The Liverbirds in front of the Star-Club
German pic sleeve.
It seems the last posting where I sighted a soft spot Freddie and the Dreamers has instigated a furor over what exactly is good, bad and mediocre music. In my opinion, great rock’n’roll usually has elements of all three, often in the same song. However the first (good) is never needed to make great rock’n’roll.
If you want good music you can listen to jazz or classical, rock’n’roll is supposed to be crude, stupid
and unpalatable. That’s why we, or at least I love it. Which brings us to today’s subject, the Liverbirds,
a Liverpool Beat combo who distinguished themselves by not only sitting when the piss, and having the ability to bleed for days on end without dying, but by being as competent as at least the Remo Four if not the Beatles themselves, whose John Lennon once opined that “they’d never make it”.
While not even rating a mention in the standard text on the subject– Alan Clayson’s Beat Merchants (Blandord, UK, 1995) and only a passing mention in the same author’s Hamburg- The Cradle Of British Rock (Sanctuary, UK, 1997), they did lay down enough wax to verify that they were as good or better than 90% of the other groups out there, could stomp out the Uber Beat with the best of them,
and are due for a full revival complete with documentary, biopic, and posthumous praise by current stars not fit to lick their cuban heels.
Formed in Liverpool in 1962, originally as the Debutones, the Liverbirds– guitarists Pamela Birch and Valerie Gell, bassist Mary McGlory and drummer Sylvia Saunders (they all sang), played the basic Mersey set list made up of mostly U.S. rock’n’roll of the time– Chuck Berry, girl group, early Motown, and made their mark in Hamburg, where they were more accepted than at home. They were regulars at the Star*Club, recording for the Star Club label, they scored one German top ten hit with a version of Diddley Daddy, cut at least one LP (I’ve heard mention of a second by never heard it), toured with the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and the Detours (who would become the Who), and eventually in 1968 packed it in, three of the four members marrying Germans and settling in the greater Hamburg area. Pam Birch passed away in 2009.
One thing that separated the Liverbirds from their Mersey compatriots, beside the obvious one, is that unlike the Liverpool competition, they had a distinct Bo Diddley influence, keep in mind Bo was probably the only early rocker who tunes were never covered by the Beatles (which I’d say accounted for their clanky sound), and most of the U.K. wouldn’t hear Bo’s tunes until the Rolling Stones, Pretty Things and Yardbirds began playing them. In fact they had more in common with the London R&B bands than with the Mersey Beat sound. I like them better than most of the Liverpool groups except maybe the Swinging Blue Jeans, and as much as London’s Downliner’s Sect for that matter. Some of their better recorded sides were their rendition of Sir Douglas Quinet’s (S)He’s About A Mover, Bo Diddley’s Mona (gives the Stones a run for their money), Road Runner, Bo Diddley’s A Lover, and Before You Accuse Me, the Coasters’ Down Home Girl, the Everly’s Love Hurts (which sounds like the Velvet Underground with Moe Tucker singing), Chuck Berry’s Too Much Monkey Business and Talkin’ About You, as well as some originals like Why Don’t You Hang Around Me, He’s Something Else, Hands Off and Oh No Not My Baby. All excellent sides, and if the covers aren’t as good as the American originals, they’re better than anything you’ll hear on the radio today. I won’t insult the Liverbirds by saying their pioneering ways were responsible for some of the truly lousy female rock groups that came later, I’ll just say they were a great band.