Sunday, September 20, 2009

Beatle People: Gerry & the Pacemakers

Gerry & the Pacemakers were a British rock and roll group during the 1960s. In common with The Beatles, they came from Liverpool and were managed by Brian Epstein. They are most remembered for being the first act to reach number one in the UK Singles Chart with their first three single releases. It was a record that was not equaled for 20 years.


Gerry Marsden formed the group in 1959 with his brother, Fred, Les Chadwick and Arthur McMahon. They rivalled the Beatles early in their career, playing in the same areas of Hamburg, Germany and Liverpool, England. McMahon (known as Arthur Mack) was replaced on piano by Les Maguire around 1961. They are known to have rehearsed at Cammell Laird shipping yard at Birkenhead.

The band was the second to sign with Brian Epstein, who later signed them with Columbia Records (a sister label to The Beatles label Parlophone under EMI). They began recording in early 1963 with "How Do You Do It?", a song written by Mitch Murray that Adam Faith had turned down and one that The Beatles chose not to release (they did record the song but chose to release their own song "Please Please Me"). The song was produced by George Martin and became a number one hit in the UK, until being replaced at the top by "From Me to You," The Beatles' third single.

Gerry & the Pacemakers' next two singles, Murray's "I Like It" and Rodgers and Hammerstein's "You'll Never Walk Alone", both also reached number one in the UK Singles Chart. "You'll Never Walk Alone" had been a favorite of Gerry Marsden's since seeing Carousel growing up (he turned down the Beatles' "Hello Little Girl" for this slot, which then became the first hit for The Fourmost). It soon became the signature tune of Liverpool Football Club. To this day, the song remains a football anthem, there and elsewhere, a phenomenon due to Gerry Marsden, rather than its Broadway composers.

Despite this early success, Gerry & the Pacemakers never had another number one single in the UK. Gerry Marsden began writing most of their own songs, including "It's Gonna Be All Right", "I'm the One", and "Ferry Cross the Mersey", as well as their first and biggest U.S. hit, "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying", which peaked at #4, and which Gerry Marsden initially gave to Decca recording artist Louise Cordet in 1963. She recorded the song (Decca F11824), but without commercial success. They also starred in an early 1965 film called Ferry Cross the Mersey (sometimes referred to as "Gerry & the Pacemakers' version of A Hard Day's Night"), for which Marsden wrote much of the soundtrack. The title song was revived in 1989 as a charity single for an appeal in response to the Hillsborough football crowd disaster, giving Marsden - in association with other Liverpool stars, including Paul McCartney and Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Holly Johnson - another British number one.

In the U.S., they were signed by the small New York independent record label, Laurie in 1963, and Laurie issued four singles during 1963 without success (as listed below). When The Beatles broke through in January, 1964, Laurie's next regular single release of "Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying" became a big hit and during 1964, Laurie coupled "How Do You Do It?" with "You'll Never Walk Alone" (Laurie 3261) and "I Like It" with "Jambalaya" (Laurie 3271) with some success.

By late 1965, their popularity was rapidly declining on both sides of the Atlantic. They disbanded in October 1966, with much of their latter recorded material never released in the UK.

Drummer Freddie Marsden died on 9 December 2006, age 66.


UK Singles

March 1963 "How Do You Do It?" / "Away From You" #1
May 1963 "I Like It" / "It's Happened To Me" #1
October 1963 "You'll Never Walk Alone" / "It's Alright" #1
January 1964 "I'm The One" / "You've Got What I Like" #2
April 1964 "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" / "Show Me that You Care" #6
September 1964 "It's Gonna Be Alright" / "It's Just Because" #24
December 1964 "Ferry Cross the Mersey" / "You, You, You" #8
March 1965 "I'll Be There" / "Baby You're So Good To Me" #15
November 1965 "Walk Hand in Hand" / "Dreams" #29
February 1966 "La La La" / "Without You" -
September 1966 "Girl on a Swing" / "A Fool to Myself" -
April 1974 "Remember (The Days of Rock and Roll)" / "There's Still Time" -

UK albums

October 1963 / How Do You Like It? #2
March 1965 / Ferry Cross the Mersey † #19

† - Soundtrack, includes other artists

U.S. singles

In the United States, a different series of Gerry & the Pacemakers' singles was issued, as their Laurie Records label created more albums, and at least two singles, which were never issued in Britain. This was a standard practice at the time; it also happened with The Beatles and the Dave Clark 5. Peak chart positions are from the Billboard Hot 100.

April 1963 "How Do You Do It?" / "Away From You" -
June 1963 "I Like It" / "It's Happened To Me" -
December 1963 "You'll Never Walk Alone" / "It's Alright" -
January 1964 "I'm the One" / "You've Got What I Like" #82
May 1964 "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" / "Away From You" #4
July 1964 "How Do You Do It?" (Reissue) / "You'll Never Walk Alone" #9
January 1965 "I Like It" (Reissue) / "Jambalaya" #17
March 1965 "I'll Be There" / "You, You, You" #14
May 1965 "Ferry Cross the Mersey" / "Pretend" #6
June 1965 "It's Gonna Be Alright" / "Skinny Minnie" #23
September 1965 "You'll Never Walk Alone" (Reissue) / "Away From You" #48
October 1965 "Give All Your Love to Me" / "You're the Reason" #68
December 1965 "Walk Hand in Hand" / "Dreams" #117
March 1966 "La La La" / "Without You" #90
June 1966 "Girl on a Swing" / "The Way You Look Tonight" #28
October 1966 "The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine" / "Looking for My Life" -
April 1970 "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" (Reissue) / "Away From You" -

U.S. albums

Peak chart positions are from the Billboard 200.

* Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying (July 1964) #29
* Gerry & the Pacemakers' Second Album (November 1964) #129
* Ferry Cross the Mersey [soundtrack] (February 1965) #13
* I'll Be There! (February 1965) #120
* Gerry & the Pacemakers' Greatest Hits (May 1965) #44
* Girl on a Swing (December 1966)
* The Best of Gerry & the Pacemakers (July 1979)


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