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WHEN WIGAN WENT BEAT CRAZY...

Started by: chatty (9773)

"In 1964 Sean Connery came to Wigan via Russia and with love. The Beatles also came but more about them later.Wigan’s own Beatles were the similarly named The Beat Boys or as the adverts often proclaimed ‘The Fabulous Beat Boys’.They were – by all accounts fabulous.As were The Long andThe Short.There were hundreds of others that weren’t so fabulous but it meant that Wigan and the rest of the North of England was awash with beat bands. During that first month in 1964 Wigan was host to bands such as The Toledo Four, The Autocrats, The Astrals (Direct from the Twisted Wheel) and The Incas.The Empress Ballroom – better known as The Emp and later Wigan Casino – and the adjoining Palais de Danse became home to the new beat craze as the skiffle and jazz bands were confined to history.

For the first time in history working class lads saw music as a way out of the mills and pits and fame, fortune and girls awaited them. Even if that fame was only on stage at the local youth club with a tea chest bass it probably got them the girl. As such there was an explosion of bands. The New Court Ballroom tried to hang onto its ballroom roots but it was not long before they were holding regular Sunday ‘beat nights’. By 1964 you could see any number of bands on any night of the week at a host of venues. Clubland was catered for by (amongst others) the LasVegas club in King StreetWest hosted by Jimmy Collins. And you could have supped your continental beer and ‘bought a short for your lady’ after going to see the first big night of the year as Billy J Kramer, Gene Pitney, Cilla Black and The Kinks arrived at the Ritz at the beginning of March 1964. There were two shows at 6.20 and 8.35pm. If however the thought of listening to Cilla wail away was too much Herman & The Hermits were regular visitors to the town. Screaming Lord Sutch would bring his Savages who at this time may or may not have included Jimmy Page and Ritchie Blackmore who were both members at some stage to the town at regular intervals.

There were beat concerts at the various rugby clubs,The Sportsman in Pemberton and The Crawford Rooms where the Reverend Black & The Rocking Vicars regularly shook the place to its foundations. By April the New Court Ballroom had edged the prancing ballroom boys and girls to one side and Saturday night was now ‘BIG BEAT + RHYTHM & BLUES NIGHT’ with The Merseybeats being one of the earlier bands to play that night. The teenagers from Scholes were catered for by the newly opened THE MASK ‘TEENAGE BEAT COFFEE BAR’ CLUB and Jimmy Collins’ Las Vegas Club soon introduced their own ‘Beat Club’. A ‘BIG BEAT 64’ featuring Gene Vincent (who would subsequently pull out) and Shane Fenton and The Fentones (later known as Alvin Stardust) was organised for The Palace at Hindley.

In September 1964 a club was to open that became notorious in the history of Wigan’s nightlife. Located in the Central Chambers of Market Street and known as THE ROOM AT THE TOP. It would last for three or so years but was blighted by drug problems and is a tale for another day. Five days after the Room at the Top opened on the 16th September the Rolling Stones were back in town at the Ritz.With two shows again at 6.20 and 8.35pm and tickets priced at 12/6d, 10/- and 7/6 in old money the shows would sell out as the Stones put on a rocking performance. Whether any of the Wigan public “locked up their daughters” I’m not sure.

A month or so later (13th October 1964) most of those daughters were scampering to get tickets to seeThe Beatles who were at the Ritz.Again it was the customary 6.20 and 8.35pm shows but tickets were now priced at 15/-, 12/6d, 10/- and 7/6. It was loud with people screaming and I’m sure nobody heard the Beatles play their recent hits including ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’. If you couldn’t get a ticket and wanted to actually hear the music Cliff Richard and The Shadows were at the Ritz at the end of October. Personally I’d have settled for the screaming!

