GEOFFREY: Tell me about your first meeting with the Beatles.
GERRY MARSDEN: They were the Quarrymen and i was with the Gerry Marsden Skiffle Group. We played a show together - I think I was fourteen or fifteen. The nice thing was, we got on well then and we're still basically getting on well together.
GEOFFREY: You used to gig with them?
MARSDEN: Yes, in fact, one time at the Liverpool Town Hall we formed a big band. It was the Beatles and ourselves. It was good fun.
GEOFFREY: When you met the Quarrymen was Paul with them yet?
MARSDEN: Yes, sure. There was Paul, John, George and Pete Best.
GEOFFREY: What about when Pete Best was replaced by Ringo? Tell me about that.
MARSDEN: I think the reason was that George Martin, their recording manager, didn't like Pete. But he was a good drummer, he had a lovely rock 'n' roll feel. It was sad because Pete was a good lad. Ringo was playing with a band called Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.
GEOFFREY: Do you think Ringo's personality fit in better with the group than Pete's? Best being more laid-back, the James Dean type.
MARSDEN: I don't think so. Pete was a good-looking guy, for Christ sakes, and a lot of girls, fans of the Beatles, liked him. As I say, i think it might be George Martin saying Ringo was better. I don't know.
GEOFFREY: Give me a John Lennon anecdote we haven't heard before.
MARSDEN: There's a million I could tell you, but I can't tell them, really. John was a friend of mine. We spent many years together. John was not as aggressive as some people say. That's what I notice when I read these books about John being a tough teddy. John wasn't a teddy boy. I mean, John was always the last guy in a fight and that's the truth.
GEOFFREY: But he had a big mouth, right?
MARSDEN: Yeah, but that's different than fighting. If a fight occurred, John wouldn't be first in line. The saddest thing was, when John was killed, I think he was reaching his peak. He was a great guy, not at all an aggressive person.
GEOFFREY: Let me toss a few names and you give me just a few oneliners, okay? Brian Epstein.
MARSDEN: Brian had more charisma than our good queen.
GEOFFREY: No pun intended, right?
MARSDEN: Not at all, no. Brian had great charisma, he could see what the Beatles had. Eppie also had connections to meet people who were out of our level. A great, great man.
GEOFFREY: Mal Evans.
MARSDEN: Big Mal, God bless him, was great. He was typically rowdy. Basically he and Neil worked hard. They did their jobs correctly.
GEOFFREY: George Harrison.
MARSDEN: George, God bless him, yeah.
GEOFFREY: Do you see George anymore?
MARSDEN: No, I haven't spoken to him for many years.
GEOFFREY: Let me interrupt you a second. George lives just down the road in Henley. How come you don't go and see him?
MARSDEN: We'd love to see each other. There's no animosities. We're all good friends. Paul McCartney is still a great friend. I see Paul in obscure places like Perth, but it's not that we don't want to see each other. And George, okay, he's in Henley, but I live up here. George was an integral part of the Beatles. He wasn't a genius like John or Paul, but George, bless him, fitted in and played a nice guitar, as he's proved on his albums.
GEOFFREY: He was much younger than the others.
MARSDEN: Age never really mattered in bands those days. If you had talent, you were in. It was just that John and Paul were so powerful in composing, that's the closest I've ever come to genius, seeing them as kids writing their music.
GEOFFREY: In those days bands did a lot of cover tunes. How was this all original material accepted by the audience?
MARSDEN: The good thing was there were lots of things to play onstage, of course, and all this goes back to Hamburg in 1959, before recording. We played seven hours a night with a fifteen-minute break every hour. So we played lots of music, Gary Lewis, Ray Charles, Arthur Alexander - great American stars. When we were actually writing songs the influence was chiefly the American writers, so when we played it onstage the audiences accepted it. The kids we played for in Liverpool knew what was happening and they loved the new songs. There were never any sort of, "Ugh, that crap, writing your own gear."
GEOFFREY: Tell me a nasty Hamburg story.
MARSDEN: There are no nasty stories.
GEOFFREY: Come off it, you guys got up to some heavy stuff over there.
MARSDEN: Heavy gear in those days was nothing. It's only heavy now because people have heard it through third parties. The aggro was nothing. The whole situation in Hamburg, people make it up. What I should say is that Hamburg taught us musically to be better. It showed us life. But there was no incredible violence.
