Sunday, May 3, 2009

For Goodness Sakes!

Liverpool's Swinging Blue Jeans created some of the finest pop rock records of the Merseybeat Boom, including the definitive recording of "Hippy Hippy Shake, " and yet their name is now a mere footnote in rock history. With the exception of The Beatles, many of Liverpool's popular groups found success fleeting once the Merseybeat tag became unhip and passe, and the Jeans were no exception. They continued recording until 1968, but were unable to repeat the success of 1963.

Like most Merseybeat bands, the Swinging Blue Jeans began as a skiffle group as early as 1957 (under the name The Bluegenes). They progressed to trad, changed their name, and developed a local following, which led to a residency in Hamburg's infamous Star-Club . While there, the Blue Jeans concentrated more on rock'n'roll, R&B and country. Upon return to Liverpool, the Blue Jeans obtained residencies at the Mardi Gras and Downbeat clubs. In early 1963, they were signed to the HMV label and recorded their first single, Ray Ennis' "It's Too Late Now," a prime example of the Mersey sound--melodic harmonies, yet musically powerful.

After the enormous success of "Hippy Hippy Shake," which reach number 2 on the UK charts, the lads repeated the same formula on their cover of "Good Golly Miss Molly," which only reached no. eleven. Their next single, a cover of "You're No Good," a song they discovered in a female fan's record collection, reached number 3, but this was to be their last big hit. Their next single was a major disappointment and did not reach the top 50, which in turn effected sales of their debut album. Before the Blue Jeans knew it, the Merseybeat era was over.

Anyone interested in learning more about Merseybeat should search out copies of Spencer Leigh's Let's Go Down The Cavern, and Pete Frame's The Beatles and Some Other Guys: Rock Family Trees. Leigh and Frame are acknowledged as the foremost Merseybeat experts, and their books are essential. I also recommend tracking down the BBC 2 1 hour special on Merseybeat based on Frame's Family Trees. The clip presented here shows the Blue Jeans performing at the 1964 NME Pollwinner's Concert.

(References:"The Swinging Blue Jeans" by Peter Doggett, Record Collector, Dec. 1982 p. 49 - 54; The Beatles and Some Other Guys by Pete Frame; various issues of Disc.)

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