150. Gerry and the Pacemakers – How Do You Do It? (1963)

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And so the first Merseybeat number 1 was by… hang on, it wasn’t the Beatles? No… at least, not officially speaking. Confused? I was. By this point, there were several weekly singles charts, including those by Record RetailerNew Musical Express, Melody Maker, Disc and Record Mirror. As I’ve mentioned previously, the NME was the first, and the Official Charts Company treat this as canon from the chart’s inception through to 9 March 1960. From that point until the end of the decade, the organisation recognises Record Retailer. This has become a bone of contention for many chart aficionados and Beatles fans alike. There is a belief that Record Retailer’s chart was too much of an outlier to be treated as the official source. The NME‘s chart took it’s information from a much bigger reach of record shops, for example. Hardcore chart fans lay the blame at The Guinness Book of Hit Singles, originally published in 1977. This authoritative publication opted for Record Retailer, mainly because of the fact it was the only chart that covered the best-selling 50 songs for most of the decade.

The Beatles’ second single, Please Please Me, knocked Frank Ifield’s The Wayward Wind from number 1 in March, according to every chart but the Record Retailer one. Therefore, as far as the Official Charts Company are concerned, this didn’t happen. You can understand the annoyance of Beatles fans, and I agree with them. But this blog covers the official charts, and, well, the Beatles have no shortage of number 1 singles, do they? So, the first Merseybeat number 1 is indeed How Do You Do It? by Gerry and the Pacemakers, who were the Beatles main competition in 1963.

Gerry Marsden was born in Toxteth, Liverpool in September 1942. One of his earliest memories involved him standing on top of an air raid shelter and singing to impressed onlookers. He formed the skiffle group Gerry Marsden and the Mars Bars in 1959, with his brother Freddie on percussion. From there they became the Gerry Marsden Trio when bassist Les Chadwick joined, and with the addition of Arthur Mack on piano, Gerry and the Pacemakers began honing their act. They did this at home and in Hamburg, Germany, just like the fledgling Beatles. In 1961, Mack left to be replaced by Les Maguire, and the group became the second act to sign with Brian Epstein. Despite having the same manager, the two groups were rivals, and Gerry and the Pacemakers signed with Columbia Records, meaning both groups were with EMI.

How Do You Do It? had been written by Mitch Murray, who had offered the song to Adam Faith, among others, but he kept being turned down. George Martin thought the song would make a great debut single for the Beatles, but the Fab Four were not keen, and wanted to push their own McCartney and Lennon compositions instead. So they duly recorded How Do You Do It? for Martin, but deliberately put in a lacklustre performance, and so they got their way and Love Me Do was issued instead. Martin still clearly thought the song had worth, and Marsden and his group were happy to make it their own debut single, and were right to do so, as the song went to number 1 and stayed there for three weeks.

In the first half of 1963, there seemed little to distinguish the two groups. Both were happy-go-lucky Scouse four-pieces in suits, permanently beaming away for the cameras. The tunes were catchy, upbeat pop numbers, with a somewhat raw, fast sound, and of course the key element was the Liverpudlian accents, which were accentuated rather than hidden away. Unlike the wave of cockney number 1s a few years back though, the accents didn’t seem exaggerated, they seemed natural, and the music was more natural and earthy than the conservative approach of Cliff Richard and the Shadows.

The Beatles version of How Do You Do It? was released on Anthology 1 in 1995, so their version can be compared with the Pacemakers recording, and sure enough, it’s Gerry and the boys putting the effort in and delivering a more assured performance. They leave out the ‘ooh-la-la’ backing vocals but add an impressively bluesy piano interlude.  Ultimately of course, the Beatles won the war, and were right to go with Love Me DoHow Do You Do It? is a catchy but lightweight tune, and this first Merseybeat number 1 didn’t suggest the seismic shift in pop it ultimately caused. But it was a welcome change to Cliff and Elvis to my ears and must have been the same to many in the spring of 1963.

Written by: Mitch Murray

Producer: George Martin

Weeks at number 1: 3 (11 April-1 May)

Births:

Scottish footballer Mo Johnston – 13 April 

97. Adam Faith – Poor Me (1960)

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As stated in my last blog, the Official Charts Company recognises Record Retailer‘s top 50 singles chart from 10 March 1960 through until Feb 1969 as canon, replacing the New Musical Express, which despite this continued with its own chart. The trade publication, later known as Music Week, had turned weekly as of that date, and their chart covered 50 placings.

The first number 1 via this method was Adam Faith’s second, and it knocked fellow cockney Anthony Newley’s Why from the top after a four-week stint. Recorded while his first chart-topper, What Do You Want? was still doing well, Poor Me came from the same team, with string arranger John Barry now taking a writing credit alongside Johnny Worth, who was now able to be credited under his own name.

Poor Me is What Do You Want? all over again, but with a more lovelorn lyric. This time Faith is wallowing in misery as he’s been cheated on. All the ingredients are the same. Faith copies Buddy Holly’s vocal tics, which is a bit embarrassing (at least his vocal style isn’t as random as it was on his last hit), and John Barry’s pizzicato strings are once more the highlight. Matching the more downbeat lyrics, the arrangement swirls around once more, but with a more woozy feel. In fact, the ominous backing strings actually sound like an early attempt at the James Bond theme. Like What Do You Want?, it also clocks in at well under two minutes long. You’ve got to admire the chutzpah really. After all, if Cliff Richard can follow up Living Doll with another number one that’s almost exactly the same (Travellin’ Light), why not adopt the same approach?

