Sussex’s part in the musical heritage of 1960s Britain is reflected in a new book about The Beatles. Richard Houghton who compiled it is looking for fans of other iconic pop acts from the era to help him put together a series of ‘people’s histories’.
Richard Houghton has written books about The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and is now compiling fan memories for a book about The Who.
“Sussex saw a wave of the biggest acts in the country playing in venues around the county, with the biggest of all being The Beatles,” said Richard.
The Beatles played at the Hippodrome in Brighton in June, 1963, just as Beatlemania was starting to take off.
They were on the same bill as Roy Orbison and Richard has managed to track down several people who saw them. Jack Strutt was at that show. Twenty years old at the time, he remembers: “The Hippodrome audience went beserk. I don’t recall hearing too much of their music because of the screaming girls.”
A 15-year-old Jeremy Knight attended The Beatles’ return to the Hippodrome in July, 1964, by which time interest in The Beatles was overwhelming. Jeremy had a front row seat thanks to his sister Belinda, whose school friends ‘had slept out in front of the Hippodrome for at least one night to be at the head of the queue for tickets’.
The excitement wasn’t contained to being so close to the stage, as Jeremy remembers: “A couple of her friends spotted The Beatles arriving by car and had chased it up the road. One of them was thrilled to have been knocked down by it. She wasn’t hurt but she felt that she had actually sort of touched them.”
Fred Avery was 23 when he saw the Hippodrome show. “By the time The Beatles appeared, the noise level increased to such a pitch that none of the music they were playing could be heard. Several of the adults and parents got up and walked out of the auditorium with hands over their ears. The ringing in my ears went on for half-an-hour after leaving the theatre.”
The Rolling Stones also played the Hippodrome in Brighton, appearing there three times in 1964. Another Stones’ show was witnessed by Rick Hodge at the Whitehall in East Grinstead, who recalls: “They kicked off with Walking The Dog and the place erupted.
“I remember being pressed against the stage by screaming girls, one of whom gave Bill Wyman a box with scissors in. He promptly cut off a lock of hair, placed it in the box and threw it back to her. When I got home my parents were appalled I had been to see ‘that dreadful group’.”
The Rolling Stones were regular attendees at the Pier Ballroom in Hastings, playing three shows there in 1964. Their April show was marked by a need to get them past the crowds of fans expecting their arrival, as Christine Toms, who was 16 at the time, recalls: “They arrived late and my boyfriend at the time helped to run the speedboat, so they were brought in on that from the beach as all the fans were packing the pier.”
Most frequent visitors were The Who, with more than 20 appearances in Brighton between 1964 and 1970, as well as regular shows at Worthing’s Assembly Hall and Pavilion Ballroom along with gigs at Hasting’s Pier Ballroom and the Witch Doctor Club.
Richard Houghton said: “The Who – Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Keith Moon – were famed for smashing guitars and drum kits and for headline-grabbing off-stage antics, including wrecking hotel rooms and crashing a Rolls Royce into a swimming pool. But I’m trying to trace fans that may have witnessed some of the earliest performances of the group, including their Brighton and Hastings appearances, but also when they appeared at the National Jazz and Blues Festival in Lewes in the summer of 1969.”
He added: “Like The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, it is more than 50 years since The Who first performed live. I want to record those teenage memories to capture a little piece of music history. The Who were reportedly paid £600 for their appearance in Lewes and it was just a few days before they were due to appear at the Woodstock Festival in upstate New York, so this was a last chance to have a dry run at their festival set before appearing before more than half-a-million people.
“There are lots of small but very personal stories about these 1960s pop groups that people have stored away and it’s those tales that I want to hear. People who were teenagers back then will have some great memories of these evenings which I’d like to capture in order to preserve the history of a golden age of pop.”
You can share your memories of The Who at email@example.com or by writing to Richard at 1 Totnes Road, Manchester, M21 8XF.
Richard Houghton (56) has written two books on popular music – The Beatles: I Was There and You Had To Be There: The Rolling Stones Live. He is researching a book about The Who at present
This feature first appeared in the January edition of etc Magazine