AS MUCH as Greg Wilson is excited about DJing a big, open-air gig on the Pier Head in his home town of Liverpool – and he’s clearly thrilled – you also get the impression that he’s every bit as excited about the chance to talk about the ideas behind his involvement with the Very Big After Party.
Transatlantic 175 is a commemoration of 175 years of passenger travel across the Atlantic, taking place on Liverpool’s waterfront and docks. It involves the Very Big Catwalk, an attempt to break the world record for most models on a catwalk, followed by the veteran DJ Wilson doing his stuff for the assorted fashion divas at the Very Big After Party.
Wilson was brought in by Wayne Hemingway (whose Vintage Festival is also at the dock over the weekend), with a brief to highlight the musical connections between Liverpool and the US.
The perceived wisdom is that the story of musical Liverpool all started with the Cunard Yanks, the merchant seamen who went to New York and took the music, the clothes, even the mannerisms they found back to their home city, planting the seeds that would eventually grow into the Beatles and Merseybeat. A young George Harrison, for example, bought a black Gretsch guitar from a Cunard Yank fresh off the boat from New York.
“That’s not half the story, even though it’s massively important,” says Wilson over a tea cake in a restaurant on the seafront in New Brighton.
“Bob Wooler, the DJ at the Cavern, told me that he got his records from everywhere, it wasn’t just about the Cunard Yanks. He told me he used to buy a lot of new American imports from a shop in Newton-le-Willows. That seemed a bit bizarre to me. But it’s next to Burtonwood Airbase. It makes complete sense. They were selling them to the US servicemen.
“There’ve been American servicemen in this country since the second world war. I think that’s one of the reasons why there’s such an affinity with black music. And that scenario plays out in Liverpool as much as anywhere else. Black American servicemen used to come to clubs like the Timepiece in Liverpool in the 70s. And at the same time, it was always a cosmopolitan city. It was a melting pot for ideas.”