Graham Reid | | 2 min read
You probably had to be there. Because it wasn’t about the hair, the boots and the suits.
And it wasn’t only about the music either, although that certainly drove everything. It was the sheer excitement of the time, the thrill of being young in the early 60s and having a music of your own which was upbeat, fresh and just kept arriving.
Not just from The Beatles, but every week a new British band came over the horizon and into record shops: The Rolling Stones, Dave Clark Five, The Animals, Herman’s Hermits, Peter and Gordon, The Who, Pretty Things …
Then there were local editions: Ray Columbus and The Invaders and others who played clubs and at church hall dances in the suburbs almost every weekend. And in downtown Auckland our own short-lived club, The Beatle Inn, with a resident group that distilled the idea of the Liverpool scene: The Merseymen.
The Beatle Inn on Little Queen Street was the project of the likeable rogue and entrepreneur Phil Warren of Prestige Promotions. Never one to miss a commercial entertainment opportunity, Warren opened his Beatle Inn in 1964 on Little Queen St, a short strip which ran parallel to Queen Street.
When Warren spoke to the Listener in 1984 about the Beatles’ visit to New Zealand, he was unashamed about his opportunism: “My involvement, and I could see what was going on, was to cash in on the craze, which we did with the opening of the Beatle Inn in Auckland, in a street called Little Queen Street in [what became] the Downtown area.
It held about 300 people, and we opened it Wednesday through Sunday nights at various hours and also at lunchtimes. We had a restricted policy on it, in that it was an R18 policy – no one over the age of 18 was permitted, and that was quite a gimmick.
“Of course, bands sprung up all over the country as Beatle imitators, and I think we had the best. We put together a group called The Merseymen and they played the Beatle hits and other songs in that idiom … The whole room was done out in murals and blow-up pictures of The Beatles. It was an enormously successful room and I was just one of many many people that took advantage of the Beatles’ craze.”
The Beatle Inn was small but that was important when you were young and hormonal: you could get close to the opposite sex.
And the band.
The Inn was ours: no one over 18 was allowed in, aside from musicians like The Merseymen.
The Merseymen – which first played live there on 1 April 1964, according to Playdate magazine in a profile that October – were lead guitarist Bob Paris, rhythm guitarist Dave Moan, and singer Mike Leyton (Mike Puddyfoot who took his stage name from the British pop singer/actor Johnny Leyton).
Moan and Leyton were Londoners so had considerable cachet in the British-obsessed pop scene at the time. Moan (pronounced Mow-ann) had played with Johnny Kidd and the Pirates and toured with Gene Vincent.
The bassist was Wellington’s Jim Newton (later replaced by Ian McIntyre) and the drummer Jett Rink.
Of them all, Jett – who had the longest hair – would become the most well-known.
He was Liverpool-born John Taite who could claim to have actually seen The Beatles. He would adopt the name . . .
To read the rest of this article about the Merseymen and the Beatle Inn at AudioCulture go here.
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