The Quarrymen, which began as a John Lennon-led, skiffle band in Liverpool, in 1956, eventually morphed into the Beatles. The band was quickly named after the Quarry Bank High School, which Lennon and Rod Davis attended. Lennon had charmed his way into the hearts of his fellow students and friends, convincing them that they could create a band though few of the original members had training in an instrument.

But, that was fine. The wonderful thing about “skiffle” was that it was an all encompassing genre which initially required no more than a basic understanding of chords, simple instruments, such as the tea-chest bass and wash board, more traditional instruments, such as banjos and guitars, a great deal of enthusiasm and, a drum kit would be icing on the cake.

Of course, those bands which could boast pleasant harmonies, strong lead singing and actual skill on an instrument would outlive the others, but that fact would come about in time. The Quarrymen ultimately added on new members, George Harrison and Paul McCartney, who, along with Lennon found themselves more drawn to rock and roll, while founding members, Eric Griffiths, Rod Davis, Len Garry and Colin Hanton went off in separate directions.

But, thankfully, these original members revamped their careers in 1997 at a Liverpool benefit. This CD, ‘Songs We Remember’ encapsulates the wealth of music these “early” Beatles explored so well. Everything about the album, from the photographs of the men traipsing around the docks of Liverpool, pensive close-ups of Davis scraping his fingers across a wash board, the men sharing pints, the band rehearsing in a dimly-lit room to Garry scribing notes across a notebook, while propping up his acoustic guitar, illustrate the band’s remarkable history. Hunter Davies, who wrote the only authorized biography of The Beatles in 1968, wrote the comprehensive introduction to the enclosed lyrics booklet.

Sakito Shirabe from the High-Lows lends exuberant support by way of bass and Mike Neary offers up additional magic with his fine piano chops. But, the most fascinating element of this CD is how this quartet managed to articulate traditional sea-shanty type songs (‘Maggie May) alongside early rock and roll extravaganzas (‘That’ll Be The Day’) and even lauded one which became an American anti-war anthem (‘Down by the Riverside’).

The other surprise is how the Quarrymen, which has such amazing energy live, has brought that expression of vitality to this production. ‘Maggie May’ is peppered with cynicism, after all it’s about “that dirty, rotten, no-good” gal who will “never walk down High Street anymore.” But, the fact that she’s a rotten apple doesn’t detract from the band’s youthful harmonies, and escalating tempo changes before the outro.

The next two, ‘I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone’ and Eddie Cochran’s ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ hammer home more intensity. The latter is half-spoken, packed with rhythm, loaded up with honky-tonk touches and seamlessly outlined in bass.

‘Come Go With Me’ by composer, Clarence Quick, is a Doo Wop venture and comes as a complete surprise after the earlier skiffle and rock and roll tracks. The acapella harmonies at the onset bring out a different vocal texture and a chance to hear the vocals spread out between Davis and Garry.

Claude De Metruis wrote ‘Mean Woman Blues’ and the men give it a run for its money. “I got a woman mean as she can be/Kiss so hard she bruise my lips/Hurts so good/My heart just flips.” It’s fun, nasty and joyous in that inimitable rock and roll way.

Buddy Holly’s ‘That’ll Be The Day’ is another period piece. But, ‘Putting on the Style’ which separates the two, allows for some old-fashioned finger-picking. Further down the line, ‘Memphis Tennessee’ which was a big hit for Johnny Rivers in the States and which is more toned-down instrumentally, is a ballad about a dad wishing to reconnect with his daughter, ‘Baby, Let’s Play House’ features some wonderful vocals and a rollicking solo courtesy of Neary.

‘In Spite of All the Danger,’ is very reminiscent of that early Beatles sound, rich with harmony and perfectly structured. It pits the perils of love against the hopes of everlasting romance.

‘All Shook Up’ and the Carl Perkins penned ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ allow Len Garry to incite his inner Elvis. He does it well, though it’s his own sensibility that shines through. The song that skyrocketed the skiffle movement is here, too, and that’s Lonnie Donegan’s 'Rock Island Line’ which encompasses a driving train-like percussive feel, a meaty narrative and an emphatic, contagious hook.

To wrap it up, the band embraces the Lennon/McCartney ballad, ‘In My Life’ as a bonus track. ‘Songs We Remember’ is immensely educational and a must for collectors, but also a blistering array of energy and skill. You have to credit the Quarrymen for taking us back while making this journey so explicit, memorable and fun.











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