By Anthony Hogan
Reviewed by Arthur Adlen
I saw Rory Storm and the Hurricanes on stage in 1963. I think it was at an all-nighter at the Iron Door. I was 14 and had told my mum and dad I was going to a party in a mate’s house. If it wasn’t at the Iron Door it must have been the Cavern. Well, things have got a bit hazy after 50-odd years, but I definitely saw them. Well, you couldn’t forget!
They were the top band in Liverpool at the time, and were famous before Gerry and the Pacemakers, and even the Beatles. Until then there was only Billy Fury who was famous as a pop singer from Liverpool. Of course, the city had produced big stars like George Melly and Lita Roza, but they weren’t for the likes of me, or other teenagers who had been convinced by the media that we were rebellious and a threat to decent society! We wanted something new, and found it in rock ‘n’ roll.
One of the great things about hearing these bands was that their voices sounded like mine, that nasal twang that Arthur Askey said was caused by the draught from the Mersey Tunnel. Those singing voices also had an American edge, something I still suffer from to this day. It was a great time to grow up.
A couple of years later Allen Ginsberg said, “Liverpool is the centre of consciousness of the human universe.” And we all said, “Yeah, we know.” Rory Storm epitomised that cocky Scouse attitude and flaunted it on stage.
In his book, “From a Storm to a Hurricane”, Anthony Hogan has brought to life the halcyon days of Scouse Rock from the late 1950s onwards. Born Alan Caldwell, the lad went through a lot of different names before he settled on Rory, a fact that I think shows both how creative he was, and how determined to, literally, make a name for himself. Although the story is dominated by his presence the rest of the band members are all given their due recognition.
In a novel, the location can become an important character in its own right, and the venues in this book are described in good detail to that effect. It doesn’t leave out the tension in the air in the clubs, or the violence that often erupted, and a few times the band only just escaped intact. The many photos help to bring the clubs to mind and, if you ever went to any of them, you will appreciate the memories they evoke.
Like a lot of Liverpool bands, the Hurricanes did their stint in Hamburg, and the book tells it like it was: hard graft, long hours, bad working conditions and, very often, bad digs. But still, they were getting paid for doing what they loved.
Rory, a lad who stammered except when he sang, is described as the ultimate showman, and he was just that. There were many incidents of him doing wild crowd-pleasers, including jumping onto pianos and, one time, diving off a diving board half way through a song. On separate occasions he broke his arm, leg and ribs, and also badly sprained his ankle. There are tales of the band getting into all kinds of trouble, including the ubiquitous food fight, but it was just a case of too much testosterone in young men.
The importance of family life comes across strongly. That, and the bond between the Hurricanes themselves, and with members of other bands. The band didn’t split up, it just faded away. One member, Ty Brien died aged 26; Johnny Guitar and Lou Walters both settled down and got married; and Ringo Starr had previously defected to the Beatles for £25 a week.
Rory tried to make a go of it on his own, trying various “proper” jobs while still performing occasionally, but it never happened. In 1972 Rory Storm died tragically at the age of 34, on the same day as his mother. Typically, The Sun newspaper served up a lurid, disgusting version of the event.
The book is rounded off with a number of stories from people who knew the band members, and fans who remember seeing them perform. It gives it a nice personal touch. This is a meticulously researched and warm book that documents the rise and fall of a great Liverpool band.
Anthony Hogan describes Rory as “..the dreamer who dared to dream.” Better still, it evokes precious memories for anyone who was there. Here’s to Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, and to those special times.