Gary James' Interview With Tony Crane Of
The Merseybeats were one of a handful of groups that really made a name for themselves in Liverpool, England in the early '60s. They played The Cavern, appearing on the same bill with The Beatles, many, many times. They signed a record deal with Fontana Records. They were managed at one point by Brian Epstein. And then what happened? We'll let Tony Crane, one of the founding members of The Merseybeats, tell the story.
Q - Merseybeat refers to the music that emerged from Liverpool and the groups playing it. Is that an accurate statement?
A - Well, what you need to know is when we called ourselves The Merseybeats, the music wasn't called Merseybeat then.
Q - It wasn't?
A - No. We were a bit embarrassed because we started off as The Mavericks. Bob Wooler, who was the DJ, booking agent for The Cavern Club, saw us play in Liverpool and said "I'd love you to become resident at The Cavern Club to play." I said "Well, I thought The Beatles were resident there." He said "Yeah, well I want you to be resident there as well, along side them and do the lunchtime sessions and the evening sessions 'cause you've got such a big following of all the right people that we want to come down to The Cavern, mainly young girls. But I don't like your name. It's too Country 'n' Western. So if I think of a new name, I'll have you top the bill on The Cavern this next weekend." So we said "OK. Of course. Do that." So, we saw the big advert in the local Liverpool Echo and I remember running down, 'cause I didn't live far from The Cavern, probably a mile away, to see him. I said "You promised you'd book us in The Cavern for the big night. And you haven't done it. There's some band on called The Merseybeats topping the bill, and who are they? They're not us!" He said "Well, that's your new name." And that's when we found out. We were a bit annoyed because Merseybeat was only the name of the newspaper. So we laughed and joked and said "You could've called us The Daily Mail or The Liverpool Echos or anything at all." That's all Merseybeat was. It was the name of a newspaper which listed all the venues around the Merseyside area where all the bands were playing. Bob Wooler had to ask permission from a guy called Bill Harry, who was the editor of the paper Merseybeat, if we could use the name. He said "I've seen the lads and they're really good. They're a great band," well, a group they were called at the time, "so I'd be proud of them to use the name." So the name of the music, well, the first name of the music was called the Mersey sound. That came shortly afterwards when The Beatles had a hit record and a few other people had hit records. Actually, Merseybeat music wasn't called (that) for a year or two afterwards. So, a lot of people thought we were trying to cash in by calling ourselves The Merseybeats after the music Merseybeat, but it wasn't. It was just the name of a newspaper.
Q - You were actually ahead of your time with that name, weren't you?
A - Well, yeah. We didn't realize it at the time because we just thought we took our name from a newspaper and that was it. It wasn't until a couple of years later they started calling the music the Merseybeat.
Q - You said before The Merseybeats you were The Mavericks...
A - That's right, because there was a very popular television show from America that was on almost every week, I think it was in the U.K., called Maverick. It starred James Garner, Roger Moore, Jack Kelly. They were the three main guys in it. They were three Mavericks who used to tour around America. It was a very popular television show. We particularly liked the way they dressed. They always dressed up. They had the very long jackets, the boots of course, and trousers. So, we actually dressed like them and called ourselves The Mavericks. We thought that was great, but Bob Wooler didn't like it. He said "You can't be resident on The Cavern Club and dress like a Country type act."
Q - From my research, I thought the original name of your group was The Pacifics.
A - No. We were The Pacifics for one week. When Bob Wooler saw us playing as The Mavericks, he asked us if we would try and think of a name, a different name for The Mavericks. Within a week we changed our name from The Mavericks to The Pacifics while we were waiting for Bob Wooler to put a big show on at The Cavern. So, we thought he used the name Pacifics. We were shocked when within one week we changed from The Mavericks to The Pacifics to The Merseybeats. So, it all happened within seven days. So, we literally did one or two gigs as The Pacifics and that was it. It was a terrible name anyways. (laughs)
Q - It's terrible because it doesn't conjure up anything. It doesn't sound good.
A - It doesn't sound anything.
Q - Well, you got a better name and that's what's important.
