Monday 29 April 2013

Vintage Album - The Big Three: 'Cavern Stomp'



Album Review of:
(RPM Records, September 2009)

‘With the Hi-Fi high and the lights down low
here we go with The Big Three show!’
                        (‘The Cavern’ DJ Bob Wooler)

You could say The Big Three were Brian Epstein’s first failures. The first to crash and burn. The first indication that his Pop empire might not be entirely infallible. At a time when British Pop had become slick, and dull, the sudden upsurge of raw working-class northern music represented a reversion to a more primitive form of Rock ‘n’ Roll. And 1963 started out with the Epstein touch at its most Midas-gold. With the Beatles, Billy J Kramer With The Dakotas, and Gerry And The Pacemakers all racking up an unprecedented grab of no.1’s, and Cilla Black signed and ready to follow. A stable of artists with a hits-ratio second to none in Brit-Pop. And within that roster, he’d signed The Big Three. The logic, at least, was impeccable. Solid, stripped-down to the raw basics of bass, drums and lead guitar – what would later become known as the ‘Power Trio’ in the hands of Cream or the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Big Three had played all the major Liverpool clubs claiming a repertoire of some six-hundred songs, had a mighty fan-base, and regularly topped ‘Mersey Beat’ magazine polls. Epstein’s rise was essentially predicated on Beatles songs. Billy J Kramer’s first string of hits was with John and Paul songs. Later, the Fourmost would use a cast-off Beatles song – “Hello Little Girl”, as their passport to the Top Ten. Cilla Black’s first single, “Love Of The Loved” was written by them. Tommy Quickly’s debut – “Tip Of My Tongue”, was another slighter Beatles effort.

The Big Three were never gifted with a Beatles song. But the first that most everyone in northern England – outside of Liverpool itself, got to see of the Beatles, was a brief film-clip of them doing “Some Other Guy” live on stage at the ‘Cavern’ (22 August 1962). I saw it when it was shown on the Granada tea-time TV-slot ‘People And Places’, hosted by Bill Grundy and Gay Byrne. So, although it was not a Beatles song, “Some Other Guy” was emphatically Beatles-related, and there was no version of it by the Fab Four available at the time. Written by classic hitmakers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and originally recorded by Richard Barrett, it was a staple of the Mersey-group scene, so it was the ideal candidate for the Big Three debut ‘A’-side.

And on the brink of the year that would transfigure British Pop for ever, the Big Three became the third Liverpool ‘Merseybeat’ group to chart. Denied the opportunity of a full studio recording, much to the horror of the group itself, “Some Other Guy” was a 1:41-minute track lifted directly from their audition tape done at Decca’s basement No.2 studio. They’d only recently returned from wild Hamburg dates, and weren’t yet fully recovered. Johnny Gustafson’s vocals are hoarse. Yet it packs all the urgency and drive of a live performance. The flip – “Let True Love Begin”, is more relaxed with a 1950’s feel and chanted harmony vocal back-up. Borrowed from Nat King Cole, rather than their more usual Rocker sources. The single entered the ‘Record Mirror’ list at no.37 (16th April). Unfortunately, that was the highest position it would achieve. The following week it showed at no.40. Simultaneously, Gerry And The Pacemakers were no.1 with “How Do You Do It?”, yielding to the Beatles “From Me To You” for its second week. Yet “Some Other Guy” would remain a key track in the Merseybeat mythology. The Searchers recorded it for their second LP, ‘Sugar And Spice’ (1963), then Pete Best did his own version in 1965. Many years later the Big Three’s own version resurfaced as one of the tracks John Lennon chose for inclusion on his own personal juke-box, issued as a double-CD set by Virgin in 2004.

If there’s a ‘classic’ line-up for the Big Three, it would consist of Johnny ‘Gus’ Gustafson (vocals and bass), Brian Griffiths (vocals and lead guitar), and Maltese-born former-upholsterer Johnny ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson on drums. Their history had begun as a four-piece Skiffle-group in early 1959 as Cass And The Casanovas, fronted by vocalist Brian ‘Cass’ Casser (aka ‘Casey Valence’ or ‘Casey Jones’). Original guitarist Yorkshire-born Adrian Barber was nicknamed ‘coffins’ in recognition of the skilful way he wired their impressive sound-system to produce intimidating volume-levels. When Gustafson’s ability to play the guitar-intro to Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be The Day” so impressed Hutch that he was pressured to join, it was Adrian who converted and amplified a Hoyer acoustic guitar for ‘Gus’ to play. The group sold out all the local clubs, from ‘The Cassanova’ in Fraser Street to Alan Williams ‘Jacaranda’, and got to play support to Gene Vincent at the Liverpool Stadium (3 May 1960), and then on a bill with the Silver Beetles at the Wyvern Social Club.

