1st November 2003
OF THE MERSEYBEATS & LIVERPOOL EXPRESS
By Michael Cimino of Cottage Views Magazine (www.cottageviews.com)
Imagine if you could turn off your mind. Relax. Floating downstream you picture yourself on a ferry crossing a river and you arrive in another time and space. As the queues elongate down narrow streets of cobblestone the colours in your head fade to black and white. On the corner in front of the telephone kiosk a few birds pause their gaggling long enough to scream with delight at the sight of young men approaching in smart suits, guitars in tow.
Youâve just been transported back to Liverpool, 1964, a thriving hotbed of musical mayhem that changed forever the course of modern history. The amount of groups that popped up along the Mersey River at that time is unfathomable… unless, of course, you were there.
One man who was, and thankfully still is, there is Billy Kinsley. As co-founder, vocalist, and bassist for the Merseybeats and the Merseys, Mr. Kinsley holds the distinct honour of not only being personal friends with The Beatles, but also happens to have been the opening act for Liverpoolâs #1 export more times than any one else.
Music historians have never forgotten the hits that Kinsley and Co placed on the charts in those halcyon days, and now with the reformation of his hit making 70âs team, Liverpool Express, the ever-pleasant man with a mind for detail is ready to take on the charts once more.
Promoting his latest recording, a clever dedication to his mates ãJohn, George, Ringo & Paul,ä and a compilation of his best work with Liverpool Express (sometimes abbreviated to LEX), Billy Kinsley wants to talk about it all, and let you in on his plans for a new record, and possible stateside appearances.
Taking some time out of his busy schedule of rehearsals and appearances with the Merseybeatsâ other founding father, Tony Crane, Billy spoke to Cottage Views in New York, via telephone, all the way from Liverpool at length.
C. V.: I guess the big news is that you and Roger Scott Craig have been putting together some songs for a new Liverpool Express record?
Billy Kinsley: yeah. Itâs quite exciting really. We havenât written together for a long, long time. Weâve just done three in the last couple of months and weâre really knocked out with them. I realized how much Iâve missed him. Iâve written with other people in the meantime and nothing was as good as with Roger. We just gel together, I think.
C. V.: Whatâs been happening since the last Liverpool Express album?
B. K.: In all those years? I was concentrating on the studio that we had, sadly· (laughs). Basically we lost a lot of money on it, so that was a few years, and eventually I went back with the Merseybeats and thatâs what Iâve been doing for the last ten years. Itâs only Tony Crane and myself from the original band. The original drummer John Banks died and Aaron Williams, the
other guitarist, packed in many years ago.
C. V.: Here in the states a lot of people donât know who Liverpool Express were.
B. K.: Thatâs right. I think we got one record right down the bottom of the charts in the states, that was all. Itâs been strange for me because with Liverpool Express we sold a lot more records than the Merseybeats. We had
bigger hits all over the world and yet the Merseybeats is the one band, mainly, that Iâm known for, and the Merseys as well, of course.
C. V.: How did Liverpool Express get together?
B. K.: Are you into soccer? (laughs) Well, thatâs the reason. We were all into soccer, and we literally met on a five a side football pitch just outside Liverpool. Iâd known Roger for about three or four months ö we had been playing soccer together ö and then he approached me and said, ÎI didnât realize that you are the same Billy Kinsley as the guy whoâs on the radio.â I had this record of the week on the BBC at the time. I had one solo record out
called ãAnnabellaä and he loved it. He found it weird that we had been playing football together and he didnât know it was me. He had been going on to all his friends about this record until somebody finally told him.
C. V.: Did you know he was a musician?
B. K.: Yeah, we were all musicians.
C. V.: In the early days of the Merseybeats, and the Merseys, you didnât write a lot of music but with Liverpool Express itâs all original compositions, isnât it?
B. K.: Yeah. We were very young. In fact, I was first in the charts when I was 16 years of age and to be honest it wasnât street cred, you know what I mean? It was sort of embarrassing to be 16, because we were just kids really. We were probably one of the first boy bands in the world (laughs). I was 16, Tony was 18, and the older guys in the band were 19 or 20. So we were a lot younger than the other bands out of Liverpool. Before the Beatles made it big, most of the British stars ö the ones who didnât write – and there werenât many who did write their own songs ö would go to Denmark Street which is where all of the music publishers were. That was locally known as Tin Pan Alley. Thatâs where we got all of our stuff. The first record we ever made wasnât from Tin Pan Alley, actually. It was a Shirells song called ãItâs Love that Really Counts,ä which was a Bacharach and David song. I think we were the first ones to have a hit with a cover of a Bacharach and David. It was only a Top 30, but nevertheless I think we discovered Bacharach and David before anybody else. Itâs a big thing to say really, but I think itâs true.
