THE PERCH ROCKS! 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF OPERATION BIG BEAT
by Billy J. Shears
(Original Domino Sam Hardie (Copyright Eddie M)
This was the first time that the Beatles played at the Tower Ballroom, Promenade, New Brighton Wallasey, Merseyside L45 on Friday evening, 10th November 1961.. The Tower that stood above this Ballroom before the war was the second largest iron tower in Europe. During the War the tower was dismantled, in anticipation that the iron would be required in the war effort.
Despite the fact that the iron was never used, the tower was never rebuilt, but the Ballroom remained and was capable of holding as many as 5000 people. The promoter, Sam Leach, managed to persude 3000 people to come and watch his 'Operation Big Beat' which was basically a selection of five Liverpool bands pulled together to play at the one venue between the hours of 7.30pm and 1am.
As well as the Beatles, the other bands that played that night were Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Remco Four and Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes. The Beatles first hit the stage at 8pm before leaving the Ballroom to complete a prior engagement, arranged by Mona Best, on the other side of the River Mersey at the Knotty Ash Village Hall, while the other bands remained at the Ballroom entertaining the audience. Once the Beatles had completed their additional engagement, they returned to the Ballroon and played a second spot at 11.30pm www.fincharie.com
So move forward 50 years and the Merseybeat Story held each month at Fort Perch Rock, New Brighton celebrates the events of 10th November 1961.
The day began at 1130 with a short walking tour conducted by local Beatles historian Ray O’Brien. He’s a great supporter of ‘the Rock’ and led a party of around 70 people to the original site of the entrance to the Tower Ballroom.
Once there local people recalled the days when the Tower Ballroom was a vibrant live venue with appearances by the Rolling Stones, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gerry & the Pacemakers & of course the Beatles.
The tour also took in the Kraal Club and the Chelsea Reach, venue for the ‘pub scene’ in the James Paul McCartney special in 1973. A member of the public had attended that night and revealed that he was supplied with free beer all night!
Later a plaque was unveiled by Sam Leach the promoter who brought the Beatles & a host of Merseybeat bands to the Tower Ballroom which resulted in a record crowd on the UK mainland as an estimated 4,500 people went to watch the Beatles 2nd show on the 24th November 1961.
(Photo shoot at the original entrance to the Tower Ballroom. Copyright Eddie M)
So where better to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Operation Big Beat,than Fort Perch Rock the home of the monthly Merseybeat Story session. I have never seen as many people crammed into the rock to join in the experience including three Merseybeat promotors in the same room, Allan Williams, Joe Flannery and the man responsible for the original Operation Big Beat in 1961, Sam Leach.
Hosted by 'our Harry' original Remo Four drummer Harry Prytherch who appeared on the original 'beat' we were treated to a great day of music with sets from Paul Hayes with his superb band from Morecambe, The Collection. Guest appearances included appearances from local musician Susan Hedges and Merseybeat original Cliff Roberts along with the Rocks resident poet Ron and a Merseybeat Hall of Fame induction for Tonty Booth who designed most of the original Merseybeat posters.
Top of the bill were the Dominoes with original member Sam Hardie leading the band through a superb set of Merseybeat & Rock n Roll covers.
It was a fantastic day at the 'Rock' and the 50th anniversary was truly celebrated in style by original Merseybeat stars and fans who made it happen.....