Hebden Bridge is known for its creative and independent spirit, and music is a vibrant and important part of that. There’s the annual Folk Roots Festival; thriving grassroots venue The Trades Club, and any number of pubs across the area that host live music. More recently the town has become known for producing a wave of talented young bands such as The Orielles, Working Mens Club, The Lounge Society, Splint and The Short Causeway.
A recent exciting event has shone a spotlight on the 1970s with the discovery of a cache of songs by a young folk singer-songwriter called Trevor Beales. He was producing his work and singing at local pubs during more difficult times. An album of his solo work has now been compiled, called Fireside Stories (Hebden Bridge circa 1971–1974), for release in December.
Trevor Beales was born in Hebden Bridge in 1954, before the town became colonised by artists, writers and hippies from the mid sixties onwards, bringing new life and energy to a place that had become neglected and depopulated. People had fled after the mills closed and the town was dark and dank; poet laureate Ted Hughes called the area “the fouled nest of industrialisation”. Yet this is where Trevor found his inspiration, both musically and lyrically, as the 1960s and its idealism gave way to the 70s, with strikes, rising unemployment and economic upheaval.
Trevor produced his earliest songs less than a year after he left school (an unearthed report written by his headteacher on July 3rd 1970 noted he had “a considerable ability and interest in music”, though his education ended abruptly when he simply walked out of a science lesson one sunny day while at sixth form, never to return).
Beales writes with a vision that is “defiantly Northern”; there’s a world-weariness and a practicality of life expressed in some of his songs. Take Then I’ll Take You Home, for example, which expresses his frustration with the Guru Maharaji who was attracting followers in Hebden Bridge to his cause; Beales was a little more circumspect. He writes:
“Please don’t tell me your light is divine and it’s way ahead of mine,
Sit and argue I don’t really have the time,
Buy your new-born king a new Rolls-Royce like the one he had before
But didn’t Jesus ride the lowest creature known”
It is a pleasure to listen to Beales’ fluid, sensitive guitar-picking style and his emotive vocals. Writes Benjamin Myers (The Gallows Pole / Fireside Stories sleeve notes): “This is music that can confidently hold its own with pioneers such as Davey Graham, Michael Chapman, Bert Jansch and Jackson C Frank, as influenced by jazz, blues and steel guitar as any of the old songbook classics from ancient Albion.”
On December 2nd, the debut compilation of home recordings, titled Fireside Stories (Hebden Bridge circa 1971–1974) will be launched, the songs rescued from cassette tapes. They were recorded in the attic of Trevor’s family home at Ivy Bank in Charlestown on the wooded slopes at the edge of Hebden Bridge. These early recordings are collected here for the first time and mark Trevor Beales’ long-overdue solo debut.
Trevor Beales died suddenly and unexpectedly on March 29th 1987, aged 33. He left behind Christine and their young child Lydia.
Songs and music by Trevor A. Beales Recorded at 1 Ivy Bank, Charlestown, Hebden Bridge between 1971–94
Landscape photograph of Hebden Bridge by Charlie Meecham, 1969–70 https://www.foldedworks.org
Adapted for and video manipulations by Nick Farrimond in Todmorden, 2022 https://www.nickfarrimond.co.uk