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The Searchers



Hailing from Liverpool, England, the Searchers were one of the many bands on the Merseybeat scene that enjoyed international fame in the wake of the Beatles' breakthrough in the early '60s. The group's trademark sound was bright, tuneful pop with ringing 12-string guitars and strong harmony vocals which gave even their covers of American R&B hits a touch of sweetness that made them hard to resist. The Searchers were also one of the most enduring Merseybeat acts, forming in the late '50s and continuing on into the 2010s, with guitarist John McNally a constant presence throughout their history, and bassist Frank Allen by his side from 1964 onward. Early hits such as "Sugar and Spice," "Needles and Pins," "Love Potion Number Nine," "When You Walk In The Room," and "What Have They Done To The Rain" defined the group's approach, and they rarely strayed from it, still sounding fresh on 1972's Second Take and falling in with the power pop bands they influenced on 1979's The Searchers and 1981's Love's Melodies. And while the group's bread and butter from the late '60s onward was live work, the band's professionalism and commitment to their music helped them remain a viable attraction decades after their success on the sales charts had faded. Founded in 1957 by John McNally (guitar/vocals), the Searchers were originally one of thousands of skiffle groups formed in the wake of Lonnie Donegan's success with "Rock Island Line." The Searchers' immediate competitors included bands such as the Wreckers and the Confederates, both led by Michael Pender (guitar, vocals), and the Martinis, led by Tony Jackson (guitar/vocals). By 1959, McNally and Pender were working together as a duet; later in the year, Jackson joined as the lead vocalist. After drummer Norman McGarry left the Searchers he was replaced by Chris Crummy, who quickly renamed himself Chris Curtis. Other changes were in the works as Jackson built and learned to play a customized bass guitar. Learning his new job on the four-stringed instrument proved too difficult to permit him to continue singing lead, and McNally and Pender brought in a fifth member, Johnny Sandon (born Billy Beck). Johnny Sandon & the Searchers lasted from 1960 through February of 1962, and were extremely popular on the dance hall and club circuit in Liverpool. Sandon cut out for a career on his own, with another band called the Remo Four in early 1962. Meanwhile, the Searchers, now a quartet with Jackson once again lead singer, became one of the top acts on the Liverpool band scene, playing textured renditions of American R&B, rock & roll, country, soul, and rockabilly. The group was signed to Pye Records in mid-1963 and their first single, a cover of the Drifters' "Sweets for My Sweet," was released in August of 1963, hitting number one on the British charts. While the Beatles quickly outdistanced all comers, the Searchers did, indeed, go to the top of the charts with two of their next three singles, "Needles and Pins" and "Don't Throw Your Love Away." Another record, "Sugar and Spice," written by their producer Tony Hatch under the pseudonym Fred Nightingale, stalled at the number two spot. Over the next nine months, the band staked out a sound that was one of the most distinctive in a rock scene crawling with hundreds of bands. Their music was built around the sound of a crisply played 12-string guitar, coupled with strong lead vocals and carefully, sometimes exquisitely arranged harmonies, so that they could credibly cover American R&B standards like "Love Potion No. 9" or Phil Spector-based girl group pop like "Be My Baby." Their 1964 singles included a venture into folk-rock before the genre had been "invented" in the press, in the form of a cover of Malvina Reynolds' "What Have They Done to the Rain." Interestingly, their 12-string guitar sound would become a key ingredient in the success of the Byrds, who even took the riff from "Needles and Pins" and transformed it into the main riff of "Feel a Whole Lot Better." In July of 1964, with the group riding the upper reaches of the British charts, and with their third album in nine months in release, it was announced that Tony Jackson was leaving the Searchers to form his own