For serious devotees of Merseybeat, there was only one book worth owning in 1967.
It was a slim volume of poetry – just 128 pages – and it cost three shillings and sixpence in old money.
It featured three Liverpool poets – Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten – and its contents, though a little rough and familiar, were pure gold.
The book was The Mersey Sound and it was published by Penguin as part of its Modern Poets series.
From its humble beginnings, it went on to become one of the most popular poetry anthologies of all time. Up to now, more than 500,000 copies have been sold.
The poetry was accessible and relevant. Its language was sparse, witty and lively – reflecting the humour and directness of the era.
At the time, the world’s focus was firmly on Liverpool thanks to the emergence of the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers and a string of other bands and performers.
The three Liverpool poets reflected the city’s music. McGough and his band the Scaffold even went to the top of the charts with the single Lily the Pink, released in 1968.
The multi-faceted Henri was the lynch pin of the band Liverpool Scene, which released four albums of poetry and music in the 1960s. The group even reached the heights of supporting Led Zeppelin on their UK tour.
Liverpool Scene came together as a band in 1967. Alongside Henri were Mike Hart, who used to play in the Liverpool Roadrunners, Andy Roberts who would later form the rock band Plainsong, and bass guitarist Percy Jones.
The band’s first album, which heavily featured Henri’s poetry, was produced by ground-breaking Liverpool disc jockey John Peel, then broadcasting on the pirate station Radio London.
Henri’s musical journey began in his art college days at King’s College, Newcastle, where he played the washboard in a skiffle group as well as writing and performing poetry.
Indeed it was Henri who commanded the lion’s share of The Mersey Sound anthology. His 30 poems were published across the first 44 pages of the book. Next was McGough with 32 pages and 24 poems and then Patten with 31 pages and 24 poems.
Born in Birkenhead in April 1932, Henri was the grandson of a seaman from Mauritius who had settled in Merseyside. The sea may have been in his blood, but the arts were his first love.
After studying in Newcastle, Henri lectured at both Liverpool and Manchester Colleges of Art while honing his poetry and music.
His talent as a painter was recognised in 1972 when he won the John Moores competition for his work Meat Painting II – In Memoriam Rene Magritte. Our picture shows the artist and his creation.
Henri went on to be the president of the Merseyside Arts Association and Liverpool Academy of Arts in the 1970s, as well as becoming an honorary professor of John Moores University.
He was moving in supremely influential circles in the creative hub of Liverpool in the 1960s and early 1970s. Playwright Willy Russell was a friend, along with Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
Henri’s associates also included Liverpool jazz musician George Melly, the scholar and translator John Willett and American writer Alan Ginsberg – known as the poet of the Beat generation.
As well as The Mersey Sound, Henri published numerous poetical works including Wish You Were Here in 1990 and Not Fade Away in 1994.
Henri was never tempted to move to London to further his career. He remained in Liverpool until his death in December 2000 at the age of 68. He had suffered a stroke two years earlier.
On the night before he died, the City of Liverpool paid a special tribute to one of its favourite sons.
Henri was given the Freedom of the City in recognition of his contribution to Liverpool’s cultural scene.
*Hundreds of remarkable pictures from around Britain during World War II will feature in Clive Hardy’s latest book The Home Front – 1939 to 1945, available soon from publishers iNostalgia.