#678: How Do You Do It by Gerry And The Pacemakers
In September 1942, Gerry Marsden was born in Liverpool, UK. His interest in music began at an early age. During World War II Marsden recalls standing on top of an air raid shelter singing “Ragtime Cowboy Joe.” Passers by applauded. Gerry and Fred Marsden’s father was a railway clerk who entertained the neighbours by playing the ukulele. With the vogue for skiffle music in the mid-’50s, he took the skin off one of his instruments, put it over a tin of Quality Street and said to Freddie, “There’s your first snare drum, son.” Gerry sang in a church choir by the age of twelve. In 1957 the brothers appeared in the show Dublin To Dingle at the Pavilion Theatre in Lodge Lane. Studies meant little to either of them. Freddie left school and worked for a candle-maker earning £4 a week, and Gerry’s job was as a delivery boy for the railways. Their parents did not mind and encouraged their musical ambitions. Marsden formed the group in the late ’50s, calling themselves, The Mars-Bars, a nod to the Mars Bar candy bar and the first syllable of Marsden’s surname. The band consisted of Marsden as frontman and guitarist, Fred Marsden on drums, Les Chadwick on bass, and Arthur Mack on piano. The latter left in ’61 to be replaced by Les McGuire (who also played saxophone). After they formed The Mars-Bars, the Mars Company objected and the band was renamed Gerry and the Pacemakers. They were featured on a beat show with Gene Vincent at Liverpool Stadium in 1960. Along with the Beatles, the group now known as Gerry and the Pacemakers, toured clubs in Liverpool and in Hamburg, Germany.
In 1961, The Beatles and Gerry & the Pacemakers merged to become the Beatmakers, for a one-off performance in Litherland Town Hall. The line-up comprised Gerry Marsden, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Les Chadwick, Pete Best, Freddy Marsden and Les Maguire, plus vocalist Karl Terry from the local Liverpool band The Cruisers. In Liverpool in the early 60s they were as popular as the Beatles. Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, signed up the band with EMI/Columbia Records and they released their first single in ’63 called “How Do You Do It?” The song had been offered to the Beatles who also recorded the tune. However, the Beatles didn’t consider the song in keeping with their emerging sound and objected to releasing it as a single. The Pacemakers sound was bouncy, catchy and memorable. They mostly recorded upbeat tunes, though three of their biggest hits were ballads.
“How Do You Do It” by Gerry And The Pacemakers went to #1 in the UK on April 11, 1963. It was soon released for distribution in North America with high hopes for a repeat. In America, the song got some airplay in San Bernardino and Honolulu in May 1963. It peaked at #55 on WGR in Buffalo on May 23, 1963. It’s best chart run in the USA was in Springfield, Massachusetts, at #20 on June 29/63 on WHYN. It did not make the Billboard Hot 100 in 1963. In contrast, Vancouver radio listeners and record buyers gave the song an enthusiastic response. The tune quickly climbed the CFUN charts in Vancouver to #4, for two weeks, in May 1963.
“How Do You Do It” is a song concerning a physical-emotional reaction someone evokes in the singer. He is stumped to figure out how the person he’s fallen in love with is able to give him a feeling like an arrow through his heart. If only he could learn how this happens then he’d return the favor. As he sings, “Then perhaps you’d fall for me like I fell for you/when I do it to you.” Reading between the lines, it seems that the person he’s fallen for hasn’t fallen for him. He’s not able to make them feel like they’ve got an arrow through their heart in return.
Among the songs listed on this website’s countdown, “How Do You Do It” is one of only a couple songs that made this list due to its chart run when the song was first issued. It would be sixteen months later when “How Do You Do It” was re-issued that it peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1964. The other example is “From Me To You” by The Beatles. When that song was first issued it climbed to #14 in July 1963 on the CFUN chart, but only made it to #116, below the Billboard Hot 100. (The Beatles original version was play listed on CFUN alongside Del Shannon’s version). When “From Me To You” was re-issued after the initial wave of Beatlemania, it was the B-side to “Please Please Me.” Still, in its second attempt, “From Me To You” climbed to #41 on the Billboard Hot 100 in May 1964.
