Welcome to Bournemouth Beat Boom

Bournemouth pier (1)
Bournemouth pier and beach, 1960’s

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 outgrew its elderly neighbours of Poole and Christchurch with the arrival of the railway in the 1880s’. By the 1950s’ the population had expanded to well over one hundred thousand and a rapid growth in tourism cultivated a booming entertainments industry. In those pre-discothèque days, if a hotel, club or hall wanted music for dancing, they would hire a live group or orchestra which 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, travelled approximately one hundred miles northeast to London where hopefully fame, fortune and a recording contract awaited. Even if they bagged 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. 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 (or less) 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 carved out long lasting careers and some even climbed to the dizzy heights of international superstardom. Although the road to success was prone to unexpected potholes, glamorous, it was not. 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.

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 get in in touch.

Thanks for looking, John Cherry

Bournemouth seafront and town centre circa 1950’s (Photograph courtesy of Hilary Goodinge)
Additional sites that might be of interest:

Al Kirtley was part of the Bournemouth music scene from the outset. For a humorous look at the fifties and sixties from the skiffle days through to his time playing with Zoot Money and Michael and Peter Giles, plus a lot more, click here: alkirtley.co.uk

A site dedicated to Misty Studios, a modest recording facility that was set-up in 1975 by Mark Eden in his garage in Parkstone. Five years later he upgraded from 4 track to 8 track and moved the studio to Norwich Road in the Triangle where he recorded virtually every up and coming band in Bournemouth: mistystudio.online

For the story of the Bournemouth music scene of the eighties from someone who was there, look no further: gavinunderhill.co.uk

Nick Churchill is a freelance writer and local author who has worked for the Bournemouth Echo, the Dorset Echo and written short stories, plays and books including one on The Beatles called Yeah, Yeah, Yeah: The Beatles & Bournemouth. To catch up on his latest news and interviews click here: nickchurchill.org.uk

Prolific writer, film reviewer, theatre critic and school friend of John Wetton and Richard Palmer James, Poole based Peter Viney always has something new to say, follow him here: peterviney.wordpress.com

For all things Southampton music related this is the site for you: davidstjohn.co.uk

For all things Portsmouth music related try this site: michaelcooper.org.uk