business had been a waste of time and money.

The name of the man who joined them on the bed? David English, of course. 



“He didn’t have personal friends,” says Dick Allen, a showbiz agent who worked with Chuck Berry for years. “I travelled all the time with him. We were not socially friendly. He did his thing and I did mine. I did not try to crawl into his life. I have nothing bad to say about him on a personal level; we were just not personally friendly. But he wasn’t personally friendly with anybody.”

        Dick Allen’s testimony is echoed throughout RJ Smith’s engrossing biography of this most secretive of men, the nearest thing we are likely to get to a definitive portrait of a musician whose records are a key foundation stone of rock’n’roll. Berry was elusive, moderately affable when it suited him but more often immensely dislikable, an individualist who never felt the need to bare his soul to anyone, not even his wife Themetta, to whom he was married for 68 years and who gave birth to his three daughters and one son, none of whom are mentioned in the acknowledgements of a book the author proudly states is ‘unauthorised’. 

        From the book we learn what made Berry the way he was, ill-tempered and arrogant, a provocateur who never gave anything away, least of all what he felt was his due in hard cash. When he died in 2017, aged 90, he had outlived almost all of his contemporaries but enough of those who encountered him remain for Smith to have researched an extraordinary life as diligently as anyone could hope. It’s full of the stories you would expect, mind-boggling tales of meanness and avarice, sexual escapades that border on perversion, and haughtiness that implies an almost suicidal tendency to provoke, and to hell with the consequences. 

        Were it not for his frequently abhorrent sexual behaviour, Berry might be judged to have taken a heroic stand against racism. He was raised in St Louis, Missouri, and although he had homes elsewhere in the US at one time or another, he never really left. He encountered white privilege everywhere he looked and determined from an early age to behave like a privileged white man himself, especially when it came to his addiction to white women, especially blondes. This got him into lots of trouble but he took it in his stride. His bullishness was who he was. 

        With the notable exception of his first jail term, ten years (commuted to three) for his part in a bungled crime spree just after he turned 18, there isn’t much about his childhood, the pre-rock’n’roll years, though we do learn he admired the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar and was fascinated by cameras. As a result, the first 150 pages or so (out of 400+) of the book devote as much time to scene setting as they do to the man himself. Which is not to say that the scene setting isn’t important or, indeed, absorbing, just that biographical details take second place to the history of American blues and R&B music, the gangster-ridden early US pop record industry, Berry's varied influences and, perhaps most important, the ugly racism in America during the fifties, how it impacted on Berry and how he reacted to it.

        Smith has a free-wheeling American style of writing that rocks along like a Chuck Berry song, and he likes sentences without verbs. This suits the subject matter if not the subject, who was always laconic in interviews and, like many present day politicians, made things up or massaged the facts, not least in his own autobiography, first published in 1987. Unlike that book, An American Life is generous with the precise details on how, in 1960, Berry was given another prison sentence, this time three years for transporting a 14-year-old native American girl over state lines for sex, not to mention numerous other legal actions brought by women who sued him on sexual grounds, right up to the hidden cameras used to film women using the bathrooms in Berry Park, the country club he established in Wentzville, Missouri. 

        It therefore comes as a bit of a relief when Smith turns his attention to the music – which he writes about well – and how it was made, and how Berry came to learn about, and then react to, the ways the profits from it were shared. We learn about Johnnie Johnson’s role in the process and Smith has interviewed numerous musicians, some long-serving, from bands hired to back Berry up on the road. All have great tales to tell. Indeed, the last third of book contains countless eye-opening accounts of Berry’s ‘difficult’ behaviour while touring, wrangles over money in which Berry invariably comes out on top, his role in promoter Richard Nader’s endless series of rock’n’roll revival shows and the behind-the-scenes shenanigans surrounding the 1987 film documentary Hail! Hail! Rock’n’Roll, in which Keith Richards suffered for his prominent role. 

        In the end, though, while Smith is generous in his endorsement of Berry’s musical accomplishments, the portrait he paints is of a solitary, self-destructive, morose and hyper-sexual satyr. For all the pleasure that Chuck Berry’s music has given us, he didn’t get – or even seem to want – much pleasure in return. 

