Wednesday, August 20, 2008

And Here I'll Stay...

Here are two clips of Mersey Beat legends Gerry and the Pacemakers--the first band to achieve the feat of having their first 3 singles skyrocket to the number one position in the UK charts: "How Do You Do It," "I Like It," and the Rogers and Hammerstein standard, "You'll Never Walk Alone," featured in the second clip. Their fourth single stalled at number 2, kept out of the top position by the Searchers' version of "Needles and Pins." In the US it seems Gerry and the Pacemakers are most remembered for "Ferry Cross The Mersey" and "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying."

Gerry and the Pacemakers began as a 3 piece skiffle band with the copyright-infringing moniker "The Mars Bars." (They were sued by the candy company!) By 1960, Gerry Marsden (guitar, vocals), Les Chadwick (bass) and Freddie Marsden (drums) were performing as Gerry and the Pacemakers, opening for Gene Vincent in Liverpool and heading for a residency at Hamburg's infamous Top Ten Club. Soon the band had pilfered pianist/saxophonist Les Maguire from another Merseyside act, the Undertakers. By January of 1962, the Beatles' impresario, Brian Epstein, had taken notice of their immense popularity and became their manager. (Notice Gerry's response to a question about Mr. Epstein in the first clip!)

"You Never Walk Alone," although voted a "miss" on Juke Box Jury, soon became the anthem of the Liverpool Football Club at Anfield. Marsden recalls, "They played it at the game about six times and then they all started singing it and it's carried on, which is great. The first time I was there when they sang it, I went all goose-pimply. I still do" (Leigh 151). In 1989 when 96 Liverpool FC supporters died in a tragic human crush at Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield, Marsden, Paul McCartney, and other Liverpool musicians recorded a new version of the song, donating all proceeds to the families of the victims.

Gerry and the Pacemakers were unable to transition to the new sounds emerging in the mid to late Sixties, and thus they disbanded in October of 1966. I am particularly fond of their second to last single, "Girl on a Swing" which didn't chart on either side of the Atlantic; a shame, actually. You can find it on volume 7 of Rhino's essential nine volume British Invasion: History of British Rock set.

(The first clip was encoded by me from my copy of Sounds of the Sixties, and the second was found on YouTube by Invader bassist Alan Manning.)

(References: Let's Go Down The Cavern by Spencer Leigh and Pete Frame; Tapestry of Delights by Vernon Joynson; Wikipedia)

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