Grapefruit / Cherry Red [Release date 11.6.21]
The output of The Merseybeats and The Merseys has been relatively poorly served on CD over the years. Cherry Red’s Grapefruit imprint now rectify this with a definitive 63 track collection.
The origins of The Merseybeats can be traced to 1961 when two of the youngest musicians on the local scene in Liverpool, Tony Crane and Billy Kinsley, came together. They quickly became one of the regular bands at the famous Cavern Club, and by June 1963 they had signed to Philips, who would release their music on subsidiary label Fontana.
Debut single ‘It’s Love That Really Counts’ (written by Bacharach/David) made it to #24 on the UK charts and was backed by a cover of the rockier ‘Fortune Teller’. Follow up ‘I Think Of You’ fared even better, reaching #5, but Kinsley departed at this point and was later replaced by former Big Three bassist Johnny Gustafson.
Further hits followed with ‘Don’t Turn Around’ and ‘Wishin’ And Hopin’’, and CD1 of this set gathers together all of their Fontana label A and B sides, EP tracks, as well as the 1964 album “The Merseybeats”. Choice covers include ‘Mister Moonlight’, ‘Long Tall Sally’ and ‘Bring It On Home To Me’. Bonuses come in the form of two songs unreleased at the time, two German language tracks, and ‘Our Day Will Come’ from 1963’s “This Is Merseybeat Vol. One” album.
After Gustafson was fired, Kinsley returned in late 1964. The following year saw The Who’s management duo Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp take control of the group. Their final single was the storming ‘I Stand Accused’, the template of which was later copied by Elvis Costello for his version on “Get Happy!!” (Costello also later recorded the Crane/Gustafson B-side ‘Really Mystified’).
Post-Merseybeats, Crane and Kinsley continued to work together as The Merseys. Released in April 1966, ‘Sorrow’ was a cover of a McCoys track. Given a completely new arrangement by the band, it went on to reach #4 in the UK and was later quoted by George Harrison in ‘It’s All Too Much’ and recorded by David Bowie for his “Pin Ups” album. An earlier alternative version is also here.
The follow up, a recording of Pete Townshend’s ‘So Sad About Us (at that point yet to be recorded by The Who), surprisingly failed to chart. The Merseys toured regularly with The Who during this period, and John Entwistle and Keith Moon (along with future Badfinger man Joey Molland on lead guitar) played on the superb ‘The Cat’, penned by the prolific Greenaway/Cook writing team.
Even as late as 1968, singles were still being released. The jaunty ‘Penny In My Pocket’ was written by fellow Liverpudlian Jimmy Campbell and is backed by the Kinsley/Alan Crowley number ‘I Hope You’re Happy’ which has a very Lennon-esque vocal and sounds like a long lost Beatles outtake. The infectious ‘Honey Do’, a Strangeloves cover, was released in 1969 under the alias of Crackers and sounds like a smash hit that never was.
The remainder of CD2 is made up of several Johnny Gustafson rarities. The pick of these are two Quotations singles, the catchy ‘Cool It’ and joyous ‘Hello Memories’. There are also two Merseybeats home demos dating from 1962.
The 24-page booklet contains in-depth notes by David Wells (including new contributions from Crane and Kinsley) along with archive photos, sleeve images and paraphernalia. An exceptional release! ****
Review by Jim Henderson
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