Published in the UK by Omnibus Press and elsewhere by Hachette, Chuck Berry: An American Life is well annotated and indexed, has a rather meagre 16 pages of black and white photographs and costs £20.00. 



Marginally more accomplished that Rubber Soul and without the flamboyance of Sgt Pepper, Revolver is widely acknowledged as The Beatles’ masterpiece, an opinion with which I concur, especially after listening to this sparkling remix and the revealing ‘work in progress’ tracks on the bonus second disc included in the 2-CD package I opted for, as opposed to the £100+ 5-CD set with all sorts of extras.

        It was 1966. The Beatles took the first three months of the year off, their first real holiday since Beatlemania broke out in 1963. Taking advantage of EMI’s generous but fiscally motivated offer of unlimited studio time at Abbey Road, they recorded the songs that appeared on Revolver between April and June, then embarked on their ill-fated final world tour in July and August. They must surely have known their touring days were coming to an end, for almost all the tracks on their seventh album were unsuitable for performing on stage with the equipment that was available to them in those days. Can you imagine Ringo yelling “Backwards guitar, George!”? None of Revolver’s songs were ever performed by The Beatles before an audience, though ‘Paperback Writer’, the single recorded concurrently, appeared in their concert sets that year.

        So much for the back story, let’s begin at the beginning. The fabulous Paul McCartney bass line on ‘Taxman’ that Weller shamelessly co-opted for ‘Start’ is even more fabulous, a deep sensuous groove that matches anything Duck Dunn played with the MGs, while George’s voice and choppy guitar benefit from a thorough clean-up. Always a terrific opener, everyone’s disapproval of Mr Wilson and Mr Heath is considerably more apparent and Paul’s short, sharp guitar solo simply explodes. More importantly, however, the off-putting stereo separation on the Revolver CD I bought 25 or more years ago, wherein the vocals are skewed towards the left speaker, has been junked in favour of a far more equitable mix across the audio spectrum. In a nutshell, it brings everything up to date. 

        Stereo remix engineer/producer Giles Martin, son of George, clarifies the technicalities of this in the accompanying booklet, explaining how modern technology enabled him to separate each recorded element – instruments and vocals – and reposition them, this despite the songs having been recorded on four-track tape. He refers to it as ‘de-mixing’, applying to Revolver the same process used during the production of the recent Beatles Get Back movie to restore inaudible dialogue on film.

        And on we go. The strings on ‘Eleanor Rigby’, Paul’s weeping widow, ring out like never before. John sounds sleepier, foggier, than ever on ‘I’m Only Sleeping’, while Ringo’s cymbals glisten and the nifty little five-note bass link between verses is deeper, craftier too. George’s sitar is spikier in ‘Love You Too’, and in the accompanying booklet tabla player Anil Bhagwat assures us it really is George playing the sitar. 

        The lovely ‘Here, There And Everywhere’ sounds like it was a recorded last week, a sumptuous ode to his love for Jane that glides like a gondola, its harmonies on a par with anything on Abbey Road’s long medley. No wonder Brian Wilson was inspired. ‘Yellow Submarine’ is almost profound and certainly happier. The guitar part in ‘She Said She Said’ is crisper, John’s vocal seemingly up in the mix, more urgent, a bit frightening actually.

        Side two and Paul’s happier, the sun shining brighter as he wishes it good day. George’s lovely cascading guitar part in ‘And You Bird Can Sing’ has more bite. You can taste Paul’s tears in ‘For No One’, its horn part blowing clear and true. ‘Doctor Robert’ bounces merrily along, John’s vocal more distinct. ‘I Want To Tell You’ sounds like it was recorded for All Things Must Pass. ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’ swings like never before. Finally, ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ sounds more unsettling, John more persuasive, the shrieks more piercing, Ringo’s tom-tom remorselessly tolling the end of the beginning. 

        Remarkably, these 14 Revolver tracks last precisely 34 minutes and seven seconds, its longest track three minutes, its shortest just two. There’s no filler. Thats how it was done in those days. A superb album sounds even more superb. 

