Halfway to Paradise


The Birth of British Rock

In 1954, just weeks after the end of rationing in Britain, Bill Haley and his Comets broke into the charts with their single ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll’. Over the course of the next ten years the country was transformed completely as it moved from Austerity to the Swinging Sixties.

A crucial part of that development was the music that soundtracked the nation’s evolution. Home-grown artists like Lonnie Donegan, Cliff Richard and Adam Faith emerged from the shadows of the American stars (Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly), and laid the ground for the British invasion that was to sweep America and then the world.

For nearly two decades Harry Hammond was Britain’s leading showbiz photographer. Starting in the late-1940s, his camera captured the definitive images of virtually every leading British musician, as well as those of visiting Americans. From Tommy Steele to the Beatles, from Shirley Bassey to Dusty Springfield, from trad to r&b, he shot them all. In the process, he caught too the early days of British rock television.

Drawing on this invaluable archive, Halfway to Paradise tells the story of Britain’s embrace – and ultimate domination – of rock and roll, from the skiffle craze to the arrival of Merseybeat.

Halfway to Paradise
The Birth of British Rock

by Alwyn W Turner
photographs by Harry Hammond
to be published by V&A Publishing, October 2008

click to enlarge