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Firstly.... We survived being born to Mothers who smoked and or drank while they carried us.
They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can and didn't get tested for diabetes.
Then after all that trauma, our cots were covered with bright coloured lead-based paints.
No childproof  medicine bottles and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets. Not to mention - hitchhiking.
As children, if we were very lucky we would ride in cars - with no seat belts or air bags!
We also drank water straight from the garden hose or Tap and NOT from a bottle.
We sometimes shared our soft drinks with our friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.
We ate buns, white bread and real butter, but we were not overweight because......we were always playing outside!
Who remembers ever washing an Apple before eating it?
We would leave home in the morning, play outside all day and were always Home before the streetlights came on.
No one was able to reach us all day and guess what! .....we were actually O.K.
We would spend hours building our go-carts from scrap prams - then ride down hills, only to find out - No brakes!

No Tablets - Text Messages - Personal Computers - Internet or Chat Rooms....Mobile Phones ?
We didn't have I-Pads, Play-Stations, X-Boxes Etc:  no video games, no video tape - Blu-Ray - DVD

The only thing that was "On-Line" was the washing !

However we did have "FRIENDS" and we simply went outdoors and found them!
We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no Lawsuits from any of these accidents.
We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.
We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and we didn't put out very many eyes.
We rode bikes or walked to a friends house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!
Football teams had trials and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't learned to deal with disappointment !
The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!
This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors of all time!
The past 60 years have seen an explosion of innovation and ideas.
We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we just simply learned how to deal with it all !

So, if you are one of them!   CONGRATULATIONS! ......   Cos You Survived The Sixties

1953 The End Of Sweets Rationing

 "1953 - The End Of Sweets Rationing"

ardsbangorsmiley ardsbangor.comardsbangorsmiley

Beano ComicDandy Comic

Memory Lane  - Sixpence  Sixpence  The gateway to my success - Not?

Well for me the early Sixties was all about "Music". The local Groups were mostly called "Show Bands", dressed in colourful suits playing the current hits of all the popular artists. Groups like Cliff and the Shadows, Gerry And The Pacemakers and the Beatles had only started to emerge  and they also wore suits. In 1963, at the age of 12. Almost every Saturday morning, with my sixpence safely in my pocket together with my modest 6 string acoustic guitar which I bought in the Arcadia Book and Card Shop, High Street, Newtownards. Off I went to the ABC Matinee weekly talent competitions at the Ritz Cinema [Now A Shopping Arcade]. I can still remember standing centre Stage singing "I like it" which was at that time a No.1 hit for Gerry and the Pacemakers. Finally after weeks of knockouts, I got into the Finals that year. 1st. place went to Margaret Brown, 2nd. place to Fred Benson and 3rd.  - last place to me. Long before I started buying LPs/Albums or Singles, vinyl records as I recall, most of the time I usually just sat around listening to Radio Luxemburg  and later Radio Caroline, picking out the chords and learning how to play my favourites. It wasn't long before I realized that I wanted to become a musician. What could be easier {Not} and at this time I still hadn't even seen a live Group other than the great "Brian Rossi [RIP.] & The Wheels" at the Ritz Cinema - Newtownards Minors Matinee. I guess that I was just too young for the Young Farmers Hall or the Queens Hall at that time. Looking back, It is really hard to believe that "The Sixties decade covered almost every style of music from Elvis to Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock" 

Elvis ardsbangorRecord Deck ardsbangorTape Deck ardsbangor.comRitz Cinema memorylane ardsbangor.comJimi Hendrix

In my Ben Sherman shirt and best pair of jeans, I was almost ready, but what about the Mods & Rockers... In England, you had to be one or the other during the Sixties, otherwise you got a hiding from both groups. Mods on their Lambretta or Vespa scooters with extra mirrors and the Rockers - also known as the ton-up boys with British - made motorcycles, they were all part of the macho culture at the time. So I opted out and hung out with my School friends around Scrabo Estate. The first complete song that I ever learned was The House Of The Rising Sun - The Animals arrangement. For those who know it, this meant using everything but bar chords. So from that moment on I just listened and learned songs from the masters at that time - otherwise known as The Beatles.

