Halfway to Paradise

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from Chapter Seven - BABY LET ME TAKE YOU HOME

The last top 30 of 1962 saw the Tornados riding high with ‘Telstar’. Further down the charts were many of the established British artists, including Shirley Bassey, Cliff Richard, Billy Fury, Adam Faith, Mr Acker Bilk, Kenny Ball and John Barry, as well as the pop-yodeller Frank Ifield, who had an impressive three hits running simultaneously. And way down, creeping in at #27, was a song titled ‘Love Me Do’ by a new band calling themselves the Beatles.

It would have seemed implausible then, but the music industry was about to experience a change almost as dramatic as the one that had given birth to rock and roll. Within a few months Ray Thomas, then in the Krew Cats but shortly to form the Moody Blues, was seeing huge changes in his home city of Birmingham: ‘There were about two hundred and fifty groups, half thought they were Cliff Richard and the Shadows and the other half thought they were the Beatles.’

Of those two models, the latter was very definitely in the ascendancy. And soon thereafter, it became clear that the power of Tin Pan Alley had finally been broken: following the example of Billy Fury, the Beatles wrote their own material and, for a while at least, the spotlight turned away from those performers who were still dependent on professional songwriters.

The shifting of gears from one era to another was hard on many of the older acts. Some continued to thrive – Cliff and the Shadows were clearly there for the duration – and others, such as Faith and Fury, maintained a chart career for a while, albeit in reduced circumstances. But for the likes of Marty Wilde, Helen Shapiro and Lonnie Donegan, the hits were starting to dry up: Donegan’s last top 10 single earlier in the year had been the appropriately titled ‘The Party’s Over’.

Most drifted off the rock circuit and, initially at least, struggled as they tried to develop their acts for an older market: ‘I went into cabaret, and I was earning less than when I first started,’ remembered Wilde. ‘It took about two years of grovelling around to start getting anywhere again…’

The Beatles
The Beatles
Harry Hammond (© V&A Images)