Pop stars who recorded the 2012 Christmas No1 – ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ – will gather in Liverpool today (Friday, February 22) to unveil a bronze disc on the city’s World Capital of Pop Wall of Fame.
The majority of the musicians who performed as The Justice Collective, in a bid to raise money for the legal costs for the families of the victims of the Hillsborough Disaster, were from Liverpool and so earned the city it’s 57th No1 in the charts – a Guinness World Record.
Musicians and campaigners will gather outside the world famous Cavern Club, on Mathew Street, to see the bronze disc join the likes of The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Ken Dodd, Cilla Black, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Mel C.
The reworking of The Hollies classic was only recorded in November after Everton Football Club memorably played the song in the first premier league match after the report by the Hillsborough Independent Panel. It laid bare the facts of a monumental cover up by the authorities to blame fans for the disaster in April 1989 which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool FC fans.
A total of 164 police statements were found to have been altered and the IPCC have the names of more than 1,400 current and ex-serving policemen and women to ascertain evidence before any court proceedings. The Panel also revealed almost half the victims could have lived if appropriate action had been taken and the verdict of accidental death at the original inquest was overturned before Christmas. Fresh inquests are due this year.
The song, produced by Guy Chambers, beat the X-Factor song ‘Impossible’ by James Arthur to the coveted Christmas No1 spot. It has sold 400,000 copies to date, earning it a gold disc, with all proceeds going to a fund to assist the families.
The Justice Collective featured musicians such as Sir Paul McCartney, Robbie Williams, Paloma Faith, Holly Johnson, Mel C, Mick Jones, Beverley Knight, Paul Heaton, John Power and Rebecca Ferguson backed by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra as well as stars from the world of sport and comedy including Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen, Peter Reid, John Bishop and Neil Fitzmaurice, who was in the Leppings Lane on that fateful day.
After the unveiling a celebration party will be held inside The Cavern, which is where The Hollies were signed to Parlophone 50 years ago this month, with music by Liverpool band The Humming Birds and a Beatles tribute band.
Peter Hooton, lead singer of The Farm, who came up with the idea to record a Christmas song to support the families, said: ”The single’s success was a testament to ‘people power’ and was remarkable, bearing in mind that we had no marketing budget! The Justice Tonight Tour lay the foundations with the musicians supporting the campaign for Justice and the Christmas No1 was a symbolic end to a momentous year for the families of the 96.”
Mick Jones, of The Clash and B.A.D, added: “After Playing The Justice Tonight shows at the end of 2011 and throughout 2012 it was only natural that many of the people involved would want to take part on the record to raise money for the 96! I’m extremely proud and honoured to have played on such a beautiful and moving piece of music. The underlying spirit is pure Merseybeat.”
Gerry Marsden, who has three No1 discs on the Pop Wall of Fame including Liverpool FC’s anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone, said: ”I’m so proud to have played a small part in this extra special Christmas No1. It was a great effort by so many people to make it a success for a great city and a great cause.”
Steve Rotheram, MP for Walton who triggered the first parliamentary debate on the Hillsborough disaster, said: ”The families deserve all of the credit for the dignified way they have pursued their 24 year campaign to keep Hillsborough on the media agenda and eventually uncover one of the greatest injustices of the 20th century.
“It is through their tireless campaigning that the momentum is now very much with them and the Christmas No1 is evidence of the fact that the British public are behind them all the way. This record’s success has sent a very clear message to the Government, media and judiciary that enough is enough. Now it’s time to finally achieve justice for the 96.”
Councillor Sharon Sullivan, Lord Mayor of Liverpool, added: ”For many people ‘He Ain’t Heavy’ epitomises the spirit of togetherness the people of this city showed towards the families both in the immediate aftermath of Hillsborough and the long wait they had to endure, before the truth was officially acknowledged.
”It was a phenomenal achievement by all involved to get the Christmas No1 slot. It’ll be a great moment to see the disc go on our Pop Wall of Fame and arguably it’s the most significant of all the 57 No1s for what it represents – the pursuit of justice.”
Liverpool’s World Capital of Pop Wall of Fame was opened in 2001 by Lita Roza, the first Liverpudlian to have a No1 record in 1953 with ‘How Much is that Doggy in the Window’. The last No1 by a Liverpool band was a cover of ‘The Tide Is High’ by Atomic Kitten in 2002. Liverpool has the most No1 songs per head of population than any city in the world, as recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records.
The Pop Wall of Fame is now maintained by City Central Business Improvement District (BID), which represents 631 businesses and has injected more than £6m into the retail heart of Liverpool city centre since 2008.
The He Ain’t Heavy No1 bronze disc was inscribed thanks to Wongs Jewellers on nearby Whitechapel.