This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #35: You Will Never Walk Alone by Gerry and the Pacemakers (+) We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions by Queen.
Every now and again in this countdown, there has arisen a circumstance where, to tell the story of one song necessitates the telling the story of another, completely different song, too. The original song that was slotted into the #35 position on the RS list is the pair of Queen anthems, “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions”, which are two separate songs that have often been played together as one complete song. However, when researching those two songs, it became apparent that they would never have been written if not for the song, “You Will Never Walk Alone” and an incident that took place at the end of a Queen concert one day at Stafford’s Bingley Hall. Here is the story of that incident and how some of the biggest stadium anthems of all-time came to be.
First of all, let’s go back in time to the mid-1950s and the debut of a Rogers and Hammerstein musical entitled, “Carousel”. As part of the musical score for that play, there was a song called, “You Will Never Walk Alone”. In the musical, the song is sung by one character to another after a death has occurred. Character #1 is reassuring the other person that, despite the loss of their loved one, that they will “never walk alone” in life because they will be there for them. It is a nice song that tugs on the heartstrings of those who watched the play.
As was often the case back in those days, commercial recording artists/acts often covered the hit songs of others and, as a result, the band Gerry and the Pacemakers picked up the song, “You Will Never Walk Alone” and released their own version of it which then, roared up the charts and became a #1 hit! As they played the song, live in concert, they encouraged the audience to sing-a-long. Whenever this happened, it created an emotional atmosphere within the concert hall; a sense of community enveloped the band and the crowd. Right away, the band knew that they had captured something special in this song. The lead singer, Gerry Marsden, decided that the concert experience they were having was so extraordinary that he wanted to share it with his favourite football (soccer) team in Liverpool. So, he played a tape of the song for the Liverpool Manager who, in turn, loved it and recognized the anthemic quality it possessed. The manager ordered the public address announcer to play this song before the start of their next match. The announcer did as instructed. The crowd in Liverpool erupted in song; their voices filling the stadium with sound. The effect was spine-tingling. Ever since that day, all Liverpool FC matches begin with the crowd belting out “You Will Never Walk Alone”. The song has been adopted by other sporting clubs around the world and never fails to deliver the intended boost for the home side to start their games. “You Will Never Walk Alone” is a reminder that no matter what Life may throw at you, you are never truly alone. You have friends and family and like-minded souls who will stand beside you, even in the darkest of moments. In essence, “You Will Never Walk Alone” has become one of the most reassuring songs ever performed in a public setting…..which brings us to Queen.
Stafford is approximately an hour and a half due east of Liverpool. It most certainly had soaked up some of the atmosphere of the Liverpool FC matches and, as such, when Queen came to their small community, the audience was ready. At this time, Queen was just coming into their own as a band. Their full roster of “greatest hits” was still in the formative stage of development but, none-the-less, Queen was definitely a band on the rise and the people of Stafford were happy that they came to call. As one might expect, Freddy Mercury and the band gave a full-out, energetic performance that included the obligatory encore. When the show was over, Freddy thanked the audience for allowing them the privilege of playing for them and then, the band said, “Good night” and began to walk off the stage. Unprompted, the audience broke out into a hearty, boisterous version of “You Will Never Walk Alone”; the entire crowd, singing in complete unison, totally passionate about thanking the band in reply. The members of Queen had never experienced such an emotional response being directly before them and, according to guitarist, Brian May, they were deeply humbled by the love they felt that night in Stafford.
As a result that experience, the band immediately agreed that they wanted to bring that same sort of unifying, stadium chanting sing-along experience with them where ever they performed so, they wrote “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions”. Both songs ended up on an album called, “News of the World” and, as I am sure you know, both songs have gone on to become arena anthems, the world over. I know that I have heard both songs played numerous times at the end of sporting championship matches, where one side (usually the home side) has won the top prize and have become “Champions of the World”.
One of the things about music that I fervently believe is the power it has to move people and to touch their hearts. There is a long, rich history of songs used for patriotic purposes which is one of the reasons we have national anthems that play to start our day in school and/or to start our public gatherings at concerts or sporting matches. But, aside from formal national anthems, there are songs such as “You Will Never Walk Alone” and “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions” that possess that certain something that rouse the passions of those who sing them. These songs help build that elusive sense of community that enable people to feel as though they are part of something larger than themselves. In the end, we are all our own keepers but, at times, it feels great to be part of a team or a movement. It is important to have our spirits soar, once and awhile, and stadium anthems will do that for us and as such, they play an important role in our society. Two of the biggest stadium rockers of all-time are “You Will Never Walk Alone” and “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions”.
So, without further delay, here are both songs, in all their anthemic glory. First up, the crowd at Liverpool FC belting out “You Will Never Walk Alone”. Next up, Gerry and the Pacemakers performing it on stage. Finally, we will visit with Queen and they get tens of thousands to sing along with them. All in all, it is glorious, rousing music. Please enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “You Will Never Walk Alone”, as sung by the fans of Liverpool FC, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Liverpool FC, can be found here.
The link to the video for the song, “You Will Never Walk Alone” by Gerry and the Pacemakers, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Gerry and the Pacemakers, can be found here.
The link to the video for the songs, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions” by Queen, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Queen, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.