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18th August, 2022

From Beat-star to Buddhist: We’re celebrating Beryl Marsden’s 60-year career.

We had the pleasure of welcoming Beryl Marsden to The Beatles Story ahead of her show “Beryl Marsden in Concert” at The Epstein Theatre in Liverpool. Beryl started her singing career in the Merseybeat scene alongside such names as The Beatles and Cilla Black and was considered one of the most successful female singers in the city and one of Merseybeat’s greatest acts.

Competition: Enter here to win 2 free tickets to “Beryl Marsden in Concert,” a backstage meet and greet with Beryl, a signed postcard and CD, as well as 2 free tickets to The Beatles Story, and a signed copy of ‘The Birth of The Beatles Story’ by Mike and Bernadette Byrne. 

 

Could you talk us through your upcoming show at The Epstein Theatre? 

I was having lunch with the producer Bill Elms from the theatre, and we were talking about this year being 60 years since I first started to sing, and he suggested we do something at the Epstein theatre. I thought – that’s a bit scary but go on then! I do love the Epstein it’s a beautiful intimate theatre. I didn’t want it to just be a show, with just songs so it’s a more of a chat as well, going through different periods of my life and career. There’s a couple of guests doing Beatles songs – Daniel Taylor, who is currently in a musical called "Something About George," Ralph Kluseman - who is the President of the Iowa Rock'n'Roll Museum, and Gillian Hardie who did a musical a few years back playing me! She was wonderful and she went on to do great things in theatre. And, of course, Karl Terry, I adore him. The show is a celebration and I’m hoping to make it a bit of a party. Billy Butler is going to host it as well. We’ve got a great band too: Joel Goldberg (Bass), Adam Goldberg (Drums), Luke Heague (Guitar) and Dave Goldberg (MD and Keyboard) – Dave is in the successful tribute band Rumours of Fleetwood Mac!


 

Which songs can people expect to hear at the gig?

They’ll hear ‘I Could Feel The Whole World Turn Around’ from my Shotgun Express days which I’ve never done live before. There will be the songs I first started out singing like ‘Boys’ and ‘Baby Its You.’ Some rock and roll and a couple of original songs that no one will have heard yet! It’s a nice mixture. And I love Carole King, she wrote incredible songs, so I’ll be doing ‘It’s Too Late’ as well.

 

The show is a celebration of your 60-year career. What within your career are you most proud of?

That’s a hard one! I’m most proud that I’m still going and that I still can sing, and I still love it! It was a bit strange that someone wanted to do a musical about me, and it was amazing to see someone playing me. The other special thing was doing shows with the likes of The Beatles and being on the same bill with people like Little Richard. And performing at The Star-Club in Hamburg – can’t beat it.

Replica of the Star-Club at The Beatles Story, Liverpool.

 

Which famous person did you most enjoy meeting in your career? 

This is one of my wonderful moments – I met the lead singer of The Shirelles a few years ago, Shirley, and that’s the only time I’ve been totally gobsmacked! When we met, she went “oh hi, Beryl, I believe you sing some of my songs!” I was like “Yes, I try!” And she said, “I love that top.” I had this black t-shirt with music notes on and I was like “do you want it? I’ll take it off you can have it!” She was lovely, very humble - I find a lot of those artists from that time are.

 

Liverpool’s music scene in the early 60s must have been a really exciting time for the city, how did it feel to be a part of that? Did you know at the time that it was special and destined to become massive? 

Being part of it was amazing and, in a way, I didn’t really realise until later how amazing it was. It’s like, when you’re in it you’re kind of in it, so it’s like taking a step back years later when you go “wow!” Great venues, great music – to be able to at 14 to 15 years come out and be able to just listen to the music, as there was no alcohol in The Cavern, so it was just pure adrenaline for the music. I did feel it was something special; not thinking “oh The Beatles are going to go on and do this…” or “a lot of the music is gonna go on and do incredible things around the world” I don’t even think The Beatles thought that at the time to be honest, but I do feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to be part of it and to listen to so many wonderful bands.

Beryl at The Cavern Club, Liverpool.
[Image by David Munn]


Who did you like to listen to in those Merseybeat days? 

The Beatles obviously! I loved The Undertakers I thought they were an amazing band because there weren’t many bands with saxophones at the time, you know. And The Big Three, we used to look at them like how you’d look at a big older brother because they seemed a bit naughty. And they had mad yellow suits! I liked The Hollies, Howie Casey and the Seniors, Faron’s Flamingos, and I loved Rory Storm. He was an incredible showman – well before his time. There are too many to mention!

Beryl at The Beatles Story, Liverpool.


Like a number of Merseybeat performers at the time, you also went over to Hamburg to perform – but you were a little younger than the other acts. How do you think your experience of Hamburg differed to that of the other older acts at the time?

I had to be out the club by 10 o’clock - put into a taxi to the hotel, but now and then I’d creep out! I only came out when my chaperone Joe Flannery allowed me to come out. He’d say “right you can come out tonight because Ray Charles is on,” or “Jerry Lee Lewis is playing,” you know… what’s funny when you think about it is The Reeperbahn was in the naughty bit of Hamburg, and I was just skipping down the street – not a clue! I was only 16 at the time. I didn’t realise it whatsoever.

 

Have you been back to Hamburg since?

I have and I’ve done a few shows there since. There are still a few of the old clubs around – the Kaiserkeller is still around.

 

You supported The Beatles in 1965. How was it to experience that and Beatlemania? 