With Cass long-gone to seek his fortune in London, and finally renamed the Big Three in January 1961, they impressed impresario Larry Parnes sufficiently to book them as back-up for his teen-idols Johnny Gentle and Duffy Power. Then Griffiths was recruited to add sonic-depth immediately prior to the group’s July 1962 month-long stint at Hamburg’s ‘Star Club’, oddly making the Big Three a four-piece! By then Epstein was attempting to influence the group, and at odds with this direction Barber quit to stay in Germany (like Stuart Sutcliff). Yet it was due to his electro-wizardry that the Beatles were recorded live at the ‘Star Club’, the set taped on a small Philips portable machine subsequently emerging as valuable bootleg recordings.

So it’s as a trio that they returned to Liverpool to decisively sign to Brian Epstein’s NEMS in November 1962, then to Decca in the first month of the new year. Liverpool is a small city. Its music scene incestuously interactive. It breeds myths and rumour. It’s a fact that Hutch sat in drumming for two dates with the Beatles (16 August 1962), in Chester and at the Birkenhead ‘Majestic’ theatre. It’s said he was also first in line to replace Pete Best during the Beatles’ fractious first EMI sessions, but that Hutch protested ‘Pete is a very good friend of mine. I couldn’t do the dirty on him’. John, Paul, George and Hutch? Could it have worked? Like Pete Best, I can’t see Hutch combing his quiff forward into the mop-top fringe. And would Hutch have been the conciliatory Ringo go-between the warring Beatle factions needed later on in the tale? Doubtful. Hutch – a big forceful guy, could, and did, intimidate John Lennon. Regardless of what might have been, the Johnny Hutchinson story is the Big Three story.

Meanwhile, Gerry Marsden also never benefited from a Beatles-penned hit. But, at the Beatles first session with George Martin, the famed producer had tried to get them to record a song he’d selected for them, “How Do You Do It”, written by would-be songwriter Mitch Murray. Grudgingly, and with obvious lack of enthusiasm, they humoured George Martin by running through it. Their attempt can be heard on the 1995 ‘Anthology 1’ CD album. Admitting defeat, Martin allowed them to concentrate on one of their own songs instead, a Roy Orbison pastiche called “Please Please Me”. But “How Do You Do It” was passed on to Gerry Marsden, and it was a perfect vehicle for his cheeky chirpy-chappie style, and gave him his first no.1. Mitch Murray promptly came up with the follow-up too, “I Like It”, around a similar template. Up-beat, energetic, a slight innuendo, which also hit no.1.

“By The Way” could easily have been a third Gerry And The Pacemakers hit. But it wasn’t. It could have been their third hit, if they hadn’t switched to show-tune “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, then to concentrating on Gerry’s own songs. But Mitch Murray’s new composition had all the hallmarks of the first Pacemaker hits. How could it fail? I liked it. I reviewed it in my own self-compiled charts and hand-written notes. One of the first songs I ever reviewed. Noting the sharp drum-breaks and raw harmonies, through the rough-edged jerky rhythms. And even then I picked up on Murray’s neat lyrical trick of using and turning the repeated lyric-phrase. ‘By the way that you look, I can see you’re the best in town, by the way that you kiss I can tell that you’ve been around’. Twisting it into the title-hook ‘Oh… by the way, I love you’. Two verses, middle-eight (‘I saw you once, walking by on the street where I live…’), into verse three. Two minutes nothing. End.

