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Music / The Big Three

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Hutch. Gus. Griff. The Big Three.

The Big Three (1961-1964, 1973) was a beat, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll group from Liverpool, England. Their Power Trio format (as implied by their name), along with their energetic and blistering live performances and unprecedented levels of general loudness, made them one of the most popular and respected acts of the Merseybeat scene (second only to the inevitable Beatles) at their peak of popularity.

Unfortunately, they were unable to parlay their live sound into a successful recording career, not at all helped by manager Brian Epstein's (also The Beatles' manager) attempts to clean up their act and sound as he had done with The Beatles, much to The Big Three's consternation. Audiences were baffled by their poppy single releases, which were not at all indicative of their live sound. The only release considered to do the group justice was a live EP recorded at the infamous Cavern Club, where the Three were a mainstay.


Commercial failure, coupled with personal problems and group tensions, caused the ultimate dissolution of The Big Three, rendering them basically a huge What Could Have Been and little more than a footnote to other, more commercially successful, artists of the same era. Ten years later, two former members reformed The Big Three and recorded a 1973 LP, aptly titled Resurrection.

Tropes associated with The Big Three:

  • Artifact Title: Averted, but it was Epstein's intention to turn the group into a quartet. The group's first guitarist, Adrian Barber, left before the fact, though, to be replaced by Brian "Griff" Griffiths.
  • Book-Ends: Their first and last releases (a single and an album, respectively) both included "Some Other Guy", their most famous song.
  • Breakup Breakout: Johnny Gus, with his marked good looks, was primed to leave the group and become a star in his own right... but found the "star-maker", as it were, wanted to sleep with him so he got the hell out of dodge and promptly returned to the Three. Not entirely unexpectedly, Gus did ultimately become the breakout, masterminding well-remembered cult prog outfit Quatermass, playing bass for Roxy Music, and generally being one of Britain's legendary bassists.
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  • B-Side: Their B-sides tended to be ballads to contrast with the more energetic A-side.
  • Cover Version:
  • Dance Sensation:
    • The "Cavern Stomp". A legit dance, too.
    • When playing in Hamburg, they would frequently make up some intentionally dumb dance sensation song appliances and tools for use in the home. The foreign crowd, none the wiser, absolutely loved it.
  • Food Porn: "Peanut Butter" will (inexplicably) give you a hankerin' for some PB. Don't try and deny it.
  • Friendly Rival: To The Beatles, as a group if not necessarily as individuals (see What Could Have Been below).
  • Genius Ditz: Adrian Barber: Borderline mental case if his Crazy Awesome legend is to be taken at face value, yet a groundbreaking innovator; he created large and powerful speakers (affectionately dubbed "coffins"), which contributed heavily to the group's deafening (by '60s standards) sound. He even made some for The Beatles at their request. Those speakers are pretty much precursors to Marshall amps. He also recorded the infamous Star-Club Beatles bootleg.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Okay, so technically it's a "complete recordings" kind of deal, but the 2009 compo Cavern Stomp includes every one of their chart hits (which is to say... both of them).
  • Hot-Blooded: They were basically the most hot-blooded beat group out there... and considering the general beat scene at the time, that's saying a lot.
  • In Name Only: What the group became after Gus and Hutch's departures.
  • Lighter and Softer: What Epstein tried to do to the band... needless to say at this point, it failed miserably.
  • Live Album: Well, Live Extended Play, really, but At the Cavern was the earliest known official live recording from the Cavern, and is considered a minor classic piece of work that came really close to capturing The Big Three's live sound. The entire EP (as well as an extra cut left off the EP release due to space limitations) was also included on a later LP of Cavern live recordings, including such acts as Bern Elliot & The Fenmen, The Fortunes, and beat girl Beryl Marsden, among others.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: A solid 3 in their prime (keep in mind the timeframe), but Resurrection ups it to 4 at times.
  • New Sound Album: Rather than recreate their '60s beat sound for Resurrection, they went for the contemporary rock sound of The '70s, with guitar distortion and pianos being a prominent part of the sound. The material, however, was pure beat.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "High School Confidential".
  • One Steve Limit: Two Johns, but seeing as how Hutchinson was almost never referred to as anything but Johnny (or "Hutch"), and Gustafson was either "Gus" or "Johnny Gus", any potential confusion should be averted. The pair later formed a group called John and Johnny.
  • One-Woman Song: Their blistering version of "Lucille", the closer of Resurrection.
  • Oop North: Duh, Liverpool.
  • Power Trio: Their most famous line-up consisted of Brian "Griff" Griffiths (guitar, vocals), John "Gus" Gustafson (bass, vocals), and John "Hutch" Hutchinson (drums). The latter two were pretty much the cream of the group of Liverpool's rhythm players... and Griff was a well-respected guitarist in his own right.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: Two members of their most well-remembered line-up reunited, at least. Hutchinson had pretty much retired from music by '73, and Barber worked solely as a recording engineer.
  • Rearrange the Song:
    • "If You Ever Change Your Mind (Bring It On Home to Me)" (a cover of the Sam Cooke song) was recorded in three different versions (list in chronological order): a live version, a single version, and an alternate single version. All of these recordings had subtle, but noticeable, differences.
    • As noted earlier, "Some Other Guy" was re-recorded for their 1973 album, following the general '70s rock style of that album rather than their earlier beat version.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Before "Eppy" cleaned up their act, The Big Three were famous for their "creamy yellow and pink" suits.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: A majority of their singles were this to their established fanbase.


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