Mr. Big Beat's
Rhythm 'n' News Commentary
The Roving Eye
Sounding Off About...Girls
By Bob Wooler
Mersey Beat: October 5 1961
Last edition I was sounding off about persuading talent scouts from the top showbiz agencies to take time off to evaluate Merseyside's entertainers - which I must admit is rather like asking the mountain to come to
Mohammed! I'm still on this theme, but this time on behalf of The Girls.
Yes, let's talk about girls....They've been taking a back seat for too long (kind of rumbled in the Rumbold!). Time was when the femmes were famous for their contribution to popular music. And
Round about '56 they hit rock bottom. Teen Pan Alley started calling a new tune - and that tune rapidly became a variation on a theme
labeled Elvis. The result: a male-dominated era of back-beat music.
It was truly a case of oh, Boy! The girls? Well their role in Rock 'n' Rollery was barely more than making with back-vocal doo-wahs. This was hardly what the Suffragettes had campaigned for. True, there was LaVern Baker and Tiny Topsy and other semi-obscurities, including the only filly in the Parnes' stable: Sally Kelly - but no gold discs.
So the girls are back in the business, and as a result talented amateur femmesters on the local scene have been encouraged to brave going on club and live hall stages. The resultant performances have often been highly satisfactory and the audience response very heartening.
I am sure there must be many girls who possess a good voice plus a good figure plus good looks who could show the lads that they've been having it too good for too long. Girls talented enough to follow the lead shown by Joan Malloy, for instance, with her Connie Francis stylings; or Lili Leyland, a 'belter' who handles numbers like 'Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey' with compulsive verve; or Irene Brown, a girl with sparkle plus the clear enunciation of Helen Shapiro; or the Heartbeats (Pauline and Pat), a promising duo which could develop into a really good act.
And of course there is Cilla. She has a voice which is vibrant, unusual, swingy, penetrating - and controversial. She could well make the grade on this score alone, as Johnny Ray (the harbinger of the hiccupers) once did. You either rave over her voice or it leaves you cold. There's no compromise. Talk of her, and you find on the one hand she is self-deprecating, and on the other she has aspirations of combining in her voice the qualities of Ella Fitzgerald and Della Reese. At least she is setting herself high enough standards. Let no one say she is misguided in her ambitions - not in this age of four-letter words when day is night and Black is White!
I wish her well. The gay, irrepressible, multi-syllable Cilla - who sings 'Aways' in all ways! I hope she succeeds, just as I hope the other talented songstresses who charm the Scene will also succeed - whether they be beatsters or balladeers. The best of luck to them all!
The Hornet's Nest
The other day one of the mice who can't be on my side, baited me thus: "Dare you print in
Mersey Beat what you think are the Top Ten groups." I said: "Are you kidding? I'm not all that crazy! But then I must be...'cos here I go taking up the challenge, throwing down the
gauntlet, sticking my neck out, burning my bridges, going out on a limb, casting all discretion to the winds by doing that very irrevocable thing!
The following is not necessarily a list of the Merseyside groups which I personally like the best. In compiling a list of that sort, I could not ignore factors such as the friendliness of the group members, both on and off stage - their co-operativeness in setting up and removing their equipment quickly - their assistant in maintaining the continuity of programmes - their punctuality - their smartness - their stage conduct. These are just a few of the behind the scene features which I consider to be very important in this business, and which I would inevitably take into account in rating groups from my own personal point of view. This quite apart from their playing or singing ability, their presentation and their personality.
So all round popularity is the basis of the following selections. How groups
register crowd-wise at various venues, their audience-pulling power, what people, including promoters, say of their bookings, the consistency of their performances, in fact, their overall general appeal adjudged mainly from the Liverpool stomping grounds. It follows then that personality and presentation and 'colourfullness' is likely to take precedence over the musical quality of the performance. This is regrettable but inevitable when commercial 'values' determine popularity and success..
Well here it is then, my list of what I rate to be the ten most popular Rock groups on Merseyside - excluding the Bluegenes, of course. They are beyond comparison. they are in a class of their own.
1. The Beatles.
2. Gerry & the Pacemakers
3. Rory Storm & the Hurricanes
4. The Remo 4
5. The Strangers
6. Johnny Sandon & the Searchers
7. Karl Terry & the Cruisers
8. Mark Peters & the Cyclones
9. Ray & the Del Renas
10. The Big Three
Now my goose is really cooked.