Gerry Marsden of Gerry and the Pacemakers on why he can't help but entertain (From Haringey Independent)
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Gerry Marsden of Gerry and the Pacemakers on why he can't help but entertain
Gerry Marsden of Gerry and the Pacemakers is lounging beneath the scorching Spanish sun. He’s feeling restless.
He has a home there, in the white-washed town of Mijas and splits his time between its Andalusian climes, a residence on the Wirral Peninsula and another in Anglesey.
“I’m a sun worshipper,” he says, his eyes gazing at the glistening pool. ”I love the food, I love the people, I think they’re great, and it’s nice and relaxing – a chilled situation. It’s a hard life!”
But something’s lacking. It’s never long before he’s phoning friends back in Liverpool ”just to check the weather’s still miserable”.
Out on the golf course, as the final hole draws near, the 69-year-old can be spotted idly playing an air guitar with his club.
Born in bomb ravaged Liverpool, one of his early memories is standing on top of an air raid shelter singing Ragtime Cowboy Joe to passers-by.
”All the people clapped – I thought, this is good!”
He’s been entertaining ever since. ”I love the business. I love to entertain,” he says. ”If I packed it in, I really wouldn’t know what to do. It’s alright coming out and staying here, as we do, but I get awfully bored.”
Gerry and his Pacemakers were the second group signed by Beatles manager Brian Epstein and like their close friends the Fab Four, earned their stripes in Hamburg.
”It was a seaport like Liverpool,” he remembers, ”except they spoke a different language. It was a great apprenticeship, we’d go on stage at 7pm and come off at two in the morning.
”We were 17, so it was all great fun. I shouldn’t say that or they wouldn’t have let us in – we were 18!”
Returning home, the Pacemakers had success that initially outshone their stablemates. Their first three hits How Do You Do It, I Like It and You’ll Never Walk Alone all reached number one on the UK singles chart, a feat not equalled for another 20 years.
”John [Lennon] called me up after How Do You Do It got number one. He said: ’Look out Gerry we’ll have you off there next month!’
”We never thought we’d even make a record. When it happened we thought – bloody hell!”
More hits followed, including Ferry Cross The Mersey and Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying, their biggest US hit, written for his then girlfriend and now wife following an argument.
”I’m a romantic little devil,” he says, as Pauline, whom he married in 1965, giggles nearby.
”There was an argument – I don’t know what about. Maybe I’d spoken too much, I’d looked at a girl, she at a guy – you never know what starts them. I thought I’d blown it, so I decided to write a song for her.
”She loved it and said let’s get back together. You know some days I wish I hadn’t written the bloody song! She’s still with me anyway.”
By 1966, the hits had dried up and the band amicably split.
After a few years doing theatre work, the born-entertainer was back with a band in 1974.
”I just got fed up and wanted to get on the road,” he explains.
He’s been touring ever since and takes his latest show Gerry Cross The Mersey round the country starting this month.
The show is split, in the first half Gerry and his band will play songs that have influenced him from artists like Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles and Lonnie Donegan, in the second half comes the Pacemakers’ hits.
”Ever since that air raid shelter gig I knew this is what I want to do,” he says as he makes his way to the pool.
”I can’t wait to get back. If I can continue for a bit longer, I’ll be laughing!”
Gerry Cross the Mersey is at The Queens Theatre, Hornchurch on January 21 at 7.30pm. Details: 01708 443333, www.queens-theatre.co.uk
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