By November another seminal Wigan club had opened. This time just outside of Wigan in Scholes. The club was BLUESVILLE and had the Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated as early guests.The club had an air of menace about it, a Modernist clientele and on 5th December 1964 held the first all- night session in Wigan. Running from 7.30pm to 6.00am a number of bands including The Victor Bronx Blues Train and The Anzaks entertained the crowd. Two weeks later on 19th December another all-nighter featured the legendary Jimmy Whitherspoon. Wigan was buzzing and the following year, 1965, it simply went mental. More bands emerged.The Stones came back this time with The Moody Blues and the Spencer Davis Group in tow. Manfred Mann was about and even Cilla returned this time second on the bill to the legendary Everly Brothers. More clubs opened including THE PINK ELEPHANT CLUB (in Aspull of all places) and THE PARADISE CLUB (in Scholes). Oh and after extensive renovation the Empress and Palais Ballrooms reopened as the CASINO CLUB.

The beat boom went bust but rock kept a hold in Wigan with as the hippie ideals floundered and earnest young men and women rocked out at FAG nights at the Swan & Railway and Swinley Labour Club and anywhere else that would have them.Then something very bizarre happened.

To be continued...

An article I came across online from a website called Loire Magazine. Dated November 13th 2018

Started: 20th Oct 2023 at 19:04

Posted by: tonker (28076) 

"By November another seminal Wigan club had opened. This time just outside of Wigan in Scholes. "

But - Scholes is, very much, INSIDE OF WIGAN !

Replied: 20th Oct 2023 at 19:18

Posted by: chatty (9773)

Don't shoot the messenger

Oh and stop "ridiculing trafford" on the sports section

Replied: 20th Oct 2023 at 20:10

Posted by: tonker (28076) 

Bloody Beatnik !

Replied: 20th Oct 2023 at 21:03

Posted by: whups (13404) 

how long did it take you to write that chatty .

Replied: 20th Oct 2023 at 23:45

Posted by: chatty (9773)

My reply to tonker, about 20 minutes.
The first bit a lot quicker

Replied: 21st Oct 2023 at 07:10
Last edited by chatty: 21st Oct 2023 at 07:12:43

Posted by: ianp. (932) 

chatty,
For some of us, if not most, the interest here is in the information about "When Wigan went Beat Crazy" and not about certain surburban areas and townships being a part of this or that.
I certainly enjoyed reading the information you first posted here.
Although this was before my time, I know about The Beat Boys and The Long and The Short; I have also heard their music.
By the way, I will just add this to inform a certain person (not you) that many of us know that The Beat Boys were a Beat group from Leigh.

Replied: 21st Oct 2023 at 11:40

Posted by: chatty (9773)

ianp,
If you Google "Loire Magazine" that I mentioned there are a couple of interesting articles concerning Wigan, one about the Bickershaw festival (don't even bother tonker )
Another being "The Night That Bowie came to Wigan"

Replied: 21st Oct 2023 at 13:28

Posted by: ianp. (932) 

Thanks, chatty.
I have now read the piece about Bowie and although I knew about his early days of being in various bands, I had no idea that he (with a band) performed in Wigan.
By the way, he released a single in about 1964 under his name and not under his chosen name (Bowie), which the news item doesn't mention.

Replied: 23rd Oct 2023 at 11:30

Posted by: Dolly Day Dream (10)

I remember when the beatles came to Wigan. I was only a nipper, about 7 or 8...it was my older sister who was doin the screamin. What I miss most, which new generations of Wigan kids have sorely missed, is the fabulous CLUBLAND. Many well known stars, too many to name, cut their teeth on clubland. I was 15 when I sat between my parents to dance to the latest tunes performed by talented amateurs as well as stars of the future. Half a shandy was plonked in front of me...usually mostly untouched as I was far too busy dancin or laffin at comics or enthralled with unique acts. One artiste used to come on miming to a track, doing quick changes of clothes, we all thought was a man....but turned out to be a woman. Fantastic days...and where I met my darlin soulmate JOHN BAXTER. He was a pal for about 10 months (dad said no boys till I was 16 & he also had a girlfriend, but by time they broke up , I'd had my birthday and shortly after he asked me Dad if he could take me out. Gawd that makes me feel owd...when it was still a good thing for a nice lad ta ask ya Dad....I miss my John so much it physically hurts....So many good people from the West also gone inc me parents Nellie and Jack Higgins

