Festival of Britain

Down in London for the festival of Britain with mates from Skerry’s College

Music has been my life and words seem inadequate to describe the intense beauty, delight and inspiration it has brought to me over the long years of a lifetime. When I lived in poverty as a child, without even two halfpennies to rub together as they say, between the harshness of the bombed out streets and lack of anything substantial, the one thing that stood out and made everything else seem insignificant, was music and art.

I actually believe music could touch the soul.  I never knew a father (his ship sunk by U Boat when I was two), my grandfather was dying and my mother worked all hours and I hardly saw her.  So from a very early age it was a solitary existence, fuelled by books and music.

My mother sent me to Greenland Street where a woman tried to teach me to play a piano. I loved the instrument, but couldn’t play it. Somehow I obtained an acoustic guitar, but couldn’t do anything with it so it was swapped for a cornet and then a piano accordion. Just couldn’t play any instrument, even when my mother paid a man to teach me harmonica.

I had a hand-wound gramophone player, could get one or two records for next to nothing from a second-hand shop and delicately fitted in the stylus needles to let the sound envelop me. On the crackling radio, I’d try to capture Sinatra or Mario Lanza and listened to the songs from ‘My Fair Lady.’ On a Sunday evening my mother would take me to a friend’s house to listen to the Top Twenty on Radio Luxembourg.

In some ways poverty seems to vanish from the mind if you are listening to music. I did believe I could sing and my friend Wayne Armstrong, would let me sing along with him as he rehearsed his double bass in a room above the local Co-op. He even took me to listen to music at the Palm Cove near the top of Smithdown Road where he played. But even with singing there was a problem.  In later years I teamed up with Jim McDonald, Bernie Falk and Pete ‘the Beat’ McGrath, to sing in a synagogue, but forgot the words once I was on stage.  This was my problem and why I never sang, I found it difficult to remember the words of songs.

So here I was – I couldn’t play an instrument, couldn’t remember the words of songs, yet music was to wrap itself around me and dominate my life for the next 60-odd years, It was as if fate aimed me in a specific direction, to document and report and outline my feelings about music. I never wanted to become a critical reviewer. There is so much music about that it seemed a touch of arrogance to assume that I could take a creative artist’s work apart as a non-musician, like so many reporters in the national music press did. If you considered someone had made an uninspiring work, you could just ignore it as there were so many good works to talk about.  I took the point of view that music is to be listened to and you can’t actually describe it as such in words – you feel it. However, you could try and capture the world of the musician/composer, what they felt, what inspired them, what their lives were like. So I’ve spent my life writing about music and trying to document specific areas of musical history I’ve actually experienced and lived through, particularly aiming at the truth, having discovered early on that musical myths are created almost daily.

 Art College - Beginning as a student at the Liverpool College of Art.

Beginning as a student – Liverpool College of Art.

This will be my voyage through my personal experiences in the musical universe, from the early days in Liverpool with John and Stu at college, through the building of Mersey Beat and being part of a community which helped to change the popular music of the world irrevocably. Then my short period of time in Manchester before moving to London where I was to spend the rest of my life, enveloped once again morning, noon and night, seven days a week in a musical landscape.

This blog has been created for me by one of my Facebook friends, Trev Prellie, member of the Birmingham band the Prellies.

Share Bill Harry's Mersey Beat Blog
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •