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Billy Fury, the artist, the statue and I

The River Mersey is art. It is a theatre and it is opera. It is guitar, ukulele, rock, pop, indie and soul. It is a novel, poem and painting, a conveyor belt of culture and promise. It does not seek attention nor is it sinister and scornful, but loving and giving. It is the veins through the city. It is not red or blue, but neutral, honest and true. Standing on the waterfront with the River Mersey in front of you is a place to ask questions and to seek answers. A place to reject or reflect and to dream and to drift. It is the past, the present and the future. A place where history can upset mystery and where the strands of life will feed and find the inner feelings of mine.

On the edge of the River Mersey, within the Abert Dock, stands the sublime and beautiful Billy Fury statue. Billy Fury, popstar and icon. Billy had the perfect quiff and perfect cheekbones. Extrovert on-stage, and off it – a modest, shy, insecure rocker who found peace in the countryside alongside wildlife. He may have been born with a bruising and bashing destiny, but he was born with a unique talent and will always live within rock and roll history and within my heart – forever.

Billy Fury, the artist, the statue and I
Matt Jacobson – Photograph by Michelle Marshall

The statue is a snapshot of Billy with his famous stance in full Fury flow and I visit it regularly to honour the man himself and his legacy. I regularly clean the statue and place flowers down, I may say ‘Good Morning’ or ‘Good Evening’ to the statue as I feel Billy is with us and I always will. The statue is like him, wonderful and charismatic, but I can still see the shyness in his eyes as he faces the rock and roll world with an awkwardness, but this made Billy endearing to me.

Born Ronald Wycherley, the man himself loved music and as a tugboat worker impressed many with his guitar skills. Ron Wycherley attended a concert at The Essoldo Theatre, Birkenhead, run by Larry Parnes, Ron hoped to show his songwriting skills to singer Marty Wilde. But, Parnes was so impressed with Ron’s backstage audition he pushed the young talent onto the stage itself and was an immediate success. Parnes signed him and renamed him ‘Billy Fury’. 

Billy quickly became a star with record sales on a par with acts such The Beates, Elvis and Cliff Richard. He had 29 hit records, 11 top ten hits and spent 300 weeks in the record charts. The Beatles even auditioned to be his backing group, but it was never to be ….but John Lennon famously asked for his autograph. Billy never had a number 1 – but they were all number 1 to me. He appeared on television programmes on ‘Oh Boy!’ and ‘Boy Meets Girl’and featured in films including ‘Play it Cool’ as the 60’s brought a succession of hits including the classics, ‘Colette’ and ‘Halfway to Paradise’.

Billy Fury, the artist, the statue and I

For me, The Sound Of Fury album is my favourite, self-penned by Billy because ‘he found learning and playing other songs too difficult’. But, I believe, others wish they could write and sing like Billy who had a gentle but crisp voice that no other can match. 

Billy’s life was marred by health worries. A heart condition was a constant threat. As a child he suffered rheamatic fever and his family were told they never expected him to live beyond his teens. Billy underwent two heart operations in the 1970s , he also moved to a farm in Wales and lived with his beloved animals and wildlife. Billy’s health was poor but in the early 1980s, Billy recorded a new album The One and Only Billy Fury and had begun the promotional work for it. However, sadly, Billys health was always a threat and in January 1983 at his home in London, the legendary artist, Billy Fury suffered a heart attack and died. He was just 42 years old.

I was 11 when he died, but my love for his music started early, I devoured my parents’ record collection and in my teens I also remember during a break at school asking a good friend of mine if his parents had any Fury records, thankfully, his beloved Mum did and the cassette was played constantly and brought me much happiness. As the years passed, I joined Fury fan clubs and took my Mum along to events and tribute shows. I met Billy’s Mum – Jeane, she was so lovely. She signed my Billy Fury album and I told her that I wanted to move the statue to sit in between the Liver birds, she smiled and said “Thank you, that’s so kind.“.

Billy Fury album, signed by Billy’s Mum, Jean

I also met Billy’s brother, Albie Wycherley who also had a pop career. He fronted The Centremen and signed for Joe Meek who changed Albie’s name to “Jason Eddie ”. The echoing “Whatcha Gonna Do” and “Singing the Blues’ ‘ charted. Albie toured with the Walker Brothers and The Troggs. Albie had a strong voice and strong features. Albie once told me to “keep the Fury Rock and Roll name alive“ and I always will. 

Many years ago, I travelled to Mill Hill, London to visit Billy’s grave. I laid flowers and closed my eyes and paid my respects. And respect I do, and respect I will forever more.

