Gerry and the Pacemakers were as popular as the Beatles in the early 1960s. They had the same screaming fans, the same sell-out shows, the same response in the USA. But where The Beatles experimented more and changed with the rapidly altering times, Gerry and the Pacemakers remained forever Gerry and the Pacemakers.
Now, I grew up with this band. My father had a heap of their albums (mainly singles and Eps) and the third ever cassette tape I bought with my own money was one of their greatest hits tapes. I was quite the odd little fan, listening to them in the late 70s along with Kiss and the Sex Pistols and the Beatles and Bill Haley. Oh well look where that's got me now.
So this means this is one of those celebrity deaths that sort of hits hard. He'd stopped having real hits before I was born, and yet his music forms such an integral part of my childhood and into my teenaged years and even now as an adult that it feels like he was always making music. In fact, I was listening to the EP Gerry In California just yesterday.
So here are a few of my favourite Gerry and the Pacemakers songs.
'How Do You Do It?' (1963)
Their first single and a UK chart-topper, showing that sound that became known as the Mersey sound, exemplified by Gerry and the Pacemakers, the early Beatles and so many other Liverpudlian bands. A nice way to start a career.
'I Like It' (1963)
Very little changed in their sound with their second single, as dictated by their manager Brian Epstein, who also managed the Beatles. Fair enough if it ain;t broke, don't fix it.
'You'll Never Walk Alone' (1963)
Epstein, though, hated Marsden's choice for their third single. This unique version of a song from the musical Carousel was deemed certain career suicide. Instead, it has become their best-known song, my own personal favourite of theirs (it is in my top 10 songs of all time) and the unofficial anthem of the Liverpool Football Club. My version is so crackly it is almost unlistenable mum, dad and I played it that often.
Fun fact: the reason it became the anthem? Well, before matches, the PA at their home ground would play the charting songs. This song was on top for so long that it was the last song played before the match started, the crowd started singing along and thus this connection was born.
'It's All Right' (1963)
The B-side to 'You'll Never Walk Alone' means it got played a fair bit as well. Back to that Mersey sound. But after the A-side things would never be the same again.
'It's Gonna Be All Right' (1964)
Playing up more of the guitar band they really were than previous tracks, this song really does capture their close harmonies well. Gerry Marsden really did have a singular voice.
'Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying' (1964)
Lush strings and a slowed down delivery; they were being steered in a direction that felt a little bit off, especially with The Beatles going in a different direction. However, that does not take away from this really good track, with some amazing lyrics. And it did not come to dominate their sound.
'What'd I Say?' (1965)
I love this cover version! I only own it live on the Gerry In California EP but this studio version, showcasing their musicianship really well is just as awesome. That piano playing is a real stand-out. This is great.
'Show Me That You Care' (1965)
Relying on their harmonies, and their instrumentation more, this is a simple song, but I really like the way it bounces along. The lyrics sound mid-tempo, but the instrumentation is up-tempo. It is an interesting mix.
I first heard this track by Freddie and the Dreamers, but when I heard this version, Freddie was shelved. Again, the piano is there at the front. This is what separated them from a lot of the Mersey sound bands, and it is good to hear it so often and forward in the mix.
'I'll Be There' (1966)
A song that, again, I have heard by others, but there is something about Gerry's voice that makes this one stand out. You'll note that the video says this is a second version with strings; I prefer the one without, but could not find that online anywhere. Sorry.
And now two songs without The Pacemakers.
'Amo Credo' (1972)
A sweet tune that I really like, with some great lyrics and some interesting instrumentation. It could have easily fit in with the Pacemakers, but that does not matter I think it's really good.
And I'll finish with a version of a Pacemakers' hit, but redone after the Hillsborough Disaster. 'Ferry 'Cross The Mersey' by Paul McCartney, Holly Johnson, Gerry Marsden, The Christians, et al. (1988)
While he is one of many, I actually prefer this version to the Pacemakers' original. It is probably the emotion because of the reason they were singing it. But that does not matter. This is a stunning version.
And with that, we will finish this look at Gerry Marsden's music.
Best wishes are extended to his family and friends and, from this fan, thank-you for the music, Mr Marsden.