A - Yeah. I think being called that, people knew wherever we play all over the world, they know what they're gonna get.
Q - They must be a '60s British Rock 'n' Roll group.
A - Well, that's right. They must be from Liverpool, which we are. So it stood us in good stead. It's just a shame, we would've liked to have hit records in America. We had releases, but we ended up getting gripped at the post. It's like, I don't know if you know of our past. In 1964, we'd had almost four hit singles in the U.K. and Europe. And on the fourth single, we waited for it to get into the Top Ten and our management company said "That's right. America wants you to conquer America now." All the flights were booked. All the TV shows were booked. Radio shows were booked. Everything was done. But it was done on the latest hit in the U.K. Little did we know, just a week before we arrived in America to do the promotional tour, Dusty Springfield, who was a friend of ours, had gotten into the recording studio without us knowing, covered out hit "Wishin' And Hopin'" and got it out to America the week before we were arriving there to do all this publicity. So, we arrived in America with all this publicity and TV shows ready, they said "What are you doing "Wishin' And Hopin'" for, it's already in the charts with Dusty Springfield." We said "Well, that was our massive hit in the U.K." So we had to quickly change to a different song and do some of our old hits. So, it was a crusty idea, making a big splash in America.
Q - And that Dusty Springfield record was a big hit!
A - Well, that's right. But we were already a massive hit all over Europe and the U.K. with it. In the end we ended up doing a TV show for Burt Bacharach, who wrote the song. It was a strange goings-on because he got her to sing half of it and us to sing half. He liked our version of it anyway.
Q - You had Brian Epstein as your manager, didn't you?
A - We did for about six months.
Q - He caught you act at The Cavern Club?
A - He did, yes.
Q - What was The Cavern like for you and how many times did you perform there?
A - I can't remember exactly, but it's something 'round about two hundred times. What we did at The Cavern, they had us playing because Brian Epstein was saying to The Cavern, "These guys (The Beatles) are gonna be too big. I want them to start playin' around the country. They can't be stuck in Liverpool playin' this place." So, Bob wanted us to take over a lot of their bookings because we had a big following as well, all the young girls and really big people used to que all night to see us. But was it was we did, one week we would do the lunch time sessions. We would do Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The Beatles would do Tuesday and Thursday and the week after we would change it 'round. We would do the Tuesday and Thursday. The Beatles would do Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And then every Wednesday was The Merseybeats' Guest Nights and we would have The Beatles as our guests that night. The local papers, people still have them in posters, they would say Starring The Merseybeats in big letters. This week's guests: The Beatles in little letters. But it didn't mean a lot to us at the time because two nights later, on a Friday night, it would be The Beatles' Guest Night starring The Beatles in great big letters. Little letters underneath, This Week's Guests, The Merseybeats. So, we were just alternating. So, we used to play The Cavern about five shows a week and so did The Beatles. They did four or five every week. Brian Epstein was trying to get them to stop playing, to get them some gigs around the country. But he found it hard because the way The Beatles were then, it was hard for them to get gigs outside of the Liverpool area because the way they looked, the way they dressed, the way they acted. It was a bit weird, at the time they were still wearing black leather trousers, black leather jackets to look like beetles. That's where they obviously got it from. Sort of scruffy looking things. Outside of the Liverpool area, people didn't quite get it at all. I don't know why, because they were absolutely fantastic. To me, that was the best time of The Beatles.
Q - John Lennon said much the same thing in a Rolling Stone interview, which later became the book Lennon Remembers.
A - Oh, really.
Q - He said if you wanted to see what The Beatles were really all about, you would had to have seen them in Hamburg, Germany.
A - Well, that's exactly what it was like. In fact, when we first started playing down The Cavern, they'd just come back from a tour of Germany, playing The Star Club. They were billed as Direct From Germany. A lot of people who hadn't seen them thought they were German and they looked so strange to everybody anyway. They still had Stu Sutcliffe on bass guitar, but they were weird looking guys. As soon as they started playing, people just couldn't believe how good they were. Germany made them, but they realized themselves if they were gonna play four hours a night, six, seven nights a week, for their own good, not to go insane, to learn as many songs as they could. They came back from Germany and could play at The Cavern and do a different show each night out of the five nights and not repeat one song because you had the repertoire that was so big. So, they would find all unusual songs that no one was singing at the time. Some of the songs they would do, "Til There Was You", that was a song they would do at The Cavern.