The ‘B’-side feeds on the notoriety of the Mersey explosion itself via a mock dance-craze, with Hutch bragging ‘we’ve got a dance in Liverpool’, which we call “The Cavern Stomp”. Then, driven on Brian Griffiths’ nagging curling guitar-riff, he’s urging you to ‘keep your jive and Rock ‘n’ Roll’. Well, some might argue that it was Rock ‘n’ Roll, although they then go on to accurately observe that the scene ‘started off with Rhythm-and-Blues’ before breaking off with a yelled ‘OK Baby’ taking them into a free full-on instrumental chunk of guitar. With writing credits to all members of the group Hutch later admitted that the song was ‘a load of rubbish that took me five minutes to write’, but which was nevertheless ‘the best record we ever did’.

The single entered the ‘Record Mirror’ chart at no.36 (18th July), rose to no.35, while entering the ‘New Musical Express’ chart at no.28 the same week (27th July 1963). The following week it rose to no.27 (no.22 in ‘NME’). The Big Three peaked at no.22 (8th August) as it simultaneously fell to no.28 in ‘NME’. It was no.23 in ‘Record Mirror’ as it hung on for another week at no.29 (‘NME’). It stayed on at no.23 (‘Record Mirror’) while there was a final spurt back up to no.27 (in ‘NME’, 24th August). That same week Billy J Kramer was no.1 (with “Bad To Me”), replacing the Searchers “Sweets For My Sweet” which fell to no.2, while two versions of “Twist And Shout” were in the top ten, the Beatles EP at no.5, and Brian Poole And The Tremeloes at no.10. Finally, The Big Three showed at no.24 in ‘Record Mirror’ (29th August), then no.30, with a last gasp at no.40 (12th September). Then it vanished. Later, as Mitch Murray went on to become a prominent writer/producer hit-maker in his own right, “By The Way” was picked up and featured on a Decca ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ compilation LP alongside the Marauders, Jet Harris & Tony Meehan, the Caravelles and the Rolling Stones first single “C’Mon”. So they were prominently around. And there would be more.


 As a schoolkid with bad acne and a paper-round, I never got to see the Big Three live, but I certainly watched with approval as they appeared on monochrome TV Pop-slots. They were high-profiled on the must-see ‘Merseybeat Special’ edition of Saturday evening’s ABC-TV ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ (29th June 1963) introduced by a boringly formal Pete Murray and featuring all of Epstein’s top names. The Big Three’s tight triad formation and hard beats edged them a pace ahead of the pack. Singled them out as a more intense proposition. Yet they never conformed to mop-top stereotype. Johnny Gustafson packed a degree of Pin-up potential, but just look at the drummer! Hutch was a big guy with what looked suspiciously like a Teddy Boy quiff. Aggressive and confrontational, they weren’t Paul McCartney pretty-boys by any stretch of the imagination. They were hardcore. They returned to the show with Brian Matthew compéring, and both Freddie Cannon and the mighty Bo Diddley topping the bill (Saturday, 28th September at 6:05pm).

The way music operated back then, you need a hit single before you get to do an album. You record the album off the back of the single’s success. If there’s no hit single, you don’t get to make the album. So it’s worth making a few grudging commercial compromises to get that hit. As a result, the third Big Three single – “I’m With You”, is a catchy mainstream Beat-group harmony showcase, not without its strengths. Opening Billy J-style with a semi-spoken ‘whatever you say, whatever you do’ pledge to stick around his girl, it is propelled on crashing drum-break and ‘yeah-yeah’ chorus. Flip it over, and there’s a kind of product-placement promotion for ‘a new food going round’ called “Peanut Butter” – ‘I took a big bite, and it stuck to my teeth’! A supermarket staple now, not so in October 1963, it’s more a novelty throw-away item that leaves an amused smirk. As a total package it was considerably less vital than the two preceding singles. And if they hadn’t high-charted, there was little to suggest this one would. Despite some high-profile promotion it appeared only on the music industry’s own chart, published by trade-paper ‘Record Retailer’, and then only at an inauspicious no.53.

Time for a rethink. It’s said that the trio’s formidable Liverpool reputation was based around the wildness of their on-stage presence, largely before the scene went national, and that the Big Three never successfully captured that unrestrained live energy on vinyl. So with the unrepresentative studio singles consistently underperforming, it made perfect sense to fall back on those live strengths – at EP (extended-play) length, if not as a full LP. At its best, live recording is a flawed hit-and-miss affair, and acoustically their most famous venue was acoustically hardly ideal. Yet Decca engineers spent three days experimenting with microphone positions and the eventual sessions took ten hours, complicated by technical problems.