        It’s probably been said before but after listening to this new mix for three days, at home and in my car, I couldnt help but admire how on his Revolver songs Paul demonstrates a remarkable ability to switch moods, from the melancholia of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ to the romanticism of ‘Here, There...’, from the gloom of ‘For No One’ to the optimism of ‘Good Day Sunshine’ and feel-good vibe of ‘Got To Get You…’, with its Stax-like disco strut. Meanwhile, John is less quixotic but far more philosophical, pondering the meaning of life from an acid-drenched stupor, the pessimistic observer resigned to his lot (until Yoko came along to snap him out of it).

        The second CD in the package I bought opens with vibrant remixes of ‘Paperback Writer’ and its B-side, ‘Rain’, one of many contenders for the ‘Best Beatles B-side’ award, which is a whole other issue but, for the record, in a tight contest my vote would go to ‘Don’t Let Me Down’. Then there’s 13 outtakes, all of which sound somehow unfinished but are not without interest. John often tops and tails things with a quip, sometimes waspish, sometimes gleeful. The brass part on ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’ began as fuzz-tone guitar played by George, ‘And Your Bird Can Sing’ had McGuinn-like chiming guitars throughout and in ‘Taxman’ John and Paul sang the line ‘Anybody got a bit of money’ in falsetto. We hear John muck things up in ‘I’m Only Sleeping’, Paul’s melodious piano on the backing track to ‘For No One’ and ‘Yellow Submarine’ without the sound effects. 

        But of all these extras the best is the take of ‘Here, There And Everywhere’, spare and intimate, sounding a bit like a demo. “If pushed,” says Paul in the booklet notes, “‘Here, There And Everywhere is my own favourite of all my songs.” 


JERRY LEE LEWIS - A Close Encounter

Of all those rocknroll icons from the 1950s, Elvis kept himself to himself, Buddy and Eddie died, Richard (Little and Cliff), Bo and Gene eluded me and, apart from a very brief encounter at his LA girlfriend’s house, so did Chuck. But I snagged Jerry Lee one night in London, hanging around in the studio with him for a couple of hours while he recorded an album called London Sessions, and as a tribute to The Killer here’s my report from Melody Maker dated January 20, 1973, slightly edited from the original published version. 


Gosfield Street, London W1: Advision Studios is where Yes create their music and put it on record.

        Last week the action at Advision was a million miles aware from Close To The Edge. Jerry Lee Lewis had taken over the studios for a whole week to cut tracks for a double album that will be issued about a month after the final note is played. That’s five weeks after the first note was played, which means there’s more than just a musical difference between Jerry Lee and Yes.

        Jerry Lee arrived at Heathrow last weekend and was pictured for the Sunday papers with his Southern Belle girlfriend. “I’m here to cut some rock and roll songs, some old, some new, that mah fans want me to do,” he told smiling reporters at Heathrow. In case there was any doubt, he also informed them he was the King of Rock and Roll.

        A host of British names have been recruited for these sessions in much the same way as BB King and Howlin’ Wolf collected British names to add a touch of glamour to their respective London Sessions albums. During the week no lesser personnel than Alvin Lee, Klaus Voorman, Rory Gallagher, Kenney Jones, Delaney Bramlett, Peter Frampton, Rik Grech, Tony Ashton and most of Head, Hands And Feet showed up at various times to accompany Jerry Lee. Of Yes there was no sign.

        Two uniformed security guards stand impassively by the doorway to the studio and every visitor is checked from a list of names at the reception before they can pass into Jerry Lee’s presence, and even then admittance isn’t guaranteed. It rather depends on whether or not Jerry Lee likes the look of your face.

        The band is playing ‘Proud Mary’ with Jerry’s son, Jerry Lee Lewis Junior, taking the vocals. Junior is 18 years old, and portly in the manner that many young men from the Southern states of America tend to be. Too many hamburgers and fries, ah guess. 

        Jerry is on piano, Albert Lee and Delaney Bramlett on guitars, Chas Hodges on bass, Kenney Jones on drums and various others making small contributions. There’s also three girl singers, all white, bawling out the lyrics. 

        “Son, take your hands out of your pockets and sing with some soul, boy,” drawls Jerry Lee in the direction of someone or other. “If you forget the words, just sing what you feel, boy.” The music commences and it goes like bomb. Lewis’ piano style is very personal: his left hand bounces up and down on the keys like an automatic lever, and his right flashes across them like lightning.

        Two rehearsals and two takes and that’s it. About 24 numbers have been recorded in this fashion all week. Vocals, guitars, piano, drums are all recorded simultaneously. Recording one instrument at a time just isn’t Jerry Lee. It might as well be a live album.

        The control room is more than crowded. Apart from the musicians there’s Jerry Lee’s ‘men’. He calls them gophers because they go for things for him, mostly sandwiches and beers. There’s also his manager Judd Phillips, brother of the legendary Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records, who discovered Elvis. Also, Jerry’s Southern Belle is constantly at his side – it’s unwise to stare at her for too long – along with a few other ladies, two photographers, an engineer and a tape-op guy. 

When the playback stops there’s a stony silence. The respect that Jerry Lee commands is not just musical. He can cut you up with words too, so no one dares disagree with him. “Ah, ah like it,” he drawls. Everyone smiles. 

Discussion follows concerning the next song. ‘Satisfaction’ is mooted. “Ah’d like to do a song of Mick’s,” Jerry Lee tells everyone. “But Mick did that one so good it’d be like sticking a greasy noodle up some critter’s ass.” This is a cue to laugh. Often Jerry Lee’s comments, though difficult to catch through the Southern drawl, are incredibly funny. Then again, they might not be. 

Jerry Lee sits down in chair that belongs to a technician, and the thoughtless technician asks Jerry Lee to move. “You move me, boy.” Silence. “I’ll give you five hundred to a thousand you won’t move me, boy.” You can hear a pin drop in the room. No one is sure whether Jerry Lee really is as mean as he makes out or if it’s all one big joke. Then he laughs and breaks the tension. It was a joke but one that brings home the pride Jerry Lee takes in his stubborn Southern upbringing; whiskey, cotton, short hair, the Good Book, grits and country music. I wonder how he gets along with Chuck Berry at his most badass black and Little Richard at his creamy ass camp.

Jerry Lee holds court in the control room while others rehearse a number around the piano in the studio. “They’re rehearsing a song I don’t want to play,” he drawls.

In company with everyone else I laugh and shake my head. “What you shaking your head and laughing for, boy?” To my horror, this is directed at me. “You laughing at me, boy? Don’t you believe me, boy? I’ll whip you any day, boy.” Silence. My face turns red. What I don’t know is that everyone gets this treatment and it was my turn. I remain silent. I don’t know what to say.

But it passes, and Jerry Lee smiles at me and laughs and I tell him I was laughing at the musicians in the studio who were playing a number he didn’t want to play, and he agrees it’s funny and we laugh together. It seemed we were friends. Sort of. 



THE WHO - Concert Memories From the Classic Years 1964 to 1976 by Edoardo Genzolini

Memories of The Who in their prime do not f-f-fade away. They linger in the minds of those lucky enough to have seen them during the period covered by this 304-page, large format book, now translated into English from its original Italian; yet another shining testament to the lasting impact the group had on fans and a reminder of how genuinely inspiring they were to behold.

        Edoardo Genzolini was certainly inspired, so much so that he’s spent half a lifetime conceiving his book, his inspiration seeing their performance in the Woodstock movie at the age of 13. But the effect The Who had on him was more profound than simply enjoying their landmark Woodstock set on celluloid. He connected with The Who emotionally as well as physically, and his book stands as a tribute from both the heart and the head. I think it’s his way of simply saying thank you to them, for the music, the memories and the lasting influence they’ve had on his life.  

        To this end Genzolini writes introductions to each chapter that cover what The Who did, or tried to do, or wanted to do, in the years covered by the book, expanding on how their ambition somehow went beyond simply making records and performing concerts. Each intro is followed by first person accounts of shows, some by crew members who worked at theatres where The Who performed or fans who were present, a few of whom helped in some way, or somehow got backstage or to a hotel where the band was staying, just to say hello. Most such encounters are described in fascinating, personal detail, with one-on-one conversations repeated verbatim, some profound, some trivial, some hilarious. Many accounts reflect the characters of the individual members and how open they were to chatting with fans, and the impact this openness had on them, and it is clear from them all that close encounters with Pete, Roger, John and Keith are not easily forgotten. 

