Monday, April 18, 2011

The Liverbirds

The Liverbirds

The Liverbirds in the Star-Club

                           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.

28 comments:

Joe Bonomo said...

Great post, Hound, rocking stuff and great pics of the Star-Club. Let me say that I agree with you about the fundamental ingrdiments of R&R, and add these wisdoms: "Rock & roll is music for the neck downwards" (Keith Richards); "It is pretension, not intelligence or sensitivity, that is rock & roll's worst enemy" (Clinton Walker); and "People say it’s juvenile music, but pardon me, I thought rock & roll was supposed to be juvenile. You sing what you know. What am I going to write about — Rembrandt?" (Angus Young)

Spreadin' Rhythm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Bonomo said...

Interesting observation about the Beatles and Bo. Surely Ringo could've handled the beat! Most of the black artists the Beatles covered prized melody. Maybe he wasn't pop enough for them?

wilthomer said...

Well done sir! They even managed a killer original girl angst record written by lead singer Pamela Birch:

http://anorakthing.blogspot.com/2010/02/von-der-liverpool-die-liverbirds.html

Anonymous said...

FWIW, there is a bootleg recording of the Beatles taking a stab "Roadrunner" in their Hamburg days:

http://youtu.be/lcd80Zllrh8

Hardly matters though, does it?

Howie Pyro said...

really love them...me & miriam went on a liverbirds wigout a while back via facebook posts (when i found out A) they for sure were actually female, and B) the name was pronounced LIVE (as in alive) LIVEerbirds...then i pulled out the records & did a segment on my radio show...they are better than most...

K D Schlang said...

Good piece, Hound. My favorite song of theirs is "Carpet Munching", it was a B side.

Mihaleez said...

Great choice for this piece the Liverbirds, Hound! I agree, better than the lot of the Mersey groups and more in common with the un-holy trinity of early Stones/ early Pretties and the Sect. In fact, their version of "Mona" sound to these ears as the best cover version of the era, at least from the UK! Totally rips Stones'! Ace got out recently a CD with all (?) of their recordings. It must be a cool addition for all the Bo/Chuck lunatics out there!
Cheers!

Gene Casey said...

Beatles "clanky"....Stones: clunky! The Beatles didn't cover Bo Diddley because they were refreshingly free of the ridiculous notion of trying to be the "best blues band in England" or whatever Keith Richards says was the original Stones intent. One has to laugh at Richards' not-so-subtle snipe at the Beatles not being able to "swing" -- the Beatles swung with a vengeance once they canned Pete Best. Know your place, Keith!!! There, I feel better.

Brendan said...

just for reference, see picture of the original liver birds on top of Liddypool city hall at http://moblog.net/media/5/4/0/540air/liver-birds-1.JPG
All together now: "dey do dat dere den don't dey, khalm down khalm down"

Anonymous said...

The age old Beatles/Stones rivalry flares up in this unlikely forum! Can't we all just get along??

Daniel said...

By the way, The Beatles (or John Lennon at least) covered Crackin' Up in some bootleg circa the White album (can't remember, but I'm sure of that), the same song lately the Stones did reggae!! Anyway, great girl band and best R&R blog in the world!!

Mitchhz said...

The liver birds are not on top of the city hall ! They are on top of the Royal Liver Building, a rather massive, Stalinian-looking building on Liverpool's seafront.

Mitchhz said...

Sorry I meant waterfront, not seafront! Liverpool doesn't really have a seafront since you take a 'Ferry across the Mersey' to go to Birkenhead and then, you can see the sea on the other side!

Anonymous said...

Nice one. Great band. Thanks. W.

Anonymous said...

Hound
you dropped the name above of Sir Douglas Quintet. Please tell me you're working on a post about recently passed Huey Meaux. I'd love to read the Hound treatment

erick said...

...and of course, the later girl group you managed -drummer included- was not lousy!

david said...

Top post mate.
To be honest I'd never heard of The Liverbirds, never mind heard them, and given their awful name, I was initially sceptical.

But hey - turned out to be a rare treat. Thanks for that!

Love the blog. Best from Scotland.
Dave MacD

Dave Heasman said...

"the Coasters' Down Home Girl,"

Alvin Robinson

The Hound said...

"the Coasters' Down Home Girl,"

Alvin Robinson


The Coasters version came first, it was written by Lieber and Artie Butler for the Coasters, and re-recorded by Robisnon on Red Bird a few months later.

RichardSibello said...

They actually had one single released in America on Philips in 1965 - a version of "Shop Around" backed with a Pam Birch original, "It's Got To Be You".

beatfreak66 said...

The Liverbirds actually had another 45 released in the USA.
I have a 45 by them with "Diddley Daddy" and "Why Do You Hang Around Me" on Philips. Great band!

Dave Heasman said...

Now that I didn't know. Did you notice how they sing "Sunday Mass" rather than "Sunday Class"? Are/were there any Protestant Liverpool groups?

Dave Heasman said...

I find I have the Coasters' version - it's on Vol 2 of "50 Coastin' Classics" and there's two different and worse verses. It's played for laughs and isn't really funny enough. Robinson, and the Stones, play it straighter. Well, well.

joe said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dave Heasman said...

Sorry about this, but it's been bugging me -

> From: Shakin_All_Over@yahoogroups.com [mailto:Shakin_All_Over@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of peter.stoller@ymail.com
Sent: 10 October 2011 22:14
To: Shakin_All_Over@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [Shakin_All_Over] Re: Down Home Girl


Hey, Dave,

Dik is right; the Hound is in error. The Alvin Robinson version is the original. I also think it's the best record of the song ever made, regardless of which lyric was employed: it's a great track, and Robinson is simply phenomenal.

Leiber & Stoller produced the revised version with the Coasters two years later because, well, they felt like it. I like the performance as well (Billy Guy was great at this sort of material), lyric notwithstanding. Some folks actually prefer the rewrite; Jerry Leiber was one of them, although he revised it even further after that. I've never discussed the matter with Artie Butler.

My personal take: the original lyric is far from the best-constructed lyric Jerry ever wrote (although verse one is a masterpiece), but it has an unselfconscious quality to the worshipful lust in the second and third verses that more than makes up for it. The revised version has a tighter construction and more consistent story, but I find the consistency verges on repetition and loses the understanding that the singer loves the backwoods southern girl under the northern urban veneer. I don't think a pure put-down, no matter how clever, is as interesting or powerful.

As Coasters records go, I'm with Dik in preferring "Soul Pad." It skewers its moment perfectly.

- Peter Stoller <

Interesting enough to go back to, I hope.

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I remember this band, I didn't like them but it's perfect remember those times when I like to wear like them and making disasters with our friends.

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