TCBDS MEETINGS   TCBDS ARCHIVE   FREEWHEELIN-ON-LINE

 
freewheelin-on-line
 

All Those Years Ago

 

It was in 1975 that I saw the photograph for the first time. It was unmistakably vintage 1966…you know, THAT look. It was with two scruffy kids and I’d never seen it before. Yet there was something about the wall at the end of the street that looked very familiar. For anybody travelling out of Liverpool, a quick way to the north part of the city is to avoid the main route out and instead go along past the docks on what has always oddly enough been referred to as the Dock Road. It reduces the journey by about 20 mins or more, as there are no traffic lights etc. And that wall at the end of the street he was pictured in looked just like the wall of the docks.

Over the years I saw the photo again on a couple of occasions. One had its source as Glasgow and another even said it was Australia but somehow I was never convinced. Then in November 1999, I received a call from Ian Woodward who was visiting the local radio station and asked to meet up. Over a drink before the broadcast he asked if I’d seen the newly published book Early Dylan yet, which I hadn’t. “You’ll be interested as there are a load of pictures from Liverpool ‘66” he excitedly informed me as he took it out of his bag. And there it was in all its glory, THAT photo but this time super clear and larger. But there were others as well that I’d never seen before and yes it confirmed that they were all from Liverpool ’66 and they were wonderful.

May 24th 1966 is a day still etched in my mind. I was nearly 10 and it was cup final day when my team Everton produced one of the great comebacks in the history of the competition. At the time, I was totally oblivious to what was taking place that evening at the Odeon cinema in the city centre. In BBC Radio Merseyside’s studio whilst Ian talked, I kept looking at the photos and it was clear that there were others oblivious as well to what was happening that day too. They looked about 9 – 13 years old as well and I hatched the idea that not only was I going to try find the location of the pictures but also I was going to try find the “Dylan Kids” as they were to become known.

Bob Dylan plus...

Most of the areas like those pictured in the Liverpool scenes have long gone. and redeveloped to a point where I feared I’d never be able to find the true location where they had been taken. Yet coming home from work on the train a few weeks later, as the train emerges from the underground system and leaves the city, it runs at a height and you get great views of the river and out to sea. After gazing out each day something familiar started come into sight. There were two of the grand old warehouses still standing proud as if a monument to Liverpool’s once great maritime heritage. Also there was the Atlantic Café on one corner and a pub on the other. Next to the warehouses were modern industrial units but after a good look from afar for a week or two I’d managed to convince myself that if the location wasn’t around here, I could not think of anywhere else it might be. After looking at the book closer the Atlantic Café started to look very similar to the pub you can see on page 65 where the words should read “Walker’s Warrington Ales” behind Dylan. I felt I was getting warmer.

A few days later I left work early and a friend and I drove down to the area and armed with the book we were to have a look around and see if there was anything left from 1966. Parking up we looked at the buildings and at the bottom of the street THE wall came into sight and suddenly chimneys, walls, steps and drainpipes started to tally in with the photos. We’d found the place and soon were able to locate that very step where the wonderful picture of Dylan and the kids was taken. I couldn’t resist sitting on the step and was immediately amazed at how narrow it was. How did everyone fit in I still don’t know but there was no mistaking, a little piece of local Dylan history had been located. Now for the hard bit. Where were the kids?

I talked to my friend and co Merseyside Dylan organizer Steve Harrison who works for the local paper. Aside of it being interesting to him from a Dylan angle, Steve jumped at the possibility of a “where are they now” feature. So my friend suggested we return early one Saturday morning and armed with his camera’s and some black & white film we’d take some pictures of me in various locations as in the book. This we did with a few odd looks from some lorry drivers doing a bit of overtime and the results were ok enough for the paper to do an initial story to ask “where are you now?”

Chris Hockenhull

The feature duly appeared in the Liverpool Echo a few weeks later and we had to sit back and wait and see if there was any response. BBC Radio Merseyside saw the story and I went on two programmes to tell the tale and ask is there anybody out there? again.

