John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Beat Nights

Early Days

The Lecture Hall
 1. Opened on 16th November 1938, Thornton Lecture Hall had long been a centre for the community of Thornton Cleveleys for dances, stage productions and meetings.
 I remember seeing a performance of Alice in Wonderland there; I’m not sure whether our class at Church Road County Primary School went to see it together, or not. I seem to remember that the scenes were colourfully painted on back-cloths, each of which rolled down in turn. I only remember the first few rollings-down, though, because I then began to get bored and lose concentration.
 And when I was in my teens, perhaps one evening in 1964, I attended a meeting there—a recruitment-drive for the Scouts, perhaps
[1]—where a somewhat-past-middle-age man, who couldn’t pronounce his voiceless dental fricatives properly (though he didn’t seem to have a problem with his voiced dental fricatives), kept referring to “the yout of Tornton”. Who was I with? Peter Gooding, I think. I don’t think Chris Woodhead was with us; we reported the man’s strange manner of vocal delivery to him shortly afterwards.
[1] I seem to remember that interested people were invited to a further meeting at what had been our Steve’s school, Church Road Secondary Modern School. It was the only time that I’d ever been in there. I seem to remember that we were not very impressed. Memories are vague, but if it was the Scouts, then the reason would be that we were disappointed that we weren’t kitted up with uniforms, etc., straight away. Anyway, we didn’t go again.

1979 photo

Plan from Lancashire MARIO
 2. Those are the only two occasions on which I remember being at Thornton Lecture Hall, till in 1964 there appeared an advertisement in Thornton Cleveleys Times, the local newspaper, for a “Beat Night” there. And a poster went up on the Lecture Hall’s notice board too.

 3. I don’t remember my first attendance at a Beat Night; my memories are of several of them rolled into one. A four-piece rock-group (lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar and drums) would play on the stage; and the crowded floor would be populated mainly with teenage girls dancing, most of the boys being content to stand at the side eyeing the girls, occasionally nudging a friend and indicating with a nod one he found attractive. A bar at the end of the hall would sell warm soft drinks (refrigeration being unheard of in this context).

 4. The group that appeared most often, smartly suited and booted, was very competent. They did a mean “Flingel Bunt”, and would receive requests for it. (The instrumental The Rise and Fall of Flingel Bunt was a hit for The Shadows in May 1964: na na (on guitar), chik bum bum (on drums) — na na na na, chik bum bumchik chik, na na, chik bum bumna na na na… and so on.) The group’s rendition was considerably more energetic than The Shadows’ and was always well-received.
 I also remember the twelve-bar blues song Hi-Heel Sneakers, going down well. It was by Tommy Tucker, and hit the UK singles chart on 26th March 1964.
Put on your red dress baby,
You know we’re going out tonight.
Put on your red dress baby,
Lord, we’re going out to night.
And bring along some boxing gloves
In case some fool might wanna fight.
Put on your high-heel sneakers,
Wear your wig hat on your head.
Put on your high-heel sneakers,
Wear your wig hat on your head.
You know you’re looking mighty fine, baby,
I’m pretty sure you’re gonna knock ’em dead.
And Walking the Dog—perhaps from the version which appeared on The Rolling Stoneseponymous first album, released on 16th April 1964; for the 1963 U.S. original by Rufus Thomas was unknown in the UK.

Mary Mac
Dressed in black
Silver buttons all down her back
High low, tipsy toe
She broke the needle and she can’t sew

Walking the dog
Just a-walking the dog
If you don’t know how to do it
I’ll show you how to walk the dog
(series of whistles)

Asked my mama for fifteen cents
See the elephant jump the fence
He jumped so high he touched the sky
Never got back till the fourth of July

Walking the dog, etc.
And the 1963 Chuck Berry song Memphis, Tennessee, much covered by many artists at this time…

 5. There was another group that appeared from time to time, more Teddy Boy-ish with perhaps red jackets, “drainpipe” trousers, winklepicker shoes and DA-hairstyles. We thought they were “crap”, especially compared with the first group.

Jubilee Gardens

Cleveleys Promenade, looking north. Jubilee Gardens are further down the Promenade, beyond the buildings on the right.

Further along the Promenade, looking north. The playground of Jubilee Gardens is just visible to the right. The tall building at the north end of Jubilee Gardens is the Royal Hotel.

