Friday, 21 November 2014

THE QUARRYMEN AUSTRALIA TOUR


The Quarrymen Rod Davis and Colin Hanton were in the original Quarrymen band with John Lennon and Paul McCartney. 
ALONG Penny Lane in Liverpool the tour coaches and cars slow to a crawl as music fans and tourists bunch up at the windows for a quick photograph of an ordinary street sign of a not so ordinary song title.
This is Beatles country and most of those with the snapping cameras and smart phones know the lives of the Fab Four in better detail than those of their own families.
But no-one takes any notice of the diminutive retiree with white hair and glasses shuffling home who for his own amusement gives them a hearty wave.
“I live quite close to Penny Lane,” Colin Hanton explains with a chuckle. “The buses and tours, it drives me mad but I usually wave but no one knows who that old man is.”

That old man was the first drummer of the band that would evolve into the biggest and most influential rock outfit of all time — The Beatles. If those on the bus knew who he was he would draw a large crowd (as he would be later during an interview in a cafe with News Australia) to hear his first-hand stories.
But as this month Britain celebrates the 50th anniversary of the ‘British Invasion’ of music on the world including the US and Australia, coinciding with a major new music exhibition in Liverpool, there is renewed interest in people like Hanton and his fellow muso Rod Davis and their first-hand accounts of the band that changed music.
A photo taken at St Peter's Church Hall in Liverpool, where John and Paul met for the first time.
Hanton played drums with John Lennon and other school friends as The Quarrymen and was there on one of the most analysed evenings in rock and roll history, Saturday July 6 1957, when a young Paul McCartney came to a St Peter’s Church fete at the suburb of Woolton in Liverpool
to see the group and ask if he could join. He did and Hatton was still playing with them by the time George Harrison joined and they were cutting their first record. Davis, who played banjo since Lennon formed the group in 1956, moved out of the band to make way for McCartney.
“Honestly we were just lads having a lot of fun,” Hanton recalled of the then Lennon skiffle-folk group. “I mean Paul was the ambitious one — he probably had his sights on stardom as perhaps did John but it wasn’t for me. I’d like to say I saw ‘it’ all but it wasn’t like that. It was just happening.
The Quarrymen at The Beatles Story Museum in Liverpool (Colin Hanton on drums)
“I was quite happy to go to the pub and have a couple of Guinness and let them do their thing and write songs and I would just turn up and play. I didn’t spot anything special, I mean I knew they were good but not as good as they turned out to be. It was just life, we all grew up at the same time and that was it. It was all down to John and Paul,”
Davis joked he may have been in the loo when McCartney was being introduced to Lennon because he barely recalls the encounter.
“People expect there to have been angels pop out of the clouds with trumpets but no,” Davis said.
“We were just up on stage trying to impress the local ladies … but literally that was all we were doing, being a garage band without a garage and just having fun.”
Hanton said it was clear after McCartney joined the band it was to evolve more into a rock group. They played a lot of fetes and youth clubs then they moved into the Famous Cavern Club. McCartney made his debut in 1957 (his entry delayed because he had a Scout camp and family holiday to attend) and from that moment the band wore matching sports coats and black bootlace ties and all felt the music could go somewhere.

In July 1958 Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, Hanton and McCartney’s friend and piano player John Lowe cut their first record, which would later become one of the most expensive recordings in the world and be included on the Beatles’ Anthology 1 album).
Hanton said it was clear John was the leader of the group, although Paul was extremely confident. For him though he had to make a decision to stay with the group and go on making music or quit and concentrate on his upholstery apprenticeship.
“It was just fun to be honest with you and wasn’t actually that much fun toward the end and I was getting weary dragging the drums on and off buses and around town so eventually I got fed up,” he recalled.
“I didn’t have any inkling or ambition to be a rock star. I was an apprentice upholsterer which is a good trade and my boss said to me you have got to make your mind up you going to be an upholsterer or someone in a band because I had to ask for time off.”
He chose the latter and has had no regrets.
The new Beatles museum in Liverpool charts the history of the British Invasion
“I use to drink an awful lot in those days really and it was something I regret. I think I would have gone on to drinking heavily and probably drugs anything could have happened you don’t know really. I could have been shot like John. So no I just went down the path of being an upholsterer and I am quite pleased with that. I got married had two daughters never had problems really in my life, never had an awful lot of money but then you know we never starved….”
He kept his past with the band a secret to only those close to him.
“I was never angry but very surprised by their success particularly in the early days. I mean I got a bit sick of picking up the paper and seeing then there getting their hair cut or whatever you read ‘oh bloody hell there they’ are so I never spoke about it for the first 20 years, I just kept my head down. The lads I worked with knew I was in the Quarrymen because when the Beatles became this mega thing I got a lot of leg pulling a lot of mickey taking, because I was an upholsterer and everyone else was becoming millionaires. I kept quiet for as long as I could until 20 years later people asked for an interview and when we (Quarrymen) got together it wasn’t so bad then.”
The house where Beatle Paul McCartney was raised in Liverpool has become a tourist destination. 
 
In 1997 the original Quarrymen, minus the now famous former members, reformed for a charity function and when it was discovered the original band members were still alive, there were requests to travel and they have since performed across Europe, Russia, Scandinavia, Cuba, Japan and the United States.
People say how did you feel when John left to form the Beatles well he didn’t it just became the Beatles,” Davis said.
“With bands it’s one out one in, so Paul McCartney took my place then George Harrison joined and Eric Griffiths moved out and then Colin was there with John, Paul and George and then after a time Quarrymen which was the right name for a Skiffle group was the wrong name for a rock and roll group and so all that happened was Quarrymen evolved or metamorphed or as the Americans say morphed into The Beatles.”
Davis said despite playing about the world only Australia eludes them which he said was strange given the interest in all things Beatles.
St Peter's Church Hall in Liverpool, UK where John Lennon and Paul McCartney met for the
St Peter's Church Hall in Liverpool, UK where John and Paul met for the first time. 
 
He said a TV network had contacted them two years ago and asked them to come out and perform as part of a documentary and live shows tour but pulled out due to cost.
“It was a shame, we really want to play in Australia,” he said. “We’ve played everywhere but not there. We have been asked several times to tour there but then something happens.
“The problem is we are getting old, or yes getting older, so the next two years and that will be it.”
Despite not having the success of the “others”, McCartney, Lennon and Harrison, Davis too said it was the success of the Fab Four that had given them renewed energy in music and semiretirement.
“We never worked for it so we have to be careful not to be too big headed about it. If we had worked for it and built it something up but we piggyback off The Beatles so you know delusions of adequacy is what we have to be careful about.”

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