‘The Big Three: Live At The Cavern’ comes with a well-spoken voice-over introduction by the Cavern’s resident compére Bob Wooler. He welcomes ‘all you cave-dwellers’ as the group play-in behind him, then part-quotes Elvis Presley to rhyme ‘with the Hi-Fi high and the lights down low, so here we go with the Big Three show’. The four tracks lead in with “What’d I Say?” – the Ray Charles standard also done, previously or subsequently by Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis, Brenda Lee and Elvis Presley. Among others. Screaming girls inject atmosphere, and there’s enthusiastic audience shout-back on the ‘huh-huh-huh’ chorus. When it fades, it reprises back in again with a ‘one two three, shake it one more time’ exhortation. The spontaneity is real, Hutch’s voice is on form, the uncontrived crowd-sound yells and whistles inject an intimate sense of small-venue feel. “Don’t Start Running Around” is a heavy-shaking group composition, although obviously using the “Some Other Guy” template – even the lyric runs ‘Baby, Baby, some other guy will be the apple of your eye’.

Flipping over onto side two, “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” is the novelty song originally featured in the Disney movie ‘Song Of The South’ (1962), although the Big Three base their version on Phil Spector’s 1962 single for Bob B Soxx And The Blue Jeans. While finally, “Reelin’ And A Rockin’” is a loose loping jog-along take of the Chuck Berry song done by many groups around the time, including bratty newcomers the Rolling Stones. Nevertheless, even at the time, the Big Three’s reputation among record-buyers rested – not on singles, but on this EP. It certainly carried considerable playground-prestige among my school contemporaries. Underground writer and Sci-Fi novelist Mick Farren agrees, he recalls how ‘the Big Three had a whole bunch of legends. They were sweaty. They were a three-piece in the days of rhythm-guitar players. They had the first hundred-watt amps known to man. Drummer Johnny Hutchinson was the first guy I ever saw take the front skin off his bass drum. All in all they had it going for them to be a cult.’

You could say The Big Three were Brian Epstein’s first failures. Others tell it differently. In truth, although its indelible impact on the evolution of global Rock is equal to that of the 1950’s Memphis ‘Sun’ studios, the Merseybeat summer was a brief affair. With the Beatles sudden breakthrough into massive American success Brian Epstein had less time available for other managerial distractions. The lesser signings on his roster were farmed out to other promoters within his ‘stable’, and momentum was lost. The Big Three were increasingly restless, both with the neglect, and with the restrictions placed upon them when Epstein did attempt to exert his managerial discipline. As Bill Harry of the ‘Mersey Beat’ music-paper recalls ‘out went their informal gear of shirts and jeans, in came mohair suits. They weren’t fated to be tailor’s dummies! Out went the hard-driving material and in came ultra-commercial Pop. Out went the natural Big Three image portrayed in previous photographs and in came stilted studio shots with Johnny Hutch perched embarrassingly in front of a small snare drum.’ Bill Harry was there to witness a frustrated Griff cursing Epstein out at a venue called ‘The Grapes’, threatening to duff him up.

Inevitably, on Saturday, 20 July 1963 they split from NEMS. Then, at year’s-end Griffiths and Gustafson split away to form a new project, the short-lived Seniors. Confusingly, for German gigs, promoters insisted on billing this new group as the Big Three! Soon after, Gustafson up-shifted to join the charting Merseybeats. Replacing founder-member Billy Kinsley – with whom they’d already had two big Top Ten hits, Johnny ‘Gus’ was with them on two more, “Don’t Turn Around” and their cover of Dusty Springfield’s American hit “Wishin’ And Hopin’”. For Gustafson it was a springboard that took him on to serious-legend status with Heavy Prog-Rockers Quatermass, the Pirates, Hard Stuff, Roger Glover and Roxy Music.

