Hey Mann, that was the year that certainly was

Saint Roger's halo didn't slip when he gave me interview

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Some people think the Swinging Sixties started in Liverpool and ended in London while the rest of the country struggled to keep up – or ignored them completely.

But Portsmouth was enjoying its own exciting times and this year marks the 50th anniversary of a couple of excitements of 1963.

Top 20 night at South Parade Pier in the early 1960s. Picture: Geoff Carter

Top 20 night at South Parade Pier in the early 1960s. Picture: Geoff Carter

It was the year of the Beatles’ first big hits, the Stones’ first records, the Keeler/Profumo scandal, Martin Luther King’s Dream speech and the sense of significant social and cultural changes.

Portsmouth, like the rest of the country, started with freezing temperatures, but with the thaw came the first visit to the city by the Beatles.

Around the same time in London, Gosport drummer Mike Hug and a South African pianist who called himself Manfred Mann formed a jazz group. They added a singer and former Portsmouth Grammar School pupil called Paul Pond.

His job was to steer them towards the increasingly popular sounds of rhythm & blues. Paul changed his name to Jones, while the group adopted their pianist’s name .

They attracted a new crowd and as well as the London clubs played regular venues in central southern England.

These included weekly gigs at Fratton’s Railway Hotel or Southsea’s Kimbells Ballroom.

Their first couple of records did not sell well, but they were invited to write and record the theme tune to a new pop TV show Ready, Steady, Go! and their song 5-4-3-2-1 took them into the charts in early 1964.

Portsmouth teenagers packed the city’s clubs and ballrooms and followed this new music, which grew from its jazz background into a particularly British form of rhythm & blues.

Among them was a group from Southsea that centred on student Marion Knight.

In 1963 she was picked by the film director John Boorman to be the subject of a 30-minute TV documentary in a series called Citizen 63.

In addition to her nursery nursing studies at John Pounds Secondary School, we see Marion and her friends enjoying music at the funfair, partying on Hayling Island, dancing at the youth club and enjoying new fashions. Exactly 50 years on it’s a fascinating documentary record of a period when Portsmouth certainly enjoyed its share of the swinging sixties.

PGS has just published a free booklet about Paul Jones and the 1960s. E-mail info@pgs.org.uk or phone (023) 9236 0036 ext 400.

n To remind yourself of the Ready, Steady, Go! theme played by Manfred Mann, go to portsmouth.co.uk/video.