John Sieger
Sieger On Songs

Why Gerry And The Pacemakers?

Because of the wistful charm of “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying.”

By - Jan 13th, 2017 01:52 pm
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Gerry and the Pacemaker. Photo by Paul Schumach, Metropolitan Photo Service, New York City. Photo is in the Public Domain.

Gerry and the Pacemaker. Photo by Paul Schumach, Metropolitan Photo Service, New York City. Photo is in the Public Domain.

This week and next, perhaps even for the rest of the year, many Americans may be wishing the British would invade again. They seem to know a few things we don’t. The meaning of “stiff upper lip,” and why we should keep it that way is one. What it actually means may be common knowledge, but it always eluded me until my brother, Mike Sieger, chimed in. He has a theory — when you are smiling, that area beneath your nose tightens. Put your fingers on your upper lip, smile and see if you don’t feel it tighten.

One of the better stiff upper lips, and perhaps the guy who wrote it’s most charming theme song, is Gerry Mardsen, of Gerry and the Pacemakers. He displayed his when he sang “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying.” That’s another way saying do the lip thing. A Liverpool native, he is still a beloved figure there. The song, written with his other band members, radiates warmth even on a cloudy January day. Although it’s no more than a romantic pep talk to the broken hearted, it feels universal. Aiding and abetting the whole affair is a sticky melody that will follow you around for days at a time.

Real talent seems to announce itself early. This band, like their fellow Liverpudlians, The Beatles, were in their early twenties when they wrote this classic. Is it easier when you’re young? Bob Dylan once said he had to learn to write all over after his motorcycle accident. He described the molten flow of his creativity in the early days as something he took for granted. Then it was gone. Maybe there’s something to that. I imagine the first surge of excitement in a young artist could feel like a feedback loop or some kind of perpetual motion. This is not to say that it has to stop. But life can intervene with obstacles confronted and plans rejiggered.

That seems to be what is going on right now as we peer over the edge into a very uncertain and stressful future. No telling what will happen, but it must be faced with optimism and whatever faith we can muster up. Gerry Marsden knew about strife when he sang as tiny tot in bomb shelters, so his outlook seems earned. No blitz yet, but these words do seem like good advice.

Don’t let the sun catch you cryin’
The night’s the time for all your tears
Your heart may be broken tonight
But tomorrow in the morning light
Don’t let the sun catch you cryin’

The night-time shadows disappear
And with them go all your tears
For the morning will bring joy
For every girl and boy
So don’t let the sun catch you cryin’

We know that cryin’s not a bad thing
But stop your cryin’ when the birds sing

It may be hard to discover
That you’ve been left for another
But don’t forget that love’s a game
And it can always come again
Oh don’t let the sun catch you cryin’
Don’t let the sun catch you cryin’, oh no
Oh, oh, oh

© Fred Marsden, Gerry Marsden, Les Chadwick, Patrick Maguire

False notes were not something Gerry Mardsen was capable of. And inspirational is definitely his default setting. His group also recorded Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” the theme song for the Liverpool soccer team. He’s an underrated singer whose place among the British Invasion groups is sometimes forgotten. It may be the inherent modesty in his delivery. Must have been something in the water up there in Liverpool, The Beatles and other groups like The Searchers had to be sipping it.

This song reaps the benefits of a more sophisticated harmony than most pop of the time. It is a perfect illustration of what happens when you move beyond triads. Those plucky little devils are the three note chords that express elemental emotions like happy (major) and sad (minor). This song is spun from a special kind of gossamer called major seventh chords, which have four notes. That added complexity creates a subtler palette. Wistful, melancholy, maybe resigned, but still slightly breezy, this song travels to a more private, less melodramatic place than a lot of the music that was popular at the time. You might say it’s under-wrought.

There is a time and a place for drama. We’ll see a lot, more than we need I’m sure, in the coming months. While everything will be reduced to black and white (emphasis on the latter), with nuance becoming nothing more than a laughable artifact from a more hopeful time. Too bad, really. I feel a major 7th chord coming on.

Sieger on Songs on YouTube takes a look at the musical structure of “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” here.

One thought on “Sieger On Songs: Why Gerry And The Pacemakers?”

  1. Christina Zawadiwsky says:

    When I had a long-time relationship of many years that broke up, I always felt as if I didn’t even want to go out into the sunlight, preferring the night instead (although of course one has obligations). This wistful song has always moved me, too.

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