Q - It's been put out there that The Beatles would play those German clubs eight hours a night. From what I understand that's not quite true. There were three or four bands that would each play a forty-five minute set. That's quite different from one band playing a forty-five minute set, fifteen minutes off, and getting back onstage to play another seven, forty-five minute sets. No one band could do that.
A - Well, this is what was happening: they had rest in between and what kept them going was a simple word called Captigan. You could buy it over the counter in Germany. When we went to Germany, we found out we were too young to play The Star Club in those early days. We were booked to play there and George Harrison said to us, "Don't go and play 'cause you'll never get back home. You'll be put in prison for being illegal." You had to be over 18. The last trip they did there, he, George, almost never came home. He was the only one that was under 18. And of course myself, and the other lad, Billy, I was only just 17. Billy was only 16. So there was no way. He just asked us "Don't do it. Don't do it. You'll get into a lot of trouble."
Q - I've never heard of Captigan.
A - That was before Purple Hearts came on the scene, or Dexedrine. It may have been Dexedrine or Preludine. It may have been one of those drugs. But in Germany you were told just to go to the chemist and buy a box of Captigan. It kept you awake. The first time we want to Germany it was like a year later. We were doing four or five, 45 minute spots. But we were spread out so much. So, when you finished at four or five o'clock in the morning, you only had time to have something to eat, go to bed for a few hours, get up and walk straight back to the venue. Then when you get to the venue you started playing again in mid-day. So, by the time it came to the evening, you were shattered. I'm not going to be able to fall asleep. So, you'd take one Captigan and then another later on and it kept you awake. You couldn't take too many or you wouldn't go to sleep at all.
Q - Were there that many people in Germany who were coming out to see and hear bands all hours of the day?
A - Well, yeah. It was just what was done. When we went, we went frequently then, '64, '65. We regularly did Cologne, Frankfurt, but when you played for instance the clubs in Frankfurt, you mainly played to American servicemen 'cause they had a big base there. So all this did you good 'cause instead of just playing what you had been playing, you had to learn to play what the American musicians knew, especially the Blues. It taught you to make your repertoire bigger, learn songs to please the people, not just your own songs.
Q - Did you ever get to perform in the Hamburg clubs?
A - No. When we were old enough to go, they stopped doing the big shows in Hamburg. The amazing thing about all the big shows they had in The Star Club and The Top Ten, they calmed down. As soon as The Beatles made it big and everybody else made it big, they stopped having the "name" acts on that. All they did was they had the main, big Rock 'n' Roll stars on, like Little Richard, Fats Domino and people like that. They didn't really have many of the Liverpool bands anymore, probably 'cause they thought they couldn't afford them. All the big bands then were going out for big money in the U.K. As soon as you had hit records, you were goin' for big money and The Star Club would never pay that money.
Q - I've been told that these days, Hamburg, Germany loves tribute acts.
A - That's the worst thing you could have ever told me. They're catchin' up with the U.K. because they go well in the U.K. purely because they're cheaper. That's all it is. I mean, in the U.K. you can work it out, if they want somebody who has some sort of semi-name and the price starts at 2,000 U.K. pounds and they can get a look-a-like band or sound-a-like band for less than 1,000 pounds, it makes economic sense for them. But, certain venues, especially in the U.K., will not have anyone other than the originals, which is great. That's what we support. It's so important to me. It's OK if people have died or if they're not going anymore. If fact, we're arguing at the moment... There is an official Beatles tribute band that play at The Cavern. They're called The Mersey Beatles. I'm arguing with them because I own the name The Merseybeats and the name The Merseys. The people are saying they're only a tribute band. Now if they went on calling themselves The Mersey Beatles and they played The Merseybeats songs, I'd have a case. But all they're doing is playing Beatles' songs. They even put wigs on to look like them. So, I can't do much about it, really. It's confusing.
