By Jonathan Lawrence
CALGARY – And that was The Big Three.”
The above quotation is frequently heard throughout Some Other Guys, often used to punctuate a story from witnesses and fans of the reckless, hard-partying loud 1960s Liverpool band, The Big Three. The band members, Johnny Hutchinson (Hutch), Johnny Gustafson (Gus), and Brian Griffiths (Griff), were punk before there was punk, and caused rock-and-roll mayhem long before anyone else.
That said, they were a Merseybeat band, who sounded – and looked – much like The Beatles and other acts of that time and place. They packed music venues and played to hordes of screaming girls (which sounded like a “bomb going off.”) They were lauded for their musical talents, both then and today. They were called the “greatest, ass-kicking band that ever came out of Liverpool” by one musician. They were the “original power trio,” remarked another.
So why then has no one ever heard of them?
Beatroute spoke with Todd Kipp, director of the film, to shed light on that question, although he himself could not explain why they’ve been essentially reduced to a footnote in music history, despite their talent.
“[The Big Three] were praised by everyone in Liverpool,” said Kipp.
While planning the film, Kipp met with guitarist Brian Griffiths – who now resides in Calgary – and listened to some of his stories. Kipp soon realized that this was “more than just another band who were one of the hundreds on the Mersey Beat scene in the early 1960s.” Clearly, there was a story here worth telling.
The documentary shares a fascinating, yet poignant story of how the band “could have and should have been huge,” Kipp said, “but were too self-destructive and ahead of their time and ultimately imploded before the British Invasion.”
Despite their clean image, The Big Three answered to no one, least of all their manager, Brian Epstein, who also managed The Beatles. Epstein, or “Epi,” was trying to turn them into his other rising stars, donning the three in matching suits and encouraging them to write poppy love songs. The Big Three weren’t having any of it though; they were violent, rowdy, tough-talking Brits – and hard drinkers.
“They loved being on stage,” Kipp added, “but didn’t care for the rest of the business and it was to be their downfall.”
Fans of The Beatles who are interested in extra lore will find some lesser known tales here. The Big Three played gigs with them, they hung out together, and even lived together. The Beatles were even fans. Yet the Big Three were essentially the anti-Beatles.
“I wouldn’t join the Beatles for a gold clock,” said Hutch, the drummer.
Kipp, an admitted huge fan of the Merseybeat era, shared his enthusiasm for making this film, which is evident throughout. “These are all first-hand stories,” he wrote, “and despite the fifty plus years and everyone’s memories, it’s essentially the truth.”
Some Other Guys is a fascinating examination of a band that voluntarily cut their career short because they didn’t want to play by the rules. A band that had the potential to reach Beatles-like heights, but refused to because they didn’t want to wear suits. To be fair, there’s a sense of admiration and heroism in that sentiment.
The film is told through a colorful, dynamic mix of interviews, archival photos, animation, and even a modern enactment of the band in action.
Kipp summarizes it with this quote: “The Story of The Big Three is the ultimate story of every band with talent and potential, but who just didn’t make it. These guys were signed with Brian Epstein, Decca Records, played The Cavern Club countless times, all the TV shows and are still considered the best band to miss the British Invasion.”
And that was The Big Three.
Some Other Guys will be shown during the Calgary International Film Festival. For more info and times go to www.calgaryfilm.com/filmsBig Three, Calgary International Film Festival, Some Other Guys