Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ferry 'Cross the Mersey

Gerard Fleming 2 Birds a Daffodil and a Queen

"2 Birds a Daffodil and a Queen" by Liverpool photographer Gerard Fleming (visit his website through the title above).

It has been a month since my wife Donna and I boarded the Mersey Ferry to scatter my mother's ashes in the middle of the River Mersey off Wallasey along with a few friends and relatives. The day after the ceremony, Donna and I were in the Imagine shop in the Mersey Ferry building buying a few things. Donna bought another red Liverpool hat for me (she had previously bought official Liverpool FC hats for me in the LFC store). The items that I bought were two CD's of Merseybeat music, one of them titled "The Mersey Sound: 30 Fab Original Merseyside Hits 1963-74" which includes the classic by Gerry and the Pacemakers, "Ferry 'Cross the Mersey" and liner notes by Gerry Marsden. I must admit that in those early days, 1963-1964, I preferred Gerry and the Pacemakers to the Beatles. Gerry and the Pacemakers' "How Do You Do It?" which topped the charts ahead of the Beatles, becoming the first Merseyside group to do so. Although the Pacemakers and the Beatles were the leading artists of the day, both signed to Brian Epstein's Nems Enterprises, they were just two of hundreds of acts to come out of Liverpool at the time.

The Mersey Sound

In addition to Gerry and the Pacemakers's hit about the famous ferry, the CD includes an upbeat opening to the collection, Gerry singing "A Shot Of Rhythm and Blues," followed later by "You'll Never Walk Alone" which remains a famous anthem for Liverpool's Reds as well as football teams around the nation, and his evocative "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying."

Also on the CD are artists such as Cilla Black, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, and the Scaffold. The Scaffold were a three-man comedy group that included Paul McCartney's brother, Mike, who had renamed himself "Mike McGear", John Gorman, and well-known Liverpool poet Roger McGough, one of the "Liverpool Poets" along with Adrian Henri and Brian Patten. On the CD are included their hits as "Lily the Pink," "Liverpool Lou" (written by Irish writer Brendan Behan) and "Thank U Very Much," a hit in 1974, the most recent hit on the album. Cilla -- once the coatcheck girl at the Cavern under her original name of Priscilla Black -- and Billy J. Kramer and the Foremost, also included in the collection, were also among the stable of artists managed by Epstein, who I often think is the forgotten man in the Beatles story as well as in Liverpool entertainment history. It's nice to see recent commemoration of him on Merseyside. The the Neptune Theatre has been renamed the Epstein Theatre, and there's a Plaque on Epstein's Guest house on Anfield Road, former home of Brian's grandparents.

Some of the artists on the CD I frankly had never heard of, despite living in Liverpool at the time of the Merseybeat boom, I mean such acts as Cindy Cole, Steve Aldo, Lee Castle and the Barons, and The Kubas. I do remember the Swinging Blue Jeans, who were one of the leading groups of the day. It might be noted that the Fourmost's "Yakety Yak" is an excellent example of how the Beatles and other Merseyside artists, along with other British rock and roll boom acts, re-introduced American rock and roll and rhythm and blues to the United States, which is exactly what the British invasion largely comprised, as innovative as the Beatles and some other British artists later turned out to be. Two rather more sophisticated songs on the CD are Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "Anyone Who Had A Heart" originally recorded by their favored artist Dionne Warwick, but covered here by Cilla Black, her first big hit, and Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas with "Planes And Boats And Planes." I remember my late Uncle Bruce, a family friend named Bruce Williams who was a Liverpool undertaker who wrote songs for the late Lancashire comic film star and music hall artist George Formby under the name of Eddie Latta, saying he was mystified by the structure of "Anyone Who Had A Heart." Another of Cilla's songs included on the CD is the classic "Liverpool Lullaby" written by Stan Kelly.

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