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Gerry And The Pacemakers
How Do You Do It?
Gerry Marsden grew up in Liverpool with his older brother, Fred. From an early age, both boys were encouraged by their father to learn a musical instrument. Gerry chose the guitar and Fred played the drums. “My Dad played the ukulele. Every weekend, they returned to our house with friends from the pub and they would sing and play. I told my Mom, ‘That’s what I want to do, ’” Marsden stated in a YouTube interview with Gerard Smith. “I worked on the railway, in a factory making tea chests and other jobs just to earn money to buy a better guitar.” (1)
The Marsden brothers first band was a skiffle group called Gerry Marsden and the Mars Bars. The group changed the name after the Mars Company, producers of chocolate bars, complained. “The great Lonnie Donegan (Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It’s Flavor On The Bedpost Overnight) taught us how to play guitars and bass on the washboard,” recalled Marsden. (1) The band consisted of Gerry, Fred, Dixie Dean (washboard) and Jim Tobin on bass. Dixie and Jim left the group as Les Chadwick joined as the new bass player. Six months later, Les Maguire became the piano player. This was the lineup for the band, Gerry And The Pacemakers. (3)
“I told my mom I had an offer to go to Germany with the band and if it didn’t work, I would return home and work for the railway. My Mom said, ‘Well, go on and do it.’ Bless their hearts. My parents never complained about the choice I made,” Gerry remembered. (1)
“In Hamburg in 1959, we started playing rock and roll to the Germans. It was a great apprenticeship in music. We used to play from 7:00 in the evening until 2:00 in the morning with a 15-minute break every hour. We were kids, 18 or so, and it didn’t matter,” Marsden stated. (1) G & P continued working around Liverpool, often shadowing appearances by The Beatles at local venues such as The Cavern.
L-R: Fred Marsden, Gerry Marsden, Les Chadwick, Les Maguire
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Marsden’s first concern about a career in music was making enough money to support a family. He didn’t give much thought to making records. “We met Brian Epstein in his music shop. Paul McCartney and I would go to NEMS (North End Music Stores) and asked for obscure records from the states. Brian said, 'Why do you ask for those strange records?' We said, 'We got bands and we play around Liverpool. We don't play Cliff Richard or Adam Faith-type records. We like the the stuff from the states a lot.'" (2)
“One day, Brian went to The Cavern where the Beatles were playing, saw what was happening, fell in love with the scene and told them he could get them a record contract. When we returned from Hamburg, Brian approached me and said he just signed the Beatles and would we like to also sign with him. I told him yes. He got us a deal with EMI, the Beatles their deal and the rest is basically history,” Gerry finished. (1)
“They showed no evidence of being great writers to begin with,” said producer George Martin of his newest group, The Beatles. “After Love Me Do, I was convinced they were a hit group. But I knew I had to find a hit song for them,” Martin continued. (3) While reviewing a number of potential follow-ups for the group, he found one that he thought was a sure-fire hit. “I was convinced that How Do You Do It was a hit song. Not a great piece of songwriting, not the most marvelous song I had ever heard in my life, but I thought it had that essential ingredient which would appeal to a lot of people,” Martin reminisced. (3)
The song How Do You Do It was written by Mitch Murray, a fledgling songwriter from London. Murray, though new to the songwriting business, sensed he had something special. He shopped his song to British teen idol, Adam Faith, who took a pass on it. Murray’s next stop was Brian Poole, lead singer of the Tremeloes, who also decided the song wasn’t anything he wanted for his group. The song did, however, catch the attention of Ron Richards, who was employed by George Martin.
“A demo of How Do You Do It was brought into my office by Murray and demo singer Barry Mason. (The backing band on this demo was none other than the Dave Clark Five.) They offered me first option on the recording and played me Mitch's demonstration acetate. I liked it so much that I immediately called Dick James, the singer turned music publisher, and he signed the song up straightaway. But the acetate stayed in my desk for a long time after that. We didn't know who to give it to. Much later, when George was pondering about The Beatles' first record, I played him Mitch's acetate. He felt that it would be ideal for them and sent a copy to Liverpool right away so that they could learn their parts,” said Richards. (4)
Brian Epstein, now the Beatles manager, told the group when he received the demo that Martin insisted they record. Paul McCartney recalled, “He knew it was a number one hit so he gave us the demo, a little white acetate. We took it back to Liverpool and said, 'What are we gonna do with this? This is what he wants us to do, he's our producer, we'll have to do it, we'll have to learn it.' So we did, but we didn't like it and we came back to George and said, 'Well it may be a number one but we just don't want this kind of song, we don't want to go out with that kind of reputation. It's a different thing we're going for, it's something new'. I suppose we were quite forceful really, for people in our position.” (6)
Along with a five other songs, including Love Me Do, the Beatles recorded How Do You Do It on September 4, 1962. They altered the tempo, added some background and instrumentation making the song more to their liking.
