[Abby’s Road] Mersey Paradise

I am at a crossroads. When life lobs lemons and apples and rotten tomatoes at your melon, sometimes you’re so preoccupied it’s impossible to make anything out of it other than a big, rancid box of mashed fruits and vegetables. It can be exhausting attempting to be fresh and new and, moreover, on top of the ever-so-fresh and new all the time. In the past I’ve used this column to reflect on the silly (or not-so-silly) films of my youth. Of course, I’ve mostly rehashed my tangled web of sticky likes and dislikes that have brought me to the record collection I presently cherish. I must ask: is there anything you’d like to know? While you’re thinking…

I can’t tell how many times I’ve heard a song and, upon doing some research, find that it’s from like 4, 5, 6 (or more) years ago. Admittedly: I miss shit. Some amaaaaazing material has floated by me over the years. I am hopeful that many others are in the same boat (even if you – ahem – don’t admit to it) and I can shine some light on a gem otherwise never discovered. That said, I bring to you the first in what I hope to be several installments cataloguing my shameless lack of knowledge. Something – from here on out – I would like to call:

Damn. How am I only Hearing this Now? (Part I)

I’ve mentioned that I am not a Beatles fan. Beat music, or Merseybeat, on the other hand, I adore. Simply put: guitar-driven music with backbeat and catchy as hell. I was having a particularly sleepless night a few weeks ago and happened upon a documentary about British bands residing in Hamburg, Germany in the early 60s, including The Beatles (when they were a 5-piece). While this might be common knowledge to everyone EXCEPT me, I was stymied. Apparently, the red light district of Hamburg (specifically The Star Club) was absolutely brimming with British rock bands. Not so much because the Brits were better musicians but because they were cheaper and German promoters loved it. As for the bands, a little money is better than no money, right? Novel idea. Who knew?

The mix of Liverpudlian rockers living in Hamburg at this time included a fascinating 4-piece: The Liverbirds (oddly, the ‘live’ part is pronounced the same as “a live performance”), aptly named after a mythical bird that is also the symbol of Liverpool. This band, from what I could hear, sounded a bit wonky live, but was super entertaining nonetheless. What made them stand out the most wasn’t their dress (typical shirt sleeves and trousers) or their instruments (2 guitars, a bass and drums). It was the fact that they were women. Go on…let it sink in for a second.

The Liverbirds were able to achieve limited but real success in the male-dominated rock and roll industry of the early 1960s. This is worth noting, even by today’s standards. Remember, this was in a pre-women’s lib society when the majority of female artists were only harmonizing, had painted faces and wore meringue-like dresses on labels like Motown. Don’t get me wrong, this is nothing to sneeze at either, but was worlds away from what The Liverbirds were doing. After they broke up in 1968, all but one member of the quartet went on to reside in Germany permanently and gained personal successes in and around the music industry. Their popularity as a band, however, peaked in Germany and they never received the same attention in America or their native UK. What a shame.

So. This is one that got by me…and the rest of America as well. Investigate them a little. Pre-Breeders, pre-Heart, pre-Kim Gordon. Seriously.

Happy weekend.

[Abby’s Road is a Knox Road feature published every other Friday.]

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