Q - When you had Brian Epstein as your manager, you said he was your manager for six months. You parted ways with him because you wanted the same style suits as The Beatles had? I guess you didn't get them. But why would you want to look like The Beatles anyway?
A - Well, we didn't want the same. We were just jealous that he was spending money on The Beatles and wasn't spending any money on us. The answer he kept giving us was "Your time will come," because we were the second band to be signed by Brian Epstein. This is before he signed Gerry And The Pacemakers, before he signed Billy J. (Kramer And The Dakotas), before he signed The Fourmost, before he signed Cilla Black. We were the second ones. He had a lot of faith in us. He said "You're gonna be big." We were quite a bit younger than The Beatles, so he could foresee what people now call "Boy Bands". He said "You can be so big because you're so young." We were only 16 when we signed with him. 15, 16, 17. That was the age. And we looked young as well. But the others didn't really believe him. We said "Put your money where your mouth his. You keep spending on The Beatles and ordering more and more suits. Buy us some suits." He said "Your time will come. Just wait a bit longer." So, we waited for six months and he didn't really didn't do anything. But it's a shame really. Later on, after having long discussions with John and Paul, they were disappointed because they really took us under their wing when they became residents at The Cavern. They liked us and became very friendly. They liked the way we were playing. They liked our sound. They thought we sounded more like The Everly Brothers than The Everly Brothers. So, they were delighted with that. Our guitarist at the time sounded more like Scotty Moore than Scotty Moore. George loved him as well. So they more or less took us under their wing. When we signed with Brian, The Beatles were delighted. Later on they said they were so disappointed because they had a lot of songs, even in those early days, lined up that they weren't going to do. They were going to give them to us to record.
Q - That hurts!
A - I know it did. They told us about it a year or two later. It almost came to fruition when they recorded solo. John Lennon thought it was the best record he ever heard. He got in touch with us. At the time we were goin' 'round watchin' them record. We were the only people they'd invite 'round to Abbey Road to watch them record. They wouldn't let anybody but us. Anyway, we sat 'round playing guitars. He (John Lennon) said, could he produce our next single, the follow-up to "Sorrow". And could it be one of their songs? I went "Of course you can. That's great!" So we spent a few days then in-between recording their next album and in-between us going through all the songs with them. One by one as we were rehearsing their songs that he wanted us to record. George would come over and say "Can I play guitar on this?" Ringo would say "Can I play drums on it?" Paul wasn't that interested in it anyway. He was too busy in the control room, recording The Beatles' songs. But anyway, that was all lined up. The song was called "I'll Be Back". I think it was on the first or second album. We got a great arrangement for it. John Lennon did the arrangement for us. We rehearsed it with him. George was gonna play guitar and then our record company didn't allow it. They said we can record the songs, but John Lennon can't produce 'cause he's with E.M.I. and we're with Phillips from Germany. You can't do that. No one from E.M.I. can do what he likes at Phillips. So, that was just pushed to the wayside. That was a big miss there.
Q - "Sorrow". Is that the same song David Bowie recorded years later?
A - Yeah. Well, he did it as a tribute to us. David Bowie was a big fan of ours. He was actually in our fan club for awhile. He used to follow us 'round and stand in the front row. He was David Jones at the time. He'd been around as a Folk singer. We told him he was Folk singer 'cause he only played acoustic guitar and sang. Later he obviously came out and we said "That guy's now called David Bowie" and we recognized him. Then he used to put in his life lines all the time, his favorite acts were always The Merseybeats and The Beatles. He always included us in there. Then we read he got in touch with our company and said would we mind if he does a version of "Sorrow" because he was recording an album called "Pin-Ups". It was a lot of his favorite songs from the '60s. And his number one, favorite song of all time from the '60s wasn't a Beatles song, it was "Sorrow". He asked, "would we mind?" I said "Well, I didn't write it, so I don't mind. You can do what you like. That's great." So he recorded that, only for the album. Because the record company liked the song so much, they released that as a single. But that was about seven years after we did it. We did it in '66. I think he did the album in '72 or '73.
