I think there are a lot of men like Dennis in the north of England, like Ritchie too. Those who remember the Mersey Beat, the British Invasion of 1960s music because they were in it, or at least on its coattails. I met some of them, years ago, in Liverpool.
Guys who would haul out a guitar at the drop of a hat, play a bit of House of the Rising Sun or Long Tall Sally and talk about when they had the chance to play with The Animals before they were The Animals. Or when their band, named something like The Power maybe, almost opened for Manfred Mann. Their friend who jammed a few times with Gerry and the Pacemakers but decided to start his own band instead. The kid they knew who lived a few streets away from George Harrison, before he was “the quiet Beatle”. The nerdy kid they vaguely remember from school who went on to a big career as a promoter or sound engineer or record producer.
The bands these guys had played with, the names of which are remembered by no one aside from themselves, maybe were “this close” to making it big. Clubs in Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle they remember being at, as musicians, hangers-on or just audience members. The look in their eyes when they’d talk about back-in-the-day. The memories of stages, music, touring, birds – the life.
Chances lost due to backing the wrong musical horse, thinking their group would be the next fab group to hit the airwaves. Promoters who just couldn’t get them the big break, or ripped them off. Hand injuries from sports or fights that meant they couldn’t play a guitar long enough, well enough to sustain a musical life in the big league. Going back to school when gigs seemed to dry up, staying in school so they’d have ‘something to fall back on’ on as their parents advised them. All meaning that, somehow, they’d been bypassed in the musical revolution that happened in England 50 years ago.
But it never died within them, even as they spent the next decades as lawyers, welders, teachers or unemployed drifters. And given half a chance, such as running into an old friend, they would be back on stage playing or behind the stage booking acts, wheeling and dealing. Living the glory days again, or for the first time. There are more dreamers than ever managed to play with Freddie and the Dreamers. It’s nice seeing that small part of the dreams of the ’60s come to life in the eyes of Dennis Tanner.