Gerry Marsden passed away on January 3 at the age of 78. Paul McCartney said, “Gerry was a mate from our early days in Liverpool. He and his group were our biggest rivals on the local scene.” Before their 21st birthdays in 1963, both musicians reached the No. 1 spot in England. The Pacemakers and The Beatles were both managed by Brian Epstein and worked with George Martin at Parlophone records.
George Martin selected a lively song called “How Do You Do It?,” written by Mitch Murray for The Beatles, but they weren’t interested in releasing it. He then offered it to Gerry and The Pacemakers and this became their first single and it went all the way to No. 1 in England. Shortly after, The Beatles achieved their first No. 1 UK single with their composition “From Me to You.”
In January of 1964, The Beatles’ fifth single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” finally brought the group to the U.S. Top 100. By May, their earlier singles were released in the U.S. along with new songs, bringing over a dozen Beatles songs to U.S. radio. That month, the current single at the time for Gerry and The Pacemakers, “Don’t Let the Sun Catch you Crying,” became their first entry in the U.S. Top 100, a Gerry Marsden composition augmented by full orchestration. The single was their first of three U.S. Top 10 hits. For the U.S. flip side of “Don’t Let the Sun Catch you Crying,” “Away from You” was chosen. It was on par with early Beatles recordings, featuring harmonies from the quartet. There were minor and major chord mixes to match lyrics of loneliness and memories of loving times. It had a folk-rock blend with prominent guitar strumming. The repeating bridge shifted the sound a bit, with the drums more up-front.
Gerry and The Pacemakers
Flip side: Away from You
A side: Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying
Top 100 debut: May 23, 1964
Peak position: No. 4
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“How Do You Do It?” followed in the U.S. as their next Top 10 stateside hit single. “I Like It,” another lively Mitch Murray composition, and “I’ll Be There,” written by Bobby Darin, were released in early and late fall respectively and both made the U.S. Top 20.
In January of 1965, the musical film Ferry Cross the Mersey was released. The movie featured The Pacemakers, with songs written by Gerry Marsden, including the Top 10 title tune as its first single followed by “It’s Gonna be Alright.”
Next in the Top 100 was The Pacemakers’ version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” later adopted by the Liverpool Football Club as their anthem.
By the end of 1966 the quartet disbanded, making “Girl on a Swing” their final Top 40 hit late that year. Gerry recorded as a solo artist with songs including “Gilbert Green,” written by The Bee Gees’ Barry and Robin Gibb.
In 2003, Gerry was made a Member of the British Empire. Gerry continued to perform with a new batch of Pacemakers through his retirement in 2018. In England, the Mersey Ferry continues to provide a roundtrip on the River Mersey, with the song “Ferry Cross the Mersey” played daily.