FROM A STORM TO A HURRICANE
Rory Storm & the Hurricanes
by Anthony Hogan
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
In every book written about the Beatles, there is a footnote about the band Rory and the Hurricanes, with whom Ringo Starr played from 1959-1962 when he left to join the Beatles. In most cases, this is the only real reference the band gets, however, they had their own longevity apart from being a note in the Beatles story. Anthony Hogan has taken his own interest in the band and turned it into an examination of the band and a biography of the bandís leader, Rory Storm, in From a Storm to a Hurricane.
Hogan focuses his exploration on Alan Caldwell, a young man from Liverpool who would grow up to take the stage name Rory Storm and create a band made up of Johnny Guitar, Lou Waters, Ty Brien, and Ringo Starr, all stage names. By focusing on Rory Storm, Hogan is able to present the story of the band on its own terms, not simply as the launching ground for Ringo to join the Beatles. His description of the band's rise in Liverpool shows their growth as a band, Rory's ability as a showman, and the fact that they were on the cutting edge, helping the Cavern make the transition from a jazz and skiffle club to the rock club that would help launch the Beatles. Hogan also dispels the notion that the Hurricanes and the Beatles were rivals, citing instances of their friendships, both in Liverpool and Hamburg, the fact that at various times both George Harrison and Paul McCartney dated Rory's sister, Iris, that the Beatles hung out at Rory's parents' house, and that the Beatles sought stagecraft advice from Rory Storm.
Hogan's picture of Rory is one of someone whose potential is never fully realized. An avid athlete who was a gifted runner, swimmer, and footballer, as well as a consumate stage presence, Rory was stymied in much of what he wanted to do by his lifelong stammer, although Hogan notes that at times he was able to use the speech impediment to the band's benefit when negotiating contracts. They were able to rise to a high level in the Liverpool club scene, attaining repeated gigs at Butlin's holiday camps and in Germany, but they stagnated. Hogan attributes a lot of this stagnation to Rory's inability to change with the times. As bandmates Johnny Guitar, Ty, and Lou encouraged Rory to expand their playlist and write their own songs, Rory was interested in playing the same Rock and Roll that he had been playing.
Ringo Starr left the band in 1962 and was replaced by a string of short term drummers before they found a permanent replacement in Jimmy Tushingham. While in most stories that mention Rory and the Hurricanes, the band disappears after Ringo leaves, Hogan continues to chronicle their successes and failures throughout the sixties, until the sudden death of Ty O'Brien in 1967 led to the group's dissolution. Although Hogan discusses the subsequent lives of Johnny Guitar, Lou Waters, and Jimmy Tushingham, his main focus is on how Rory Storm handled the breakup and tried to keep his own career alive, showing his final years in almost a tragic light.
The book can be repetitive at times and frequently Hogan's writing seems to be stream of conscious, rather than planned, which has the effect of making the timeline for some of the anecdotes a little amorphous. Generally he maintains a distance from his topic, but occasionally Hogan draws a direct parallel, noting, for instance that he was named for a particular Everton footballer. Hogan does include some pertinent direct connections in his Author's Comment at the end of the book in which he discusses his desire to set the record straight from the various dismissive discussions of the band that preceded his. He also notes that he suffered from a stammer of his own, which gave him a personal connection to Rory Storm.
From a Storm to a Hurricane serves as a interesting, if at times disjointed, introduction to Rory and the Hurricanes. It may be hoped that that it will eventually form the basis of a more complete critical examination of the band that help define the Liverpudlian music scene in the 1960s. While recordings of some of their music has been found and made available on-line or CD, it would be nice if the music could be reissued to make it more widely available, not as a curiosity, but as an example of skiffle and rock during its formulation in 1960s Liverpool.
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