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Ferry Cross the Mersey - Gerry and the Pacemakers

One of the songs namechecked in Bob Dylan's "Murder Most Foul" (see last post) was "Ferry Cross the Mersey" by Gerry and the Pacemakers. It was written by Gerry himself, Gerry Marsden, who sadly died just over two weeks ago.

Gerry and the Pacemakers were the second group, only behind the Beatles, to be signed by Brian Epstein, and were the first of the Merseybeat groups to reach number one with the Mitch Murray composition "How Do You Do It?" in April 1963. The Beatles' "Love Me Do" reached number 17 in late 1962 and their first big hit, "Please Please Me" was kept at number two in February 1963 by the awful "Wayward Wind" by Frank Ifield - who ever heard of that?

Gerry and the Pacemakers faded along with the rest of the Mersey beat bands (excepting the Beatles of course) in the mid sixties and this elegiac number was their last UK top ten hit.

Gerry Marsden himself always stays in the mind like the cheery lad with the infectious smile who lived at the end of your street, maybe he tried to go out with your older sister, but was always polite to your parents, and agreeably friendly to you. Perhaps because the band remain locked along with the other first wave Mersey groups in the three year period from 1963 to 1965, Marsden himself always seemed a Peter Pan figure, symbolising the childhood of true British pop, never, unlike the Beatles, growing up. While Cliff Richard's seeming eternal youthfulness while he bent and stretched as he awkwardly tried to adjust to new musical styles, was styled as Dorian Gray, with a hideously decayed picture in his attic, Marsden's charming smile and continuing aura of innocence meant that, like J M Barrie's hero, he became a piece of uncorrupted nostalgia, a symbol of better times and values (whether they ever existed in the first place or not).

Unlike the other Merseybeat acts such as the Fourmost, the Merseybeats, the Searchers and Billy J Kramer, the longevity of Gerry and the Pacemakers were assured due to the fact that two of their hits have become important parts of Liverpool's cultural history. The first their rendering of the Rogers and Hammerstein song, "You'll Never Walk Alone", (see Uncle Stylus link 18/9/18 ( ) is the adopted song of Liverpool Football Club and has, in the wake of the Hillsborough tragedy, come to represent a resilience and defiant unity shared by Liverpudlians in general. The second, "Ferry Cross the Mersey", is a meditation on the tough life of the working class Liverpudlian, and the sentiment that they stick together and support each other to make it through.

Both songs revisited the charts in the nineteen eighties to raise funds for the Bradford City football tragedy and Hillsborough respectively, both were performed by celebrity line-ups, both reached number one in the UK, and neither were anywhere near as good as the originals. This was despite the fact that Gerry Marsden featured on both remakes.

Which goes to show, there's usually no beating the authenticity of time and place. The most striking and memorable feature of the originals is the sheer honesty that shines through on Gerry's vocal.

Unlike many other famous Liverpudlians, Gerry Marsden - as he pledged in the song - never left Liverpool. He was born there and died there.

"So ferry 'cross the Mersey

'cause this land's the place I love

and here I'll stay,

here I'll stay,

here I'll stay."


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