British Invasion on the Island

On Sunday, Sept., 14 at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury at 8pm, the British Invasion Tour 2014 will feature Gerry & the Pacemakers, Chad & Jeremy, Billy J. Kramer, Mike Pender’s Searchers and Denny Laine. Gerry & the Pacemakers, who scored three number one singles during the British Invasion and like the Beatles were managed by Brian Epstein and produced by George Martin was the first band to follow in the Beatles’ footsteps in conquering America and then the world in the mid 60s. The groups scored three other hits that reached the Top 10, including “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” and the iconic “Ferry Cross the Mersey,” which became emblematic of the allure and romance of the birth-place of The Beatles and the Liverpool music scene.

Gerry Marsden remains the youthful face and voice of the group. He turns 72 this month and from his home in England discussed the enduring appeal of his music and his fellow Liverpudlians

Long Island Pulse: Gerry & the Pacemakers came up almost at the exact time as the Beatles.
What was your earliest memory of any of the Beatles? Did you know them around Liverpool as school-age children?
Gerry Marsden:
I first met the Beatles when we were teenagers with our skiffle groups, We played a lot of the same shows and John (Lennon) went on to be one of my closest friends, even though on stage We were great rivals.

LIP: Did any of the members of the group ever play with the Beatles?
We were on the same bill one night at one of the shows so just for a laugh we all played on stage together and we called ourselves “The Beatmakers,” which is obviously a mix of both groups names.

LIP: Your group had many parallels to the Beatles. Could you give some insights into your experiences in these areas and how they were the same or different than the Beatles?
We both played at the Cavern Club but in the lunchtime session at the Cavern was originally a Jazz club. Paul McCartney and I went down to the Cavern to see if we could play there. Once the owner realized how busy it was at lunchtimes with people queuing down the road to get in, then he decided to forget about the Jazz and we then got to play in the evenings. Also, we took turns most of the time playing Hamburg at two different clubs and the Cavern. But quite a few times we would both be in Hamburg at the same time. That’s when John and I would hang around together. We were also signed and managed by Brian Epstein. Brian came down to the Cavern to see what the Beatles and the Pacemakers were about. Paul and I used to go to get Rock ‘n’ Roll records from America from Brian’s shop. He asked us why we wanted them and we told him we played in groups at the Cavern. He came to the Cavern and saw how the audience were reacting and asked the Beatles if he could manage them. He then approached me saying he could get the Beatles work and a recording contract so could he manage us too. Of course I said yes. We were also produced by George Martin and recorded at Abbey Road (then EMI studios). George was a talented man but he had mainly worked with orchestras. That was great in the long term though because of his use of stings on our recordings. He made sure he got the best out of both groups no matter how long it took.

LIP: What was happening in Liverpool when the Beatles finally broke in America?
How did Liverpool musical artists and fans feel about the Beatles breaking through?
Of course everyone was excited and happy for them, because it gave hope to all the other bands working around Liverpool. Up to 500 bands were in Liverpool at the time both known but a lot more unknown hoping for their big break.

LIP: Talk about your early hits, starting with “How Do You Do It,” which the
Beatles turned down.
“How Do You Do It” was the first of my three consecutive number One hits, It was written by Mitch Murray but it was offered to another singer called Adam Faith before being offered to the Beatles. John turned it down saying they wanted to sing their own songs. He said to Brian and George Martin “Give it to Gerry he’ll do it.” The rest was history as they say.

LIP: Your group turned down recording “Hello Little Girl,” which was written by the Beatles. Why did you turn it down and what did you think of the Fourmost version?
I turned down “Hello Little Girl” which John wrote because I wanted to do more of a ballad type song. I wasn’t sure if that would have been the right song for us, but it gave the Fourmost a chance so good came out of it.

LIP: How did the group come to record “Ferry Cross the Mersey” and what was the recording process like?
“Ferry Cross the Mersey” came about because it was the title track of the film we made. I wrote all the songs for the film but the title song was the hardest one to come up with because it had to be Ferry “Cross” and not Ferry “Across,” which would have been easier to write. It took me months to come up with it but when I did I wrote it in about 15minutes and when I went down to record it in the studio I did it in one take.

LIP: Talk about the writing and recording of “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying.”
I wrote the song while I was in Germany. I’d split up with my girlfriend Pauline (who is now my wife) so I wondered how I could get her back, so I wrote the song and sent it to her on a tape. She listened to it and of course wanted me back (laughs).