Looking south, perhaps from the Royal Hotel. North of the playground and paddling pool/model-boat pool were two structures, octagonal in plan.
 6. Just to digress: I remember that the “crap” group once appeared at Jubilee Gardens, Cleveleys. It was one afternoon, probably a Saturday in summer. They were in one of the two octagonal structures to the north of the children’s play-area: both of these had a shelter constructed around the three north sides of the octagon, and one around the three south sides, with the east and west sides being open. A fair number of people stayed and listened, not a “crowd”, exactly; and at one point I had a few words with the drummer. (Peter Gooding, Trevor and I were keen on drumming at that time.) I noticed that he had his snare drum mounted upside-down so that the curled-metal snares were on the top, and I commented on this. I thought that having this arrangement would restrict how he could play (it would preclude using brushes, for example) but he said he thought it sounded better like that. This probably reinforced my opinion that they were “crap”.

Ready Steady Go!
 7. Beat Nights at Thornton Lecture Hall were held on Friday evenings.
 Typically, first, though, from six till seven o’clock I would watch Ready Steady Go! on TV, which opened to the tune of Manfred Mann’s “5-4-3-2-1” with the slogan “The Weekend Starts Here”. The presenters were the rather starchy-stiff, too-old-for-this-show, Keith Fordyce, and the younger, line-fluffing “Queen of the Mods” Cathy McGowan. McGowan had long, dark hair, cut at the front in an eyebrow-length fringe, which hairstyle came to be one of the characteristics of what Gooding and I called “our type”, especially if she wore a black polo neck jumper
[sweater] as well. I seem to remember feeling ambivalent about Cathy McGowan, though, not quite fancying her because of her somewhat sticking-out upper front teeth.
 Ready Steady Go! presented many of the successful groups and artists of the time, including Dusty Springfield, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Searchers and The Animals. Our Steve and I (mainly our Steve) had records by most of these; but even so, I felt that the collection was inadequate because it lacked the kind of rhythm and blues music that (I perceived) was being more heavily promoted on the show. The Mod fashions that it featured made me feel inadequate as well, when I saw them reflected in the styles the Beat Night crowds wore. How could I even think of trying to get off with any of the birds there, when I looked like this? (Sometimes I would also look covetously in our Steve’s New Musical Express at the adverts for clothes and shoes, beyond the means of my meagre pocket-money.) And the dances on the show, seemingly a new one each week, which again might be taken up by the Beat Night people (in actual fact, mostly, the girls), were beyond my capability. So there was no chance of asking a bird, “Do you fancy a dance?” And I had spots on my face.[1]
[1] The spots, which I perceived as hugely visible, were only one or two in number at any time, and were probably hardly noticeable to others. Trevor’s face, in contrast, was covered with them. When his little brother Grant had to write an essay (or “composition”, as it was called) at school about his family, he wrote, “My brother is called Trevor and he has spots.”
 8. So, after Ready Steady Go!, on my spots I would dab “DDD”, an alcohol-based lotion which stung and which had quite a strong odour (nowhere near as bad as TCP, though), put on a shirt with a button-down or tab collar, perhaps a narrow tie, ice-blue skin-tight denim jeans or other “drainpipe”-style trousers, winklepickers or a pair of elastic-sided boots, and a buff-coloured, zip-fronted windjammer [windcheater / windbreaker] jacket.[2] I would comb my hair, possibly applying some Brylcreem, pushing the front into a bit of a quiff and the sides somewhat DA-ish (though being naturally wavy it wouldn’t stay where I put it for long), and set off northwards along Fleetwood Road to the Lecture Hall.
[2] This garment also features in the stories Gooding and I go on holiday and Concerning the “Second First Visit” to Manchester.
 9. Who would be with me at Beat Nights at the Lecture Hall (or “the Leckie”, as we abbreviated it)? Peter Gooding and Chris Woodhead—and perhaps Trevor if he wasn’t “w’kin’” (as he would say in his Bolton accent: doing homework)—and later on, Brian Collinge, for he would refer to the Leckie in his Burnley dialect as “th’Leckie”.

 10. We would enjoy the music, and tap our feet, but do little else: with the exception perhaps of Collinge, we would be among the hangers-on at the edge, wistfully looking at the girls. (Collinge experienced not a qualm before occasionally getting up and strutting about like Mick Jagger.) The bravest I ever got was to wink at a girl, in a white dress with dark spots, who was dancing nearby. She gave a open-mouthed, wide-eyed “shocked” look, but nothing came of it.

Perhaps December 1964
 11. In perhaps December 1964 I was with Collinge at a Beat Night at a different location: a church hall in Cleveleys, perhaps Cleveleys Park Methodist Church. Collinge was a fan of The Rolling Stones, and indeed got himself invited onto the stage to sing a Rolling Stones number, backed by the group. I can’t remember what song it was, whether it was You Better Move On, which was issued on their début EP The Rolling Stones on 17th January 1964, or If You Need Me, which was on the EP Five by Five, issued on 14th August 1964.
 12. That evening, when Collinge got off with a girl who was in the crowd there, I looked at her friend, and said, “Come on!”, in the same manner as I had done with Ann Nurse; but she refused quite vociferously.

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