The Empire of Brian

After he’d signed up The Beatles, Brian epstein began to build up an empire of local talent, signing one act after another. By the latter half of 1963 his artist were dominating the UK charts at an unprecedented rate. In retrospect it’s easy to dismiss him, saying all he had to do was look at the Popularity Poll of the Merseybeat newspaper and sign the most popular acts, but the truth is no one else was doing this. Brian was.

Gerry And The Pacemakers were the second group Brian ever signed. They were also the second most popular and arguably the second most talented. True, Gerry grinned annoyingly, held his guitar ridiculously high upon his chest and the Pacemakers’ records were more often than not either incredibly banal pop ditties, pathetic ballads or lame covers of American classics. But Gerry Marsden also wrote three of the best records to come out of the Merseyside: “It’s Gonna Be All Right”, “You Got What I Like” and “Ferry Cross The Mersey”. Their first two records (“How Do You Do It” and “I Like It”, both written by Mitch Murray, the former being basically “An Arrangement The Beatles Gave Away”) fell into the idiotic pop category. Both were also number one UK hits. For the third single someone suggested “Hello Little Girl”, a very early John Lennon composition. Surviving home tapes show this one to have started out as a slow, Buddy Hollyesque track. By the time of The Beatles’ infamous and unsuccessful audition for Decca Records in January 1962, the number had been sped up to a peppy pop number, ideally suited to the Pacemakers. A fine version was recorded in July but Gerry fought hard against releasing it, preferring the big ballad “You’ll Never Walk Alone” instead. Epstein and producer George Martin reminded him that no act had ever had three number ones with their three first releases, and releasing “Hello Little Girl” would probably do the trick. Gerry was adamant that he didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a performer of only fast numbers and eventually Brian and George let him have his head – and it was a number one as well!

“Hello Little Girl” was passed off to the Fourmost, another Liverpool band of Brian’s with a preference to comedy or novelty type of songs. They were more than happy to record the number in August, “learning the song as we went along”. Frankly, you can hear that: the drummer Dave Lovelady struggles unsuccesfully to keep up with the rest of the group while Brian O’Hara’s guitar solo is truely ham fisted. The annoying falsetto vocal doesn’t help either but George Martin’s celeste, doubling up the solo, is a nice touch. The record went all the way to number nine in the UK charts, yet another proof of Brian’s empire’s supremacy.

The Pacemakers’ version was finally released in 1995 on “The Best of Gerry & The Pacemakers, The Definitive Collection.”

The Fourmost’s hit version is a lot easier to find. I have it on a EMI CD “The Best of the Fourmost.”

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Published in: on June 12, 2007 at 1:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

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