Meet the Liverbirds
November 28, 2021 12:43 PM   Subscribe

With the recent release of Peter Jackson's documentary The Beatles: Get Back, it's a good time to look at one of the other Liverpool bands of the British Invasion era, one of the few all-female Merseybeat groups (and probably the only one that's been the subject of a musical): The Liverbirds, subject of a (fairly) recent short documentary of their own.

The group, consisting of vocalist-guitarist Valerie Gell, guitarist-vocalist Pamela Birch, bassist-vocalist Mary McGlory and drummer Sylvia Saunders, briefly flirted with being managed by Brian Epstein, the Beatles' manager, before dropping him when he recommended against going to Hamburg (the group would receive its largest success in Germany), and also decided against going to America when the only gig offered was playing in Las Vegas, topless. The group broke up in 1968 after a tour of Japan, briefly reunited in 1998, and were the subject of a musical, Girls Don't Play Guitars, the title taken from a quote by John Lennon when he and Paul McCartney met the group, being about as wrong as he's ever been. Among the group's songs was "Why Do You Hang Around Me".
posted by Halloween Jack (13 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Totally new to me. Their version of Diddley Daddy puts me very much in mind of the Velvet Underground (while preceding them).
posted by brachiopod at 1:18 PM on November 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

Another counter-example from Lennon's era: Fanny covering the Beatles' "Hey Bulldog" in 1971

[also: is this the new Get Back thread?]
posted by credulous at 2:25 PM on November 28, 2021 [4 favorites]

[also: is this the new Get Back thread?]

Not intended to be. I watched the short documentary (second link above; it's only about 16 minutes or so) and wanted to share it--it's really something how the group came together and the number of curveballs thrown at them in their short career.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:43 PM on November 28, 2021 [3 favorites]

I'm holding off doing an FPP about Get Back because I'm waiting for Peter Jackson to bring out the extended edition with John Lennon singing The Silmarillion.

Regarding this post, I heard about Girls Don't Play Guitar when it came out but I didn't get to see it.
posted by k3ninho at 3:30 PM on November 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

It is absolutely shocking to me how unknown they are. They’re great!
posted by iamkimiam at 3:37 PM on November 28, 2021

I'd seen the NYT mini-docu and wondered then, as I still do, why long-i Liverbirds, but short-i Liverpool?
posted by the sobsister at 7:34 PM on November 28, 2021

They didn't seem to get much promotion or airplay in the US, though they weren't totally overlooked. I remember the Peanut Butter song when I was a kid in the 70s on the oldies radio stations back then, and mostly forgot about it until I saw the video a few months back when it hit youtube. Realizing I hadn't heard that tune in decades, and being too young to know about the band back then, I was very pleasantly interested to hear the story, totally new to me.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:38 PM on November 28, 2021

"Why Do You Hang Around Me?" sounds like it could have been written by Sloan.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:55 PM on November 28, 2021 [3 favorites]

...why long-i Liverbirds, but short-i Liverpool?

A bird group band name ought be more lively than liverly.
posted by y2karl at 9:11 PM on November 28, 2021

...why long-i Liverbirds, but short-i Liverpool?

Because the group is named for the bird, not directly for the city.
posted by flabdablet at 12:59 AM on November 29, 2021

That was so poignant and touching! Two of their songs, "Peanut Butter" and "Why Do You Hang Around Me" are on Spotify and Apple Music, but the titles and songs have been reversed. "Why Do You Hang Around Me?" has a proto-Belle & Sebastian/Camera Obscura sound to my ears.

That band name though, pronunciation notwithstanding, I can't help but think of Prometheus getting his liver plucked out by vultures.
posted by xigxag at 2:17 AM on November 29, 2021

Huh. I guess Epstein was right about them not coming back. Sounds like they rode it for all it was worth, though one wonders if they might have been happier staying together a little longer.

I wonder when the Cavern Club's "Where It All Began" sign went up.
posted by credulous at 8:25 AM on November 29, 2021

Me, a few minutes in: I wonder whether their trajectory would have been different had they listened to / stayed with Epstein...

Me, a few more minutes in: They could only play in the US if they played topless?! WTF??! And then again, did that mean Epstein was right or wrong?
posted by Mchelly at 11:25 AM on November 29, 2021 [2 favorites]

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