Q - What songs were The Beatles recording in the studio of Abbey Road when you were there?
A - One of them was "All You Need Is Love". I particularly remember we were sitting around with John Lennon and George. I remember we were sitting around in a circle, myself and Billy 'cause we were The Merseybeats at the time, obviously. We all sat 'round in a circle, playing. This was two days before and I didn't know, they were going out all over the world as the first TV (show) to go out all over the world, with "All You Need Is Love". I didn't know anything about this. They said "We're doing this TV show on Friday. Will you come along?" And I said "I'm sorry, we're playing in Blackpool. We can't do it." So, we got invited along to the show. Didn't know what it was. But what stuck in my mind, this was a Wednesday and the show went 'round on a Friday, 'live' TV. All 'round the world. Every now and again while we were playing, Paul McCartney kept poking his head out of the control room and kept saying; he was in the control room doing the mixing with George Martin; they'd done the backing track, "John have you written any lyrics yet for this song? We got two days to go." He hadn't written any lyrics, be he decided that he was going to write the lyrics for the song. Paul was doing the backing track. To me, that sums them up. Within two days John had written those fantastic lyrics, a play on words. How would you think of anything like that? Anyway, he (Paul) kept interrupting us 'cause we were having a good sing-song and having a play. Paul didn't like it. He thought John should've been writing the lyrics to this song 'cause he was taking it very seriously. Typical John. He said "I've got plenty of them. I can write that in no time." He could write lyrics in ten minutes and they'd be fantastic, whereas Paul would really have to work on them. It was just incredible.
Q - Had you stayed with Brian Epstein, do you think he would've done something for your group? He had so many acts. The Beatles alone must have taken up a lot of his time.
A - Just before he died, Brian Epstein, we had re-signed with him. He didn't like the way we were being managed as The Merseys. We were The Merseys because we had the hit, the massive hit with "Sorrow". Then the follow-up was a money maker exercise for the manager, Kit Lambert, because he also managed The Who. And The Who wanted to play on the follow-up to "Sorrow". So, Pete Townshend wrote a song for us. When he heard the turn down of John Lennon doing it he said "Well, I'd like to write the follow-up to it." He wrote a song called "So Sad About Us". He played me the demo and Billy the demo. It was him playing everything, singing everything. Typical demo from Pete Townshend. I thought this sounds fabulous. He said we can do it on one condition; that The Who play on the record. So they'd all do the backing and just me and Billy (Kinsley) would do the vocals. I thought well, that's a good idea. The demo sounded fabulous with Pete doing everything. Anyway, we set up the recording, got everything ready. Then our manager at the time, Kit Lambert, he was on an ego trip. He said "No, no, no. I want to produce this." And we didn't have a say in it then. So he said "I'm gonna do it with an orchestra." So we hired a full orchestra and then we had to sing 'live' because there was a musicians union strike. So, we didn't have time to do any over-dubs. It was all done in one go, one take. So, it was a bit of a failure really. But it would've been great with The Who doing it because later The Who recorded it themselves for an album, and made a great version. So I have to say, over the years we just missed out on a few things which could have sort of made us a little bigger than we were, just the link with John Lennon, the link with Pete Townshend and everything else. When we re-signed with Brian Epstein of course within months he died. So that was it. We could've gotten more songs from The Beatles to do and hopefully they would have produced our records.
Q - That's terrible because you were so close.
A - It's terrible to think about because John Lennon and Paul were like friends of ours. Somebody was telling us it was on The Arts Channel the other night, we got announced on one of those films that were made as "Here they are now, The Beatles' favorite band, The Merseybeats!" (laughs) It was well-known that we were such good friends with them and they liked the sound we got. I still see Pete by the way. I live in the Willow, which is a little peninsula between England and Wales. Paul still has a house here and he comes back up to visit his brother who lives up here. I still bump into him now and again.
Q - That's good to hear.