During my early years at Scrabo Secondary School, Newtownards, I teamed up with Fred Benson who also had a guitar and we rehearsed lots of songs with harmonies. After a short while I then started rehearsing with Bobby Hastings {Bass} and Dennis Boyle {Drums} etc: at the Old Scout Hall - Nursery Lane - {Near Ards Shopping Centre} and also travelling via Ulsterbus to Conlig with all the gear. Then along came our first gig." A Young Farmers Hall" close to Kirkubbin - We called ourselves "Just Us" then "Virtue" At 16, I even sang and played acoustic on  Saturday Nights - Solo - in the back room of the "Royal Bar" Francis Street Newtownards... but my career only really got started in August 1967 when I met Lawrence Thomson - Guitarist {RIP.} Philip O'Connor - Drummer and Michael Richmond - Guitarist. By that time I had just recently switched to Bass Guitar. We all liked Hendrix, Cream, Fleetwood Mac and John Mayalls Blues Breakers so "1066BZ "  later to become VIRTUE version 2 was born. As I recall we only played one gig, without Michael Richmond, It was at Greyabbey Village Hall where we played the first half, mostly Hendrix & Cream material and then on came the Suburbans, a Donaghadee/Millisle based group featuring the one and only
Gary Moore {RIP} on Guitar - what a player !  Our first real paying gig was to be a little later. On the 10th January 1969 "Cloud 9" in the old Co-op Hall Bangor, when we supported The John Smith Band. Other great local Blues/Rock & Soul Groups at that time were Sk'boo, Creative Mind, Sam Mahood {RIP.} and The Method who we saw many times.

If Anyone has any recollections - memories - information relating to the picture of  "VIRTUE" shown on the right, please let me know. It wasMovilla School Newtownards ardsbangor taken at Movilla School, Newtownards, where we used to rehearse, sometime in 1967. Michael Richmond and myself are shown in the picture but sadly Lawrence Thomson [RIP.] and Philip O' Connor are both missing from the Chronicle Newspaper cutting which was given to me sometime later in 1978 . Where I was on stage playing at a gig in Belfast with Sunshine.

By that time, Michael Richmond had already left the Group and sometime later moved to Australia, he has been in touch and is still there to-day. So as a three piece and without an Agent or proper Management we really struggled to find Gigs. Lots of the other local groups had bigger line-ups with Keyboards, Sax and a lead Vocalist. So most of the time, we simply ended up supporting these Groups, gaining experience along the way. Philip O'Connor also left and was replaced by Jim Doak on drums. To attract more interest from Promoters we changed our repertoire to include some Soul and Current Chart material. Following these changes we then started playing some of the popular Belfast Venues like Betty Staffs - Cecil Clarke's Etc: and of course Cloud 9 in Bangor.

This continued until 1971 when our good friend Alan Mawhinney who was at this time already playing professionally in Germany with a well known Ballymena Band called "
Tapestry" later to become "Sunshine" asked us to put together a Band replacing most of the original line-up, who were returning home. We had to be capable of playing the German Clubs. It was at this point when we had to make several changes to the line-up.

Tapestry Mark II was created:- see picture in the Band Information Section

Alan  Mawhinney - Keyboards & Vocals {Band  Leader}

Robert Apps {RIP.} {Formally with the Suburban's}  from  Donaghadee - Drums

Noel Fee {Formally with the Bangor  Group - The Mood  &  Jargon Junction}  Hammond  Organ  &  Vocals

Lawrence Thomson {RIP.} Guitar & Vocals

Myself  - James Meredith [ Bass Guitar  & Vocals]

It is worth noting that from the original
"Tapestry" line-up that both Irene McElroy {Singer} together with Shaun Magee {Bass Player} where to move on and eventually form Sunshine together with Stuart Bingham, Bryce Norrie.

So, when Alan returned home  from Germany he joined us in the final stages of the rehearsals at
Blair Maynes House, Mount Pleasant, Newtownards - in an unused Out-House. There we polished off the set and headed off to Germany via Denmark where we did a 15 Tour to prepare us for what was ahead. Other Groups & Bands playing similar venues at that time where Rory Gallagher [RIP.] and Procol Harum. On our way from Denmark to our first club in Germany, we stopped off at the Top Ten Club, 136 Reeperbahn, Hamburg, made famous of course by The Beatles
where Alan convinced the Manager to give us an audition. Sadly is was hard to impress anyone with our good looks, charm and choice of material. Although Lawrence [RIP.} did get lots of appreciation for his guitar solos in Chicago's  25 or 6 to 4 and Free's All Right Now  All the Clubs in Germany required Groups to play for 9 hours - 45 minutes on stage and then 15 minutes off [Break] not for the faint hearted!. However we did mature, the Group got tighter, the Show was slicker and looking back, it was a great experience to be very useful for me, later in my music career.

