Star Interview: Gerry Marsden

Gerry and the Pacemakers
Gerry and the Pacemakers

WHEN asked who the most successful band of 1960s Liverpool was, the first name on most people’s lips would be The Beatles.

But back in the day, The Beatles faced fierce competition from fellow Liverpudlians, Gerry and The Pacemakers.

Both bands were managed by the legendary Brian Epstein and recorded by George Martin.

But it was Gerry and The Pacemakers, not The Beatles, who were the first act to reach number one in the UK Singles Chart with their first three single releases – a feat which was not equalled for 20 years, when fellow Liverpool band Frankie Goes to Hollywood did it in the 1980s.

Despite this, when talking to Gerry Marsden, ahead of his appearance in Sixties Gold at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate, it is clear that any rivalry was firmly rooted in friendship.

“John was my best friend, we had the same sense of humour,” said Gerry, who formed Gerry and the Pacemakers in the late 1950s with his brother Fred, Les Chadwick and Arthur McMahon. “We were all friends.”

Both band’s legacies have become intrinsically linked with the city in which they were formed, both having played at the iconic The Cavern Club and sited inspiration from the city itself. But what was so special about Liverpool?

“Being a seaport we had boats coming in from all over the world,” said Gerry, “so music came in from all over the world. It was always full of music in Liverpool.

“There was always music in my home as well. My father was a musician. He played the ukulele, music was something we always had in common.”

And how does the patriotic Liverpudlian and Liverpool FC supporter feel about arguably his most famous hit, his rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone, being adopted as the anthem for several football clubs, not least Liverpool.

“You know I love that song. It is one of my favourite tracks, because it is an anthem for Liverpool Football Club. Another favourite is Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying.

“I think the appeal of our music was it was simple, simple songs with simple lyrics and simple melodies, so people could sing along to them.”

Throughout his career Gerry also got the chance to meet many of his musical heroes: “I met everyone I loved, except for Elvis Presley. I met Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis... everyone I met was very nice and I’ve had a great life.

“I would still like to play for the Pope. I’m Catholic and that would be a real honour,” said Gerry.

Yet, Gerry has not ceased to rub shoulders with musical royalty, and when Sixties Gold comes to Northampton there will also be a chance to see him with PJ Proby, Chip Hawkes (Ex Tremeloes) and The Animals.

“We do this tour every year. We tour for about two-and-a-half months and all get on well together and have a laugh, and play a lot of the golden oldies people love.”

Sixties Gold is on Wednesday, November 21, at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £28.50 or £26.50. To book call 01604 624811 or visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk