Gerry On The Mersey
The Merseyside Movie
By Bill Harry
Allan Schroeder was a member of the Black Knights, who appeared in the contest at the Locarno near the end of the film.
He says, "My recollections of the film were that it was very rushed. It all began when our manager Norman Hurst knocked on our front door on the Wirral and told me to jump in the van with just my snare drum and sticks. I worked in the building trade at the time and had just arrived home from work.
"He took us to the Adelphi Hotel and as I walked in I saw who I thought was a young lad playing the piano in the foyer. It turned out to be Gerry who was now very big in the business. He asked how Cliff Roberts was. He knew Cliff from the earlier days when we were Cliff Roberts & the Rockers playing at the Cavern and other venues.
"Apparently they were looking for a wild band who would contrast with the Pacemakers as one of the bands to compete in the talent competition at the Locarno.
"We auditioned acoustically. I just used my sticks and snare drum. We were a long-haired mod type of band, not unlike the Kinks.
"We were filmed in the Locarno over three days and a night. I think we were paid £30 a day and had to be on set at about 7.30am, which was hard when you're in a band. Gerry was there spot on every morning.
"When we did our spot the director, Jeremy Summers, asked for me, the drummer, to be moved to the front of the band. I was a good-looking lad then, but a bit on the shy side. I was terrified, which will be obvious if you watch the film. We should have adopted this set in Hamburg, not right in front, but just a bit back from Bill and Kenny. We do it now with the new band and we are so solid.
"The sound track wasn't satisfactory at the Locarno, so we and the other bands were taken down to Abbey Road in a coach to re-record the tracks while watching the film clips on a screen.
"We later went down to Abbey Road to record with George Martin and again to sign with music publisher Dick James. When we went to the 2 I's coffee bar in Soho we were chased by some guy with a knife and got our first parking ticket - we had never seen double yellow lines before!"
United Artists released the film in Britain in January 1965 as part of a double bill with 'For Those Who Think Young.'
At the same time, Columbia issued a 12-track soundtrack album, which featured nine original numbers penned by Gerry Marsden, an instrumental 'The Liverpool Scene' by the George Martin Orchestra and songs from the Fourmost and Cilla Black.
One woman, interviewed in the newspaper Mersey Beat following her visit to see the film at a local cinema commented, "It's just like a look into hell."
Gerry answered, "I hope to do a horror film and she can play a witch!"
Editor's Note: Unlike 'A Hard Day's Night', 'Ferry Cross The Mersey' was one long
cliché. The story of a group simply playing a host of numbers and then winning a talent contest was a hackneyed plot used in several British and American 'B' movie musicals. With a decent plot, the film could have been an excellent vehicle to establish Gerry & the Pacemakers around the world and might have led to other film ventures for him.
For some reason the film has never been shown on television and is unavailable on video or DVD. Despite the paucity of the plot, Gerry's personality, the songs and the Liverpool settings ultimately rescue it, and it's a pity that Apple have not allowed the movie to be seen since its original release in the mid-1960s.
I attended the reception for the film at the Gaumont cinema in Liverpool, at which Gerry and his father were present.