is an innovative new website specialising in rock and pop memorabilia
mostly of an exclusive nature not obtainable elsewhere.
next step was to obtain orders from the record and musical instrument
stores so I went to Cramer & Lee, Rushworth’s, Cranes, Hessy’s – and
Nems. I entered the Whitechapel branch of Nems and asked to see the
manager. I waited by the front counter while he was contacted and
a smartly dressed man came down the stairs from his office - it was
I showed him a copy and asked if he’d stock it. He flicked through
it and said he’d take a dozen. Within the next few days he phoned
me at the office requesting further copies, surprised that they had
sold out so swiftly.
He then ordered 12 dozen copies of the second issue which featured
The Beatles on the cover with the caption ‘Beatles Sign Recording
Contract!’, illustrated by Astrid Kircher’s photograph of The Beatles
at the 'Der Dom' fairground in Hamburg. This was to be Astrid’s first
published photo and Paul had brought it back from Germany for me.
The entire cover of Issue Two reported their recording of ‘My Bonnie’ in
Hamburg. Anyone who reads the cover story, as Brian Epstein did at the time,
will have no doubt about the fabrication that he never knew about The Beatles
until a boy came into his store in October of that year to ask about The
Beatles' record, the same record that is so blatantly publicised on this
very cover. Several 'Mersey Beat' readers went to local record stores to
enquire if it would be available over here. The boy who came into Brian’s
store to ask for the Beatles record was only one of several youngsters to
do so. However, because Brian Epstein opened his book ‘A Cellarful of Noise’
naming him as Raymond Jones, an entire myth has developed that Brian had
never heard of The Beatles until that time. Although I was aware that Brian
didn’t like to apportion credit to anyone I was surprised at the introduction
to his book.
He’d taken me to lunch at the Basnett Bar on a couple of occasions
to discuss the local music scene, and individual groups in particular,
and he has admitted in print that it was me he phoned to arrange for
him to visit the 'Cavern' where he saw The Beatles for the first time.
Although Brian wrote that he hadn’t heard of The Beatles until Raymond
Jones came into his store on October 28th 1961, not only had he been
discussing them with me for months, after reading about them in almost
every issue of 'Mersey Beat', but The Beatles had been going into
Nems after their lunchtime sessions at the 'Cavern' since March. They
used to go into the record booths and listen to the ‘B’ sides of American
records. According to Pete Best, Brian Epstein noticed them then and
had asked who they were.
Also, prior to the Raymond Jones request, Brian had been selling tickets
to the 'Operation Big Beat' event at the Tower Ballroom, in which
The Beatles were the headliners, and he had a poster to that effect
displayed in the store.
As Paul McCartney wrote in his autobiography. . . . .
story of how Brian Epstein visited the 'Cavern' and was so entranced
by the leather-clad boys cavorting on stage that he asked if he could
manage them is well-known. As Brian’s autobiography ‘A Cellarful of
Noise’ was ghosted for him by Derek Taylor at the height of 'Beatlemania'
and he hardly had time to read it, let alone correct any errors, it
cannot be trusted on matters of detail. The account in the book about
Brian being intrigued when three people in two days came into his
record shop and asked for ‘My Bonnie’ by The Beatles, causing him
to set out to find this elusive record by an unknown German group,
is a good story – but it is simply not true.
Brian knew perfectly well who The Beatles were – they were on the
front page of the second issue of 'Mersey Beat', the local music paper.
Brian sold twelve dozen copies of that issue - so many that he invited
the editor, Bill Harry, into his office for a drink to discuss why
it was selling so well and to ask if he could write a record review
column for it. He is unlikely to have missed the ‘Beatles Sign Recording
Contract’ banner headline reporting their session with Tony Sheridan
for Bert Kaempfert nor, with his penchant for rough boys, is it likely
that he passed over the photograph of the leather-clad Beatles without
giving them a second glance".
Despite Virginia and I having virtually no funds at all, we still felt that
we should contribute to charity and did so by placing free charity ads at
the side of the cover title. I don’t know of any other newspapers which
have done that. In some ways I shouldn’t have been surprised that the entire
print run of 5,000 copies of issue number one completely sold out as there
had been no previous publication quite like it. It was the first 'alternative'
music newspaper, completely different from the standard music weeklies such
as the 'New Musical Express' and 'Melody Maker', which restricted their
editorial to current chart acts.
addition, it became the voice of the young people, as no other paper
specifically appealed to the youth on Merseyside like 'Mersey Beat',
and it also surprised everyone because no one had realised just how
extensive the music scene on Merseyside really was and the paper was
to become the catalyst for a Merseyside 'musical explosion' which
was to have far-reaching effects with the emergence of The Beatles.
Obviously, since the members of The Beatles had been my friends since
1957 from the art college/Liverpool Institute days, and since they
were now regulars at 'The Jac', they were the ones I was going to
plug most in the paper, particularly because of my close relationship
with John and Stu, although I was to see little of Stu again as he’d
settled in Hamburg. John was actually thrilled that I’d published
his piece about The Beatles without changing a single word. He was
also surprised, because when he’d given me the piece he’d seemed embarrassed,
as if I’d regard it as a piece of rubbish and not publish it.
He was so delighted that he came into the office with a huge bundle of material,
most everything he’d ever written or drawn, and said that I could have it
- it was mine to do with as I wished. I loved the stuff - it appealed to
my own sense of humour. I picked out some of the smaller items and decided
to print them as a regular column. As there was a humorous column in the
'Daily Express' newspaper by 'Beachcomber' I decided to give John’s works
a pseudonym: ‘Beatcomber.’ This pleased him even further and he wrote some
pieces especially for me, one of which was a satire on my ‘Entertainment
Page.’ He also dug into his own pocket to pay for classified adverts (at
4d a word) in which he also utilised his ‘fractured English’ wordplay.