Despite not achieving number 1 again, Faith was still a regular name in the upper reaches of the charts for some time, including Christmas song Lonely Pup (In a Christmas Shop) at the end of 1960. In 1963 he tried to ape the Beatles, recording with backing group The Roulettes, but their debut single The First Time was the last time he reached the top five. Ever attempting to emulate the sound of the time, he tried psychedelia, recording the marvellously named Cowman, Milk Your Cow by Barry and Robin Gibb in 1967.

In 1968, Faith chose to concentrate on his acting career, which had ran concurrently with his chart success, and starred mainly in theatres, alongside some film work. He also had a notable role as the lead character in TV series Budgie. A serious accident almost cost him a leg, but he returned to star as David Essex’s dodgy manager in music film Stardust (1974).

That same decade, he went into music management, and diminutive ego-maniac Leo Sayer was among his stable. Sayer later claimed that Faith wasn’t entirely honest with him when it came to money. I’m guessing Sayer chose not to ask him for assistance when Faith moved into investment and financial advice in the 80s. Big acting roles continued to come in, including the 1980 film McVicar alongside Roger Daltrey, and a part in Minder on the Orient Express, the 1985 Christmas special. His most notable role in his later years was in BBC comedy drama series Love Hurts, alongside Zoë Wanamaker. His reputation as a money expert was in tatters in 2002 when his TV station Money Channel closed, and Faith was declared bankrupt, owing a whopping £32 million. The irony of the opening lines of that first number 1, ‘What do you want if you don’t want money?’ must not have escaped him at this point. Another celebrity, film producer Michael Winner, also complained of how Faith’s unsound advice had cost him. All this information can’t help but create the image in my mind of Faith as a real-life Del-Boy Trotter or Arthur Daley.

Faith may have had mixed success with money, but he was certainly an astute TV critic. He died of a heart attack in the early hours of 8 March 2003, aged 62, and his final words made the news as much as memories of his career. They were ‘Channel 5 is all shit, isn’t it? Christ, the crap they put on there. It’s a waste of space.’ Last year Faith made headlines again when former singer-songwriter David Courtney, who Faith had managed, claimed in his book that Faith told him he had been asked by MI6 to spy on Fidel Castro when he visited Cuba in 1997. Apparently Faith was ‘crapping himself with fear’ as he was led into a room to meet the Cuban leader, whereupon Castro stated ‘I know you’ and held up a copy of What Do You Want?. Whether it’s true or not, I find myself wondering whether Faith tried to sell him broken VHS recorders afterwards.

Written by: Johnny Worth & John Barry

Producer: John Burgess

Weeks at number 1: 1 (10-16 March)

Births:

Comedian Jenny Eclair – 16 March 

22. Frank Sinatra with Orchestra conducted by Nelson Riddle – Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)

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In 1954, Frank Sinatra was the comeback kid. The early 50s had seen his career slump drastically. His Mafia connections had caused problems, he had left his label, Columbia, Hollywood had rejected him, and his audiences were dwindling. However, his suitably bitter performance in World War Two drama From Here to Eternity in 1953 earned him rave reviews and marked a spectacular turnaround in fortunes. He even later won an Oscar for Best Supporting Role, but before then he had signed with Capitol and released a cover of the now-creepy-sounding I’m Walking Behind You, which was a UK number 1 for Eddie Fisher & Sally Sweetland.

February 1954 saw the release of his album Songs for Young Lovers. Featuring I Get a Kick Out of You and They Can’t Take That Away from Me, it is still considered one of his best. The same month, his duet with Doris Day, Young at Heart, was a huge hit. Three Coins in the Fountain was the title track for a new romantic drama. With lyrics by US star collaborator Sammy Cahn and music by UK songwriter Jule Styne, the song refers to the traditional act of throwing a coin into Rome’s Trevi Fountain and making a wish. They had been asked to write the song without any knowledge of the movie whatsoever, and it was so rushed that 20th Century Fox didn’t sign a contract, meaning the composers were screwed over the royalties. Charming.

The song isn’t that memorable, and although I’m no Sinatra expert, it doesn’t strike me as up there with his classics. But what does shine through is the quality of his voice. That warm, unmistakable timbre to his croon just puts him head and shoulders above other stars of the era. And of course considering the rushed nature of the song’s creation, it’s not too shabby. It earned him his first UK number 1, and he stayed at the top for three weeks. It also went to number 1 in the US too, but performed by The Four Aces. In 1955, it earned Sinatra another Oscar, this time for Best Original Song.

During Three Coins in the Fountain‘s reign, the UK singles chart increased in size from its initial 12 to 20. It’s also worth me pointing out that this chart, that first began in 1952, was originally only seen in the New Musical Express. However, it is now considered to be the most important chart of the time, until it was overtaken by Record Retailer from 1960 to 1969.

Written by: Jule Styne & Sammy Cahn

Producer: Voyle Gilmore

Weeks at number 1: 3 (17 September-7 October)