The first rivals for The Beatles were Gerry & The Pacemakers.
Both groups were from Liverpool, and were regular performers at The Cavern Club. The two bands also played in the clubs of Hamburg, Germany, and both had Brian Epstein for a manager & George Martin as their producer.
Gerry & The Pacemakers won the race to #1 on the English charts in 1963 with the song “How Do You Do It?”. George Martin first presented the song to The Beatles, and they recorded it, but they convinced Martin to release their own song, “Love Me Do”, instead. It made it to #17. Gerry & The Pacemakers’ “How Do You Do It?” went all the way to the top. They followed that with two more #1 songs, “I Like It” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, also in 1963. That last one is a ballad from the 1950’s musical/movie Carousel.
Gerry Marsden’s vocal on “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was so popular that the recording was played at the games of the Liverpool Football Club, and the song has remained their official anthem ever since.
Gerry & The Pacemakers and The Beatles were friends, and toured together in 1963 with Roy Orbison. Here’s a posed photo from the tour, as the groups pretend to be fighting over singer Louise Cordet.
After The Beatles broke big in America, the “British Invasion” began, and bands like Gerry & The Pacemakers became popular here too. Their first American hit was “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying”, which was also the band’s first self-written hit. It went to #4 in 1964, and was followed successfully by their previous English releases…”How Do You Do It?” #9, and “I Like It” #17.
I bought all the singles by Gerry & The Pacemakers. They were on the Laurie label, because Capitol Records in the U.S. had turned them down, just like they did the early recordings by The Beatles.
Gerry & The Pacemakers had three hits in 1965…”I’ll Be There” #14, “Ferry Cross The Mersey” #6, and “It’s Gonna Be Alright” #23. They also made a movie named after their second biggest hit.
Unfortunately, like most of the British Invasion bands, Gerry & The Pacemakers hit-making only lasted a short time. Their final hit was “Girl On A Swing” #28 in 1966. I even bought that one. After that, it was just the release of multiple “Best Of” albums.
The band officially split up in 1969, and Gerry Marsden had a short, but successful acting career. He later did some touring with various musicians in the role of “Pacemakers”. After that, I would see him from time to time being interviewed for a number of documentaries about The Beatles. He was always upbeat, interesting, and very likable. He obviously had enjoyed his time as a part of the British revival of Rock & Roll in the sixties.
In an interview, Marsden said…”The main thing is to enjoy what you’re doing. All the pressure crap you hear, people bring that on themselves.”
McCartney is right about remembering Gerry Marsden with a smile. Gerry wrote and recorded uplifting songs that are still fun to hear.