Their guitar-dominated pop got Gerry And The Pacemakers a second #1 hit in the UK called “I Like It” in June ’63, written by Marsden. Their third UK #1 hit was in September ’63 with the pop ballad “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” It was only when Frankie Goes To Hollywood got three consecutive number one hits in the 1980’s on the UK singles chart, that Gerry And The Pacemakers feat in 1963 was matched.
Gerry Marsden wrote a lot of the Pacemaker’s tunes. These included the following hits: “It’s All right,” “I’m The One,” “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Cryin'” and “Ferry Cross The Mersey.” Like the Beatles, Gerry And the Pacemakers got to star in their own film. The group were featured on scooters for the film Ferry Cross The Mersey (1965), which was written by the creator of Coronation Street, Tony Warren. Although the plot is trite, the film offers invaluable views of Merseyside sights and clubs of the ’60s. In 1965, Gerry And The Pacemakers had five songs on the Vancouver AM pop charts spanning 34 weeks. One of these was “Give All Your Love To Me.” In 1966 the group had their last American Top 40 hit, “Girl On A Swing.” In 1968 Gerry Marsden replaced Joe Brown in London’s West End musical Charlie Girl, and effectively broke up the group.
Pacemaker drummer, Freddie Marsden, became a telephone operator for £14 a week but later opened the Pacemaker driving school in Formby. Although he was always courteous to his fans, he never returned to music and got rid of his drum set. In 1973, Pacemaker bass guitarist Les Chadwick moved to Sydney, Australia, where he set up an employment agency. Les Maguire briefly fronted the Mississippi blues band, Hog Owl in 1970, and later teamed up with the Pacemakers for occasional reunion performances. In 1989 Gerry Marsden was featured along with Paul McCartney, Holly Johnson (of Frankie Goes to Hollywood) and the UK band the Christians, in a charity release of “Ferry Cross The Mersey.” At the Hillsborough Football Stadium on April 15, 1989, 96 soccer fans were crushed and died, and another 766 fans were injured. The 1989 single release of “Ferry Cross the Mersy” spent three weeks on the top of the UK singles chart from May 20th to June 3. The Pacemakers 1963 hit “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is the anthem for the Liverpool soccer team (and it’s fans). Subsequently, the Pacemakers cover of the song has been adopted by the Scottish Football (soccer in North America) team Celtic. It has also been adopted by three soccer teams in the Netherlands, ten German soccer teams, and teams in Belgium, Japan, Spain and New Zealand. In 1993 Gerry Marsden published his biography, I’ll Never Walk Alone.
Gerry Marsden toured as far away as Australia in 2014. In 2017, Gerry And The Pacemakers performed in 46 concerts across the UK. In 2018, they have performed three times in March and on April 22 at the Grove Theatre in Dunstable, UK. Gerry Marsden will turn 76 on September 24, 2018.
August 22, 2018
Bill Harry, Meet The Singer: Gerry Marsden, Mersey Beat, Liverpool, UK, January 3, 1963
Alan Clayson, Freddie Marsden: Drumming Elder Brother at the Heart of Merseybeat Boom, Guardian, London, UK, December 20, 2006
Nik Brumsack, Hillsborough 25th Anniversary: The Story of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone,’ The Independent, London, UK, April 14, 2014
Nicole La Marie, Star Interview: Gerry Marsden, Northampton Chronicle and Echo, Northampton, UK, November 19, 2012
Richard Webber, Legend Gerry Marsden Loves Touring but this Time he is Setting the Pace, Daily Express, August 15, 2014
Tour Dates – Gerry and the Pacemakers, Gerry and the Pacemakers.co.uk
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