The Tower Ballroom |
“From New Brighton Tower to Gartson Baths the 'beat' (beat for rhythm, not beatniks) groups thump, shout, kick, and tremble in pubs, clubs and church halls…”
— Derek Jewell | The Sunday Times | September 1963
The beautiful sands that stretched for miles along the North-West coast made New Brighton, on the Wirral Peninsula, a hugely popular seaside resort at the turn of the Twentieth Century. It offered the plus-perfect setting for a world-class landmark. And when the New Brighton Tower opened in 1900, the steel lattice observation tower—567 feet high—was the tallest building in Great Britain—and would have been seen as a most attractive alternative to the Blackpool Tower, some 25 miles further up the coast, and the Eiffel Tower, in Paris. Both of which had been completed to great public fanfare ten years previously.
To add even more to its enticement—the New Brighton Tower was set in large, beautifully landscaped grounds that boasted a boating lake, a funfair, botanical gardens, a small zoo, and a sports ground with full-size football pitch, as well as a motorcycle speedway track. Was it any wonder, then, that it advertised itself as "the finest place of amusement in the entire Kingdom".
"I SAW HER STANDING THERE…"
THE NEW BRIGHTON TOWER | WALLASEY | c.1910
And yet, even with all that, and more, the New Brighton Tower was forced to close in 1919 due to a downturn in business and a total lack of maintenance during World War One, and it was dismantled and the metal sold off for scrap. The four-storey, Gothic-style building at its base—that housed the huge Tower Ballroom—was however left intact and continued to prove a very popular attraction during the big band era of the Thirties and Forties. But as the Fifties progressed—despite the pulling power of such star attractions as Joe Loss and his Orchestra—both the resort and ballroom fell increasingly out of fashion.
THE BEATLES | AT THE TOWER BALLROOM | NEW BRIGHTON
The Beatles played the Tower Ballroom on numerous occasions—from November 1961 to July 1963—initially for Sam Leach, and then for Brian Epstein and Bob Wooler. There are still people who say that anyone who saw The Beatles at 'The Tower' during the ‘Sam Leach era’ saw the band playing at the very peak of their powers as 'live' performers.
The New Brighton 'Tower' Ballroom was re-discovered—reinvigorated—and, later, even managed by—by Sam Leach—the visionary Liverpool promoter—whose one of many brainwaves it was to present 'Operation Big Beat' at 'The Tower'.
A five-plus-hours, one-low price, multi-group extravaganza—‘Rocking to Merseyside’s Top 5 Groups’—The Beatles—Rory Storm and The Hurricanes—Gerry & The Pacemakers—The Remo Four—and Kingsize Taylor and The Dominoes.
The Rock 'n' Roll Venue That Changed The Name Of The Game On Merseyside
THE NEW BRIGHTON 'TOWER' | THE FUNFAIR AND CROWDS | IN THE 1950s
In 2011, at a ceremony—fittingly attended by Sam Leach—a Merseyside ‘Heritage’ Blue Plaque was erected in New Brighton to commemorate The Beatles’ twenty-seven performances at ‘The Tower Ballroom’. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yet still no mention anywhere of our Sam—the man who set the whole rockin' thing in motion.
And that's a real crying shame. Sam Leach died 21 Dec. 2016.
How does anyone top that? The irrepressible, indefatigable Sam Leach turned round and did it all again—two weeks later—with the same line up—and again broke all attendance records.
Then to top that—he secured all available, future, Friday-night dates at 'The Tower' and launched the Biggest ‘Beat’ Programme ever undertaken by anyone—in all of Great Britain.
Sam Leach’s subsequent groundbreaking series of ‘Big Beat’ sessions continued to break records and galvanized the entire Merseyside beat scene—with every group of any standing now clamoring to play ‘The Tower’. And not just Merseyside groups.
In time, even such rock luminaries as Little Richard, Bruce Channel, Joe Brown and His Bruvvers, and the Rolling Stones played to massive audiences at the New Brighton Tower.
And all because of the towering audacity—and towering dreams—of one extraordinary man—Sam Leach.
It was ‘Big Beat’ rockin’ on a scale never before witnessed—that attracted an audience of well over 4,000 twisting, jiving, shouting, screaming, deliriously happy and ecstatic beat-fans. And that—almost unbelievably—on one of the foggiest nights in living memory—smashed all previous attendance records at ‘The Tower’ to pieces.
Whether or not you've read The One After 9:09—it should come as little or no surprise to learn—given how eager everyone was to dance to the thudding beat—that one of the most popular attractions at the ‘Big Beat’ extravaganzas—was the 'King Twist' and 'Miss Twist' dance competitions. The very first 'Miss Twist' dance heat—surprise, surprise—being won by none other than Sam Leach's future wife. (Not that he or the lovely, little, blonde, Miss Joan McEvoy—who won the prize dancing with her sister Vera—would have had any inkling of that at the time. I mean—Fair's fair! How could they have done?
But then again—as Sam Leach was sometimes heard to say— "All's fair in love and war".)
THE TOWER BALLROOM | AFTER SAM LEACH
SAM LEACH | LAUNCHES THE BIGGEST BEAT PROGRAMME EVER UNDERTAKEN |
SAM LEACH FIRST HAD THE IDEA OF BOOKING LITTLE RICHARD TO APPEAR AT THE TOWER BALLROOM | BUT IN THE EVENT HE WAS OUTBID BY BRIAN ESPTEIN | WHO WENT ON TO FORM A PARTNERSHIP WITH BOB WOOLER
THE TOWER BALLROOM | A SINGULAR TWIST OF FATE
THE 'TWIST' COMPETITIONS | AT 'THE TOWER'
THE BEATLES | RORY STORM AND THE HURRICANES |
HIT THE STAGE AT SAM LEACH'S 'OPERATION BIG BEAT'