‘WALK ON – The Story of You’ll Never Walk Alone’ is a new film aiming to tell “the story of one song and its extraordinary power – from post war Broadway to LFC’s famous Kop.” We know the song, of course, but we wanted to find out more about the film. I spoke to Jah Jussa of Tabacula, the Liverpool-based, independent production company behind the project.
A film about a song. That seems…odd?
It is an incredible song though, isn’t it? There’s a great arc to the story – that one song could go from a Broadway musical, to become a standard for musical artists of the 50’s is not unusual, but Gerry’s version arrived at a time in the 60’s when Liverpool, the city and club, were on the crest of a wave. It captured the hearts and minds of the Kop and they elevated it beyond anything that Rodgers and Hammerstein could have imagined. That one song gives you everything – there’s drama, hope, support and optimism for the future. In the 60’s and 70’s it was a song for victories, affirming a support for the team but since Hillsborough, that same song has become a hymn for the 96 – a way of showing our togetherness through adversity.
This must feel like the perfect time for this in some ways, Shankly’s 100th birthday and the 50th anniversary itself?
All along we made the film with the 50th anniversary in mind and then when we saw that it would have been Shankly’s 100th birthday, it seemed like it was meant to be. For the film though, what happened in 1963 has the most significance. It marks a change in the way that fans supported their team – what is now known as terrace culture really arrived from 1963 onwards. It’s a culture that should be celebrated.
The song itself has sustained in a way few others have. Why do you think that is?
It’s remarkable that right from the start, the song was felt to be of enough significance that it wasn’t to be changed, like it was more important than that. And there are numerous reasons – it was a song that arrived as Shankly’s great team were heading for their first league championship in 16 years. The great man himself gave it the seal of approval early on, choosing it as one of his Desert Island Discs on the eve of the 1965 cup final. And the Kop became famous for it, like it was their signature tune. There was a period in the late 70’s early 80’s when it was seen by some to be unfashionable to sing, like it was a song for an older generation, but that same period was associated with success and even those cynics must have still loved singing it loud as the club gathered more silverware. And post-Hillsborough, it seems like it was somehow destined to be our song. Now it’s part of the fabric of the club.
The song marks the birth of terrace culture. Do we get an impression of what it was like at the match before this era?
Big Ron Yeats says he used to hear the crowd noise and occasional shouts of ‘Rowdy’. Ian St John says that before the 1962 World Cup, there was a roar that went up from the Kop when the team crossed the half way line, but no singing. And then after the World Cup in Chile 1962, the fans started to pick up on handclaps – the ‘Bra-Zil, cha-cha-cha’ became ‘Liv-Er-Pool’ and there was a St John handclap – and then when the new tannoy came in a DJ, Stuart Bateman, started to play the top 10 before the match to entertain the ground, most of them by local bands and singers who were at the top of the national charts and that’s when the Kop really took over.
Your contributors for the film are a terrific array of Liverpool faces. Whose story stood out?
Phil Thompson is so passionate about the club and the song – from someone who was there for the 1965 European Cup semi-final against Inter Milan to lifting the Cup, he’s hard to beat. But for me, Ian St John was a brilliant interview. His recall of what it was like in the early 60’s was amazing and he is still very passionate about the club and the fans. I loved hearing how he was signed from Motherwell by Bill Shankly and what it was like to be a footballer in the early 60’s.
What would the money be spent on?
Once we made the decision to self distribute we had to start addressing the costs involved. We already knew that without the broadcast fee we would be liable for the archive and licensing of the music etc, but we then have to add on the mastering of the DVD, manufacture and warehousing – it’s a can of worms once you look into it.
How tough is the Pledge process?
Pledging is relatively easy – you’re gonna need your credit/debit card, but signing up with Kickstarter is like signing up for Amazon. And then you pledge what you can for whatever ‘reward’ you’d like – it’s effectively a pre-buy – if we make our total you’ll get the DVD for Christmas – if we don’t make the total, no money will be taken from your account. So for us, it’s all or nothing.
There are few things as electrifying as being a football supporter. Does the film capture this?
You only have to look at the faces of John Aldridge, Phil Thompson and Ian Callaghan, men who know both sides of the coin. Having stood on the pitch – flood lit and idolised, they sit and enthuse about being fans and about their time on the Kop. Steven Gerrard says there’s no place he’d rather be than on that terrace when the Kop is in full flow. They’re just as proud to have been a fan on the terrace singing, as they are of having been a hero on the pitch. Looking at them, and others, you know that they feel that same connection with the club that we all feel today.
For more details of the film and to make your pledge see www.kickstarter.com/projects/1330657483/walk-on-the-story-of-youll-never-walk-alone.
I’ve just been listening to the story of Shankly on City Talk and they played a snippet of a show from the late 70’s when Shankly had his own show on Radio City. When Gerry Marsden was on the show they played ‘YNWA’. Anyway, after it Ian St John who said you can’t fail to get goosebumps when you hear it. It got me thinking – It certainly gives me goosebumps and often I have to fight back the tears. My wife and sister, who are not into football, said it gives them goosebumps when they hear it too. What I wondered was – does it have the same effect on fans of other clubs? So is it the song or is it the sentiment we attach to the song.
Were lfc the first to adopt
I am writing from Melb Australia , I would love to see the documentary WALK ON. How can I obtain a copy. We don’t get BT SPORTS here.