THE SEARCHERS' STORY - THE 60s AND 70s - PEAKS AND TROUGHS

The Searchers were one of the most influential groups to rise from the 60s phenomenon, and today they still lead the pack, headlining tours all over the world, collecting awards, and recruiting new fans from all age groups.The Searchers were originally formed in Liverpool in 1960 as a backing group for Johnny Sandon, and took their name from the John Wayne film. The founder members were John McNally (who still leads the group today), Mike Pender, Tony Jackson and drummer Norman McGarry. They appeared regularly at the Iron Door Club and in late 1961 Johnny Sandon left to join the Remo Four, and McGarry left to be replaced on drums by Chris Curtis. The Searchers continued as a foursome, playing at the Iron Door, the Cavern and other Liverpool clubs, sometimes doing three shows a night in different venues. In early 1962 they forged contacts with the Star Club in Hamburg, the beat mecca of the Continent, and appeared there for the first time in July 1962. In all they played there for 128 days, with three one-hour performances a night.

On their return from Hamburg they signed a contract with Pye, under the management of Tony Hatch. issuing their first single "Sweets for My Sweet" in July 1963; it got off to a slow start, but reached the top of what was then called the "Hit Parade" in October, knocking the Beatles off the No 1 spot. The Beatles got their own back later when their album "Please Please Me" just stopped the Searchers' first album "Meet The Searchers" from reaching No.1 in the LP charts. The Searchers' second single "Sugar and Spice" - written by Tony Hatch under the pseudonym Fred Nightingale - reached No 2, and then in January 1964 came another No 1 - their most famous song "Needles and Pins" - followed very quickly by more hits such as "Don't Throw Your Love Away" and "Some Day We're Gonna Love Again".

In the summer of 1964, at the peak of this success Tony Jackson, vocalist and bass guitarist, decided to leave and form his own group The Vibrations, but from what could have been a disaster came the arrival of Frank Allen, who is still with the group today, and is generally considered to be the best "front man" on the 60s music scene. Frank, from West London, had spent three years with Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers, and had got to know the Searchers when both groups were playing at the Star Club in Hamburg. Frank shared the lead vocals with Mike Pender on the very next hit "When You Walk in the Room", and other successes followed over the next two years including "Goodbye My Love", "What Have they Done to the Rain" and "Take Me for What I'm Worth".

The Searchers circa 1965Two years later, in 1966, following an extensive tour of the Philippines, Hong Kong and Australia, together with the Rolling Stones, the Searchers' drummer, Chris Curtis, decided to leave to start a career as a producer and songwriter - going on to produce records for Paul and Barry Ryan and later to play a part in the formation of Deep Purple. His place on the drums was taken by John Blunt, from Croydon, during whose time the Searchers recorded "Take It or Leave It", "Have You Ever Loved Somebody" and some less well-remembered singles and albums. John stayed for three years, during which time the group changed record labels from Pye to Liberty,and in December 1969 was replaced by Billy Adamson from Scotland, who had spent the decade drumming for many artistes including Emile Ford and Lulu.

In 1972the band issued an album of re-recordings of their 60's hits on the RCA label. During this period the Searchers' activity was more low-key, but they made two minor hits - Vahevala, and Solitaire - a single which might have made the charts if it hadn't been for Andy William's version. Throughout the 70s, although the hits had dried up, the Searchers progressed into the lucrative cabaret circuit, where they learned how to entertain a different public - no more screaming hysteria. but a devoted audience who appreciated a more sophisticated and polished performance

At the very end of the 70s the Searchers went into the Rockfield Studios to record two new albums for the Sire label, which were released in 1979 and 1980. This was the most important recording period for them since the early hits. The two albums - released as "Searchers" and "Play for Today" in the UK and as "The Searchers" and "Loves Melodies" in the USA contained some great songs such as "Hearts in Her Eyes", "Its Too Late", "Loves Melody", It was well produced and well received by the music press. If they had recorded some of those songs back in the 60s they would still have been a major force, but by the end of the 70s the Searchers were somewhat out of fashion, and the albums didn't do as well as they had hoped. It was a case of the right songs at the wrong time - if they'd had them earlier, or later when they were back in favour again, they could have had more hits on their hands. Nevertheless, they are songs to be proud of, and several of them are still very popular in their set twenty years later.

And so The Searchers headed into the 80s, not realising that the decade would see a massive resurgence in the popularity of 60s music and take them once again to national and international success.

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With thanks to Wendy Burton