A few weeks went by before I was phoned in work by an exited Steve to say he’s received a letter from one of the girls pictured and she was able to identify those with her but actual memories of having the picture taken were hazy. Contact was made and my conversation with her convinced me that we had found the Dylan kids. Now we intended to round as many of them up and the Liverpool Echo would picture the great reunion, which was done some weeks later. Radio was there too to interview us all and so too was the TV. The whole thing had taken nearly six months from seeing the pictures to getting everyone together.

So for the record, those innocent faces from 1966 were, clockwise from left to right were: Bill Meadows / Michael Meadows / Bernadette Gill (nee Hoey) / Jimmy Liversage / Steven Williams / John King / Gerard Meadows / Margy Henny (nee Meadows) / Laurence Williams / David Meadows. And of course you know who is in the centre.

It is Bill Meadows who on another of the pictures in the Live `66 booklet is pulling his tongue out and was in that first picture that I mentioned at the start of this piece. He’s a private driver to a businessman in Scotland. Michael behind him with his hand on face is a HGV driver in Kent. Bernadette we will hear more about later. Jimmy with the laughing face is still in Liverpool but Steven in front of him no one knows where he is. Likewise with John, next to Dylan. Gerard at the foot of the steps still lives in Liverpool and Margy is still here too. No one is sure where Laurence is and David, next to Bob too has recently left Liverpool for London.

After we’d had pictures taken, questions for the radio answered we retired to the remaining pub The Bull to talk more and so I was able to glean more about their chance meeting that day in 1966.

All the kids lived in nearby tenement blocks that surrounded the old warehouses. In Margy Meadow’s case it was 8 people in a two-roomed property until 1968!). There were spaces of wasteland about, a legacy of the bombings the area took in WW2. These spaces were adventure playgrounds for the kids and most of their out of school hours were spent there. As it was cup final day the parents were watching it in the two pubs at the top of the street and the kids did their own thing. Michael Meadows recalls a man with a camera with some other men asking one of the older boys could he round everyone up so he could take some pictures of them. A ten-shilling note was offered as a reward by “a large man in a white overcoat” (Grossman I’d say) and another man “who had a cine camera and was filming everything” (Pennebaker I assume). Can you imagine the reaction to such an incident in this day and age?

The kids had absolutely no idea who the men were nor who the odd looking chap who they were to be photographed with. One look at the pictures and they look like Victorian street urchins and he looks like a man from Mars. But non can recall any feelings that made them think he was odd in any way. It was just another normal day in their lives and pictures taken the men left and they continued with their adventures.

And that is the way it remained until this century. The article appeared in the local paper and it was a case of standing back and waiting for a response. After a while it appeared that the feature had drawn a blank but then things took a positive turn. Bernadette Gill: “I work in Sainsbury’s. Margy phoned me and said we were pictured in last night’s paper, which I hadn’t seen but we still had some left in the store and yes, there it was. It was us and there were all our childhood friends from all those years ago. I couldn’t believe it. It was like stepping into the past. Even more surprising was that I had been pictured with Bob Dylan who I believed I had never seen in my entire life. I must admit I knew very very little about his music, did not posses any of his records and had never seen him in concert”.

When Dylan did return to play in Liverpool in July 2001, Bernie and Margy went to see him for the first time since that day in May 1966. They took their books with them “just in case” and thoroughly enjoyed the show. No they were not able to get another updated picture with the strange man from 1966, that would have been interesting.

Reunion

Margy Meadows like the others, enjoyed the reunion afternoon. It was a chance for all of them to reminisce about the area and the lives they had there. She has come to the Merseyside Dylan evenings ever since and threatens to try the evening class one day. But a new bunch of friends has resulted since the reunion even though none of them became Dylan fans as a result of it all.

But for Bernie in particular, the discovery of the “Dylan Kids” has had quite an impact on her life. She has attended two of my Liverpool University courses on “The Life & Times of Bob Dylan” and now knows the whole story and seen much film and heard many many recordings. She has started to buy a few cds and has also participated in another of my non-Dylan courses. It has opened up a new social world where she has integrated her self with a whole range of people from differing backgrounds who she’d have probably never met. It’s had a real positive effect for her being `discovered’ all these years later and that is for me most pleasing.

 

Dylan 66

 
 
BACK TO CONTENTS

TCBDS MEETINGS   TCBDS ARCHIVE   FREEWHEELIN-ON-LINE