|The City of Liverpool, UK, as seen across the River Mersey|
It probably should have been called the “Liverpool Sound” but the name of the river was used when the term was coined. We talk about this music subgenre, that started in Liverpool, as the “Mersey Sound,” or more commonly, “Merseybeat.” Even though it is often shortened further to just “beat music,” we need to understand that this had nothing to do with the “Beat Generation” or the beatniks of the time. The term was already in use in 1961 when a magazine, Mersey Beat, debuted. Its owner claimed that the title should be seen as an area, much like a policeman’s beat, not having anything to do with the rhythm. Mersey Beat magazine would cover the musical scene going on in Liverpool.
Liverpool is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “World Capital City of Pop.” Native Liverpudlians have recorded no fewer than 56 number one singles, more than any other city in the world. Of course its most famous sons were none other than the Fab Four, the Beatles, whose name is a play on words using their “beat” music genre and maybe paying homage to Buddy Holly’s Crickets, who was a big influence on the beat music of Liverpool.
So, what exactly is the Mersey Sound or Beat that was coming from Liverpool? As already mentioned, Buddy Holly and the Crickets from Texas were a big influence. So was Chuck Berry. The theory is that the origin of the “beat” term had its beginning before Mersey Beat Magazine and referred to the beat of the music. Chuck Berry, singing about Rock ‘n’ Roll music says in one song. “It’s got a back beat; you can’t lose it.” The back beat of American Rock ‘n’ Roll, like Berry and Holly were using is a 4/4 measure with accents on the second and fourth beats, which became very common among Liverpool groups. This back beat, or off beat, would be emphasized on the snare drum. The Beatles would later cover this Chuck Berry song.
To round out or description of the Mersey Sound, we must take the American Rock ‘n’ Roll and blend it with R&B and some Doo-wop that were common in Liverpool at the time. Out of this sound came much of the band composition, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass and drums, which became common to most rock groups worldwide. It is ironic that something that was inspired by American Rock ‘n’ Roll, would fuel the British Invasion a few years later with not only the Beatles, but bands like The Hollies, The Dave Clark Five and Gerry and the Pacemakers. (And what does a pacemaker do? It keeps the beat!)
Tonight I will present two hours of British Beat Music or the Merseybeat. My previous two posts ended with song quotes, so why not once again? Tonight I will end my set with Gerry and the Pacemakers’ song, Ferry Cross the Mersey. It says it all…
So ferry 'cross the Mersey
'cause this land's the place I love
and here I'll stay.
|Liverpool group, Rory Storm & the Hurricanes. Ringo Starr on the far left before becoming the drummer for the Beatles|