A - He likes to come back and believe it or not, when he comes back to Liverpool, he gets on a bus and goes all around Liverpool just to see how it's changing. A lot of people think he looks like Paul McCartney but it won't be him. So, he gets away with it. It's great. I bumped into him last year at the supermarket. The supermarket chain where I live has a lot of famous footballers and Pop stars live there in this area. And there's a supermarket there. However, it's rather famous because they only go there just before it closes. It closes at 8 o'clock in the evening and everybody goes in at half past 7, quarter to 8. And it's pretty empty, only them. I was there last year and came 'round the aisle and Paul McCartney was coming the other way with his trolley. I had my trolley. I said "What are you doing here?" He said "I'm shopping. What are you doing here?"
Q - What was he shopping for?
A - Getting all the vegetarian stuff for himself. We had a little chat and "How are you doing? Are you still working as much?" He always tells me "I'm working too much." He said "You never stop working. It's time to slow down." (laughs) I said "I enjoy it."
Q - I'm trying to figure out what I would do, what I would say if I saw Paul McCartney in the supermarket.
A - I saw him, he went to the checking desk, you know, the girls. And they sort of recognize him, but they don't say anything. He says "Hello. How are you doing?" to the girls at the checking (desk). He pays his money. He says "I'll see you" and they all say "Bye Paul" and then he walks out. (laughs) Everybody leaves him alone. That's good. He appreciates that.
Q - Just imagine if you had a supermarket open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The famous people you might see!
A - Yeah, we have them, but this particular one he goes in closes at 8. But there's another big one and they're 7 days a week, 24 hours.
Q - Tell me about your record label, Fontana Records.
A - We were the first band that was signed. It's an off-shoot from Phillips Records.
Q - How good a job did they do for you?
A - Well, I think it was great. It was new, but it didn't last. That's the only thing. What we did is, we went into a competition in winning a recording contract with Decca Records. Bob Wooler, who was sort of half looking out for us at the time, said "You don't want to go with them because they just missed out on The Beatles, so they're signing everybody. They're signing three hundred bands I think. You don't want that, you want somebody." So we sat back and did nothing and carried on playing at The Cavern. Then one day an A&R man came in and came and asked us, "When you're finished your lunch time session, you mind leaving your gear set up and let these bands use it because I'm auditioning three bands. It's like a showcase for these three bands we might want to sign." So we said "Yeah, OK. No problem." So we waited around. Then at the end of the auditions we came to their offices and they said "We'd like to offer you a contract." We said "We haven't done an audition." They said "we saw you play." He was in apparently at the lunchtime session. He said "I think you're absolutely fabulous. We're forming a new label and we're going to call it Fontana Records. We'd like you to be the first band we sign." The second band he signed like a week later was Wayne Fontana And The Mindbenders. But the name had nothing to do with it, being Fontana Records. So he signed us in Liverpool and Wayne Fontana from Manchester. So, that was it. But they were great initially. They spent a lot of money on us. A lot of adverts. They got us on TV. But as soon as we released a record that didn't do so well, they sort of gave up immediately. We released a song called "Last Night I Made A Little Girl Cry" and they didn't do any promotion with it. It wasn't really in the shops when people went to buy it. They hardly got any radio plays. In the end we said well maybe that's it. But Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp came on the scene and saw us playing somewhere in London and said "Why are you not on top of the charts anymore? We thought you were fabulous. We thought you were great!" He said "Can I manage you and put you back on the top?" I said "What proof have you got that you can do it?" He said "All I can say is that we've got this other band that is signed. We changed their name from The High Numbers and we're now calling them The Who." So I made a deal with them. I said "If you can put them at the top of the charts within six months, ring me in six months time and if you've got them into the charts, we'll sign that same day." And he did it. He came in number one on the English charts. He rang me that same day and I said "I knew you'd be on the phone 'cause I just got the paper." It was number one. It was The Disc paper I think it was called. And he signed us up right away and then started taking over our recordings. He did a deal with Fontana Records saying that he would be the producer, he would pick the songs and bring them out. But that was why it was great in the first place. We had a couple of minor hits with "I Stand Accused" and "I Love You, Yes I Do". We found "I Love You, Yes I Do" on an album by James Brown. But we only found half the song, so we wrote the other half ourselves. It got to number 20 on the English charts, or number 18. That was good for us to get back into it again. But being with Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp was great for "Sorrow".
