Doc’n Roll Film Festival is a highlight of Liverpool’s creative calendar for film nerds and music lovers alike. The UK’s Music Documentary Festival returns for its third year, with the premieres of eight new music documentaries. From a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald to a feature on Tehran’s underground techno scene, this looks set to be the most ambitious and varied year yet.
Some Other Guys: The Story of The Big Three is just one of the many exciting films to premier at this year’s festival. But while the other documentaries will take their audiences on a world tour of music, Some Other Guys tells a story much closer to home. Director Todd Kipp explores Liverpool’s vibrant music scene in the 1960s through the Merseybeat group THE BIG THREE. Choosing a relatively unexplored subject over the well-documented Beatles enables a fresh approach to documenting this city’s musical history. I caught up with Kipp to find out more about this elusive band, who were managed by Brian Epstein and once rivals to the Beatles.
Documenting Liverpool’s music scene in the 1960s is an ambitious project considering the wealth of material available. Where did you begin?
Ultimately we wanted to go to the source, which was interviewing those who were there at the time this story took place, Liverpool, London, Hamburg in the early 1960s. It was important that we didn’t feature any so-called experts, who weren’t even there, but musicians, managers, even fans.
What made you choose the Big Three as your subjects? And Liverpool, for that matter.
A friend in my town mentioned he knew someone who used to play guitar in a beat group during the early 1960s and asked whether I would be interested in making a documentary about them. Well, that guitar player turned out to be Brian Griffiths from The Big Three, and after meeting him one night and listening to all his stories, I knew I had to do it.
The Big Three are described as “the group that Brian Epstein could not control”. How did you capture this energy on film?
Ha ha, well, if Brian Epstein couldn’t control them, what chance did I have? We were fortunate to interview Johnny Hutch, Johnny Gus and Brian Griffiths, along with many others, and needless to say, the Liverpudlian personalities come out strong! Indeed, one of the strengths of the film is the stories and storytellers. When Hutch starts telling a story about being bored in the van while on tour, well, it’s infectious.
Your documentary includes archival footage, photography, interviews and drawings. Can you explain the process of collecting and putting together all of this material?
Unfortunately, we were very limited with our access to material, so we salvaged everything we could and used illustrator Kelly Sutherland to document stories that weren’t filmed or photographed and our editors animated those illustrations. It gives our film another layer, one of those fortunate surprises through default.
Was it difficult to find material on the city’s music scene that did not focus on the Beatles?
The beat scene in the early 1960s in Liverpool was extensive, people often mentioning some 300+ groups, with many of them still performing today at the Lathom Hall and other venues. The musicians and fans are still around and they are as entertaining as ever, which is why we were able to interview so many of them. The city most definitely promotes The Beatles over everything else, which is a shame because the music history deserves more praise and promotion.
Liverpool’s music scene is often described as a community. Did this come across during your interviews?
Yes, in some of the interviews, the musicians went on about how the city operated back then in the way of groups and venues and how they all came together from various sections of the city. We didn’t get to highlight that as much as I’d like to in the film, mainly due to time constraints, but maybe one day someone will make a series about the entire Merseybeat scene, maybe the BBC?
Who was your most interesting interviewee?
Ha ha, there were many! No question Hutch is up there, a toothpick permanently hanging out of his mouth throughout, unchanged in 55 years, telling it like it is, with an entertaining way with words.
And finally, what was the most challenging aspect of creating this documentary?
The postproduction was killer! We went through four editors, each one burning out on the mountain of material, but at long last we made it through, each one making their own contributions. We managed some 60 interviews, sadly not all of them made it into the film and not even all the best stories, but we were determined to make sure we stayed on the path of the story of The Big Three, despite all the Beatles stories that virtually no one has heard outside Liverpool. Fortunately we have them all on tape, so hopefully they’ll find their way out.
Some Other Guys will be screened along with a Q&A with the director at the British Music Experience on Friday 30th March and at Picturehouse at FACT on Sunday 1st April.
For the full schedule of screenings, visit the Doc’n Roll website.