C. V.: I know a lot of the Liverpool groups were into Motown, but Bacharach and David was an American thing.
B. K.: It was very American. We knew all of the Brill building writers ö Carol King and Neil Sedaka and Gerry Goffin and people like that, so we were well aware of who was writing what. Itâs a pity that we didnât write (laughs). I think it was because we were very young.
C. V.: How did you find you voice as a songwriter?
B. K.: It was when the Merseybeats split up and I got together with Jimmy Campbell. Heâs an old friend of mine from Liverpool. He was in a band called the Curbies in the old Beatle days ö in â62 and â63. Good band, but Jimmy as a writer was exceptional. I learned a lot from Jimmy. We did an album, all originals, called Rockin’ Horse that was raved about. It was a throwback to our early sixties days. It was a throwback to the Brill building writers, and all the people we loved and grew up with. Thatâs when I got the bug, and Iâve never stopped writing.
C. V.: Didnât Joey Molland play on one of those records?
B. K.: Joey played on the second album, which was Half Baked. It was a track called ãDonât Leave Me Now,ä that was acclaimed all over Britain. I donât believe it was released as a single but it got an awful lot of air time. That was the track that Joey and I played on with Jimmy and a guy named Pete Clark. It was just as Joey had joined Badfinger.
C. V.: I understand that you and Joey were about to form a band of your own when the call came from Apple Records to audition for the Iveys.
B.K.: Thatâs right. We had been auditioning drummers for about three or four weeks. Just jamming every day with a different drummer and then the phone call came through. I had been previously working at Apple. Iâd been with Jackie Lomax doing a lot of recording for Paul McCartney and George Harrison and Peter Asher. I said to Joey, ÎLook, thereâs a band called the Iveys that really rate. Iâve seen them a couple of times at the Cavern and I got to know them. They want a guitarist. Go for it, Joey, youâll get it.â So, he went down, got the job, and I didnât see him for ten years after that (laughs). He was thrilled and he was perfect for it.
C. V.: He said at first he was reluctant, because he thought they were too Pop.
B.K.: Thatâs right. He did. Joey and I by that time, when we were getting our band together, were very much into Free and I think thatâs the way we would have gone. I think we would have stayed as a three piece. Obviously, we could handle the lead vocals ourselves. Unfortunately, Pete Clark wasnât around then. He would have been the ideal third person, but he vanished somewhere in America and we couldnât get a hold of him. It would have been interesting to see if Joey hadnât have joined Badfinger. We would have obviously ended up together in a band – probably a mixture of Badfinger and Liverpool Express. Itâs all in the same vein. Joey and I were always into the same kind of music. I donât know, Liverpool Express was different music to what Joey and I were into at the time. Itâs like, they were the musicians we were searching for. Roger Craig is one amazing keyboard player. Heâs not actually from Liverpool. He came over from Northern Ireland. He was at college in Belfast when all the IRA bombings were going on. Eventually he quit and came to Liverpool and became a professional musician.
C. V.: Has Liverpool Express now been truncated to LEX?
B.K.: Not really, no. The third album that we did was produced by Tommy Boyce and an English guy called Richard Hartley. They thought that Liverpool Express was a bit of a long title so they said, ÎWhy donât you just abbreviate it, like Electric Light Orchestra became ELO, so why canât Liverpool Express become LEX?â So, it was going to be done progressively with the albums, so thatâs why the third album was called LEX by Liverpool Express. We thought that maybe people would recognize LEX as Liverpool Express and weâll become that, but it never happened because the album really wasnât released. It was a hit in South America and in Europe but it wasnât even released in Britain.
C. V.: So, now the disc that we can get here in the states, via mail order, is a compilation of the three albums that you did between 1976 and 1979?
C. V.: And there is one new song, the tribute to The Beatles, ãJohn, George, Ringo & Paul.ä When did you record that?
B.K.: We recorded that about five years ago, actually. But Roger altered a lot of it. The original drum pattern was like a ãFree As a Birdä type of thing. It was a heavy Ringo snare drum and high-hat, and Roger changed it to a more up to date pattern.
C. V.: Other groups, including Ringo himself, and to a certain degree George doing ãWhen We Was Fab,ä have done these type of things before but the way that Liverpool Express has approached it is really quite clever. Who came up with the idea for it?
B.K.: It was all Rogerâs idea. Basically, itâs his work of art. He worked on it a lot and Iâd like to see it happen for him one day because heâs always believed in this song, and, as you say, it was very clever the way he put it together.
C. V.: After hearing the compilation I canât wait to hear the new stuff.
B. K.: I think weâve got the songs for a full album. Iâve put five down already!
To purchase The Best of Liverpool Express send check or money order for $15.00 plus $4.99 shipping and handling to Every Man Records, PMB 344, 6400 Baltimore National Pike, Baltimore, MD 21228. Credit card orders can be taken at www.liverpoolexpress.com.