Thursday, 19 January 2017

Music was my first love

My first post in the series about Liverpool mentioned the 60th birthday of the world famous Cavern.
Throughout my lifetime music has played a huge role in the life of the city. Entire articles can be written about venues where the Beatles played and also the Merseybeat invasion in general  - watch this space.  But for now let’s visit some of the city’s famous music venues; past and present.

My first live gig was at the Liverpool Empire (above) in 1970. It was a Motown show featuring the Four Tops and also the Flirtations. Later the same year I also saw Canned Heat at the same venue. The Empire has in the past hosted the Beatles with Roy Orbison. In 1971 the Rolling Stones came to town but I couldn’t get a ticket. 

Another popular venue back then was the Liverpool University Students Union in Mountford Hall. I remember seeing Tyrannosaurus Rex in the days before T.Rex and Glam Rock. Marc Bolan sat cross-legged with an acoustic guitar and Micky Finn played the bongos. I also remember seeing Fairport Convention and the brilliant but underrated Audience there and my favorite live band in the world ever - King Crimson. I once queued up for an hour to see Emerson Lake and Palmer but it was cancelled at the last minute because E L or P was unwell! I did eventually get to see them at St Georges Hall, where I also saw Deep Purple.

St Georges Hall

But the one venue that stands out above all other was the Liverpool Stadium. This was originally the home of Boxing and especially wrestling. I did actually go to the wrestling once. This was the time when Mick McManus and The Royal Brothers would dominate Saturday afternoon TV before the football scores came on. To be honest overweight men in speedos and boots didn't do much for me. It is the live music that holds the greatest memories. I first went in September 1970. The sweaty atmosphere and smell of joss sticks was almost overwhelming. I have no idea what odour the joss sticks were supposed to be masking! This first visit was an Island Records extravaganza with Bronco, Trees, Mott the Hoople and Free. By the end of the night I was exhausted, had ringing in my ears and mild whiplash. I later saw Kevin Ayers, Traffic and Edgar Broughton. But the highlight of the Stadium years was Led Zeppelin in November 1971. Me and a friend got in for 65p! (I love telling this story to friends who paid £100.00 to see the 02 reunion in 2007).

The warm up venue the stadium was the Cross Keys pub over the road. The pub is still there although the stadium closed in the 1980s and the whole area is now part of the up market business quarter.

By the time the stadium closed the bigger bands were drawn towards arenas and huge sports venues. It is fair to say that, as with life in general, the city then spent a few years in the doldrums.

In fact there has always been a lively club scene across the city which has also continued to turn out a staggering array of acts – another topic for another day!

But there were a few years when we had nowhere to host the biggest and best. I even recall going to Manchester to see the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac! But again this has turned around in recent years. First there were the wonderful Summer Pops – one of my favourite all time gigs was James Taylor in 2004. Then we had the wonderful year of culture in 2008. Out of this came the Echo Arena. In 2017 we can look forward to visits from Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan, Iron Maiden, The Who and not forgetting Donny Osmong!!!

We now boast a world class venue to host the world’s best acts. Live Music in Liverpool has blossomed, then foundered, then blossomed again. But it has never gone away...

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