Editor’s Note: Neil’s reminiscences reminded me of the novel about the Mersey scene which I began to write in the Seventies. I’d called it ‘The Mersey Beast’ and it was a combination of a coming-of-age story, with detailed descriptions of the Liverpool I knew and the tale of a young singer who experiences the Liverpool clubs and the Hamburg scene and eventually becomes a superstar, but has turned to the dark side in an Alistair Crowley way. Everything was based on my own experiences and the groups and events which shaped that unique period. I’d reached the Hamburg section of the book, but lost most of the manuscript and never got back to completing it.
There have been other novels of the Mersey scene, though. The first one was ‘All Night Stand’, penned by Thom Keyes. Thom was an American who lived in Liverpool at the time as his father worked for Liverpool Corporation Transport. He began to travel to gigs with groups such as Faron’s Flamingos and based his story on those experiences.
Another interesting novel of the period is ‘Ticket To Ride’ by Graham Sclater, published by Flame Books, which is ‘Dedicated to the many musicians who followed their impossible dream.’
Graham was born in Exeter in 1947 and was to perform with various groups in Germany and Scandinavia for several years in the Sixties. On his return to England he became a session musician and has played or recorded with numerous stars ranging from Jimi Hendrix and Fats Domino to James Taylor and Elton John. He also became a manager, songwriter and publisher.
‘Ticket To Ride’, based on his memories of the years in Hamburg, is his first book and in the foreword he recalls “The mid to late Sixties was a magical period never to be repeated. Everyone had hope, none more than the young people did?...The more proficient, confident but often foolhardy
musicians traveled to Germany, following in the path of the Beatles, to try their luck in the larger cities such as Hamburg, Hanover, Munich and Frankfurt, where the clubs and German girls had an almost insatiable appetite for English groups”
Some groups made it, others didn’t and Graham decided to write about the misfortunes of one of the also-rans.
The temptations open to groups working in Hamburg, around the St Pauli area were often too available for young lads from England to resist and the group in Graham’s story, the Cheetahs, were dragged down, their lives affected forever by the everyday world of prostitution, sex, drugs and violence, resulting in a total breakdown of the values that they had once believed in.
To the hundreds of members of British groups (remember, a lot of groups from Scotland played in Hamburg) who had never-to-be-forgotten experiences in Germany in the Sixties, this is a book to jog their memories!