GEOFFREY: There were knifings, there were people getting bottled in the audience while you were playing, transvestites ... Am I exaggerating?
MARSDEN: But that's life. That's no different than Liverpool, New York, a heavy scene, but it wasn't a heavy scene, we approved of that stuff. Knifings were always very, very rare, as were fights.
GEOFFREY: The bands, I'm told, were pretty much exempt from all that, right? You were protected.
MARSDEN: We had people like Horst Fauscher and his family living in Hamburg - who became my second family - but we didn't need protection as there was really no violence against the bands.
GEOFFREY: Let me drop in a name we don't really know too much about, Stu Sutcliff.
MARSDEN: Yeah, Stu, a brilliant bass player.
GEOFFREY: Wait a minute, he was a good bass player?
MARSDEN: In those days, yes.
GEOFFREY: Admittedly, he was not a good bass player, from everything that's been said.
MARSDEN: It depends. Stuart fitted in with the band. Sadly he died at such a young age. I always liked him.
GEOFFREY: What was his relationship with John like?
MARSDEN: The same as mine. You see, John had this thing about relationships. If you and John jellied, than that was it. Period. John wasn't that aggressive or sarcastic.
GEOFFREY: So there wasn't a particular relationship between Stu and John which was more intense than any others? Because there' this feeling that here was one of John's intellectual relationships. Together they were going into art, they were getting into photography, they were getting into leather clothes, they were getting into ...
MARSDEN: No, that's crap.
GEOFFREY: Thank you.
MARSDEN: It is. Stu had a girlfriend called Astrid who was into photography. She took lovely shots of the boys which i have at home. They were brilliant, Stu got into that. Stuart was just a nice guy, for Christ's sakes. People write too much bloody crap.
GEOFFREY: When the Beatles got very psychedelic, you didn't follow along did you?
MARDSEN: No. Basically, I never liked the Beatles' psychedelic situation at all. Their ideas were correct, it just wasn't the Beatles to me.
GEOFFREY: When you think of the Fabs you think of "She Loves You," "Twist and Shout," "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," ...
MARSDEN: "Please Please Me." Yeah, that to me is the Beatles. It's what John was doing before he was killed. John was going back to his roots. To me the psychedelic period and the Transcendental Meditation crap was a joke.
GEOFFREY: So, do you see them during these days and ask them what they were doing?
MARSDEN: Sure, I did. Silly boys.
GEOFFREY: And what did they say?
MARSDEN: They said it was a new field, it's what's happening. I could see it was a fad, just crap.
GEOFFREY: Would you see them during the Apple days?
MARSDEN: Certainly, but that was a different thing. They became businessmen and they couldn't be businessmen.
GEOFFREY: Is that why they broke up? Did they lose their sense of humor?
MARSDEN: When bands have come together for ten or fifteen years there's no having conversations together. You know everything about everybody else and it just gets boring. The breakup was inevitable. They would have broken up at some time in their career. I don't think it was because of Apple. They were only a band. They were only kids playing and it got very heavy.
GEOFFREY: Why do you think the Beatles are so important today?
MARSDEN: Because they changed the whole concept of music. Basically, they were just four guys from no background, not a star school, not from the States, not good-looking, and they proved you don't have to be all that. The lyrics were nice, the music was pleasant. Very, very simple type of songs.
GEOFFREY: You did "How Do You Do It," didn't you? It was rejected by the Beatles.
MARSDEN: I'm glad they rejected it, or I wouldn't have had my first number one record. That was written for a guy called Adam Faith. George didn't like it.
GEOFFREY: I've heard George Martion once guaranteed that whoever recorded "How Do You Do It," would have been a number one hit and the Beatles said, "Look, we're sorry, but we're doing 'Please, Please Me.'"
MARSDEN: George Martion was an A&R man and "How Do" was written by Rick Murry through Dick James Music. Adam Faith didn't like it. I liked it though because i thought, "God, now that's a record." I can make a record and that's why I did it. I don't think George, God bless him, could ever be that clever to say whoever recorded "How Do" would have been a hit. If the Beatles would have recorded it instead of "Love Me Do," they would have had their first number one record.
GEOFFREY: How do you remember George Martin?
