A few months ago a student at LIPA sent me an e-mail saying I should listen to a track from 1963 on the phillipsacetates.com site. Could it be me? He asked. He was right. On the Phillips site it then said “unknown band” …..I contacted Peter Phillips grandson of Percy Phillips who made ALL the demo discs in Liverpool at the time and went to see him at his London home. Here’s our acetate by my then scouse band “Savva and the Democrats” It’s 4 rock n roll / r&b covers and sounds surprisingly fresh.

When I left Peter’s flat I came away with one word lodged deep in my mind “integrity”. As a muso who has spent his life preserving his own integrity despite the “come hithers” to compromise beyond a point which I’d feel uncomfortable with ……..

So there is more than a pile of old acetates and piccies etc to the Phillips story and any treatment needs to start imho with a portrait of Granpa his family heritage and context of his life – the context to his enquiring mind is developed in a handwritten note Peter Phillips showed me re the other scientific and technical inventors of the Victorian and Edwardian age.

Pete with Pete Phillips December 2016
Additionally Granpa (as Sir Paul affectionately named him) needs to be seen in the social context of Liverpool and the abject poverty in which many of its inhabitants lived in the first half of C20. The principal employer – dockers and stevedores and all related trades – were paid on the lump by the job with absolutely no guarantee of income. Ken Grant a “social” photographer and scouser has created many miles of footage and stills of pre-war and immediate post war 40s to 60s inner city life.

A third factor which must have driven Granpa was (and is) the extraordinary and for England unique contribution of Merseyside to the cultural life of the country – and pre WWll – the “Empire” (no not Moss’s Empires!) in music drama comedy poetry creative writing art etc. Three contributions made this possible, the early black population, Welsh and Irish all of whom released themselves through self-expression.

The cultural outpouring in folk arts – particularly the melodic & harmonic component from the Celtic origins, combined with the rhythmic development from listening to American records introduced by the many crews and ships bands plying the Atlantic trade merged into so called “Merseybeat”. Granpa’s catalogue is full of examples Ken Dodd and Ron Wycherley (later named Billy Fury by Larry Parnes). Percy sold all forms of hardware and software in those days including American C&W and blues – I guess several years before the Epstein family founded NEMS (record department in Whitechapel Liverpool).

Pete Phillips with the Quarrymen demo from 1959/60. Don’t drop it!

The contribution from the long standing Afro and Afro-Carib population was also important on Merseyside although there is no record in the available Phillips catalogue. The Jacaranda Steel Band was the best known of these. They consisted of steel “pans” covering bass mid and treble accompanied by a rhythm guitar. I played with the Jac for a while and learned a great deal.

 

The Catalogue 

The catalogue is a unique representation of the culture of Percy’s time; football, comedy, speech and music of all kinds are all there. All of this can lead to a highly visual presentation which given the mythology of “the Fabs” feeds the curiosity of the millions of fans around the world who want to know “where did it come from”. Granpa is absolutely central to this story. ARS was much later; but still they mill around and use that crossing for piccies!!

A recording by “M2” is interesting. I suspect that this is probably S&G whilst Paul was doing his solo tour of folk clubs. He played several in the North West including “The Wash House” run by Pete McGovern in Sampson and Barlows basement in London Road and at The Central Hotel in Birkenhead run by The Leesiders. I’m going to do some detective work …… I shall speak with Mick from the Spinners who still lives in Moreton to see if I can find any of the organisers details. I’ll need to corroborate Paul (S) tour dates. BBC archives did a few pre-records of Paul when he was here, strangely for Religious Broadcasting! so there are a couple of UK avenues to pursue before contacting Paul. The feel is so similar to the Tom & Jerry single they did and the Wednesday Morning 3 am album. 

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