Juke Box .
Presented by Evergreen’s very own disc jockey, Bill “The Beat” Baxter
As a long- time fan of Liverpool FC, Jo, my other half, insists that there exists film footage of her standing on the famous Kop at Anfield. Not only that, she is one of thousands of supporters with their scarves raised above their heads singing the spine- tingling club anthem: “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. I believe her, of course — although I have the good sense not to ask whether the clip is in black and white or colour — but as it only lasts a few seconds and there is no way of knowing when it is going to appear on the screen, setting the recorder to capture her moment of TV fame isn’t possible.
We have both sung along to the song at a Sixties Gold concert, when Gerry and the Pacemakers were one of the acts, and although over the years dozens of other artists have recorded the number, from Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Andy Williams to Judy Garland, Doris Day and Alicia Keys, it is that version by the Liverpool group ( number one in the UK pop charts in October 1963) that is by far the most well known and best loved. As the “Mersey Sound” swept all before it at the beginning of the Sixties, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was the group’s third chart- topper, following “How Do You Do It?” and “I Like It”, also in 1963. These two hits were written by prolific, award- winning songwriter Mitch Murray, but the group’s vocalist Gerry Marsden himself penned a couple of songs that made the top ten the following
year: “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying” ( their biggest hit in the USA) and “Ferry Cross The Mersey”.
The latter, for obvious reasons, is another song that is steeped in the spirit of Liverpool and its proud people, and has probably led many listeners — me included, for many years — to assume that “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was also written by Gerry. In fact the song is from the soundtrack of the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel, sung by one of the characters, Nettie Fowler, to comfort her cousin Julie Jordan after her husband Billy Bigelow commits suicide. It isn’t a musical I know, but I recognise some of the other songs: “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” and “If I Loved You”.
There are a number of theories as to why and when “You’ll Never Walk Alone” came to be associated with the city’s football team. During the 1960s, before each match at Anfield a countdown of the top ten hits was played over the sound system with fans singing along; Gerry and the Pacemakers’ number one was bound to be one of these, so, given the extra connection it had with the supporters because it was performed by a local group ( and, like The Beatles, managed by Brian Epstein), it remained in their
repertoire even after the record had disappeared from the charts.
Most important of all, of course, is that, as a song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is a superb singalong anthem, with lyrics that celebrate solidarity and triumph over adversity, something that would chime with great resonance among the largely working- class spectators who were no strangers to hard times. Added to this was the fact that shortly before it entered the pop charts Gerry Marsden presented legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly with a copy of the record. The football- obsessed Scotsman, who was always a man of the people, was so impressed with what he heard he subsequently named it as one of his Desert Island Discs on the popular radio programme.
When Liverpool played Leeds United in the FA Cup Final at Wembley in 1965 and Liverpool
fans sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme described it as “Liverpool’s signature tune”, cementing its place in Anfield folklore.
“You’ll Never Walk Alone” has also been adopted by the fans of Scottish club Celtic and can even be heard each week on the terraces of Borussia Dortmund in Germany. However, with its power and relevance renewed in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster and subsequent criminal cover- up, its home will always remain, first and foremost, where the red scarves and banners wave on the Kop at Anfield.
“Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart”.
Seeing and hearing the Kop support their team is an incredible experience.
The Shankly Gates at Anfield.
Gerry and the Pacemakers in 1964. Left to right: Les Chadwick, Les Maguire, Gerry Marsden and Fred Marsden.