The Solid Silver 60s Show is back on the road again and heading to Sheffield on 20th April and Liverpool on 24th April for, what the promoters are suggesting, may be the last time! Ever popular, the Solid Silver 60s Show has been showcasing the classic 60s hits, performed by the original artists, for over 30 years.
The freedom of the road, that’s what it’s all about. It’s like being a child, a wayward teenager, all your lifeDave Berry
And talk of the ‘good old days’ of touring is some way off the mark says Sheffield-born Dave Berry, one of the stars of the current tour, when he spoke to me mid way through the current tour.
“People look back and remember the 60s as magical times, which they were, but for me the best time is now,” says Dave. “This day and age, on the road it’s brilliant. it’s not like the so-called ‘good old days’ where you couldn’t get anything to eat or drink. Now it’s fabulous, you can stop off wherever you’re travelling to and the hotels always make us feel very welcome wherever we are.
“These 60s shows bring back memories for the audiences and, to some extent, help them to relive their youth. They are the songs from when they were young and that will never change. In twenty years it won’t be any different and people will be listening to music from the current chart.”
The 2019 tour features Dave alongside Vanity Fair and two other huge stars from the early sixties, Peter Noone and Brian Poole.
“We go back to the beginning, really. We all used to tour together in the early days with The Stones, The Hollies, Hendrix and The Who, we were all on the same schedule, a huge mix of shows that, now, people wouldn’t believe would have existed,” he laughs. “That’s because it was all new, nobody knew what they were supposed to be doing!”
As seen in the enduring popularity of the Solid Silver 60s Show, over many years, the sixties was an exciting time for music.
“Oh, yes, it really was, it was a wonderful time. We had come out of the late fifties when we were all influenced by the great American rock stars: Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, all the great blues artists. We adapted their music to suit the UK, our own interpretation of rhythm and blues and we helped to introduce it to the general public and our age group.”
Dave is rightly proud of his roots in the industrial north Midlands where he learnt his trade the hard way, and thinks the modern generation would benefit from the same kind of apprenticeship.
“I’m from a working class background and I think that’s what’s missing from the music scene at the moment. As Noel Gallagher said, ‘Where are all the working class bands?’ You’ve got all these kids from showbiz colleges and public schools, that’s not rock and roll. We came from grass roots where bands played upstairs rooms and built a following. We were working five or six nights a week and it was two years before we signed a record deal with Decca. The grass roots-working class background has always stood me in good stead.”
Having signed to Decca in 1963, success soon followed and Dave Berry and The Cruisers’ first single, a cover of Chuck Berry’s Memphis Tennessee made it into the top 20 later the same year. This was the first of eight chart hits for Dave but, at first, he was reluctant to record what has become his signature song, the Geoff Stephens composition The Crying Game. It was his team of session musicians, including Jimmy Page who would find fame with Led Zeppelin, who convinced him it was the right choice of song.
“No, I wasn’t keen at all,” said Dave. “I wanted to release the B-side Don’t Give Me No Lip, which was later recorded by The Sex Pistols, because that was my type of music. My roots were still in blues and R&B. I would have preferred to have recorded material like The Rolling Stones, not ballads. Looking back, The Crying Game has been my signature and I don’t think it would have happened if that had been a blues song or an R&B song. It was a ballad, and so well written, and all the musicians on the session: Big Jim Sullivan, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, the great rock artists who came through just a year or two later, they were a big help.”
The Crying Game reached number 5 in the charts in 1964, as did Dave’s version of Bobby Goldsboro’s Little Things the following year. Dave never had a UK number 1 although his recording of Ray Davies’ (The Kinks) This Strange Effect reached number 1 in Belgium and The Netherlands where, in 1990, it would receive an award as the best selling pop single of all time.
On stage the young Dave Berry would tease his female fans by coyly hiding his model good looks behind a turned up coat collar or peering through his fingers. “I realised from the very early days that all my musical heroes Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, they all had an individual style and like most artists you pick up what you see when you are young. I developed it into my own particular style. I realised that you have to have something special on stage, it’s not enough to walk on, sing a song and walk off.
“People like the artist to have a little bit of mystery, the mystique of the artist is very important and I don’t think that has ever changed. That’s why you don’t see me on Facebook or Instagram, I believe there should be a little something held back, don’t give everything away. That’s very important to me.”
And after 55 years in the music business, many of them touring with the Solid Silver 60s Show, does Dave still enjoy performing?
“Yes!” comes a very quick response. “It’s been my life. I do get asked about retirement and I always say ‘No, what would I want to retire to? This is a job that you retire to!” he laughs. “The freedom of the road, that’s what it’s all about. There’s this great freedom of being a musician on the road, you don’t have to answer to anybody, within reason. It’s like being a child, a wayward teenager, all your life (more laughter). People forget that, most people have got restrictions. We’ve got ways we work in theatres and respect the crews and the management, but there’s not this great separation like you find in an office with a manager who no one will talk to, the boss who you have to salute to. We’ve always avoided that.”
There is a lot of laughter while chatting to Dave and, when I have seen him on stage, a lot of humour in his show, including him appearing complete with a zimmer frame!
“Oh, yes!” he laughs. “There’s got to be humour. It develops more the longer you’ve been doing it. In the early days I never used to speak between songs on stage, to keep the mystique going. As people get older, hopefully, they don’t believe all they did when they were 16 years old. The Rolling Stones and those acts that have been around a long time do have humour in their set. People understand that you’re working on stage and you’re supposed to be having fun.”
Fun, and great memories, is what the Solid Silver 60s Show is all about. The show visits Sheffield City Hall on Saturday 20th April and Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool on Wednesday 24th April.