Almanac Music: Vale Gerry Marsden

 

Gerry and the Pacemakers group photo 1964.JPG
Photo: Wiki Commons

 

Gerry Marsden, leader of the 1960s pop group Gerry and the Pacemakers, has died at age 78 after a short illness.

 

Some of us were lucky enough to have our formative years during the 1960s at the time of the so-called ‘British Invasion’ of the pop charts. We were spoiled rotten! The Beatles, Dusty Springfield, The Rolling Stones, Cilla Black, The Dave Clark Five, Helen Shapiro, The Animals, The Kinks, Petula Clark, The Who, Herman’s Hermits, etc, etc. It seemed to be a never-ending production line of talent singing catchy pop tunes that brightened our lives after the comparative conservatism and austerity of the 50s. And while the production side seemed to be centred in London, the heart of it all was Liverpool.

 

And in among them all were Gerry and the Pacemakers led by Gerry Marsden. For several years from about 1963, they produced a string of hits that were a part of the soundtrack of our young lives. Their first single, How do you do it (1963), was a bright, poppy and cheerful (if not also rather shallow) song that just made you smile. The similarly engaging I like it followed not long after. Other top-selling singles such as It’s gonna be alright and the more reflective Don’t let the sun catch you crying appeared in due course.

 

But the two songs best associated with the group were You’ll never walk alone and Ferry cross the Mersey. The former was taken from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel while the latter as a Gerry Marsden original. I remember my early adolescent self feeling that Ferry transported me to a magical place that was the epitome of the Mersey scene, the Cavern and all that. It was Marsden’s tribute to his hometown. I still tingle when I hear it. Almanac editor Col Ritchie was in Liverpool in the early 70s and recalls taking the ferry across the Mersey, singing the song as he went.

 

But it was You’ll never walk alone that will be forever associated with Marsden after it became the anthem of the Liverpool Football Club (and, later, Celtic). What it must be like to attend Anfield, to stand on the Kop and sing this mighty song with the Scouser crowd, experiencing all of the emotions associated with it over the decades – Bradford, Hillsborough and Marsden himself. It’s the perfect storm of music, sport, culture and history.

 

RIP, Gerry. Walk on!

 

 

 

 

For a potted version of Gerry’s life click HERE.

 

To read The Guardian tribute click HERE.

 

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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au

Comments

  1. Colin Ritchie says

    When in Liverpool in the early 70s I caught the ferry across the Mersey and sang FCTM silently to myself as we crossed the river – couldn’t remember all the words though – had tears in my eyes when we reached the other side, don’t know why. Great song!

  2. Another fine singer bites the dust. RIP Gerry Marsden. Ian, you mentioned many of the greats from the same era, was Tommy Steele also of that era ? I remember his “What a Mouth” and Flash bang Wallop as fun songs.

  3. roger lowrey says

    Well played Ian.

    Yes, “You’ll never walk alone” never fails to send a tingle up the spine does it?

    RDL

  4. Kevin Densley says

    Fine tribute, Ian!

    Gerry Marsden was certainly an important talent; if he’d written/performed nothing else, his original song “Ferry Cross the Mersey” is testament to that.

    Interestingly, Gerry and the Pacemakers were the second group signed by Brian Epstein, after The Beatles.

    Vale, Gerry Marsden.

  5. Liam Hauser says

    I first heard of “You’ll never walk alone” in a book called “Simply The Best”. It’s an Adrian McGregor book, about the 1990 Kangaroo rugby league tour of England. It has nothing to do with Tina Turner!
    Although I wasn’t around in the 1960s, I was brought up listening to a lot of Beatles. Recently I was listening to the Animals. My favourite English group from the 1960s is definitely The Who, while I also like The Move, The Idle Race, and Cream (from the second half of the 1960s).
    I also remember part of the Herman’s Hermits song “I’m into something good” being used in a Sizzler TV commercial, while the Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t it be nice” was used in a TV commercial for lotto.
    Kenny Everett rated The Idle Race as second only to The Beatles, yet The Idle Race never had a hit single or album.