        Most of these accounts are illustrated by scores of pictures, many hitherto unseen, mostly black & white but some colour, of The Who on stage or its members backstage, often accompanied by the fans themselves. The quality of the photos varies from professional standard to amateur snaps taken with cheap cameras, but to have so many, upwards of 450, I hadn’t seen before, is a genuine treat, regardless of quality. Turning the pages, I was reminded of Jeff Stein and Chris Johnson’s 1973 photo book, simply titled The Who, another labour of love I greatly admired, though Concert Memories is a far more ambitious undertaking. 

        Although this book purports cover the years 1964-1976, there is an inevitable emphasis on the middle period, the years 1968, ’69, ’70, ’71 and ’73, that many consider to be The Who’s zenith. Of the shows described, some are among the most important The Who ever played – Woodstock, the IOW and both Fillmores in 1969 (there’s a whole chapter on Bill Graham and his Fillmores East and West), Leeds and Tanglewood in 1970, the Oval in 1971 – but all are very special in their own way to those who were there. 

        In a book as large as this it’s difficult to pick highlights but I chuckled at the story told by Christine Curry from Detroit whose friend Cindy went to the hotel where The Who were staying after their show at the Grande Ballroom on March 9, 1968, and spent the night with Keith Moon. “She told me that while she was in bed with him, he talked to his wife on the phone!” reports Christine. Then again, there’s Sally Mann Romano’s account of how in 1968 she left the Whiskey in LA with John and Keith in a rented Porsche, only for Keith, who was at the wheel, to abandon it at an intersection with the engine still running, apparently because he felt they could get to his hotel quicker on foot.

        Among the pictures are two from stage at the Anaheim Convention Centre, on September 8, 1967, which the author claims to be the only known shots of John smashing a bass, while Dennis Quinn tells how Pete dropped a white Fender Stratocaster into his hands from the stage at the Fillmore East in New York on April 5, 1968. One fan reports breathlessly that Roger permitted him to try on his tasselled outfit backstage. 

        There are several reports from the May 1969 shows at New York’s Fillmore, including the one where fire broke out next door, the notorious incident that resulted in Pete spending a night in jail for bashing a plain clothes cop with his guitar. “[The following night]… the tension in the Fillmore before The Who walked out onstage was unreal,” reports Mark Saull. “The energy was like something I’ve never experienced before or since. The Who were so powerful and intense it was intimidating. I remember looking at people in the audience, standing with their fists clenched, gritting their teeth like they were on a thrill ride. [The Who] looked 10 feet tall.”

        While many of the most profound anecdotes are to be found from the 1969-70 era, one from a Quadrophenia show in 1973 stands out. Guy Perry reports that at the Cow Palace, San Francisco, on November 20, 1973 – the show where Keith collapsed and had to be replaced by Scott Halpin – Pete, determined, no doubt, to compensate for his errant drummer, executed… “thirty-plus consecutive windmills during ‘Naked Eye’, an astonishing moment.” 

        These are but a tiny fraction of the delicious memories recalled, every one of them a testament to how unforgettable The Who were in their prime. 

        The book closes with reports from the “Day On The Green” shows in Oakland on October 9, 1976, and a handful of pics from Seattle Coliseum a few days later. Finally, legendary Who disciple “Irish” Jack Lyon writes movingly about how he flew to London on hearing of Keith Moon’s death, his reaction to the news and the atmosphere in Who central during this unhappy time. At the start of the book Jack had written about The Who’s last night at the Goldhawk Social Club in Shepherds Bush in 1965*, so his closing tribute to The Who’s drummer adds a touch a symmetry to a book that Pete himself writes admiringly about on the front cover flap.

        I am happy to add my own recommendation too. Published in hardback by Schiffer Publishing, The Who: Concert Memories isn’t the cheapest Who book on the market – the RRP on the back is $59.99, and in the UK Amazon are offering it for around £40 – but it’s among the very best, lovingly compiled by a true fan for true fans, those who understood the power of The Who and their music, and what it still means to those, like me, who experienced it when this wonderful group made music and performed shows that were unrivalled in rock. 

*Jack’s piece about The Who’s last night at the Goldhawk was actually commissioned by me for use in the booklet accompanying The Who: 30 Years of Maximum R&B, the 1994 4-CD box set I co-produced. At the time Pete felt it was unsuitable because of its depiction of violence.