‘When you walk through a storm,
Hold on your head up high…’
This is the football song, the first and definitive, and is indelibly linked with Anfield. Though adopted by many others, most notably Celtic in the same era, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ was made Liverpool’s by the Kop of Shankly vintage.
Cascading over Wembley, Rome and Istanbul, written in gold over the Shankly Gates at Anfield, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ is to football what Strauss is to space travel.
The tune was the third of three to be a UK number one for Merseybeat band Gerry & the Pacemakers, Beatles contemporaries also managed by Brian Epstein, whose lead singer, Gerry Marsden, had picked up on it at his local cinema.
Marsden, a boyhood Everton fan, had been watching the film version of the Broadway musical, ‘Carousel’. Starring Shirley Jones, later of Partridge Family fame, and Gordon MacRae – the role was Sinatra’s until Ava Gardner put her foot down – the film finishes with a rousing version of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. Poignant when composed during World War II by masters of the musical Rodgers and Hammerstein, corny when wailed out a decade later by Shirley Partridge, the song was suggested to Marsden by the savvy Epstein.
As a hit in the year of Merseymania, 1963, it was played over the tannoy during the warm-up at Anfield and adopted by the Kop. Many sources also suggest Marsden slipped Shankly a copy of the record on the team coach during their pre-season tour.
Most are familiar with the ‘Carousel’ story. But few know that it was lifted from a Hungarian play by Ferenc Molnár, written in 1909, ‘Lilióm’. Taking place in Molnár’s native Budapest, it was a huge flop for the otherwise successful author of ‘The Paul Street Boys’ until it struck a chord when performed in Berlin during World War I. Molnár himself was a suicidal manic depressive, who regularly beat his first wife. He once famously said to a fellow writer, ‘The only advice I take on suicide is from those who have succeeded in doing it’. A Jew who fled Europe for New York in 1939, Molnár fell into a deep depression and died soon after the war.