Q - Did you ever tour the U.S.?
A - We didn't actually tour. We always turned down the tours 'cause we didn't have so many hit records and they didn't offer us enough money. So, we didn't do it and it's always as the opening act because we're not that well known in America. But we did do the promotional tours. We arrived in New York and we had all the people there, all the press and we were on the news, television news. I think we were there for five days and I think we did twelve television shows and I think it was something like twenty-two shows. In those days what you did was promotion. You had lunch in Denny's Hide-away. You're seen in all the best places. You had all the best tables in all the best restaurants so you could be seen alongside all the big stars. We did all that, but that was a bit of a failure because it was all on "Wishin' And Hopin'" and they thought we were covering it after Dusty Springfield and we'd done it first.
Q - You also had your own TV show in Italy, didn't you?
A - Yeah. What happened was we ended up having a hit record in Italy before The Beatles. They got in touch with us and said they'd heard about The Beatles becoming big all over the world. We had this hit record probably because our records were more Latin-American, especially "I Think Of You", which had a Latin-American feel. It went down very well originally. Because of that, they said would we go over and tour? So they lined up a tour for us. But we didn't realize that when we arrived there to tour, they had all the other days in between where we were recording TV shows. I think we ended up having twenty minutes a week on TV called The Merseybeats. It was a little bit strange because in-between the songs I'd announce the next song and then sing. An Italian guy would stand in front of me and say what I just said in Italian. And he'd walk off again and we'd play a song. It was a bit weird. We started getting frightened about going back to Italy because, for want of a better word, the guys in the suits wanted to take over our management. Well, you can guess who they are. We got frightened of that and didn't go back there for awhile.
Q - You just have to wonder if they were really connected.
A - I don't know and I didn't even want to take the chance. They did say even in those days "We can make you big all over the world. You can be the first Liverpool band to play Las Vegas." So, I thought, how can they do that? And when I put two and two together, I went "No, we'll forget about that. We'll think about it when we get back home." And we didn't go back again.
Q - When I hear these stories about people saying "we're going to make you the next big thing in music," I always think the pubic ultimately chooses who succeeds and who doesn't. They buy the albums.
A - I know all about that. You think of it another way. Frank Sinatra was in the doldrums really. He'd been big when he was young and as he got a bit older, he wasn't happening much. Then, we won't mention the name, when he was taken over the management by these people and they immediately put him in a film and he won an Oscar for that film. Then he did an album and he got the top arranger, the top songwriters and the top everybody. Then he did the album "Songs For Swingin' Lovers" and right away he was the number one singer in the world again. So, although the people have to buy it (the album) what they do is, they had the power to get the best arranger, the best orchestra, the best songwriters to write all his songs for him. So, it can be done that way. It can be done with money, to get the right people. If we would've had our heads screwed on, if we would've stayed with Brian Epstein, we would've had John and Paul writing our songs for us. That would've been it then. It doesn't really matter. Brian Epstein would've gotten us all the TV (shows) and all the promotion all over the world 'cause he was so powerful and we would never have looked back. But here we are.
Q - You realize of course that in two or three hundred years from now, people will still be talking about, still be interested in all things music from Liverpool, England in 1964. You'll be remembered forever, Tony.
A - Yeah, this is the thing, to be part of that... people say "what was it like?" I say "imagine, I'm sixteen, seventeen years old, a resident of The Cavern Club, which ended up becoming the most famous club in the world. We're playing alongside The Beatles. We've become great friends with them. We ended up every time The Beatles played outside Liverpool they wanted The Merseybeats as their support with them. We used the same equipment. We used the same Vox amps. One night we'd use their equipment, the next they'd use our equipment. So, it made it simple then. There was one set-up." But to be part of Liverpool was like... it was unreal. And it was a wonderful way to grow up in your teens. As a kid, all I ever wanted to be was in music, in any way, shape or form. It's good for me to know that we were so close and part of history really.