One of the great bonuses being a journalist is you get to meet people and go places that most people could only dream about.
From sports stars to movie stars, rock stars to royalty. Sure there’s the seamier side covering murder trials and stories of the scum of society, and I haven’t mentioned politics but you can put that in whatever category you fancy.
I was working for TNT 9 in Launceston, Tasmania in the mid seventies. We’d survived the swinging 60’s and the music and culture of the British invasion which swept the world.
Now, everyone remembers The Beatles but wayback then Gerry and The Pacemakers were right up there with them, having three number one singles in a row in the UK . Something not even The Beatles achieved. They were also hugely popular in the U.S.
By the 70’s the halcyon days were over, Gerry had made his millions and owned Liverpool’s biggest commercial radio station, but he still loved to perform.
That’s how we came to meet in Launceston, Tasmania. He was just happy to sing to small gigs around the world to audiences that couldn’t get enough of the Liverpool sound.
I rang the Hotel the group was staying at and asked his manager for an interview, fully expecting him to decline. The concert was a sell out, no publicity was really needed.
To my shock and delight he said OK if you’re here at 11 am you can speak to him for 5 minutes.
I arrived with my cameraman and minutes later Gerry burst through the door full of smiles and the exuberance that he was noted for.
The five minute interview stretched to 15 when I thought I’d better quit while I was ahead. Then I got cheeky. ”Gerry is there any chance we could video you and the band doing a rehearsal?” He threw back his head and laughed then in his thick Liverpudlian accent said. “We’ve been doin’ this for 15 years , we don’t rehearse anymore, we just do it.”
He must have sensed my disappointment and said “Hang on a minute.” He picked up the house phone and rang each of the band members rooms. Within 15 minutes they’d assembled in the room they were due to perform in later that night. Not looking too happy about it I might add. But Gerry was the boss and he paid their wages.
I was fully expecting the group to run through a song with the camera rolling and Gerry to say now you’ve got your pictures see you later.
Boy was I wrong. After ripping through “I Like It” Gerry laid down the law. “Come on boys, we can do better than that, that was like a reggae version, let’s do it again.”
This time it sounded much more like the original hit. I was thrilled. Then Gerry asked me if I’d like to shoot it from another angle so it looked like a multi camera production. Would we what. So my cameraman set up in a different spot and away the group went again.
Gerry was obviously enjoying himself because he asked if I’d like a few more. I even started asking for requests. My mate Jim Cox loves “Ferry Cross The Mersey” – moments later that most evocative of Merseyside songs was ringing out, and all being captured on video from multiple angles.
Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying, How Do You Do It, It’s Gonna Be Alright, they were all there.
I remember saying to Gerry I almost had enough material for 30 minute special and Gerry said well let’s give you some more.
I could barely believe my eyes and my ears, this international superstar who’d been at the top of the charts and been feted around the world performing for me ( and later the local tv audience) for free, and he was loving it.
One of the Pacemakers biggest hits was I’m The One (who cares about you). I said to Gerry it was sort of similar to Channel Nines “Still The One” theme.
So Gerry did a quick rework of the song and we had a full version of Still the One (who cares about you) which for a time TNT 9 used as their signature theme.
I had my 30 minute Gerry and The Pacemakers special “Just for You “ in the can.
Needless to say I was front row at the concert that night and screamed and shouted louder than anyone else.
After the show Gerry invited me and my girlfriend Eve (later to become my wife) back to have drinks which continued on into the wee small hours. He was great company sharing stories about all the big rock stars of the time.
Although I was only in his company for less than 24 hours it was a memory I always will treasure.