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Which Blair Project with Dr Savage.

A splendid time was guaranteed for all

It’s only a teenager, now in its 15th year, but Beatles Day has grown into a massive event. Last Sunday saw some 70 acts and 350 performers – 95% of the bands are from Hastings – divided between the main stage and the more intimate downstairs space of the White Rock Hotel. Nick Terdre enjoyed the show.

I felt a thrill of excitement as I stepped into the main auditorium to hear Darren Mitchell and Co kick off proceedings at midday with a rocking version of Day Tripper – not quite the tingling feeling which ran down my spine when I first heard Please Please Me in the scout hut more than (whisper it softly) 50 years ago, but enough to set me up nicely for the day.

The feelgood experience was reinforced by regular updates from the comperes, greeted by cheers from the audience, on how much had been raised for Macmillan Cancer Support – at the time of writing the final figure was not available, but Pete Prescott, chair of the Beatles Day committee, reckoned it should be around the level of last year’s event, when £23,000 was raised and some 1,750 enthusiastic punters came through the doors.

Pete Prescott played a session with Roger Carey.

“I was so pleased with this year,” Pete said. “Every so often we get a magical year, and this year was quite stunning. There were a number of bands that just blew everyone away, and this year seemed to be a girls’ year. Brooke Sharkey, for instance, she wasn’t due to appear but she turned up and sang with her father, she was stunning.” He was also very pleased with his own daughter Poppy’s performance.

The back catalogue, as they say, is so rich and varied, there is something for all tastes and many renditions. Lennon and McCartney’s song-writing evolved amazingly over the years to some quite complicated and clever numbers, but I still love the simplicity of the early stuff – it was good to see that I’ll Get You got performed, by Now and Then, though unfortunately I missed it. Will someone maybe do There’s A Place next year?

In the 1960s there was definitely a generation gap – the young went their own way, their parents seethed about it and The Who sang, “Hope I die before I get old”. Fortunately that didn’t happen on a large scale, despite some tragic drug casualties, with the result that nowadays the world, not least Hastings, is stap-full of ageing rockers.

Mick Mepham, a joy to hear and see.

Watching some of them on Sunday – with pleasure, I should make it clear – I can only imagine from seeing all that energy that they’ll still be there in another 10 years, probably performing on their mobility scooters. Bring it on! Whether performing solo, in 90% Proof or Titus, Mick Mepham – who’s probably not that aged yet – was a joy, especially when in 90% Proof’s rendering of Twist and Shout he answered “You know you look so fine!” with a chirpy “Thanks very much!”

There were a lot of loud versions of some numbers, mainly from younger groups. At times I found myself wondering if they’d thought this through. It can’t be right if the music drowns out the words – they’re always worth hearing. And the music tends towards cacophony when played at deafening levels. The Beatles didn’t do that.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like loud music per se. But it was good that there were also plenty of gentler renderings to delight the ear. Birthday girl Vanessa Bell, ably accompanied by Alex Jasper, was a delight, and so was the White Rock Ukelele Orchestra – quite a soft sound, despite their numbers.

And part of the pleasure is that the songs lend themselves to so many interpretations. I just caught the end of jazzy sets from Mike Hatchard and Liam Genocky upstairs and then Mick Bolton and friends downstairs – with two stages to keep an eye on, you can’t help but miss half the music!

But I’m glad I caught The Duo – Sophie Challis and Louis Perritt, Beatles Day veterans despite their tender age of 13-14 years – handing Pete a cheque for £200 earned from busking. Who says the younger generation has gone to pot?

Beatles Day was a massive event. After having my brains (enjoyably) blasted to bits at around 8pm by an impromptu session downstairs with Blair Mackichan, Ed Blakeley, Russell Field and Roger Flack, with an even more impromptu intervention by Dr Savage, I had to call it a day and staggered off home, exhausted but happy – like everyone else, as far as I could see. Macmillan Cancer Support too, I hope.

Photos courtesy of Johnny Powell.

Posted 21:14 Tuesday, Apr 8, 2014 In: Music & Sound

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