I supported their last tour in the country in 1965. I remember it clearly because it was quite snowy. I was angry, because as soon as the curtain opened on The Beatles – the screams just seemed to go on and on. Beatlemania made it impossible for them to perform live. I was quite lucky because they listened to me and clapped, and it was really nice – but for them it was just awful, and they hated it. Or if they jokingly just said something like “I really like jelly babies” they were bombarded with them. I’m looking at these people and thinking you’re crazy! You’re missing one of the greatest rock and roll bands on the planet. So, you’ve got all these people who never really heard The Beatles live, and then they retired from it. It’s sad really.

 

Beryl in the 1960s.


Shotgun Express seems an interesting group of people! Mick Fleetwood and Peter Green went on to form Fleetwood Mac! And Rod Stewart was in the band too. How did that come to be?

The band came together through the Gunnells, who were an agency who also had some clubs – like The Flamingo and the Bag O’Nails. They saw Rod and they saw me somewhere, and Peter Bardens, who Peter Green and Mick Fleetwood were playing with at the time and thought it would be a good combination to put together. We worked hard – we did a lot of gigs, you know. I think the sad thing is that they didn’t do photographs of the whole band. It was always just me, Rod, and Peter Barden –which is a shame. We did covers, and the guys were all so good. We did a lot of the university circuit. And we did gigs with the likes of Cream. We made a couple of records, and then Peter was getting more into the Blues, so he left. After a few replacements we called it a day, but I’m still good friends with Mick!

 

Shotgun Express, October 1968.
[Left to right: Rod Stewart, Beryl Marsden, Peter Bardens.]


You then joined a band called The She Trinity – a full-female band must have been rare in the 60s? How was that received at the time and did you enjoy your time with the band?

I knew Barbara ­­Thompson who’s a great musician, and she, like me, thought “I wonder what it’s like to just work with women?” So out of curiosity I joined. I didn’t record anything with She-Trinity, although some people think I did. And we just did the American air bases in Germany, and a couple weeks in France. And that was it. Some people saw it as a bit of a gimmick until people realised that we could sing and play and then the attitude changed.

 

In the 80s you joined Martha Reeves and The Vandellas – could you talk a little about how you got into that and what that was like?

I have a friend Sally who used to do quite a lot of tours with people. She called and said “listen, I know you like Martha Reeves, would you fancy doing a little tour? But we’ll have to leave tomorrow without a rehearsal, and we’ll have to learn on the way” imagine that! I was like “uhm.. go on then yeah! Lets do it!” I get in this van, and she didn’t talk to us. I remember her sitting in the front with this big fur coat on and I think she was still a bit upset because the two girls she had been rehearsing with walked out. But we became friends in the end, Martha and I, and ended up doing another two short tours together. That was quite incredible because I loved Motown.


Do you think it was harder back then for women in the industry than it was for men? 

I think for acts in America it was. But for some reason I didn’t feel it for me. I know some women did. But maybe it was because I was part of the guys who were always like my big brothers in a way, and I felt respected fortunately.


Could you talk us through your spirituality and how you came to find your faith? 

I’ve been doing it a long time now, 45 years this year! You know, people say, clean your teeth – look after your teeth. Well chant – look after your inside. Your spiritual self. I chant two times everyday, once in the morning and once in the evening, for around an hour. The chant I do is "Nam-myo-Ho-Renge-Kyo."

I think everyone at some point starts questioning life itself, and what’s it really all about, who am I? what am I here for? And I saw The Beatles going in the way of Indian philosophy, with the Maharishi. But I wasn’t too sure about that. We shared little bits and pieces, but I was more interested in Buddhism. When I was 14 I read a book about Buddhism – and I really liked it but thought it looked really hard to do. It was about giving up lots of things and I didn’t want to.

I would say when I was about 29 I had a difficult time and a bit of a violent time with my marriage so then all these questions, again, came up. I tried Transcendental Meditation for a few weeks, but it wasn’t for me. I then went to London and bumped into Hilton Valentine who I knew from the 60s from The Animals. And he said “come to this meeting with me I think you’ll find it really interesting” - a Buddhist meeting based on the idea that everyone has Buddhahood - it’s a life state. I love the chant - I love chanting, which puts you in touch. Drawing out this Buddha state and connecting to the Buddha state of everything around us.

"Buddhism, founded in the late 6th century B.C.E. by Siddhartha Gautama (the "Buddha"), is an important religion in most of the countries of Asia." - asiasociety.org 

 

You were portrayed in the ITV show Cilla – what was it like to see yourself portrayed on screen?

It was very interesting because they had me appearing and singing a Cilla Black song, “Love of the Loved,” though I’ve never sung that song in my life! They didn’t reach out to me when writing the show, and they got bits wrong. When the show came out, I got calls from a newspaper, and they were trying to find negative things and I was like “no, I’m not interested, sorry. I’ve got nothing to say” And I’ve had that most of my life – that comparison to Cilla. And I say, you know, why do you have to compare anybody, everyone’s good at what they do in their own right. I’ve never got into that stuff. I respect Cilla, I have nothing negative to say at all.

 

Which artists of today do you like to listen to?

During covid I used to dance round the flat like a diva, because my son bought me an Alexa, to BTS. I’d just jump up when I was feeling a bit down – put it on and just dance, you know. So, I’ve got into a bit of K-Pop – I’m fascinated by it. I was trying to do the dance moves though and I need someone to teach me!  

 

For more information on ‘Beryl Marsden in Concert’ and to book tickets see here, or if you’re feeling lucky see our competition below!

Competition: Enter below to win 2 free tickets to “Beryl Marsden in Concert,” a backstage meet and greet with Beryl, a signed postcard and CD, as well as 2 free tickets to The Beatles Story, and a signed copy of ‘The Birth of The Beatles Story’ by Mike and Bernadette Byrne.

Mason Griffiths

Mason is the Marketing and PR Executive at The Beatles Story.

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