A world premiere of a ‘lost’ song by the late Merseybeat legend Gerry Marsden is to launch a fascinating new exhibition exploring how and why Liverpool rose to rule the pop world in 1963.
The lyrics to the unfinished “A Girl Like You” were discovered when Gerry’s wife Pauline handed in a photograph of her husband, which had hung in Brian Epstein’s office.
Pauline was responding to a call for never seen before memorabilia from the era to adorn the Liverpool 1963 – How Did We Do It? exhibition, when curators made the discovery re-mounting the photo.
Now the words have been put to song, by Liverpool musician Dean Johnson, and will receive its premiere performance at a VIP launch of the exhibition tomorrow, which will be opened by actor Mark McGann with co-curator and Merseybeat expert, Spencer Leigh.
(Media are invited to record the world premiere of “A Girl Like You” at the launch, which begins at 5.30pm, Wednesday, 3 May on the 4th floor of Liverpool’s Central Library, William Brown Street).
Gerry’s photograph with his lost lyrics is one of a huge number of rare items from the Merseybeat era going on display.
Other items include a telegram from John Lennon apologising to Cavern DJ Bob Wooler, for infamously breaking his nose at Paul McCartney’s 21st birthday. Mr Wooler saw a specialist to determine the compensation and the specialist’s report is also on show.
On the eve of the Eurovision Song Contest visitors to the city will be able to step back in time to the singing sixties and will be immersed in the musical explosion that was Merseybeat.
In 1963 Liverpool acts, such as The Beatles, Billy J Kramer and The Dakotas, Gerry and The Pacemakers, and The Searchers dominated the UK charts with a string of number one hits for an unprecedented 36 weeks, with chart-topping stars also emerging such as Cilla Black, The Swinging Blue Jeans, The Fourmost and The Big Three.
This year is also the 60th anniversary of The Beatles’ first LPs, the formation of The Searchers, as well as Everton FC’s league triumph as well as the release of You’ll Never Walk Alone and its first rendition on the Kop, not to mention a record-breaking winter!
On a wider scale 1963 also marks pivotal a sea change culturally as post-war Britain morphed into the modern world, with the employment boom and growing economic power of young people, as well as the proliferation of the birth control pill and the rise of the civil rights movement internationally.
2023 is also the 60th anniversary of the Searchers’ chart topper, ‘Sweets For My Sweet’, and the exhibition will coincide with their final performance at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall in June.
The exhibition also includes a wonderful photograph of The Searchers (pictured above) promoting the single to residents of Deacon Street, in Everton, and it is hoped visitors will be able to put names to the faces.
Liverpool 1963 – How Did We Do It?
3 May – 31 August 2023
Hornby Library, Liverpool Central Library, free entry.
Carl Kenneally, co-curator of Liverpool 1963 – How Did We Do It? and Lead Digital Archivist at Liverpool Central Library, said:
“The exhibition was Spencer Leigh’s idea and given how much the Merseybeat era has been explored he set the tone by asking for items that people had never seen before.
“One day Pauline Marsden brought in the photograph of her husband, Gerry, which Brian Epstein had on his office wall. We noticed a handwritten lyric on the back of one of her items and she said, ‘Oh, Gerry would write songs on the back of anything.’ That was a real wow moment!
“We’re delighted we’re been able to turn that into a piece of music for the launch. That is going to be special.
“Thanks to Spencer’s connections and his ask for something unique, the exhibition provides a fascinating insight into those who were there at the heart of the scene. We have images and stories many people will simply have never seen or heard of what was a defining period of the 20th century for Liverpool, the UK and the world.
“1963 is the year the sound of Liverpool took over the airwaves and TV screens, here and abroad, in a way no city had done before or since. For that reason alone, why that happened deserves to be examined and re-examined by each new generation.
“Yes it was 60 years ago, but its seismic impact both musically and culturally can still be felt today. The music of that magical era remains a fundamental part of Liverpool’s identity, as the world will see again when we celebrate all things Eurovision over the coming weeks.”
Spencer Leigh, Merseybeat expert and the exhibition’s co-curator, said:
“It is 60 years since Liverpool transformed itself and then the UK and then the world, having a remarkable effect on popular culture which resonates until today. Why else is the Eurovision Song Contest being staged in Liverpool?
“Liverpool 1963 – How Did we Do It? looks at The Beatles and all the other musicians who made such a difference to our popular culture.
“We have gone out of our way to ask musicians and collectors for unusual items to show us and there are surprises wherever you look in this exhibition.”