THE BEATLES, HENDRIX, and ENGELBERT in Birmingham
Written by Martin Creasy.
The Rockin' Berries front man Clive Lea and Cindy Kent of The Settlers are among 21 of the 1960s stars who share their memories with Martin Creasy in his new book "Legends On Tour - The Pop Package Tours of The 1960s". The book follows seven tours between 1965 and the end of 1967, featuring some of the biggest names on both sides of the Atlantic. There is a separate section dealing with the six pop package tours of The Beatles, including their five tour appearances in Birmingham, at The Hippodrome, the Town Hall and at The Odeon.
The Rockin' Berries were featured on Engelbert Humperdinck's winter 1967 tour and famously took over as top of the bill at the Portsmouth Guildhall when the velvet voiced one's vocal chords finally gave out. The Berries' mix of music and comedy went down well on the tour and they made new friends and secured some high prestige work.
Clive Lea told the author: "I remember Engelbert's voice going on that tour. Anita Harris was asked to top the bill, but she wouldn't so we were asked to do it. We just extended our act, with more of the comedy, and it was an outstanding success. I don't think anyone asked for their money back. In fact, the story made the nationals and we ended up playing the Royal Command Performance that year, so that's an indication of how well it went." Legends tells the complete story of the tour, backed up by some never before seen pictures of the Berries relaxing in their dressing room and singing on stage, and there are also two shots of their hilarious knock-about custard pie excesses.
The Settlers were on the bill for Roy Orbison's spring 1967 tour that also included mod heroes The Small Faces and those scream idol twins Paul and Barry Ryan. Along with Roy, The Settlers enjoyed being heard during their sets, with respectful applause at the end of their numbers, while Faces and Paul and Barry's fans went for non-stop screaming while their favourites were on stage. The Settlers met while at college in Birmingham and they received warm applause when the tour hit Birmingham and Wolverhampton. Their new single On The Other Side went down particularly well, according to the Express and Star.
The tour had got off to a distressing start for The Settlers when a sneak thief got into their dressing room at the Finsbury Park Astoria and stole their money. Cindy Kent said: "The thing is, we didn't have much money and the cash that was stolen was meant to pay for our digs and tour expenses. I can't remember how much it was, but it was a lot to us. Backstage at the Astoria was like a rabbit warren, with numerous stairways. As soon as Steve Marriott heard what had happened, he organised a collection from the other performers. It was very sweet of him and it saved the day for us."
The Beatles section of the book includes references to their five Birmingham appearances on package tours. The first, on Sunday March 10, 1963, at The Hippodrome was on a tour with Americans Chris Montez and Tommy Roe. The screaming had already started, but by the time they returned to the city that summer their fame was spreading. That summer show also featured their Merseyside chart rivals Gerry and The Pacemakers. However, it was Roy Orbison who had the honour of topping the bill. "Well at least that was the case at the start of the tour," said Legends author Creasy. "However, by the time the show reached the town hall on Tuesday June 4, 1963, The Beatles were closing the show, and the programmes had been reprinted with their name, in glorious red lettering, over Orbison's.
"The Beatles' set list for that Orbison tour included their Cavern favourite Some Other Guy, plus five tracks from their debut LP - namely Do You Want To Know A Secret, Love Me Do, Please Please Me, I Saw Her Standing There and Twist And Shout. They also featured, of course, their current number one, From Me To You." The other bonus, according to Creasy, is that those lucky Birmingham fans would have seen the group at their most enthusiastic. "Although the boys were already getting rapturous receptions up and down the country, the screaming hadn't got out of hand yet. Those town hall fans would actually have heard The Beatles!"
The Fabs returned for another Hippodrome show on Sunday, November 10, 1963, as the headline act. By now Beatlemania was in full flow. She Loves You had already topped the charts and was about to make an unprecedented return to Number One. And it was only tipped off top spot by their next single I Want To Hold Your Hand. By this time the Fabs were being smuggled in and out of venues, with decoy cars used to try to throw the waiting baying girls off the scent.
It was almost a full year before The Beatles toured the UK again. It included their customary visit to Birmingham - appearing at the Odeon, on Sunday October 11, 1964. They were supported by Mary Wells, fresh off her summer success with My Guy. The Beatles made their final appearance in Birmingham at the Odeon on Thursday December 9, 1965, on a tour which included The Moody Blues.
THE BEATLES DATES IN BIRMINGHAM: Sunday, March 10 1963: Hippodrome Theatre with Montez and Roe. Tuesday June 4, 1963: Town hall with Roy Orbison and Gerry and the Pacemakers. Sunday November 10, 1963: Beatles top the bill at the Hippodrome with The Kestrels, Peter Jay, Vernons girls etc. Sunday October 11, 1964: At the Odeon with Mary Wells. Thursday December 9, 1965: Odeon with Moody Blues, The Paramounts and The Koobas.
OTHER LEGENDS TOURS: Monday March 1, 1965: Del Shannon tour plays the town hall. Saturday February 18, 1967: Gene Pitney and The Troggs at the Odeon. Wednesday March 8, 1967: Roy Orbison, Small Faces, The Ryan Brothers at The Odeon. (Roy made time to look around the BSA factory in Birmingham to admire motorbikes before the show). Thursday, April 2, 1967: The Walkers, Jimi Cat and Engelbert Humperdinck play The Odeon. Saturday November 18, 1967: Engelbert with The Rockin' Berries at The Odeon.
Legends features more than 100 photographs that have never been seen before - many unearthed from newspaper archives. "It's very much been a labour of love for me," said Creasy, a journalist who lives in Church Crookham, Hampshire. "Five of the seven other tours spotlighted by Legends included shows in Birmingham, featuring such greats as Del Shannon, Hermans Hermits, The Troggs, Gene Pitney, The Small Faces and Roy Orbison. "There was also the unforgettable line-up that featured The Walker Brothers, Cat Stevens, The Jimi Hendrix Experience... and Engelbert Humperdinck! Yes, it happened, and they played a date at the Birmingham Odeon on Thursday, April 2, 1967."
Many thanks to Martin Creasy for permission to show the above passages from his book. Legends On Tour - The Pop Package Tours of The 1960s, is available from Waterstones (and other good book shops) and widely on the internet. The ISBN number is 978-0-7524-4275-4.
More information is available on Martin's website at: www.martincreasy.co.uk