Immediately on my return from Germany, Harry Filmer asked me if I would consider joining "Spring" formally known as Gumm who at that time where a well established Pop Band with a great repertoire and previously had a record deal with Decca. The existing Bass Player, Paul Menown was leaving and I really needed the work. So I gladly went along to a rehearsal - meeting and I was very impressed with their sound, professional approach and an impressive line-up. Norman Keenan [RIP.} {Vocals] Harry Filmer {Guitar] Raymond Donnan {Keyboards & Sax] Billy Bell {Drums} and Sammy Waddell [RIP.] {Sax}. The Band where managed by Damien McIlroy, who was at that time the guitarist with the Freshmen so the opportunities looked very promising. Following the meeting I was offered the position and naturally I accepted. Their stage presence was great and material was a real challenge Blood Sweat & Tears - Ides of March - The Stones etc: and the audience reception was terrific. So I soon settled in and it felt great playing the big Belfast and Dublin Venues in a very good Band. It was a really exciting time for me, without the pressure of taking lead vocal, it gave me the opportunity to develop my Bass style, increase my vocal range and work on balanced harmonies.

"To Be Or Not To Be ?"

Quote - A semi-professional Musician is one who is paid to play and thus is not an amateur, but for whom Music is not a full-time occupation, generally because the level of pay is too low to make a reasonable living based solely upon that source, thus making the musician not fully professional. So with all Semi-professional musicians, it is always a very fine balance of doing what you really enjoy and at the same time managing to pay the bills. Holding down a day job and rehearsing and working in a Band is not so easy. I still have vivid memories of racing home from work - getting changed - grabbing something to eat - jumping into the Transit Van and travelling to Dublin. Then unpacking the Van - setting up the gear - playing for 4 hours - stripping down the equipment - packing the Van and driving home. On several mid-week gigs it was simply a case of Falling out of the Van at the Factory Gates. It is difficult to explain why anyone would want do it and virtually impossible to share the memories with someone who has never done it. Most certainly, it is not just for the money!

I firmly believe that most musicians really struggle to make the jump from Semi-Professional to the Professional level, mostly due to the lack money and support - not the lack of talent. During the Sixties and early Seventies it was never considered by the Parents or the Establishment as being a Real Job. It was always seen as something that you would grow out of. A hobby or a past time but never considered as a real career and sometimes frowned upon by so many others. For many years, like most other local Musicians I lead a double-life, holding down a full time day job and gigging as much as possible. Sadly the life style did not always work for everyone and perhaps that partly explains why there have been so many line-up changes in many of the local Groups/Bands over the years.

At Long Last... Artists - Musicians are now taking charge of their own careers. There is still good music being created, but not played so often on the radio. Unless of course, they are still managed by a Board of Directors. 

The Beatles. Yes, I know you know way too much about these guys already. You know about the Beatles' "invasion" of the U.S. in February, 1964, starting with an appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. And you probably realize that a swarm of British acts quickly followed in their wake. There are some points that might be worth repeating, however. First, the Beatles might have been more talented and better-advertised than any group that came before, but their music was solidly in the rock 'n' roll/show tune/R & B tradition that was already universally received at this point. Second, despite (or perhaps because of) this fact, the Beatles were hugely successful. In 1964 they placed five singles in the Top 10 at once.   All of their records continued to sell like crazy throughout the world for the rest of the decade, and with a dozen major LP releases and 30 singles in that era, this amounted to a heck of a lot of vinyl. No artist before or after has even vaguely approached this level of popularity and productivity. Clearly this era was the basis of today's Rock Music.

The Beatles Ritz Cinema Belfast 1963 ardsbangor.com8th November 1963 "The Beatles" Leaving the Ritz Cinema Belfast 
The Beatles arrived in Belfast at 2pm, and were taken to the BBC television studios, where they recorded an interview with Sally Ogle for the Six Ten programme. The interview took place from 3pm, and was broadcast later that evening from 6.10pm. Later that evening They performed in the Belfast Ritz Cinema. Performed a standard set  of 10 songs throughout their Autumn Tour: I Saw Her Standing There, From Me To You, All My Loving, You Really Got A Hold On Me, Roll Over Beethoven, Boys, Till There Was You, She Loves You, Money and Twist And Shout. This was The Beatles' first of two visits to Northern Ireland.



The Beatles  Kings Hall Belfast Newtownards Bangor ardsbangor.com2nd November 1964 "The Beatles" the Kings Hall Belfast
The Beatles returned to Belfast on the 2nd November 1964 for two shows at the Kings Hall.  This was to have been a rest day in The Beatles 1964 British tour, but a late booking was made by promoter Arthur Howes for two shows at the Kings Hall Belfast. Trevor Kane  Promoter [Second Left] and John Fanning [N.E.M.S] from the Groups Management Company.

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