Unseen photographs of Merseybeat scene go on display at Museum of Liverpool

Beyond the Beat showcases photos of unknown local bands and international artists performing in 1960s Liverpool.

16 unseen photographs of musicians from Liverpool’s bustling 1960s Merseybeat era will go on display this June, as Beyond the Beat (29 June to 3 November) at Museum of Liverpool explores the music scene in Liverpool’s bustling nightclubs in the period immediately after the Beatles.

The display will showcase some of the bands that clamoured to play Liverpool’s music scene in the wake of The Beatles monumental fame, through a series of never-before-seen photographs of Liverpool’s Merseybeat scene.

At the heart of the display are international artists who hoped to play in Liverpool and local bands with dreams of following in the Fab Four’s footsteps – including photographs of two currently unidentified bands that curators are keen to track down.

Artists from rock and blues backgrounds including The Yardbirds, The Hollies, John Lee Hooker and Spencer Davis Group, feature in the display alongside local artists that performed during this important era.

Following the stratospheric success of The Beatles and Liverpool’s Merseybeat sound, musicians would flock to play the clubs of Mathew Street, including some of history’s most influential American blues artists.

Front and centre were an army of photographers, including Bill Connell and Les Chadwick from Liverpool studio Peter Kaye Photography. The company documented the performances and crowds that danced to the beat of the clubs during the swinging 60s.

Museum of Liverpool purchased 912 negative strips from Peter Kaye Photography with photographs documenting many different elements of Liverpool life.

From this selection of negatives, 16 never-before-seen images were chosen to go on display for the first time in Museum of Liverpool’s Skylight Gallery for Beyond the Beat. With hundreds more archived in the museum’s collections.

Claire Hunter, assistant curator at Museum of Liverpool, said, “The Beatles may have dominated Liverpool’s music scene in the 1960s, but following their departure from the stages of Mathew Street, hundreds of artists wanted a chance to walk in their footsteps.

“This small selection of photographs, taken from a huge archive by Peter Kaye Photography, captures the essence of the Merseybeat scene. The energy of the clubs, the enthusiasm of the crowds and the power of the musicians to captivate their audiences.

“Beyond the Beat looks past the Fab Four and at some of the local, national and international artists that made the city swing.”

Alongside well-known acts and local bands, two unknown Liverpool acts feature in the display and Museum of Liverpool curators are keen to find out more about both bands. The unknown bands are both thought to be local musicians from Liverpool, but not much more is known about either group.

Museum curators are asking people with information about either of the unknown bands on display to email beyondthebeat@liverpoolmuseums.org.uk.

Beyond the Beat is on display and free to visit in Museum of Liverpool’s Skylight Gallery from Saturday 29 June until Sunday 3 November 2024. For more information, please visit: www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/beyond-the-beat.

Image: The Hollies performing at The Cavern Club

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