You may remember back in August me banging on about my love for the dear old sadly departed (and much missed) Odeon in Southend, and I've been on the local nostalgia buzz ever since. Well blow me, a local photographer from the 60's, Derek Cross, has just found a stack of old negatives in his archives... out of curiosity he starts to develop one or two, and he's only got professional press photos of just about every legendary act from the early 60's, all taken whilst they were performing at the Southend Odeon! 'Unseen 1963' is a fab little exhibition in Leigh-on-Sea, displaying a selection of these recently uncovered photos.
(Image © Derek Cross)
There are a mixture of both posed and candid photos on display, and whilst the posed ones are great, I couldn't help but be drawn to the candid ones. Each one spoke a thousand words... There is a wonderful one of the Beatles presenting a girl with a competition prize (which was a crude wooden toy of themselves!). The prize winner is quite young, and as such all 4 Beatles are bent in two to hand over the prize! You hardly even see their faces, just the 4 mop-tops and a very excited little girl!
Another great candid shot shows the Beatles kicking around the auditorium, whilst the stage area is being prepared for the show. In the background is a piano with the name of the legendary local music shop of the 60's and 70's emblazoned across it - Hodges and Johnson.As well as a good dozen or so Beatles shots, amongst others included in this exhibition are Rolling Stones (group shots and solo), Cliff Richard, Everley Brothers, Roy Orbison, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, Dusty Springfield, The Kinks, Helen Shapiro, The Hollies, The Shirells, Bo Diddley, Freddie and the Dreamers, Joe Brown, Adam Faith, Duane Eddy and The Searchers.... and rather oddly amongst all that lot... Alistair Simm!! There are also a couple of great shots showing the crowd entering the Odeon for one of these shows. I also found the photos of bands that hadn't made it interesting too... one is simply labelled "four men sitting on steps (unknown)".
Image © Derek Cross
I spoke to the gallery owner (John Lister) about the display, and asked him if what was on display was the complete collection. I was shocked when he said there were more... even more so when he disappeared off and came back with a box full of undisplayed gems!! Oddly enough, my favourite picture of the whole lot ended up being one from the box!! A brilliant shot of Ringo Starr, fag hanging out the corner of his mouth, sitting in a dressing room chair. On both arms of the chair were tall piles of autograph books, all open on the page requiring a signature. Head down, he was busy working his way through the lot! Just in the corner of the picture, almost out of shot, was George Harrison reading a fan letter! What great times eh? Would we have any faith in a band of their popularity actually receiving (let alone reading!) a fan letter handed in at the venue today??
Alas this exhibition closes this coming weekend (last day Sunday 29th November). John told me that there had been some interest from the odd London gallery, but other than that, the future for these photos seems a little unclear. A lovely, overpriced coffee table book would do these pictures a real justice, and I think it's important to keep them together as a set, rather than splitting them up for Beatles books, Stones books etc. It captures an exciting time in both the history of Southend, and the British music scene in the early 60's.
Image © Derek Cross
In the unlikely event that you find yourself in the area between now and then, I can wholeheartedly recommend it. I'm certainly hoping to get back for another peep before it goes.
Atelier Gallery (almost opposite The Grand pub).
96 The Broadway