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06th January, 2021

Gerry Marsden – Liverpool Legend and links to The Beatles

The Beatles Story were saddened to hear of the passing of Gerry Marsden, who died aged 78 in early January 2021.

He was the lead singer of Gerry and the Pacemakers, a band which hailed from the same Merseybeat era as The Beatles, and the two Liverpool bands shared both a rivalry and a friendship.

The first act to top the charts with each of their first three singles, How Do You Do It?, I Like It and You’ll Never Walk Alone, Gerry and the Pacemakers emerged from the innovative Liverpool music scene at exactly the same time as the Fab Four, and both bands were a major force in reinforcing the genre’s popularity.

In 2016 we spoke with Gerry’s bandmate Les Maguire of Gerry and the Pacemakers, and he explained how Merseybeat really took off in the early 60s.

"Someone reckoned there were actually 600 bands, a lot anyway. In 1961 it really kicked off when the Cavern Club moved from doing mainly Jazz music to doing more rock ‘n’ roll. There would be about five bands on a night and we all used to double or treble up, so in an evening we would do up to three gigs in various clubs around Liverpool.

"There was a sense that the music scene was special to Liverpool but you never thought nationwide or globally it was any different. That never entered anyone’s heads.

"The bands all knew each other but all the crowd knew you as well. There was no hysteria, it was all first name terms and very civilised. It was just a club where everybody met, the bands were part of the community, that’s how it felt."

Gerry and Mike Burns at The Beatles Story on preview day on May 1st 1990

The Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers played together during their early days in Hamburg, before touring together in 1963 on the Roy Orbison/Beatles tour.

Gerry gave the Fab Four a run for their money on the big screen too. Released in 1965, the film ‘Ferry Cross The Mersey’, sometimes referred to as their ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ told the story of a band trying to navigate the madness of the Merseybeat rock n roll era.

To this day, the music of Gerry and the Pacemakers remains very popular in Liverpool. You will hear their song 'Ferry Cross The Mersey' played, of course, on the ferry and 'You’ll Never Walk Alone' the anthem of the supporters of Liverpool Football Club.

Gerry was handed an MBE for his services supporting the victims of the Hillsborough disaster in 2003, before being awarded the Freedom of the City of Liverpool in 2009.

Many friends and fans have paid tribute to Gerry, including Paul McCartney, who wrote on social media:

“Gerry was a mate from our early days in Liverpool. He and his group were our biggest rivals on the local scene.

“His unforgettable performances of You’ll Never Walk Alone and Ferry Cross the Mersey remain in many people’s hearts as reminders of a joyful time in British music. My sympathies go to his wife Pauline and family. See ya, Gerry. I’ll always remember you with a smile. - Paul.”

Ringo Starr and Yoko Ono also paid tribute, calling him a ‘Merseybeat legend’ and a ‘proud champion of Liverpool’.

Like The Beatles, Gerry And The Pacemakers worked long hours in Hamburg clubs for years before they released records and both bands were managed by Brian Epstein.

Speaking to The Argus in 2013, Gerry talked of his friendship with The Beatles:

“The Beatles and us were on-stage rivals but off stage we were the best of mates.

“John Lennon was my best pal but we never wrote together.”

Gerry would ask John ‘Do you want a hand? I’ll help you’. And John would reply, in typical fashion, politely telling him in no uncertain terms that it wouldn't be necessary.

You’ll never walk alone, Gerry.

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