Gerry Marsden, of âGerry and the Pacemakersâ fame may not mean much to you, but he and his band recorded a handful of singles â âHow Do You Do Itâ (the single the Beatles rejected, with which the Pacemakers made their recording debut, and with which, had their first number one single), âI Like Itâ, âYouâll Never Walk Aloneâ, âDonât Let The Sun Catch You Cryingâ and of course, âFerry Cross the Merseyâ â that are universally known and loved. âYouâll Never Walk Aloneâ, from Marsdenâs favourite musical, Carousel, was adopted as the anthem of the Liverpool Football Club. Marsden is currently in Australia with PJ Proby, as they undertake their â60s Gold â Fortieth Anniversaryâ tour.
I know very little about Proby â except that he used to perform a stage manouvre that would see the seams of his jumpsuit split, that would have women decorating their cookies throughout the audience. As for Gerry, I was always a bit of a fan of that early 60s pop. Managed by Brian Epstein and produced by George Martin, the Pacemakers may appear to have been another besuited wannabe Beatles as far as latecomers are concerned. But they were the Beatlesâ contemporaries. Indeed, there was an occasion in which pre-fame Gerry and the Pacemakers and the Beatles performed together, as the Beatmakers. However, whereas the Fab Four were always breaking new ground, exploring and exploiting sonic territory, the Pacemakers never really changed. So when the Beatles discovered psychedelia, the Pacemakers broke up so that Marsden could pursue a career in musicals.
Forty years on, he seems to have a pretty good life on the nostalgia circuit. A pleasant, happy, chatty interview subject, I can only hope Iâm having half as much fun, still being paid for doing what I love to do, by the time I get to his age! (Although, letâs face it â whatâs this âstillâ business? I hope I get the opportunity to get paid to do what I love to do just once by the time I get to his age!)
A truncated version of this was edited into last weekâs Music News and broadcast on ABC NewsRadio. I may even get around to posting a transcript of that broadcast. You can listen to the broadcast version â bookended by Music News banter â here. The transcript of the full, original interview follows.
GERRY MARSDEN: The last time I was here was a year ago. This is my twenty-third trip to Australia. Iâm really a national.
Demetrius Romeo: So you must like it here!
GERRY MARSDEN: I love Australia. Itâs great. I have lots of friends in Australia. I enjoy working in Australia, and I love the weather in Australia. So itâs great to be back!
Demetrius Romeo: If I didnât have any scruples, Iâd follow that quote with a snippet from your song âI Like Itâ!
Now, Gerry, when you started out, you broke a record by having three number one singles as your first three singles. Did you have any idea that youâd be that successful when you first picked up a guitar?
GERRY MARSDEN: No, not at all. Music was fun to me, and it still is today. When we had our first number one with âHow Do You Do It?â, we thought, âbloody hell!â, you know, âweâre stars!â Next thing was, we got âI Like Itâ and âYouâll Never Walk Aloneâ as our first three number ones and there was a great surprise and a great pleasure to have them. We just loved them. That was what started my career in show biz and itâs still tremendous; I love it.
Demetrius Romeo: When you recorded âYouâll Never Walk Aloneâ, which was a song from a musical â apparently it was one of your favourite songs from your favourite musicals. How did you actually come to record the song?
GERRY MARSDEN: I saw the musicalâ¦ the song itself is a lovely song. I love the lyrics. When we had âI Like Itâ and âHow Do You Do It?â, George Martin and Brian Epstein, our manager. I said I wanted to do ââ¦ Walk Aloneâ as our third record and they said, âoh, itâs too slow, itâs wrong; it should be poppy!â I said, âno, let me do itâ. I won the fight, and when it got to number one, I rang them back and went, ânah nah ner-nah nahâ. Itâs just a song I loved and I still love singing it today. So God bless ââ¦Walk Aloneâ.
Demetrius Romeo: Itâs become an anthem; itâs still sung by hordes of people at the football in Liverpool.
GERRY MARSDEN: Yeah, itâs great. I go to the match when Iâm at home, and my hair stands up and I get goose pimples when they sing âYouâll Never Walk Aloneâ. I stand with them and Iâm singing it with them. Itâs wonderful. Itâs become the anthem of our football team. Wonderful!
Demetrius Romeo: Another anthemic song that you wrote was âFerry Cross The Merseyâ which again sums up so much, and always brings a tear to the eye of people who can look back nostalgically on where theyâve come from and where theyâre going. How did that song come about?
GERRY MARSDEN: âFerryâ¦â was from a film. We made a film called Ferry Cross The Mersey because in the early days, we didnât have videos, so we couldnât actually send videos around the world for kids, and the Beatles did A Hard Dayâs Night and Help! and Brian said we should do one. A guy called Tony Warren, who wrote Coronation Street originally, wrote Ferry Cross The Mersey the film, and asked me, could I do the songs for the film. I said yes, and he said, âwell, we need a good theme songâ. So I wrote âFerry Cross The Merseyâ. I wrote it about Liverpool people and why a ferry should cross the Mersey to get to Liverpool, and it worked and itâs became a great standard for me. All over the world, wherever I go, people say, âplease sing âFerry Cross The Merseyâ!â
Demetrius Romeo: How do you feel that you had these massive hits at the front end of your career? Does it effect you as you go on as a musician?
GERRY MARSDEN: Not at all. You canât continue having hit records. But the thing those records gave us â âFerryâ, âDonât Let The Sun Catch You Cryingâ, things like that â they gave us a longer life in the business, because people liked the songs, they liked the lyrics, they like to come and see the shows. So it doesnât matter now, not having hit records, truthfully. It would be nice to have one, of course, but it doesnât matter not having one because people still love to listen to the records of those days. Iâm just glad that they still do, and I can still work and enjoy myself. And travel the world. And come to Australia every year. Yeah, yeah, bloody great!
Demetrius Romeo: One of the problems for the music industry at the moment is that people are downloading songs illegally. If what you are, primarily, is a live performer, does that affect tour career as a musician?
GERRY MARSDEN: It doesnât affect my career as a musicianâ¦ Downloading is a thing they do thatâs just life. It might affect me if Iâm making millions and millions of pounds out of records, but Iâm not; Iâm making millions out of singing and entertaining, and they canât download me â ha ha ha! I wish they could â ha ha ha. So no, it doesnât matter to me, really.
Demetrius Romeo: What sort of audience do you draw in Australia?
GERRY MARSDEN: The nice thing is, we get kids of sixteen to kids of ninety-three coming into the show, because you get the parents, you get the grandparents who know the songs, and you get the young kids who like the sixties music and they want to see the artists who actually recorded the songs. So itâs massive. The audience is a vast array of ages, and itâs great, because the kids love the music. What you get is another bonus for us: theyâre grateful and they know the words and itâs easy to sing âem.
Demetrius Romeo: Do the kids sing along with you?
GERRY MARSDEN: Of course they do. The kids and the old kids all sing along. Itâs like a party. I could go out on stage, start my first song and leave until the end because they sing every song with me.
Demetrius Romeo: Do you find, as you play different territories, that different songs are the ones that get the crowd rolling for you?
GERRY MARSDEN: Maybe so. Yeah, like, in Australia, a song called âGirl On A Swingâ is very popular, which isnât really popular in England. And in the States, âGirl On A Swingâ and âIâll Be Thereâ, songs like that which arenât massive in England, are big in Australia, so you find that you do have to change the act slightly. And half the time, Iâve forgotten the words to the songs, so Iâve got to relearn them. But never mind: itâs worth doing!
Demetrius Romeo: Whatâs your favourite part of coming to Australia?
GERRY MARSDEN: I donât know my one favourite thingâ¦ Maybe the beaches â I love the beaches. Iâm a sun worshipper, so I love the beaches. And I love the people because I just think Australians are great; theyâre mad, and Iâm mad, and I think itâs great fun to be back in Aussie.
Demetrius Romeo: The Pacemakers broke up in the mid 60s. How did you progress after that? Did you think it was the end, for a little while?
GERRY MARSDEN: What we did, we decided to split in 1967 â the original band â because I was going into the West End, into theatre, to do a show called Charlie Girl and I loved it. I did that for nearly three years, and the show actually came out to Australia but I couldnât sign the contract for twelve months because I wanted to be home; I couldnât be away for that long. And a great guy called Johnny Farnham did my part in Australia; Johnnyâs a great artist, a great singer and a great guy. So I did that and then I did another show â a West End show called Pull Both Ends. Then, in about 1975, I said âright, I want to tourâ because I would get letters from the States and Australia saying âWhat are you doing? Where are ya?â So I thought âright!â and I re-formed me band, just to re-tour again. And since that day, Iâve been touring and Iâve had about three thousand Pacemakers in my band since the early days.
Demetrius Romeo: Freddy, your brother, was an original Pacemaker. Is he still in the band with you?
GERRY MARSDEN: No, Fred finished with the other boys in â67, and all heâs done since then is play golf. Heâs a great golfer and enjoys playing golf, so, no, Fred isnât in the band, but I still see him a hell of a lot of course because heâs mah bruddah. He ainât heavy, heâs my brother!
Demetrius Romeo: Gerry, thank you very much.
GERRY MARSDEN: The pleasure has been all mine. You take care and look after yourself. God bless you.