Martin liked what he heard and proclaimed How Do You Do It as the A-side of the Beatles first single. Martin explained, “John came to me and pleaded with me. He said, 'Look, I think we can do better than this.'” (6) In those days, artists never challenged their producers so the risk was huge and the Beatles future depended on how Martin handled their resistance. So, Martin challenged them. “If you can write something as good as that song, I’ll let you record it, otherwise that's the song that's going out.” he told them. (6)
For reasons that are somewhat unclear, the plan to release How Do You Do It as the A-side was scrapped. This much is true. Dick James, the song's publisher didn't like the Beatles rendition and songwriter Mitch Murray believed the song was too good to be hidden as a B-side and wouldn't allow the copyright. Martin had no choice except to release Love Me Do as the A-side.
Two days later after intense rehearsals, the Beatles were back in the studio to nail down the B-side, P.S. I Love You. Released on October 17, 1962, Love Me Do/P.S. I Love You became the Beatles first single released in Great Britain.
One result of early hits written by the Lennon-McCartney songwriting team was now they were on solid ground as songwriters. They had earned Martin’s trust. So, Martin entertained other ideas for the Murray-penned song giving it to Epstein who then passed How Do You Do It to Gerry And The Pacemakers. “We were very surprised after we recorded it,” said Gerry, “because we had only heard our voices on crummy tape recorders before. We couldn’t believe we sounded so good.” (5) Martin told Marsden, “I think we have a hit. I’ll call you in a week.” Martin kept his word and called and repeated his feelings about the song. Three weeks later, Martin again called Gerry and said, “Guess what? How Do You Do It is gonna be #1.” “I was elated,” Marsden remembered. “I told my Mom that the song was gonna be #1, and she said, ‘That’s great. Now finish your fish and chips.’” (1)
Gerry and the Pacemakers prior to the television show 'Thank Your Lucky Stars' at the ABC Studios in Birmingham on January 5, 1964.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Gerry couldn’t wait to spread the news. “I saw John Lennon and asked him, “You remember that song you didn’t like?” Lennon said, “Yeah?” Marsden told him, “It’s gonna be #1 on Friday. Lennon’s reply was something that can’t be repeated on television. I still thank him everyday!” Marsden said with a laugh. (1)
Marsden reflected on the song’s success many years after hitting the top of the heap. “I used to believe you had to be something special to have a hit record. We were just kids from Liverpool. When we played to a massive audience years ago in Chicago, a kid came up and said, ‘Gerry, Thank you for what you’ve done for kids.” I answered, ‘What did we do?’ He said, ‘You made us realize that four ugly guys can make it in the charts.’ When I thought about it, I said, ‘That’s the best thing I ever heard. Before us, (an act) had to have looks to make it. The kid continued, ‘You made us realize we can do it.’ If that’s what we did, then I’m proud and I’ll never forget that.’” (1)
How Do You Do It was the first of three consecutive releases to hit #1 in the U.K. I Like It (also penned by Mitch Murray) and Rogers And Hammerstein’s You’ll Never Walk Alone followed. In the US, the group hit the Billboard Hot 100 eleven times with three songs entering the Top Ten. (7)
In 1965, G & P recorded the title song for their movie Ferry Across the Mersey. Landing in the top ten in the US in that year, Ferry was revived in 1989 as a charity single for an appeal in response to the Hillsborough football crowd disaster, giving Marsden – in association with other Liverpool stars, including Paul McCartney and Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Holly Johnson – another British number one.
This is the demo by Barry Mason.
No video was available by the Beatles. Here's an audio clip.
Gerry And The Pacemakers perform the hit live from Sweden.
1) Smith, Gerard, The Beat Goes On, Part One, You Tube video. Link
2) Kolanjian, Steve, Liner notes, The Best Of Gerry & The Pacemakers: The Definitive Collection, 1991.
3) Harry, Bill, Mersey Beat, Meet The Singer: Gerry Marsden, January 3, 1963. Link
4) Chen, Ed, Versailles, Dave, When They Was Fab: Electric Arguments About The Beatles, Link
5) Martin, George, The Beatles Bible, How You Do It, Anthology, Link
6) Lewisohn, Mark, Tune In, The Beatles: All These Years, Vol. 1, 2013, Page 671.
7) Whitburn, Joel, Billboard Top Pop Hits 1955-2002. Page 277.
From the box set You'll Never Walk Alone (The EMI Years 1963-1966).
Photo courtesy of EMI Records.
© 2017 Jerry Reuss