Meanwhile, their places in Big Three were taken by two former Faron’s Flamingo’s, Faron Ruffley (bass and vocals), and by Paddy Chambers (lead guitar). Although this gutting of another top local band proved controversial in the ‘Mersey Beat’ letters-column, it was this line-up that contributed to another Decca live-album project. Again, confusingly called ‘Live At The Cavern’ (Decca LK4597), it consists of ‘Nine Great Groups’ caught performing at the famous venue – although only four of them were actually from Liverpool! Alongside the Big Three were underrated scouser Beryl Marsden, the Marauders, the Dennisons, Bern Elliott And The Fenmen, Heinz, plus Dave Berry And The Cruisers. Decca A-and-R man Noel Walker (a Liverpool jazz musician who formerly fronted Noel Walker’s Stompers), who gets producer credits for the EP also masterminded the album, on which DJ Bob Wooler again introduces the Big Three, this time as ‘the boys with the Benzedrine Beat’. Decca failed to pick up on this narcotic reference! According to later accounts they taped several numbers at the live session, although only one – a first try-out of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me” is the only one to survive.

Bill Harry mentions them also running through “Fortune Teller”, “Long Tall Sally” and “Walkin’ The Dog”. Again – cover versions, but consider that at that time there was no ‘YouTube’ or ‘Amazon’ to research, and the radio never played rare American R&B and vintage Rock ‘n’ Roll. So imported vinyl was jealously hoarded, carefully collected, secretly traded and lusted over by a coterie of fanatical enthusiasts. Musicians from the Liverpool groups vied with each other for more obscure titles. And The Big Three repertoire was second to none. A high-energy lost studio take on Jerry Lee Lewis’ “High School Confidential” resurfaced many years later, in time for inclusion on a 2009 RPM CD anthology.

Newly signed to Kennedy Street Enterprises there were plans for a follow-up live EP recorded at Manchester’s ‘Oasis’. And indeed, four titles were laid down at the venue – “Money Honey”, “Cruel Cruel World”, “New Orleans” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”. What happened to the project? It never materialised, the tracks vanished. Instead, the line-up shifted again, when Paddy Chambers quit, dissatisfied with the group’s progress and – allegedly, by the way Hutch was assuming leadership of the group, paying the other two members a wage! He was soon replaced by Paul Pilnick in April 1964.

This final line-up cut a further failed single – “If You Ever Change Your Mind (Bring It On Home To Me)”, promoted in the press as constituting the first of the ‘New Wave’ northern combos to use a string-arrangement, making them, ‘sound more like the Big Eight’. Although it opens with the ‘Yeh-Yeh-Yeh’ vocal interchange – as done by Sam Cooke and Lou Rawls on the original, the strings swell in around midpoint. Mike Leander, who would later score the strings for “She’s Leaving Home” on ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, is credited as ‘musical arranger’ for this dubious innovation. Whatever its disputed merits it failed to chart. Instead, the song was soon rebooted and high-charted for the Animals, which is undeniable a stronger record. The single was backed by another group original – “You’ve Got To Keep Her Under Your Hand”, a sinuous ‘Hi-Heeled Sneakers’ retread, efficient group-R&B with a stinging guitar solo.

By then, things were moving on. Times were changing. The first beat-group wave was being overtaken by newer, harder, hairier, more solidly R&B-based groups. So the Big Three languished. Toured. Played gigs. And eventually split up in October 1964. Hutch quit the music business, to become – in Spencer Leigh’s words, ‘a small-time builder who could have been, perhaps should have been, a millionaire’. As for the runaway success that should have been the logical endpoint of the trio’s first assault on Pop, their numbers had never come up. So just how big were the Big Three? The recorded legacy they left in their wake is slight, and even that compromised. It’s fair to say that over the years, and decades since, very many more bands have achieved greater things, to considerably less acclaim. It was first preserved in its entirety on the fine 1982 Edsel vinyl LP ‘The Big Three: Cavern Stomp’, in time to catch the nostalgia-wave.

The magic that lingers around The Big Three is a word-of-mouth mythic thing. They were the Liverpool group who helped define the Mersey sound, yet never totally sold out. The very scarcity of their recorded output – like that of the lost Dixieland pioneers at the dawn of Jazz, adds a speculative dimension that time and legend only amplifies, albeit reliant on impressionable and increasingly fallible memories. They were the roughest, rawest, toughest group of them all. People whisper ‘you should have been there that night at the Cavern, before Epstein signed the Beatles, when the Big Three topped the bill and blew away all the opposition. They were magnificent that night’. Well… maybe. In truth, we’ll never know.