Replied: 24th Oct 2023 at 06:11

Posted by: ince1649 (2)

Thanks for the Beat article Chatty . Interesting stuff as I used to go to Room at the top frequently probably the best bands playing there were the Wheels who did some great stuff ( I think the vocalist was a guy called Brian Rossi ) including Them style stuff. Also a good band called The Hurgs. More to follow !!

Replied: 20th Feb 2024 at 10:04

Posted by: whups (13404) 

bob maccinley from the long & shorts has just recently died chatty .

Replied: 20th Feb 2024 at 11:35

Posted by: JR (528)

Chatty, this is brilliant and wow you could write a book or even a guide on the early music in Wigan. I was inspired by beat music but a bit too young to engage socially. Once I left school I remember going to the Sportsman's club in Pem (Carton Cinema when I was really young). A few visits to the Casino followed but I was hooked on progressive, underground, etc and mostly went to see bands at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. My Wigan venues were the tech club (old timber Swinley Labour Club), FAG at the Swan and Railway (later at Newtown) or was it the other way round. But The casino rock night was a great night.
Apart from an easy trip to Manc and sometimes Liverpool by train the Preston Guild ( by bus) was another great venue.

Replied: 20th Feb 2024 at 19:04

Posted by: mollie m (7250) 

I remember, and saw, many of the groups mentioned. I also went to the Casino, Palais de Danse, the New Court Ballroom and the Room at the Top.

I would have been around 15 at the time and my friends and I went to see The Beatles at the Ritz, and it's true about the screaming. You couldn't hear them at all. Stupid really, but that's how it was.

We saw Gene Pitney, Billy J Kramer, the Kinks and loads of others as well on different occasions.

We also bought tickets to see P J Proby who was to play at the Ritz, but they banned him after he split his leather trousers on stage somewhere else so, instead, they booked someone we'd never heard of so got our money back off the tickets. It wasn't until we saw this "nobody" on Top of the Pops a few nights later, and we kicked ourselves. It was Tom Jones.

What a great time it was back in the 60s, although it's impossible to describe when asked what it was like. You had to be there to understand.

Thank you for a lovely thread, Chatty. I didn't see it when you first posted it, so I'm glad to have found it now.

Replied: 20th Feb 2024 at 22:39

Posted by: tonker (28076) 

Anyroadup, Chatty said, "Wigan’s own Beatles were the similarly named The Beat Boys or as the adverts often proclaimed ‘The Fabulous Beat Boys’."

So, what makes The Beat Boys "Wigan's own"?

Replied: 20th Feb 2024 at 23:47

Posted by: mollie m (7250) 

They weren't. As iap said, they were from Leigh.

Replied: 20th Feb 2024 at 23:52

Posted by: tonker (28076) 

Correct. So why say they are?
And, all this "Beatles came to Wigan" blah, blah.
Like, so what? The Beatles had performed in St.Helens five times before Wigan, and Earlestown twice.
How many times have you heard St.Helensers gleefully bragging "The Beatles came to St.Helens, you know". Or Earlestown?

Pathetic, small town minded people. And they're all related. Kick one in the shin and they all shout "Ouch"!

Replied: 21st Feb 2024 at 20:15

Posted by: ianp. (932) 

Chatty, I would like to say that I appreciate your thread.
I hope that the many positive words typed by a number of posters overwhelm the small number of negative words.

Replied: 26th Feb 2024 at 00:45

Posted by: JR (528)

Tonker,
The Wigan Beat Boys that I knew were thugs who would Beat up people like me because we had long hair!

Replied: 26th Feb 2024 at 21:35

 

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