  6. Thanks for your responses, gentlemen.

    Col, I get all misty eyed too when it comes to ‘You’ll never walk alone’.

    Kevin, I agree that ‘Ferry’ is worthy in its own right of giving Marsden significant stature as it captures the essence of a time and place let alone its subsequent associations.

    RDL, have a listen to it again today to get your thrills! I played all five of the GaTP songs I have in my files as first priority today.

    Fisho, Tommy Steele (real name Thomas Hicks and still going at 84) emerged almost a decade earlier but there are claims that he was the first British teenage idol and rock and roller. Rightly or wrongly, I remember him more for those fun songs in the old town hall concert/Cockney genre. His ‘biographies’, even in their internet brevity, make for interesting reading as he went on to other things during the subsequent decades.

  7. 1964 Grade 4 Primary School notice board had a sheet where you were expected to put your name under your “favourite band” – 3 columns – Beatles; Stones; Elvis. I thought “shit where is the Gerry and the Pacemakers column?” Those infectious early songs and the dramatic sweep of “Ferry Across the Mersey” were captivating to naive ears. Still love them.
    What about those short guitar straps with the strings up around the (not inconsiderable) ears? Remember early George Harrison pix were similar.
    Scary times when your heroes and contemporaries are croaking. Carpe diem.

  8. Warwick Nolan says

    Saw Gerry Marsden perform live at the Frankston Arts Centre in 2011. Quite the showman. After his opening number he bantered with the audience, “How did you like that? Not bad for 89, eh?” The audience broke into unified applause to salute him. He quickly interjected with . . . “Get F***ed! I’m only 69!” Terrific rapport. Great entertainer. RIP to a legend.

  9. Gee we have lost a few lately.
    Nice tribute, Ian.

  10. I’ve been fortunate enough to be at Anfield and sing YNWA with the Kop faithful. But I’d have to say the experience was more than matched by a packed MCG singing it when Liverpool played an exhibition game here a few years ago. Extraordinary.
    Thanks for the tribute Ian.

  11. Barbara ONeill says

    BabsLa

    Thanks Ian for your thoughts on Gerry. During the late 60’s I was in a production of ‘Carousel’ and thought wow how good is it that we get to sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ (finding later it was acutally a R&H composition). I was also very fortunate only a few years ago to have a balcony seat at the Geelong Performing Arts Centre, to see Gerry & The Pacemakers in concert, he was very funny, charming and generous with his time. We witnessed many standing ovations but the finale was ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’t it bought the house down, many tears were shed. Vale Gerry.

  12. This Gerry Marsden tribute has drawn a lot of readers and its fair share of comments. I’m not quite sure why this is so. Gerry and the Pacemakers certainly did have their moment in the sun in the mid-60s but, in the overall scheme of things, they hardly rate up there with the biggest sellers or longest surviving bands. Perhaps it has to do with their songs’ ability to capture a moment in time that coincided with our formative years.

    PB, I must admit that I’ve struggled a bit this week after this news. You might be on to something with your notion of the contemporary heroes biting the dust and our own mortality. Maybe it’s just the sense of loss of one of the underpinning influences of our youth. The short guitar straps did catch my eye. It was fairly widespread at the time. When did the low slung, hip thrusting version with its phallic connotations emerge?

    Warwick and Barbara, lucky you to see Gerry and the lads live albeit years later. On top of their ‘You’ll never walk alone’ anthem, perhaps it was that easy charm and rapport that helped to draw us in, the way they sang a combination of happy (‘How do you do it’, ‘I like it’) and reflective (‘Don’t let the sun’, ‘Ferry cross the Mersey’) songs.

    Stainless, you scored the quinella! – the Kop and the ‘G’ – you lucky bugger!

    In the end, let’s be grateful for a performer who, with his band, gave us such enjoyable music to remember and savour. Lucky us!

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