29 March 1963 – “Some Other Guy” (Leiber, Stoller and Ritchie Barrett) c/w “Let True Love Begin” (Barkan, Baron and Eddy) (Decca F 11614, no.37)

28 June 1963 – “By The Way” (Mitch Murray) c/w “Cavern Stomp” (Hutchinson, Griffiths, Gustafson, and Noel Walker) (Decca F 11689, no.22)

11 October 1963 – “I’m With You” (Hiller and Ford) c/w “Peanut Butter” (Barnum, Cooper, Smith and Goldsmith) (Decca F 11752)

12 June 1964 – “If You Ever Change Your Mind (Bring It On Home To Me)” (Sam Cooke) c/w “You’ve Got To Keep Her Under Your Hand” (Noel Walker, Hutchinson, Faron and Pilnick) (Decca F 11927)

1966 – “Take Me For A Little While” c/w “Make Me Your Number One” (Polydor BM56043) Johnny Gustafson solo single, released in opposition to the Koobas version

1973 – “Some Other Guy” c/w “Let It Rock” + “If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody” (Polydor 2058 343) the newly reconvened Big Three


1 November 1963 – ‘The Big Three: At The Cavern’ (Decca DFE 8552) with “What’d I Say” (Ray Charles), “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” (Wrubel, Gilbert), “Reelin’ And Rockin” (Chuck Berry), “Don’t Start Running Away” (Hutchinson, Gustafson, Griffiths) (reissued 1981)


September 1963 – ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars Volume 2’ (Decca LK 4554) spin-off compilation from ABC-TV’s weekly Pop show introduced by Brian Matthew, with the Big Three (“By The Way”), the Dennisons (“Be My Girl”), the Marauders (“That’s What I Want”), the Rolling Stones (“C’mon”), Brian Poole And The Tremeloes (“Twist And Shout”), Karl Denver (“Still”), Jet Harris And Tony Meehan (“Foot Stomp”), Mickie Most (“Mr Porter”), the Tornadoes (“The Ice Cream Man”), Heinz (“Just Like Eddie”) and others

March 1964 – ‘Live At The Cavern’ (Decca LK 4597) the Big Three, introduced on-stage by Bob Wooler contribute “If You Ever Change Your Mind (Bring It On Home To Me)”. The rest of the album consists of other artists, the Marauders (“Doctor Feelgood” and “Keep On Rolling”), the Dennisons (“You’d Better Move On” and “Devoted To You”), Bern Elliott And The Fenmen (“I’m Talkin’ About You” and “Little Egypt”), Lee Curtis And The Allstars (“Skinny Minnie” and “Jezebel”), Dave Berry And The Cruisers (“Little Queenie” and “Diddley Diddley Daddy”), Heinz (“I Got A Woman” and “Somebody To Love”), Beryl Marsden (“Everybody Loves A Lover”), and The Fortunes (“She’s Sure The Girl I Love”). In 1985 the album was reissued as CD ‘Recorded Live At The Cavern’ (See For Miles SEE 58) expanded with the four tracks from the Big Three’s ‘Live At The Cavern’ EP

May 1970 – ‘Quatermass’ (Harvest SHVL775) Progressive-Rock group centred around Johnny Gustafson (vocals and bass) with Mick Underwood (drums/percussion, formerly of Episode Six) and Peter Robinson (keyboards, formerly of Chris Farlowe’s Thunderbirds). With pterodactyl cover-art, tracks include Gustafson songs “Good Lord Knows”, “Up On The Ground” and “Post War, Saturday Echo” (co-written with Peter Robinson and Graham Ross), plus bonus tracks on 1990 CD reissue “Punting” and “One Blind Mice”. ‘A really outstanding record which should not go neglected’ says Richard Williams in ‘Melody Maker’. Johnny Gustafson later records LP ‘Bulletproof’ (July 1972, Purple Records) as part of Hard Stuff, with guitarist John Cann (formerly of Action)

1973 – ‘Resurrection’ (Polydor 2383199) sixteen tracks recorded by a reformed Big Three with Johnny Gustafson and Brian Griffiths returning to music after a break, plus Nigel Olsson (of the Elton John Band) on drums. Produced by Tony Bramwell, 16 and 17 December 1972 at AIR Studios, Oxford Street. Sleeve notes by Bill Harry. ‘Melody Maker’ reviewer Chris Charlesworth writes ‘perhaps to re-release some of the Big Three’s original recordings would have made more sense, but to re-record the group today with yesterday’s songs and techniques seems a waste of time.’ Mick Farren considered it ‘a painstaking reconstruction of the kind of music that constituted a good night out in New Brighton around 1962’

