‘He swears all the time,’ former colleague Rosie Allsopp told me, having interviewed him some time before.
It was 27 May 2005 and Gerald Marsden MBE was in Guernsey with his band The Pacemakers to play the 61st and penultimate date of a Solid Silver Sixties British tour along with The Searchers, The Merseybeats and The Swinging Blue Jeans to a packed house at Beau Sejour.
That day I was to become the latest in a line of umpteen journalists to confront him with notebook and pen. So that is how I met Gerry Marsden who, in the foyer of The Duke Richmond Hotel, proved Rosie right by swearing constantly.
He was on a high that day because, 48 hours earlier, his beloved Liverpool FC had overturned a 0-3 half-time deficit against AC Milan in the Uefa Champions League final in Istanbul by scoring three goals in a six-minute second-half period before winning the trophy in a 3-2 penalty shoot-out after extra time.
Though he had been on stage in Cork, Ireland, while the drama unfolded and had seen only glimpses of the game on TV, it dominated our conversation, with Gerry throwing in a few expletives for good measure. When the Liverpool players had paraded the trophy through the streets of the city in an open-top bus the night before, they had put it down as they passed Gerry’s grandson, Thomas, then 7, who he said had been heartbroken. At the first opportunity, he said, he would be taking Thomas to Anfield to finally see the cup in all its glory.
Myself and photographer John O’Neill had gone prepared that day. A friendly retailer had kindly loaned us a 2005 Champions League Final commemorative shirt and scarf for Gerry to wear in a photograph and he did not need to be asked twice to put them on. We went outside onto Cambridge Park for John to take his photograph. A woman was sitting nearby with about four or five children and they were all having a picnic. This was where Gerry showed what his years of experience did for charming audiences. Though the woman recognised him, the children, unsurprisingly, did not, though he soon had them captivated. While they were reluctant to share sandwiches and sausage rolls with him, they listened attentively as he warned them not to talk to strangers in parks, though of course they were all right with him as they knew him.
Gerry and The Pacemakers were the first group whose first three records – How do You do it?, I Like It, and You’ll Never Walk Alone – reached the number one spot.
In 1981 he sang the latter, from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel, at a memorial service for legendary Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly, at the City’s Anglican Cathedral. He told me how he had sung along that day with 2,000 people inside while another 10,000 joined in from outside. He sprayed his guitar black for the occasion.
In 2003 Gerry was made an MBE for his services in supporting victims of the Hillsborough disaster. He retired in November 2018 following a second heart operation.
I found him to be a pleasant and amiable character and he signed a couple of records for me. Job done, we Walked On [in a loose sense] back to the office.