Welcome to Bournemouth Beat Boom

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Back in 1965 the country singer Roger Miller sang “England swings like a pendulum do”, but it was a misnomer, in truth it was only London that swung. All things cool in music, fashion, art, film and photography were concentrated in a few square miles of the capital and failed to extend their groovy tentacles to the provinces and that included the south coast resort town of Bournemouth.

Founded in 1810 by Lewis Tregonwell, Bournemouth began to outgrow its elderly neighbours of Poole and Christchurch with the arrival of the railway in the 1880’s. By the 1950’s the population had expanded to well over one hundred thousand and a rapid growth in tourism cultivated a booming entertainments industry. In those pre-discotheque days, if a hotel, club or hall wanted music for dancing they would hire a live group or orchestra which in turn provided plenty of work for local musicians. The music of the day was mainly big band jazz or middle of the road pop but out in the suburbs there was a grassroots movement of youngsters playing a crude form of music called skiffle. As the decade progressed the same kids traded in their acoustic guitars for electric models as Bill Haley, Elvis and Chuck Berry spread the gospel of rock n’ roll. By the early sixties it was all change yet again as Britain, on the back of the hysteria whipped up by The Beatles, took up the baton and ran with a new phenomenon labeled ‘Beat music’. The main hubs of Liverpool (Merseybeat), Birmingham (Brumbeat), Manchester and London birthed thousands of groups including chart toppers Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Searchers, The Hollies, Herman’s Hermits, Freddie and the Dreamers and the Dave Clark Five. Not to be outdone Bournemouth and the surrounding area produced a bewildering profusion of groups of its own, but not one of them went on to compete with the big boys.

However, that is not the end of the story. Over the next decade a steady trickle of expectant musicians, full of determination and ambition, traveled approximately one hundred miles north east to London where hopefully fame, fortune and a recording contract awaited. Even if they managed to bag a deal it didn’t automatically guarantee success as unscrupulous managers, dodgy promoters, greedy record labels, crooked club owners, gangsters, spivs and shysters conspired to systematically rip them off. Some were naïve in their rush to get a deal and signed any worthless piece of paper shoved under their noses regardless of the small print. Consequently after recording costs, packaging, distribution, promotion, touring expenses and living allowances had been deducted the debts piled up, even if they were lucky enough to score a hit record. With royalty rates pegged at around one penny in the pound for every single sold, by the time it was shared between each member of the band, it didn’t add up to a hill of beans.

Yet, despite the obstacles, the persistent braved the vagaries and pitfalls of the music business and followed their own yellow brick road. Some got no further than first base releasing a single or two, a few more went on to carve out long lasting careers and some even managed to climb to the dizzy heights of international superstardom. The road to success was not a glamorous one, traversing pre-motorway Britain in a clapped out van in the middle of winter without a heater, grabbing a couple of hours kip in the back on top of the equipment while living on a diet of indigestible greasy food, flat beer and fags was a hard life. But what was the alternative, a dreary nine to five existence in an office pushing a pen, or a mind-numbingly boring job in a factory? No, these intrepid musicians chased a dream, a few realised it, the rest just enjoyed the ride. This website is dedicated to them.

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I do not run this blog for gain or profit but, if for any reason the photographs or content displayed on this site breaches copyright rules, please contact me and I will remove the applicable content / photographs immediately. Conversely, if you have any information to add or photographs of interest, please feel free to get in in touch.

Thanks for looking, John Cherry

 

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