Saturday, September 26, 2009

Gerry and the Pacemakers: "Ferry Cross the Mersey"

Ferry Cross the Mersey

Yesterday's news of the treasure hoard found in the former Kingdom of Mercia was the madeleine that triggered a childhood memory of hearing the song "Ferry Cross the Mersey," by the British group Gerry and the Pacemakers.

Why that memory? The "Mersey" of the title refers to the River Mersey that one had to cross to enter the old Kingdom of Mercia . . . though that's not what the song was really about. As a young kid, I didn't know anything about any of that, of course, nor even what the song was actually about, and I imagined some river called "Mercy" and a man being ferried across to the place that he loved. I would sometimes think about that song in my childish way while crossing the old Norfork Lake ferry in the Ozarks at night in those troubled times and imagine a happier place on the other side of some river of mercy.

I must have heard that song on its US release in 1965, for it was very popular. In fact, the band was initially more popular than The Beatles, for its first three singles each reached number one of the charts. Unlike The Beatles, however, Gerry and the Pacemakers seem not to have changed with the times despite also being managed by Brian Epstein, and the group faded from the scene, but the song remains:
"Ferry Cross the Mersey"

Life goes on day after day
Hearts torn in every way

So ferry cross the Mersey
'cause this land's the place I love
And here I'll stay

People they rush everywhere
Each with their own secret care

So ferry cross the Mersey
And always take me there
The place I love

People around every corner
They seem to smile and say
We don't care what your name is boy
We'll never turn you away

So I'll continue to say
Here I always will stay

So ferry cross the Mersey
'cause this land's the place I love
And here I'll stay
And here I'll stay
Here I'll stay
Apparently, he did stay, for the writer and vocalist Gerry Marsden can still be found living in the area today. For more on the group, and also a story of the song's origins, read "The Merseyside Movie," by Bill Harry, who tells us that in the making of an album (to go with a movie!), Marsden was provided the album's title and told to write a song:
Gerry was told that the title song was to be called 'Ferry Cross The Mersey.' Initially he experienced difficulty writing it and would go down to the docks with his fiancée Pauline Behan to stare at the boats. Inspiration took several months -- and then came suddenly!

He'd picked Pauline up one evening to take her out to dinner in Southport when he heard the opening notes of the song in his head as he was driving. He stopped the car and got out to make a phone call to his mother to put the tape recorder to the phone and then he hummed the tune down it. He rushed back to the car, told Pauline the dinner was cancelled, drove back home, rushed into the parlour of his house and completed the title number in three minutes.
And the fruit of that inspiration can still be tasted today . . . and enjoyed as well, if you like the old Mersey Beat.

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At 4:47 PM, Blogger NWABEAUTY said...

I remember the song..... thanks for bringing it back to me ...

At 4:59 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

NWAB, you're welcome.

Jeffery Hodges

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