Billy Fury, the artist, the statue and I
Matt Jacobson – Mill Hill, photograph, The Jacobson family

My Mum and I saw the beauty in Billy. He was shy and softly spoken and kept away from the limelight, a quiet man, but a rocker, vulnerable, but beautiful. Suddenly and sadly, my Mum passed away.  We played Billy Fury at Mum’s funeral. And her plaque at Springwood Crematorium has a lyric of Billy’s just above my Mum’s name. For me, there is something spirtual about the statue at the Albert Dock, it is a way to reach my Mum and her soul and pay respect to our hero, Billy Fury and his rock and roll universe.

And recently when viewing flats, I decided my new flat had to face Billy, but the first veiwing of one flat wasnt facing the right way, it was scenic but it wasnt Billy, so I knew it immediately it wasnt for me – the next flat did and the move was sorted instantly. As I lay flowers or clean the statue, alone or with local photographer, Michelle Marshall, I have regularly spoken to passers-by who stop and admire the statue, some are fans and many are intrigued by the statue and the man himself . I enjoy those moments with fans from around the world who share their love for Billy and they always open their hearts to talk about his infleunce on their own lives.

One family I’ve met at the statue regularly travel to Liverpool from their homes in Heald Green to visit Billy’s statue to lay beautiful flowers and to pay individual and family respect to the legend that is Billy Fury. I recently interviewed Natalya, Sophia and Yvonne about their love for Billy and what the statue means to them.

When did you first hear Billy Fury?

From a young age we were introduced to 50s and 60s Rock and Roll Music, so we have always been very much aware and keen on this era. A few years ago, we happened to come across a series of Jack Good’s OH BOY show, thankfully Billy was in this episode which led him to becoming our favourite!  Ever since then we have been completely drawn to his music, his performance videos, films and anything that we can find about him has always been so interesting.

Natalya and Billy Fury

What was It about Billy that separated him from others?

Billy was very unique. He had his own style, sound, charm and so much more. One of the things we love about Billy is his love for animals (especially his little dog Speedy)! Billy had his own sound and created an album ‘the Sound of Fury’ in which he wrote all 10 songs, each song had a different style including rockabilly, rock n roll and more. As a person Billy was extremely lovely. He was shy, kind, so polite and very humble and of course he was extremely handsome. When he entered the stage, the whole room would light up with smiles and happiness. And this is why we admire him so very much, he gives all of us so much joy and happiness and brings so many people together. 

What are your favourite Billy Fury Albums or songs?

It is so hard for us to decide on a favourite however, The Sound of Fury really does stand out. This is because it proves his uniqueness and his true talent to write such fantastic songs with a combination of rock and roll and rockabilly. Some of our favourite Billy songs are Maybe Tomorrow as it was his first song. Fury’s tune for some reason reminds us of when we go to Liverpool with the atmosphere of the docks and the Mersey. Turn My Back On You is also one of our favourites as it shows Billy’s ability to sing different genres of music within the one song. When will you say I love youHow many Nights How many Days, the list could go on and on… We also love the footage of Billy singing Just Because on the Dave Brinkley Journal 1961, as it shows just how much the fans love him and how much he was admired. His later performances such as when he sang Maybe Tomorrow for the ITV Greatest Hits show and Jealousy for the TV show ‘Unforgettable’ are so lovely to watch too. As we said earlier it is such a hard decision to just choose just one because all of his songs and albums are true works of art.

Sophia and Billy Fury

You regularly visit Billy’s statue, when did you first go to the statue?

Well, we have been visiting Billy’s statue for many months now, (or even years)! We had always walked past Billy when we would visit the Cavern Club. We like to try our best to make it down to Liverpool at least once a month, to leave flowers and notes on the statue for Billy.

Yvonne and Billy Fury

And what does it bring to you? 

Visiting Billy’s statue brings us great happiness and of course lots of smiles. It is based in the perfect location where he is overlooking the Mersey. Seeing flowers being laid by others for Billy is very heartwarming, and a lovely way to remember him and keep his memory alive. When we visit the statue to leave flowers, it makes us feel closer to him as if he is really there!!! We very much look forward to our next visit! Which of course will be very soon.

“Thank you to Natalya, Sophia and Yvonne.”

Billy Fury, In Thoughts of You, I spend my day…………………..

With Love and Peace

Matthew Jacobson

Explore Liverpool

READ MORE: Billy Fury by Matt Jacobson

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