Don’t underestimate the influence of the 1960s, says Tim Dalton, senior lecturer in popular music at Liverpool John Moores University
As a resident of south Liverpool I am only too aware of the draw that this city exerts over the rest of the world when it comes to popular music heritage.
The childhood homes of Paul McCartney at 20 Forthlin Road and John Lennon at 251 Menlove Avenue still entice a large number of international and domestic tourists.
With the inclusion of Strawberry Fields, Penny Lane, Woolton’s St Peter’s Parish church, Pier Head and various other sites around Liverpool you start to think that the whole cultural industry in Merseyside is there to perpetuate the myth and legend of The Beatles.
Indeed the quasi religious pilgrimages to these ‘shrines’ appears unstoppable. Until very recently the Mathew Street festival brought in large numbers of cultural tourists into Liverpool’s city centre to hear renditions (some of very dubious quality) of the fab four’s music.
As each year progresses the myth and legend of The Beatles phenomenon deepens. But we need to be aware that myth and legend are socially constructed and largely perpetuated by the media.
I am prepared to argue that the influence of the 1960’s Liverpool music scene is more complex and multi-dimensional than just The Beatles. Popular music and pop culture in general embraces other spheres of creativity such as, for example, fashion, art, literature, and journalism.
Indeed it could be argued that 1960s Liverpool was active, and in many cases, at the cutting edge of all of these spheres simultaneously for a short period of time.
The combined influences of the Liverpool poets of Adrian Henri, Roger McGough, Brian Patten and Andy Roberts, the journalism of Bill Harry, the management style of Brian Epstein and the unmentioned powerhouse of this movement, the Liverpool School of Art (the spiritual home of the Dissenters), are all an antecedent to today’s global popular music scene.
The zeitgeist of 1960s Liverpool is long gone but the detritus and fallout of that time lives on in the DNA of today’s popular music.
The structure of the modern day music industry, specifically the stadium and arena touring industry, is a testament to The Beatles influence.
The whole music touring industry changed forever just 15 minutes after The Beatles set foot on the stage at Shea Stadium on August 15, 1965. Mass music engagement would never be the same again and indeed the effects of Shea Stadium still reverberate today.
Rather than thinking of The Beatles as a band it’s probably more constructive to think of them as a figure head of a movement; or as a metonymy of change; as a new way of approaching things.
Rather than looking for clues in Liverpool it’s probably much more elucidating to look further afield for clues as to the everlasting effect of The Beatles.
I remember walking down Jefferson Street in Nashville a couple of years ago and seeing a giant advertising hoarding with the slogan ‘the most important band in the world today‘ over the top of a picture of The Beatles.
At the time I questioned this slogan but in retrospect it’s probably true. The Beatles of the 1960s influenced and helped pave the way for today’s global popular music scene and that’s why they are still so important and influential.
There’s far more to Liverpool music than The Beatles, argues Peter Guy, Liverpool Post and ECHO music blogger and founder of the GIT Award.
The Beatles are, and possibly forever will be, the definition of revolutionary contemporary pop music. Yet, their spirit hovers over Liverpool like a mouldy pot noodle.
Through little fault of the artists themselves, Brand Beatles today represents nostalgia, big business and outdated traditionalism – a world away from their roots as artistic innovators.
However, while the tourists book their reservations at the Lennon suite at Hard Days Night and laud it up during the Fab Four-indebted Mathew Street Festival, Liverpool’s artistic community is quietly making a storm on a global level of its own.
Having suffered a musical hangover for much of the last decade, Liverpool’s Capital of Culture honour sparked a regeneration not just of the commercial sector. It ignited a renaissance in the arts, as a whole new wave of innovation seeped through the city’s pores.
With Liverpool Sound City, Liverpool Music Week and independent promoters prepared to take risks on projects which had little financial guarantee, came a rebirth of a whole host of scenes within a scene, as Liverpool gave rise to the strongest sonic landscape for years.
Central to this was the formation in 2007 of creative collective The Kazimier and their respective club, based in Wolstenholme Square.
Like Cream, Eric’s and the Cavern, The Kazimier’s team captured the zeitgeist, reinvented the city’s music spirit and provided a platform for all that is vital about today’s thriving creative community. It brings in critically acclaimed artists from all over the world and pairs them with the best of Liverpool. Oh, and let’s not forget their legendary parties.
This creative community will come together on April 27 at another of Liverpool’s independent hubs, Leaf on Bold Street, at the first GIT Award show. Named after my music blog, Getintothis, the GIT Award celebrates and promotes the best of Merseyside music.
Dubbed by the NME as the ‘Scouse Mercury Prize‘, The GIT Award showcases 12 Merseyside artists, chosen by a judging panel comprising top names from NME, The Guardian and the cornerstones of the Liverpool music community, who provide a snapshot of the year in music.
From the national music press’ top hype band, Outfit (from Wirral) to unsigned Toxteth grime artist Miss Stylie, the GIT Award recognises artistic achievement across all stylistic twists and turns.
The cream of the city’s music pool of talent is represented, including former Coral guitarist turned orchestral pioneer Bill Ryder-Jones, instrumental Huyton noise-makers Mugstar, electronic enigma Forest Swords, Lark Lane folk trio Stealing Sheep and MTV soul sensation Esco Williams – who one judge described as the ‘R Kelly of Liverpool’.
But it’s the union of more than 80 creative Liverpool communities under the banner of the GIT Award which makes this a special time for Liverpool’s music scene.
They’re all in it for one reason – to promote and celebrate the united vitality of the GIT Award, something which Messrs Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr would surely approve of.