The second issue had a front page article about The Beatles’ recordings in Hamburg. Intrigued by what he read, Epstein invited Harry into his office to discuss the local music scene, and asked if he might review new records for Mersey Beat.
The third issue featured the column ‘Stop the World I Want To Get Off – By Brian Epstein Of NEMS’. Epstein also advertised in Mersey Beat; an August 1961 edition had a NEMS advert on the same page as a feature on The Beatles by Cavern DJ Bob Wooler. As a result, Epstein asked Harry if he could arrange a visit to the Cavern, putting in place a chain of events which led to Epstein becoming the group’s manager.
The writing and photographs in Mersey Beat chronicled a formative period for The Beatles and the Liverpool music scene. Between 1961 and 1964 the magazine provided a unique record in the group’s history. Local bands began calling themselves ‘beat groups’ and venues advertised ‘beat sessions’ and ‘beat clubs’.
Mersey Beat’s circulation continued to increase, and the paper began covering groups as far afield as Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield and Newcastle. Once The Beatles found national fame, newspapers began referring to the Liverpool sound as ‘Mersey Beat’.
Suddenly, there was an awareness of being young, and young people wanted their own styles and their own music, just at the time they were beginning to earn money, which gave them the spending power. Mersey Beat was their voice, it was a paper for them, crammed with photos and information about their own groups, which is why it also began to appeal to youngsters throughout Britain as its coverage extended to other areas.
The newspapers, television, theaters and radio were all run by people of a different generation who had no idea of what youngsters wanted. For decades they had manipulated and controlled them, but now the youngsters wanted to create their own fashions.
What existed on the banks of the Mersey between 1958 and 1964 was exciting, energetic and unique, a magical time when an entire city danced to the music of youth.
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Harry went on to manage The Four Pennies, who reached number one in 1964 with their second single Juliet. He and Virginia married and moved to London, where he had columns in Record Retailer, Weekend, Marilyn and Valentine magazines, wrote features for Music Now, and was news editor and columnist for Record Mirror.
Later on he became a press agent for The Kinks, The Hollies and Pink Floyd, and went on to represent artists including The Beach Boys, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Suzi Quatro, Hot Chocolate and Kim Wilde. He also managed press campaigns for a number of major record labels including CBS, Charisma, EMI, Island and Polydor.
In the 1980s he returned to publishing and launched a monthly magazine, Tracks, which was the first of its kind to feature new album releases. He went on to write books, of which more than 20 have been published – many on the subject of The Beatles.
In 1994 Bill Harry was presented with a gold award for a Lifetime Achievement in Music by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA). He has advised on a number of documentaries on The Beatles and Liverpool’s music, and was chosen by the British Council to represent them in Hong Kong to promote The Beatles.
He also works as chief consultant to Rock And Pop Shop, a memorabilia company which produces replica issues of Mersey Beat and art prints of front covers and other images from the magazines.