Gerry Scores A Hat Trick!

By Bill Harry  

'You'll Never Walk Alone'
By Gerry & the Pacemakers. Columbia DB 7126
Written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein
Produced by Ron Richards and George Martin

Gerry Marsden on the cover of Mersey BeatWhen Gerry & the Pacemakers topped the British charts with 'You'll Never Walk Alone,' it became the group's biggest selling single, with sales exceeding 800,000 copies. It also marked a new record in British chart history by becoming the Pacemakers' third consecutive chart-topper with their first three singles, earning its place in 'The Guinness Book of Records.' It was a record not equaled until 1984 when another Liverpool group, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, also topped the charts with their first three singles releases.

If a song from a Broadway musical may seem a strange choice for a Liverpool rock 'n' roll band to adopt, it's not hard to understand if you consider the repertoires of Mersey bands at the time. The Beatles themselves performed 'Til There Was You', from the musical 'The Music Man' and they recorded the number with George Martin. Other Liverpool bands performed their own rock version of standards such as 'Over The Rainbow' from 'The Wizard Of Oz' and 'Summertime' from 'Porgy And Bess.'

Rogers & Hammerstein composed 'You'll Never Walk Alone' for their musical 'Carousel.' The teenager Gerry Marsden was alone when he went to see the film in Liverpool and was immediately struck by the sentiments of the song, sung in the picture by Shirley Jones. He was to recall, "The melody was beautiful, the dramatic effect was strong and I immediately loved the sentiment of the message."

He first introduced the number into the group's act when they were performing in Hamburg because he wanted a contrast to the rock 'n' roll numbers in their repertoire.

Gerry & the Pacemakers topped the charts with 'How Do You Do It?' a number penned by Mitch Murray, which had been rejected by the Beatles. The Pacemakers' follow-up, another Mitch Murray number, 'I Like It', also topped the charts.

Serious consideration had to be given to their third release. Mitch Murray had offered them a song called 'You Can't Fool Me', but Gerry wasn't too happy with their recording of the number, which ended up on one of the group's EP's. The Beatles also offered them 'Hello Little Girl', which Gerry rejected. The Fourmost were to record the number, which reached No. 9 in the charts.

It was Gerry himself who finally decided he'd like to take a chance and record 'You'll Never Walk Alone', which, being a ballad, contrasted with the two up-beat pop numbers which had proved so popular. Gerry thought it was time he proved he had more range than the pop ditties indicated.

Producer Ron Richards, George Martin's assistant, discussed the subject of the third single with Gerry. He'd had talks with another EMI producer, Norrie Paramour who had recently recorded Frank Ifield's chart-topper 'I Remember You.' Paramour told him that the number had been the most popular song in Ifield's act.

Richards asked Gerry which song went down best with his audiences. Gerry told him it was 'You'll Never Walk Alone.'

When Gerry told his manager, Brian Epstein, that he wanted to record 'You'll Never Walk Alone', Epstein disagreed and told him, "We want another number one from you and we just don't think that's strong enough."

When he recorded the number, Gerry gave it his own distinctive treatment, which included introducing breaks in the middle of the title. Richards was initially horrified at the treatment Gerry was giving to a number regarded as a classic.

He was to recall, "I didn't say anything at the session, but if it had been a new song, I don't think I'd have let Gerry get away with it."

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