Tag Archives: Liverpool

May 16th 1975 (II)

… continued from last post…

John, Paul George, Ring0… and Bert” Programme from 1975

What do you think a “movement consultant” does? I wonder if that is the equivalent of a stage director? It sounds awfully vulgar… “Hello, what do you do?”…. “Oh, I consult people on their movements”…. “Ewwwwwww!” (The Gillian McKeith of his era perhaps? *heh-heh*)

Willy Russell’s play started life at Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre in May 1974 before moving to London’s West End a few months later.

The chairmen and managing director of the Lyric Theatre were all well-known entertainment impresarios.

Sir Lew Grade (real name: Lev Winogradsky) had been involved in the inception of ITV (Independent Television), was part owner of Associated Television and ran ITC, a hugely succesful television corporation responsible for bringing such hits as “Thunderbirds”, “The Saint”, “The  Persuaders” and “The Prisoner” to our small screens.

Toby Rowland had produced plays in London since 1955 and was a highly influential theatre owner whose biggest ‘public’ claim to fame was that he discovered treasured Yorkshire playwright Alan Bennett

Louis Benjamin was also managing Director of the famous London Palladium and had brought the Royal Variety Performance to that stage for years. He was also the chairman of the succesful Pye Record label and was instrumental in developing the careers of singers such as Sandie Shaw and Dusty Springfield.

That “Robert Stigwood” is the same Robert Stigwood who kickstarted the recording career of Cream and was later responsible for a couple of movie musicals you may have heard of: “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease”. He IS the “R.S. in RSO Records.

The Lyric Theatre sits on London’s prestigious Shaftsbury Avenue in London’s West End district and still retains many of its original features. It first opened in 1888. It is the oldest existing theatre on the street. It was built behind an original 1767 house facade, and backs onto Great Windmill Street. The building was Grade II listed by English Heritage as early as 1960, showing its importance to the city of London. It seats a modest 967 on four levels and still uses an electric pump to operate its iron curtain. Yes, iron.

More “John, Paul, George, Ringo… and Bert” programme nonsense tomorrow…

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May 16th 1975 (I)

“John, Paul, George, Ringo & Bert. Got drunk. Bloody good musak all.”

This was a college trip to London’s West End and the Lyric Theatre. I was amongst a coachload of students, many drinking copiously on the way up, then – despite our age – hitting a pub or two before getting to the theatre. Those were the days my friend, sometimes they had to end!

“John, Paul, George, Ringo… and Bert” was Liverpudlian playwright Willy Russell’s first big ‘hit’. Russell would later gain fame and notoriety for penning such smash plays like “Educating Rita” which was turned into a movie starring Julie Walters and Michael Caine. Other stuff he is known for include “The Blood Brothers” and “Shirley Valentine”

JPGR & B’s story arc has been describe elsewhere as “an accurate and honest account of the Beatles’ rise and fall, culminating in an abortive attempt to stage a reunion concert. The show was notable for it’s ironic juxtaposition of songs against dialogue, and the author’s sparkling Liverpool humour“. I’ll have to take their word for it because not only are we dealing with my notoriously poor memory here, but we are also dealing with it whilst it was originally under the effects of a few pints of London’s finest! My review of the performance – “bloody good muzak all” – could just as easily have been based either alcohol consumption as much as fact, something I will leave you, dear reader, to decide.

Yes, for what ever reason, I have held on to the programme from this 1975 evening’s event, and yes I plan to share the contents of it. It’s a fascinating document of its era, not just for the adverts it contained but also when you realise who I saw perform in this play and who else was involved in it…

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March 7th 1973

“Arguverge > Argument” / “Dental Appointment 2.30” / “Went to see Pictures at an Exhibition, Emerson Lake + Palmer – damned brilliant. Plod – Scaffold – Funny. Grave New World – Strawbs – Crap”

Not just a double movie bill at the Regal, but a TRIPLE movie bill!

Actually, “movie” is a bit of a misnomer in this case….

Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” ‘movie’ was in fact no more than a filmed live concert performance – recorded at the Lyceum in London – from 1970.

In the cause of – *ahem* – research I hunted down a copy of the same film recently – on DVD – and wish to somewhat amend my 35-years earlier “damned brilliant” review.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed its musically-bombastic overkill , but visually it was bloody hard work. I guess chroma-key, together with fluorescent psychedelic tinting was all the rage in the early seventies… and it really grates!

It does show the band very much in their progressive ‘prime’ though, and its interesting to note that this stage recording was made over two years before their album release of the same name hit record stores.

The Scaffold were a comedy/poetry trio from Liverpool who had, by 1973, already enjoyed a pair of massive novelty hit singles (buoyed, no doubt, by the fact that band member Mike McGear was actually Paul McCartney’s brother)

Thank You Very Much” is a strange singalong ode – sung in a thick Liverpudlian accent – to a collection of English ‘treasures’ including love, the family circle, the Sunday joint, tea (the mentioned “national beverage”), the union jack, the Times newspaper, our “cultural heritage”, Liverpool FC (“our gracious team”), the Aintree Iron (a collection of pubs in Liverpool which, when viewed from the air, resemble the shape of an ‘iron’ horseshoe) and even for…. “playing this record”

Lily the Pink” was of an equally silly nature. It was an old reworked rugby singalong song about a woman invented a ‘medicinal compound‘ (aka “drug”) which could improve everybody’s lives.

All, it would seem, except the titular Lily who over-enjoyed her drink (a-drink-a-drink), became “Pickle-Lily”, and ascended up to heaven purely on the strength of her marvellous invention.

 Lily the Pink is renowned for not only featuring a certain Jack Bruce on bass, but also for including the word “efficacious“… unlikely to have appeared before – or since – in recorded music.

Where was I?…. oh yes, the Regal cinema, 1973…

The Scaffold’s “Plod” was a half-hour compilation of Pythonesque comedy sketches performed by the trio. Research shows that it has never been released on VHS or DVD so is unavailable for reviewing to see if it has stood the test of time. My betting is “not”

I briefly mentioned The Strawbs earlier this year.

The band was a weird hybrid of rock and folk, and who somehow crossed over into the “progressive” arena. Probably on the strength of their 1972 album “Grave New World” which seemed to (IMHO badly) straddle the folk and prog genres.

A concept album (weren’t they ALL in the early seventies?) it tells the tale of one man’s life from birth to death. The album was lavishly packaged (check out that William Blake repro on the sleeve!) and reached Number 11 on the UK album charts.

It is perhaps best known as the first Strawbs album to NOT feature a certain Rick Wakeman on keyboards. He had left somewhat acrimoniously to join Yes, and it is often felt the song “Tomorrow” – with its lyric “You talked of me with acid tongue” – was written about him.

The film of “Grave New World” which I saw – and duly lambasted in 1973 is often credited as being one of the very first “rock videos”, pre-dating even Queen’s infamous “Bohemian Rhapsody“. It was little more than a full-length visual promo for the album which – again according to research – appears to have featured the same levels of high-intensity chroma-key nonsense which plagued the ELP movie.

Unlike the ELP “damned brilliance” I have no real desire to see “Grave New World” again. Unlike millions of others I never cared too much for The Strawbs, although I still own, and have a soft spot for, their later “Hero & Heroine” album. Indeed, it might even appear in these very diary pages when 1974 rolls around.

For those in need of a grave new fix of the Strawbs, here’s a performance from a reunion concert in 2006. IMHO, it’s crap too – and not helped by out-of-tune audience … erm… ‘participation’

What wouldn’t I give to be able to see a triple-header at my local multiscreen cineplex these days?! *sigh* Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

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