Thursday, March 11, 2021

A Beginners Guide To Freakbeat: Wimple Winch "Rumble on Mersey Square South"

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My introduction to Wimple Winch's "Rumble On Mersey Square South" came visa Mick London of the N.J. 80's mod band Mod Fun. He recommended Bam Caruso record's "Rubble" compilation albums. My friend Rudie and I traveled to Vintage Vinyl in Woodbridge,NJand  he bought the "49 Minute Technicolor Dream" (Rubble 4) and I snagged "The Psychedelic Snarl" (Rubble 1). On "The Psychedelic Snarl"  were three tracks by a Liverpool quartet called Wimple Winch: "Atmospheres", "Save My Soul" and "Rumble On Mersey Square South". It was the latter which struck me immediately. 

Wimple Winch evolved out of a mid 60's Liverpool beat group called The Four Just Men (a name change was later necessitated as there was a TV series of the same name so the band became The Just Four Men). The band released three singles in the U.K. on Parlophone before changing their name to Wimple Winch in late '65 when a writ was served because there was already another band using the name. The band signed to Fontana where they released just three singles in the short space of just nine months, all of which change hands for huge sums of money these days. "Rumble On Mersey Square South" would be their final release issued in January 1967 as Fontana TF 781. It is of course one of the most sought after singles of the freakbeat genre as a look at this entry will attest to.


"Rumble On Mersey Square South" is like a gritty Scouse "West Side Story" of sorts with so many breaks and tempo changes and chronicles a fictional gang war battle between the Gasworks gang and "the gang from the West". With Liverpool's "tough" reputation in the 60's it's plausible that the band witnessed such violent scuffles first hand and need not have resorted to imagination. The lyrics are purely amazing coming across like a script to an unnamed gang war movie or an essay from an onlooker hidden from view, like a less sophisticated Dick Hebdige :

"All is peace and quiet in our little town, the police are all tired, their feet don't touch the ground, people watching TV, people eating their tea, they can't see like me, there's trouble coming down, there's going to be a fight, there's going to be a fight, so keep yourselves out of, out of sight, keep your doors locked up, locked up tight because there's going to be a fight, be a fight.

The gang from the Gasworks sure are tough and so are the gang from the West, ????? that's sure enough, I don't know which gang in the best, here they come, see them run see them fight each other, see the sticks, see the stones see them run for cover, some are small some are tall but that doesn't matter, someone stands, someone falls and then someone staggers, leader falls with his hands over his face and someone else is standing there to take his place and there are bodies lying all over the place and they fight (and they fight), and they and they fight (and they fight), how they fight (and they fight) and they fight yeah. Fighting's over who has won the police are here they all begin to run. 

All is peace and quiet in our little town, the police have retired they've put the trouble down, people are all sleeping, people finished peeping, they can't see me creeping, there's no one left around, the stars are shining bright, the stars are shining bright, that's the end of of the fight, that's the end of of the fight, that's the end of of the fight, that's the end of of the fight, not going to Mersey Square, not going to Mersey Square, not going to Mersey Square, I'm not gonna go down to Mersey Square, I'm not gonna go round to Mersey Square...." 

- Lyrics and music by Demetruis "Dee" Christopolus and John Kelmen Musicville Ltd. 1966

My late great friend Don "Woody" Buchanan, though not a purveyor of 60's music like yours truly immediately pointed out that the track reminded him of the Zombies, vocally. Years later I realized that it was musically similar as well, some of the guitar bits were almost reminiscent of the band's freaky June '66 single "Indication". There's subtle bursts of distorted/fuzz guitar, thundering bass and an eerie echo on the drums that give it a desolate feel that make you feel like you're in some vacant, abandoned industrial estate. There's multiple rave up's where the band cuts loose only to cool things down and pull it back to the mellow, Zombie-esque quieter interludes. The structure of the song is delivered like acts in a play, and though I hate to use such hackneyed old rock n' roll phrases, the term "rock opera" can certainly be applied! 

Sadly Wimple Winch would not make any other records and "Rumble..." would be their final release. The band recorded a host of demos in 1967-1968 (the later of which saw them assisted by Herman's Hermits members Keith Hopwood and Derek "Dek" Leckenby) before finally calling it a day. All of their recorded works were compiled by Bam Caruso/RPM records in 2009 as a CD compilation titled "Tales From The Sinking Ship". 

Hear "Rumble On Mersey Square South":

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