1974 – ‘Mersey Beat 1962-1964: The Sound Of Liverpool’ (United Artists USD305/) a 34-track double-vinyl compilation with three Big Three tracks, “Peanut Butter”, “Some Other Guy” and “I’m With You”, plus Faron’s Flamingos (“Let’s Stomp”, “Shake Sherry” and “Do You Love Me”), the Merseybeats (“Fortune Teller” and “Really Mystified”), the Searchers (“Farmer John” and “Twist And Shout”), the Mojos (“Everything’s Alright”), the Dennisons (“Be My Girl” and “Walking The Dog”), Freddie Starr And The Midnighters (“Peter Gunn Locomotion”) and many others. Includes two facsimile issues of ‘Mersey Beat’ newpaper dated 13 and 27 February 1964

1976 – ‘The Beat Merchants: British Beat Groups 1963-1964’ (United Artists UDM101/2) a 43-track double-vinyl companion to the earlier ‘Mersey Beat 1962-1964’ set, with The Big Three “What’d I Say” from the live Cavern EP, plus the Marauders (“That’s What I Want”), the Zephyrs (“I Can Tell”), Farons Flamingos (“See If She Cares”), the Merseybeats (“Last Night (I Made A Little Girl Cry)”, the Mojos (“Forever”), Wayne Fontana And The Mindbender (“Road Runner”), the Searchers (“Sick And Tired” recorded live at the Star Club, Hamburg), the Parmounts (later to become Procul Harum, with “Poison Ivy”), the Pirates (minus Johnny Kidd), Cliff Bennett And The Rebel Rousers, the Downliner Sect (Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What’s Wrong”), Dave Berry And the Cruisers (“Memphis Tennessee”) and many others

1982 – ‘The Big Three: Cavern Stomp’ (Edsel Records ED 111) a vinyl album credited as including ‘every track released by The Big Three in the 1960’s. Other titles recorded at the time have unfortunately not survived to the present day’. It includes side one: “Some Other Guy”, “I’m With You”, “Let True Love Begin”, “By The Way”, “Cavern Stomp”, “Peanut Butter”, “Bring It On Home To Me (Live)”. Side two: “What’d I Say”, “Don’t Start Running Away”, “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah”, “Reelin’ And Rockin’”, “You’ve Got To Keep Her Under Hand” and “Bring It On Home To Me (Studio)”. All titles producer by Noel Walker. Includes lavish black-and-white insert exhaustively documenting the Big Three history by ‘BBC Radio Merseyside’ presenter Spencer Leigh, with full interviews and anecdotes

2009 – ‘Cavern Stomp: The Complete Recordings’ (RPM Records) thirty-one tracks, the complete Decca output 1963/64 plus the 1973 reunion album with 16-page booklet. (1) “What’d I Say” (live), (2) “Don't Start Running Away” (live), (3) “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” (live), (4) “Reelin’ And Rockin’” (live), (5) “Bring It On Home To Me” (live), (6) “Some Other Guy”, (7) “Let True Love Begin”, (8) “By The Way”, (9) “Cavern Stomp”, (10) “I'm With You”, (11) “Peanut Butter”, (12) “If You Ever Change Your Mind (Bring It On Home To Me)” (single version), (13) “You’ve Got To Keep Her Under Hand”, (14) “High School Confidential” (previously unissued 1960’s track), (15) “If You Ever Change Your Mind (Bring It On Home To Me)” (alt. version), (16) “Some Other Guy”, (17) “Lavender Blue”, (18) “Rockin’ Robin”, (19) “Always”, (20) “I Got It”, (21) “Angel Baby”, (22) “Just A Little Bit”, (23) “Let It Rock”, (24) “Money”, (25) “I Know”, (26) “I Can’t Believe You Want To Leave”, (27) “All Of Me”, (28) “Price Of Love”, (29) “Dizzy Miss Lizzy”, (30) “If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody”, (31) “Lucille”


robin Richardson said...

If anyone has information about the line up of the group after 1964,please contact me.

Thank you


William said...

Excellent piece on a highly overlooked band!! Well done sir!!