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Dreaming with Freddie

Posted at 2:10 PM on May 22, 2006 by Euan Kerr

Some sad news: Freddie Garrity died over the weekend. He led the maniacally cheery Freddie and the Dreamers. The group was one of the Merseybeat bands that gained fame, but nowhere as much money as the Beatles.

There are many people of a certain age who, on hearing the words "I'm telling you now," will be afflicted by a Freddie and the Dreamers tune which they can't shake from their heads. There was also Freddie's "We wear short shorts" shtick, which involved him running around the stage performing a maneuver now called "pantsing."

One of the spin-offs of the global fascination with the whole Mersey scene was a rash of primarily low budget films, the most famous being "Help," and "Hard Days Night."

They were fluff star vehicles, filled with slapstick, and lots of music. By and large they were pretty bad. Who remembers "What a Crazy World" "Just for You" or "Cuckoo Patrol?" These are three in the Garrity filmography, along with "Every Day's a Holiday" and "Out of Sight. All were made between 1963 and 1967. (A more recent example was the Spice Girls in "Spice World," which the critics panned, and the punters loved all the way to the box office.)

Yet while they are easy to dismiss as junk, these movies still hold a certain fascination as a window into their time. A host of British character actors paid a few bills working on movies like this. They capture a time when Britain was still recovering from the austerity of wartime, and looking for something new.

There were just occasional moments of magic. When Gerry Marsden of Gerry and the Pacemakers (a name now more suited to a punksters than popsters) sings the title song in "Ferry Across the Mersey" it's heart-stoppingly sad and beautiful. It's a gem shining through the decades and the junk.

May 2006
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