Gerry still setting the pace 50 years on

Music fans of a certain vintage will find it hard to believe that it is 50 years since Gerry and the Pacemakers topped the charts with How Do You Do It.

Thursday, 12th September 2013, 3:36 pm
Gerry and the Pacemakers
Gerry and the Pacemakers

Among them is Gerry Marsden, the Merseyside band’s bubbly lead singer.

“It feels like about 10 years,” he says.

“It goes too quickly. I still feel like I’m 23.”

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Gerry is actually almost 71, and underwent a triple heart bypass 10 years ago, facts easily betrayed by his continued global touring with a new incarnation of his band.

This year they have already toured Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and their latest Gerry Cross the Mersey UK-wide tour takes them to the Park Hall Hotel, Chorley, at 7.30pm next Saturday, September 21.

“It has been great fun and it still is,” he says. “I enjoy it as much as ever and it keeps me fit.

“We still get good crowds with everyone from kids aged 10 to kids aged 91.

“When I’m signing autographs for people, I’ll get young lads coming up and I’ll say ‘did your mum and dad drag you here’?

“But the answer is often, ‘no I’ve heard your records since I was a baby and wanted to come and see what you are like’.

“That gives you a nice

little buzz.”

It is not surprising that a man who estimates he must have played “8,000 million” concerts has only hazy memories of previous visits to Preston.

“Back in the sixties I

remember playing in a club near the bus terminal and at the theatre,” he says.

“But it was so near home in Liverpool that we never needed to stay overnight.”

Gerry, who still lives on the Wirral, admits that for a band which tours so much, it is difficult for every performance to be enjoyable.

“Some are special, some are just work,” he says.

“If you are tired, although the audience can still enjoy it, it is harder for you, but if you have had a break you can give everything.”

So, following the tour of Australasia, he called time on day-in day-out performances on long tours abroad, saying “it’s very hard work and I don’t need to do it”.

But he assures Lancashire fans that the band are now raring to go, having enjoyed a few weeks off since returning from Canada.

Gerry says he is saving his favourite anecdotes for audiences on the tour, and has some entertaining material to draw upon.

“At school I was with the Gerry Marsden Skiffle Group,” he says.

“We met John Lennon’s skiffle band The Quarrymen and became pals.

“We stayed friends and later toured in Germany together, playing the great clubs in Hamburg

“We had a friendly rivalry with The Beatles – it was us who became the first band to reach number one with our first three singles, which was a great feeling.

“But off stage we were best of friends and John was my best mate.

“What happened to him was terrible.

“He died too soon and if he was still here I’m sure he would have reinvented himself again.

“He would have still been the biggest name in showbiz.

“But I don’t think The Beatles would have played together again.

“When you are sleeping and eating with the same people all the time it becomes like a prison sentence.

“I think one of the reasons the Pacemakers have kept going for so long is because we have had different line-ups.

“I like to give kids a chance to play with us.”

The ‘kids’ in the current line-up include seasoned guitarist Steve Thompson and Steve’s former Sincere Americans sidekick, pianist Tony Young.

But what does Gerry think of modern-day music?

“I’ve not been to watch any music for ages, since seeing David Bowie in Australia,” he admits.

“I just wish there was more melody and better lyrics.

“In our day the music and lyrics were simple and everybody could remember the songs, but I think we are losing that.”

Ironically, the Pacemakers song that is sung by thousands of people every weekend was not written by Gerry.

The Liverpool FC anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone was penned by Rodgers and Hammerstein, but it is Gerry’s unmistakable voice which the players run out to at Anfield.

“The hairs still stand up on the back of my neck on the occasions when I get to a match and hear it,” says the Reds fan.

But he acknowledges that things could have turned out very differently.

“I was an Everton fan until the age of nine,” he admits.

“My family were all Blue but that meant we never had any arguments on a Sunday.

“I thought, ‘that needs to change’!”

It is impossible to talk about Liverpool FC without mention of the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy in which 96 fans were crushed to death.

You’ll Never Walk Alone took on a new poignancy following the disaster and Gerry is still campaigning with the families of those who lost their lives for the truth.

“We need to raise a lot of money but we want to take people to court,” he says.

“After 23 years the truth is starting to come out and we are not going to give up.

“We owe it to the people who died and their families.”

To book tickets, which are priced from £16, call 01257 455 000 or visit park-hall.

by rob devey