Remembering the 1960s
Assemble 20 people in one room and ask them their memories of Harrogate in the 60s of the last century. The likelihood is that no two would give the same account.
I pondered this outcome on seeing a leaflet advertising the St Andrews Players forthcoming production at the theatre of the new 60s musical She loves you! Yeah!
It is probably the case that for many people, memories of the 1960s are shaped by memories of the pop music of the age, and Harrogate certainly had its share of live pop acts visiting the town.
Until 1960, Harrogate Council’s officers continued the policy of their predecessors of collecting advertising bills of every act to appear in the Royal Hall, binding each year’s collection into a tall slim volume of more than ordinary interest.
Unfortunately, this valuable policy was abandoned in 1961, so that no official record was maintained of Royal Hall performances. Consequently, our knowledge of guest artiste appearances relies on either memory, or painstaking research through old newspapers and programs, which reveal some interesting names.
Do readers perhaps recall any of the following : from 1961 - Russell Braden, Gene Vincent, Screaming Lord Such, together with two throwbacks to a previous decade, Bob Monkhouse and Victor Sylvester with his orchestra.
From 1962 - The John Barry 7.
1963 - The Beatles (a silly name, I’ll bet they didn’t go very far !).
1964 - Little Richard, Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, Lulu and the Luvvers, Herman’s Hermits, Reverend Black and the Rocking Vicars, Mike Berry and the Innocents.
The show when Dickie Henderson appeared also featured a highly talented ventriloquist named Dennis Spicer, who died tragically in a car accident shortly after leaving the Royal Hall.
In 1965 the Royal Hall was venue for The Kinks, Manfred Mann and The Walker Brothers, the following year seeing visits from The Spencer Davis Group, The Small Faces, The Hollies, and a group with the unlikely name of Dave, Dee, Dozey, Beaky, Mick and Tich.
1967 had visits from Amen Corner, The Move, and The Troggs, and the following year saw The Foundations, The Ike and Tina Turner Show, The Herd, The Equals, The Love Affair, and Marmalade.
For the above information, I am grateful to Michael Hine, whose careful research has turned up some interesting names.
I must also note that the present Royal Hall management is preserving details of performers, so that future researchers will again be able to access information about the Royal Hall’s performer history.
Harrogate’s 1960s also saw some wonderful concerts by the Halle Orchestra and Sir John Barbirolli, the nearly unbelievable list of celebrities brought to the town by the Concert Society, the brilliant choral concerts under the baton of the late Joseph Nicholson, and the establishment in 1966 of the Harrogate International Festival.
Contrary to popular belief, the 1960s were not solely about pop music, and when young people tell me today that the 1960s must have been fun, I am tempted to tell them that my own over-riding memory of that decade was of fear.
As a schoolboy from 1960 to 1963, it was fear of nuclear annihilation from Russian H bombs, and I well recall Mr Privet, my science master, explaining the folly of the government advice to hide under the table when the nuclear missiles reached Leeds.
As the 1960s advanced, I feared that Harrogate would be destroyed by a deadly combination from wily speculating developers and a ruthlessly modernising town clerk. The splendid villas of Willaston Road were pulled down, the railway station demolished, alien tower blocks erected in Georgian Park Parade and Victorian Parliament Street.
Several good buildings were demolished in Victoria Avenue and replaced with dull and ugly boxes.
There were threats to put multi-lane motorways through the town, to demolish the Royal Baths and the Royal Hall.
To walk along Beech Grove was to experience a regular feeling of dismay at the developers latest architectural outrage.
Others may fantasize about the 1960s if they please, but for me - you can have them.
Which is not to deny that Harrogate enjoyed some splendid shows from visiting pop artistes, and those who enjoy musical memories of the decade should not miss She Loves You! Yeah! at Harrogate Theatre from October 25-27.