Visited the World Museum yesterday to see the exhibition on Liverpool music, The Beat Goes On. The exhibition does a good job of demonstrating the variety and vibrancy of the Liverpool music scene over the past 60 years. It’s a big exhibition exploring six themes: Sounds of the city; Sites and scenes; Musicianship; Sound and technology; Image and design; Hearing new sounds. These themes are explored in depth in the exhibition online resources.
One highlight was a display of Beatles memorabilia, including the first ever public display of the Woolton church stage where John and Paul first met in 1957; the jacket worn by John Lennon during the band’s 1964 tour and the All You Need is Love bedcover from John and Yoko’s Bed-in-for-Peace demonstration in Montreal in 1969. There are also displays featuring other bands that flourished in Liverpool during the swinging-sixties.
Another section is devoted to Liverpool’s influential club Eric’s, which opened in 1976, with displays looking at the plethora of bands and artists which came to prominence at the time such as Echo and the Bunnymen, Ian Brodie, OMD, Pete Burns and The Teardrop Explodes.
Objects on display from Liverpool artists include Billy Fury’s guitar and a dress made for Lita Roza, the first British female artist to ever have a UK number one hit in 1953 with How Much is that Doggie in the Window? (this was also the first Liverpool artist’s UK number one).
Joe Riley wrote a perceptive review for the Echo:
Once upon a time, it would have been shipping. Today, it is the world music culture which came with those ships, be it calypsos from the Caribbean, songs from Africa and the Far East, or voices on vinyl, courtesy of the Cunard Yanks. It all went into the mix which created the seismic uplift of the Mersey Sound. There wasn’t much of a beat to Lita Roza singing How Much Is That Doggy In The Window? More a willingness to stand up and sing.
Then came the fizzle of Michael Holliday and Frankie Vaughan, before first full ignition with Billy Fury. And there were some surprising retro shocks to counter the full luminescence from a cellar on Mathew Street: like Ken Dodd singing Tears (For Souvenirs) or Arthur Askey’s album of ‘Silly songs’.
The best thing about this informed, if crowded, exhibition are reminders of the forgotten or the under-sung: the Vernons Girls or the Merseysippi Jazz Band; the Bootle Concertina Band; the Mandolin Club; the skiffle outfits inspired by incomer Lonnie Donegan; the folk, jazz, country and blues influences.
And not just people: places like The Iron Door and The Sink , which fashioned the looks as well as the sounds of a generation. Or the shops which fed the markets – from NEMS through to Probe. It was one big, glorious and continuous gig.
Far from diminishing post 60s, the Liverpool music scene gave birth to Eric’s (about to be the subject of stage musical), while others danced on into the world of Cream, or pushed gender boundaries at Garlands. In 60 years, Liverpool music had come a long way from the propriety of the Locarno Ballroom.
The man who would have loved telling this story most is pictured in the midst of it: Cavern DJ Bob Wooler, hero of the passing decades. In the great B to Z (Beatles to Zutons) of it all, the Beatles get their name-checks – six of them – but only in context. That’s because this is an ensemble show. One for all, not all for one.
The exhibition highlights the fact that local artists have had so many Number One hits that in 2001 the Guinness Book of Records named Liverpool the world ‘City of Pop’. A 2008 Arts Council survey also named Liverpool ‘the UK’s Most Musical City’. In fact there have been 56 Liverpool number ones:
- Lita Roza 1953 How Much Is That Doggy In The Window?
- Frankie Vaughan 1957 The Garden Of Eden
- Michael Holliday 1960 Story Of My Life
- Michael Holliday 1960 Starry Eyed
- Frankie Vaughan 1961 Tower Of Strength
- Gerry and the Pacemakers 1963 How Do You Do It?
- The Beatles 1963 From Me To You
- Gerry and the Pacemakers 1963 I Like It
- The Searchers 1963 Sweets For My Sweet
- Billy J Kramer 1963 Bad To Me
- The Beatles 1963 She Loves You
- Gerry and the Pacemakers 1963 You’ll Never Walk Alone
- The Beatles 1963 I Want To Hold Your Hand
- The Searchers 1964 Needles And Pins
- Cilla Black 1964 Anyone Who Had A Heart
- Billy J Kramer 1964 Little Children
- The Beatles 1964 Can’t Buy Me Love
- The Searchers 1964 Don’t Throw Your Love Away
- Cilla Black 1964 You’re My World
- The Beatles 1964 Hard Day’s Night
- The Beatles 1964 I Feel Fine
- The Beatles 1965 Ticket To Ride
- The Beatles 1965 Help
- Ken Dodd 1965 Tears
- The Beatles 1965 Day Tripper
- The Beatles 1966 Paperback Writer
- The Beatles 1966 Yellow Submarine/Eleanor Rigby
- The Beatles 1967 All You Need Is Love
- The Beatles 1967 Hello Goodbye
- The Beatles 1968 Lady Madonna
- The Beatles 1968 Hey Jude
- The Scaffold 1968 Lilly The Pink
- The Beatles 1969 Get Back
- The Beatles 1969 The Ballad Of John And Yoko
- George Harrison 1971 My Sweet Lord
- The Real Thing 1976 You To Me Are Everything
- Wings 1977 Mull Of Kintyre
- John Lennon 1980 Just Like Starting Over
- John Lennon 1980 Imagine
- John Lennon 1980 Woman
- Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder 1982 Ebony And Ivory
- Paul McCartney 1984 Pipes Of Peace
- Frankie Goes To Hollywood 1984 Relax
- Frankie Goes To Hollywood 1984 Two Tribes
- Frankie Goes To Hollywood 1984 The Power Of Love
- Dead Or Alive 1985 You Spin Me Right Round
- The Christians, Holly Johnson, Paul McCartney, Gerry Marsden 1989 Ferry Across The Mersey (Hillsborough)
- Sonia 1989 You’ll Never Stop Me From Loving You
- The Lightning Seeds 1996 Three Lions
- The Lightning Seeds, David Baddiel and Frank Skinner 1998 Three Lions Euro ’98
- Melanie C 2000 Things Will Never Be The Same Again
- Melanie C 2000 I Turn To You
- Atomic Kitten 2001 Whole Again
- Atomic Kitten 2001 Eternal Flame
- George Harrison 2002 My Sweet Lord
- Atomic Kitten 2002 The Tide Is High
Many of the items in the exhibition will go on display in the new Museum of Liverpool, opening in 2011. The new museum will feature the Creative City gallery, dedicated to celebrating the creative personality of Liverpool.
- The Beat Goes Online: exhibition resources
- Liverpool: The beat goes on: a video tour of musical landmarks (Guardian)