MARSDEN: George was a very pleasant guy. He had been recording people like Matt Monroe, Shirley Bassey, and so on. He wasn't into the pop scene basically. Decca had turned down the Beatles, which was rather sad for them, and George got in with the boys through Paul McCartney, a great genius. John didn't have the time at all to talk to A&R men, which Paul did. So George, to me, was a truly a lucky man to get the Beatles. That's all I can say. Without the Beatles I don't think George would be as big a name as he is today.
GEOFFREY: He hasn't really done much since with any other groups.
MARSDEN: No, he does lots with Paul because Macca goes to his place in Montserrat. The Beatles really helped George.
GEOFFREY: Reguarding Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, apparently Rory was intensely charismatic and good-looking. Everybody liked him. There were so many groups back then, why did the Beatles click so much more?
MARSDEN: They had talent and that's all it is. You're talking about three guys - forget Ringo - John, Paul, and George, and there's this great charisma and talent they shared. When I was a kid every street had a pub filled with music and it was the seaman home from the States and all over the world playing music. We grew music in the pubs, as did Glasgow, NewCastle, and Southhampton, but in Liverpool we stayed with rock. When I say rock I mean more rhythm and blues until we found Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, the greatest rock in the world and the greatest jazz musicians in the world. We never did songs by Cliff, Bill Fury, or Adam Faith. We always stayed with rock.
GEOFFREY: That must have taken a lot of courage. The Shadows were doing these tight little dance steps in their silk suits, but you guys said, "We want to do rock 'n' roll." That must have been very tough, going against the market.
MARSDEN: The point you're missing, we never thought of making records. We were playing to enjoy what we were doing. The only time we thought of records was when Brian Epstein came on the scene because Eppie would say, "Why are you asking them for these obscure records?" We'd say, "Because we play the music." Then Brian came down to the Cavern one last time, Paul and I got him down, and I've never seen a man find fis forte so quickly. He went, "Wow, this is where I should be." Here was a very gentle, loveable man, whose father had been selling furniture who didn't know music and just fell in love with the whole idea and saw the potential. We didn't. We always wanted to play music wherever we were. Like I did on the railways. I worked for the woolies, just get a new guitar. Brian said, "Hang on, you've got a thing here I can sell." We said, "Brian, what do you know about bleedin' records?" He said, "I'll go to London." And Brian went to London and it happened. Even when we had the first hit record and were still basically a nothing commodity. We'd done Hamburg, we played there for three years, seven hours a night playing all types of music. So when we did a live show we had so many numbers to play and out of that came this thing called Mersey Beat. It was just American gear, not our gear, and though that Mercey Beat evolved. Of course the Mercey Sound is a stupid phrase because nobody actually sounds like each other. But the Mercey Beat came from that.
GEOFFREY: It did to us.
MARSDEN: Sorry, I never sounded like Cilla Black, though I tried to.
GEOFFREY: I suppose you look a bit alike.
MARSDEN: It was basically Epstein who picked up on everything and said, "Right, we can utilize this." That's why Brian was the greatest manager ever.
GEOFFREY: I talked to a lot of people who were closely associated with the Beatles and they say now that it's all over they find the story of the Beatles somehow very sad. How do you see it?
MARSDEN: I think it must be very sad when you think that they're all worth about $250,000,000, I think that's awfully sad. We never though we'd make any money at all in music. Why is it sad, for Christ's sake. George is doing what he wants. Paul, God bless him, is into everything, he's a genius. John, sadly, gone so quickly, because John would have been great. Ringo, will always do, nothing. Just mess around and have fun.
GEOFFREY: If he heard you say that, would he be angry?
MARSDEN: I don't think so. It doesn't matter. I'm telling you what I think. I've known Ringo since he was a kid - if he's mad, he's mad. If you sat down and talked to Paul or George, there's no sadness. We started playing for nothing. So anything we got was a bonus from J.C. God smiled on us. He said, "all right, Liverpool, you are going to happen in the sixties." And we did. we had the best football team in the world and we still have. Everything was a bonus. We were only kids playing. It's not sad at all. We were lucky and the Beatles were and Billy J. Kramar was. We thought about making bread and when we did we invested. The sad thing is, people think, "Maybe i could have been just that much better," but they should be thinking, "I could be working on the railroad in Liverpool and I could be a train washer by now."