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You'll Never Walk Alone - Gerry and the Pacemakers

I guess, now that we're well and truly started on Rogers and Hammerstein, we should conclude with what is their most famous song.

It's hard to overestimate the impact the Beatles had on British culture. They were the first British group of working class origins who were able to gain musical control over their material and this subsequently led to them influencing the world through their music, their notions of what an album could be, through their films and through using their music to express political ideas.

As soon as their initial success had occurred with the hit "Please Please Me", manager Brian Epstein, closely followed by the rest of the UK record industry, signed up as many Liverpool "beat" bands as they could, with the charts being dominated for the next few years by Merseyside groups such as Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Searchers, Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, the Swinging Blues Jeans, the Fourmost and the Merseybeats as well as groups such as Freddie and the Dreamers and the Hollies from neighbouring Manchester.

Helped in part by the backlog of Lennon McCartney songs composed during the long hours awaiting their next performances in the Kaiserkeller in Hamburg, the Mersey bands invaded the charts with hit after hit coming so thick that pretty soon the supply of new material was not keeping up with demand. It was common to look for ballads from 50's stage musicals and, having had two consecutive number ones with their first two releases, Brian Epstein went to Rogers and Hammerstein's 1945 musical "Carousel" for Gerry and the Pacemakers' third disc.

In the movie, the song is sung to the heroine of the story to give her strength to carry on after her ne'er-do-well husband, Billy Bigelow, kills himself, having been involved in a bungled robbery. The song is reprised as the climax of the film as Bigelow, returning as a spirit from heaven seeking redemption, in turn gives his daughter strength to carry on at her graduation ceremony. And that's not the half of this story, a bizarre plot for a musical.

But if it wasn't for the Beatles, Brian Epstein, the Mersey sound and Gerry and the Pacemakers, the song would never have been adopted by as their anthem by the supporters of Liverpool FC. The success of the Beatles and Liverpool and Mersey rivals Everton football clubs were what catapulted the once declining industrial port back into cultural world leaders in the early sixties. And the message was, like the message of the musical, one of hope, of redemption for the the poor people, not only of the North, but of the whole country after the post war depression.

And that is how Gerry Marsden sings it, like a man singing Psalm 23 at his mother's funeral, hope and redemption, soft then loud, with a whiff of sorrow. It is his finest hour, his restrained vocal, noticeably Liverpudlian in accent, transcends petty loyalties and becomes an anthem of the indomitable spirit of ordinary people. Not the nobbs, not the bullies, not the moguls, not the politicians, but ordinary people.

When you walk through a storm hold your head up high and don't be afraid of the dark

at the end of a storm there's a golden sky

and the sweet silver song of a lark

walk on through the wind walk on through the rain though your dreams be tossed and blown

walk on, walk on with hope in your heart and you'll never walk alone

you'll never walk alone

walk on, walk on with hope in your heart and you'll never walk alone

you'll never walk alone

Two months after his release from Robbin Island, Nelson Mandela attended a concert in his honour at Wembley Stadium. At one point, he went on stage and received an 8 minute standing standing ovation from the packed venue. About three and a half minutes in the crowd spontaneously burst into "You'll Never Walk Alone". He asked the woman next to him what they were singing, and she said "a football song". How little she knew.

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