The Story Of The Beatmakers: The Beatles And Gerry and the Pacemakers
The Merseybeat Sound
Gerry and the Pacemakers rose to prominence in the 1960s Merseybeat scene. Formed in 1956 by Gerry Marsden, his brother Fred, Les Chadwick, and Arthur McMahon, they were The Beatles’ closest rivals early on in The Fab Four’s career. Comparison between the two groups was inevitable especially since they both came from Liverpool, signed by manager Brian Epstein, and they recorded with producer George Martin. Plus, they performed around the same areas in Liverpool and even in Hamburg.
Gerry and the Pacemakers were the first to top the charts with their first three singles. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” even became the unofficial song of Liverpool Football Club. And they also toured with The Beatles.
Marsden recalled about sharing the bill with the legendary act, “The Beatles and ourselves (The Pacemakers) – we let go, when we get on-stage. I’m not being detrimental, but in the south, I think the groups have let themselves get a bit too formal. On Merseyside, it’s beat, beat, beat all the way. We go on and really have a ball.”
After their initial success, Gerry and the Pacemakers still had a string of hits but the distance between them and The Beatles became wider and wider especially as John Lennon and Paul McCartney came into their own as songwriters. By the end of the decade, rock acts from both sides of the Atlantic continued to experiment in the studio and achieved complex & innovative sounds. At that point, the popularity of Gerry and the Pacemakers began to wane until they were left to performing in smaller venues. They disbanded in 1967 and reformed in 1972.
Following Marsden’s death on January 3, 2021, McCartney and Ringo Starr paid tribute to him. Macca wrote on Twitter, “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 Across The Mersey remain in many people’s hearts as reminders of a joyful time in British music.”
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… pic.twitter.com/t1COAIwZVM
— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) January 3, 2021