You may be executed for thinking I was drawn to this book by its title. It was the sub-title ‘A Photographic Album Of Daily Life In Britain 1953-1970’ which captured my attention. I’m a sucker for photographic albums on a particular theme, they can evoke so much. A glance through the photos of the swinging sixties in this book brings back memories far more quickly than text could. The most immediate impact is that of the mini-skirt, they were really short in the 1967-69 period. The personalities also bring back memories … Jean Shrimpton, Twiggy, David Bailey. It was the time of a sexual revolution and we see sixteen year old Sue Rees wearing a see-through blouse while working on a garage forecourt … she was arrested for indecent exposure! 1965 introduced the ‘no-sides bra’ and see through look and Jimi Hendrix introduced 21 nude girls on the cover of his ‘Electric Ladyland’ album. ‘Twist and Shout’ is a photo record of British music from the skiffle days and photo 58 shows Gerry Marsden performing at the Cavern Club 1964. There is a small selection of photographs depicting Beatlemania, this includes The Beatles performing on a TV show, the presentation of the Show Business Personality Award of 1964 by Harold Wilson, the boys dressed as policemen outside the Birmingham Hippodrome in 1963. Other shots include a group of teenagers standing outside the Granada, Slough in the pouring rain brandishing banner Beatle banners, another group welcoming them back from America with a banner ‘It’s Been A Hard Days Wait’, fainting fans outside the ‘Help!’ premier, policemen holding back the crowds outside Buckingham Palace on MBE presentation day and another shot of the crowds of fans at Heathrow welcoming them back from the States in 1964. There is a photograph of Paul Getty with Ringo Starr, photographed for Playboy magazine in January 1965, the impressive mural on the side Baker Street Apple shop and a teeny bopper with a Beatles poster on her bedroom wall.
There are lots of of other photographs of interest in the book, a model displaying Beatles stockings, teddy boys, Bill Haley rocking with a mini-skirted girl, the Rolling Stones taking a stroll, the 2i’s coffee bar, Mary Quant. Yet, to me, the most interesting photograph in the book is numbered 204. It shows a girls head peering from out of some bedclothes by a door which is slightly ajar and there is a mysterious figure standing with a gas-mask type affair and a round disc with the word ‘soon’ on it. The surroundings are littered with beer bottles. This particular shot would mean nothing to the general reader, I received a shock of recognition when I saw it. The caption read ‘Fifteen Beatniks lived in a house in Gambier Terrace, Liverpool, 1960, but soon after the picture was taken they were evicted for burning the furniture for fuel’. The book’s compilers have obviously taken this information from the files of a newspaper and it is completely false. I can tell you the newspaper: The Sunday People. They had journalists and freelancers from around the country contributing to a series they called ‘The Beatnik Horror’ an expose of Beatniks. But like the press often do, the entire story was falsified and in many cases deliberately set up. Alan Williams, always ready to do any favour for the press, asked Stuart Sutcliffe if they could set up a stunt at the Gambier terrace flat. The flat was messed up, newspapers were crumpled up and thrown on the floor, beer bottles were placed everywhere and furniture upturned. ‘The People’ got their story, but it was a lie. There weren’t fifteen Beatniks in the flat. There was John Lennon, Stuart Sutcliffe, Rod Murray, his girlfriend Did and occasionally Cynthia Lennon. The flat was actually quite a nice one, very roomy and set in a Georgian terrace. No one was evicted for burning furniture. Stu and John left for Germany and Rod couldn’t afford to pay the rent by himself. In the photograph is Diz, a student at Liverpool Art College who Rod Murray married [they are now separated]. Rod is the man in the mask and the painting on the wall behind him is, I suspect, a Stuart Sutcliffe … it certainly betrays his van Gough influence at the time. Rod was lucky that John and Stu left him in the lurch at the flat. Among the things John left behind was a copy of his ‘Daily Howl’ book which Rod sold at Sotheby’s this year for almost sixteen thousand quid!
Strange, what you come across in books!
Bill Harry [1985 Issue 18]