Rockin on the Cast-Iron Shore
Garston Rock
The Troubadors, Wild Ones, Sinclairs, Knights and the Anstrax
By Norman Revill  

Norman in the Isle of ManLike most kids born at the end of the War, I grew up on rock and roll, those crazy sounds fading in and out every night from far away Radio Luxembourg and at weekends on the BBC ‘Light Programme’. That our parents hated it only added to its illicit appeal. Nowadays, when radio stations play every kind of music all day and all of the night, it’s sobering to recall that once the only pop music on UK radio was at weekends - Saturday mornings’ ‘Uncle Mac’s Children’s Favourites’, followed by Brian Matthew’s ‘Saturday Club’, then Sunday lunchtime’s ‘Two-Way Family Favourites’, where pop requests for our boys still serving in Germany were squeezed between classical music and easy-listening tunes and ballads.

In Garston, there were rock & roll dances at local venues - Wilson Hall, and Garston Baths (bopping on boards laid over the drained swimming-pool). Posters would appear for ‘The Remo Quartet’ and ‘Derry & The Seniors’. But those mysterious acts might well have been playing on the moon. Dances in Garston meant ‘lumber’ – serious gang violence. Wilson Hall was notorious. ‘Teams’ from Garston and the Dingle went there to bop, pull ‘bints’ and beat the crap out of each other with fists, boots, bicycle chains, brass knuckle-dusters and flick-knives bought off Spanish sailors on the banana boats in Garston docks.

‘Teds’ were magnificent though, in their drape jackets, velvet collars, tight kecks with raised side-seams, crepe-soled, sequined ‘brothel-creeper’ shoes and fabulous DA (duck’s arse) hairstyles - thick-slicked Brycreemed quiffs and hairy mutton-chop ‘sidies’. As a weedy teen, I hid my school badge and kept well away, but boy did I love that music. 

I knew how to sing it too. As a chorister at Garston Parish Church and my school, Quarry Bank, I’d sung recitals and descants and Gilbert & Sullivan. I couldn’t sneer like Elvis, but I could harmonize with the Everlys, back-up Lonnie Donegan and mimic the catch in Buddy Holly’s voice. If only I could play guitar like him or that Ricky Nelson, who was far too good–looking and anyway, lived in California, the Promised Land where it was hot, people had swimming pools, open-top convertibles and the greatest crazy music all day and all night long on their car radios, played by hunky young studs with exotic names like Elvis, Duane, Gene, Buddy or Link. I wanted some of that. 

In the early 60’s, after a No 7 Meccano and the latest issues of ‘Spick’ and ‘Span’ girlie mags, nothing in the world beat the doomy, echoey thrill of the opening bars of Duane Eddy’s ‘Rebel Rouser’. Overnight, I was in front of the mirror, posing as, well... not as Cliff. He could leer and pout and his guitarist was an obvious Buddy Holly clone, but Cliff was a copy, and by the time I knew what a Fender was, he was already morphing into the all-round entertainer he obviously wanted to be. Once your parents are humming it, you know it’s time to move on. I wanted the real thing. 

As Cuban-heeled winklepickers and short belted jackets took over from brothel creepers and drapes, I hit the Sixth Form and puberty. Girls didn’t give a stuff for twangy guitars and tremelo arms but they sure liked the young gods who could wield them, especially if they wore tight kecks and pointed shoes. At All Hallows Church Hall, Springwood, Allerton autumn 1961, I saw Ogi & the Flintstones and the Undertakers (not the real ones; another group stealing the name) and a bobbing crowd of fanciable ‘bints’ out front screaming for more. Now I knew what those forbidden Garston hops were all about. 

I’d been to record dances at a church hall near Bowden Road library, grooving and tapping to Duane Eddy, Johnny & the Hurricanes, the Piltdown Men and Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs. But with Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran dead, Jerry Lee in disgrace, Little Richard getting religion, Elvis in the Army and Cliff emasculated, rock and roll was sinking fast, buried under a production-line of cute but safe American warblers, with sharp suits and even smarmier smiles – Bobbies Vee & Rydell, Frankies Valli and Avalon, Dion and Fabian. But now I’d seen Ogi & The Flintstones, I knew there was another way.

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