band, and would be replaced by Frank Allen, who had been playing bass with Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers. The turning point for the band came in 1965, as the British and international fascination with the Liverpool sound faded away. The Searchers began casting their net wider for material to cover, in addition to coming up with one original hit, the Curtis/Pender-authored "He's Got No Love." By the beginning of 1966, the group's string of chart hits seemed to have run out, and Chris Curtis exited in early 1966, claiming to have become exhausted from the group's constant touring. The Searchers, with Johnny Blunt on drums, continued working and had their last hit, "Have You Ever Loved Somebody," which barely cracked the Top 50 in October of 1966. The group continued working, however, playing clubs and cabarets in England and Europe. Blunt exited at the end of the '60s, but was replaced by Billy Adamson, and this lineup of the Searchers continued intact until the mid-'80s, working for 35 weeks a year throughout Europe with an occasional U.S. visit. Although they played as part of Richard Nader's "Rock 'n Roll Revival" shows, they never became an "oldies" act, always adding new material, including originals and covers of work by songwriters such as Neil Young to their sets, and in 1972, the band cut an album for British RCA. At the end of the '70s, their recording fortunes were revived once again as Seymour Stein, the head of Sire Records, signed the Searchers for two albums. Those records, The Searchers and Love's Melodies, were the best work the group ever did, highlighted by achingly beautiful yet vibrant and forceful playing and singing, and an unerring array of memorable hooks and melodies. Those two albums were followed by a series of tracks recorded for their original label, Pye Records, in the early '80s. The group held their audience well into the '80s, playing before crowds as large as 15,000 along one U.S. tour. In 1985, after playing together for 26 years, Pender and McNally split up, with McNally continuing to lead the Searchers (with Adamson and Allen, and with Spencer James added on second guitar and vocals), while Pender formed Mike Pender's Searchers, consisting of Chris Black (guitar, vocals), Barry Cowell (bass, vocals), and Steve Carlyle (drums, vocals). The Searchers under McNally recorded on occasion, releasing their last album, Hungry Hearts, in 1989. The two versions of the Searchers toured extensively into the 2010s, both featuring shifting lineups. ~ Bruce Eder & Mark Deming
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Top Tracks

  1.   Track
  2.   Love Potion No. 9
  3.   Needles and Pins
  4.   When You Walk in the Room
  5.   Don't Throw Your Love Away
  6.   Sugar and Spice
  7.   Bumble Bee
  8.   Someday We're Gonna Love Again
  9.   Sweets for My Sweet
  10.   You Can't Lie to a Liar
  11.   I'll Be Loving You
  12.   No Dancing
  13.   C'est Arrive Comme Ca (Don't Throw Your Love Away)
  14.   Hearts in Her Eyes
  15.   Livin' Lovin' Wreck
  16.   Once Upon a Time
  17.   I Count the Tears
  18.   Tausend Nadelstiche
  19.   Love's Gonna Be Strong
  20.   Little Bit of Heaven
  21.   Ain't That Just Like Me
  22.   Love Potion Number 9
  23.   Gonna Send You Back to Georgia
  24.   Shame, Shame, Shame
  25.   Bye Bye Johnny
  26.   So Far Away
  27.   Second Hand Dealer
  28.   He's Got No Love
  29.   Hi-Heel Sneakers
  30.   Bye Bye Baby
  31.   Be My Baby
  32.   Hey Joe
  33.   Good Way to Fall
  34.   Sho' Know a Lot About Love
  35.   Watch Your Step
  36.   Goodnight Baby
  37.   Lovers
  38.   I'm Your Loving Man
  39.   Does She Really Care for Me
  40.   I'll Cry Tomorrow
  41.   Changing
  42.   It's Time
  43.   Don't You Know Why
  44.   Don't Hang On
  45.   In the Heat of the Night
  46.   Hollywood
  47.   I'm Never Coming Back
  48.   Alright
  49.   Vahevela
  50.   Seven Nights to Rock
  51.   Every River
  52.   Suzanna
  53.   Pussy Willow Dream
  54.   Over the Weekend
  55.   Have I Done Something Wrong?
  56.   Stage Door
  57.   Fortune Teller
  58.   You Beat Me to the Punch
  59.   Frank Allen Interview
  60.   Mike Pender Interview
  61.   Chris Curtis Interview
  62.   Shoot 'Em Up Baby
  63.   Umbrella Man
  64.   Ooo Wee (AKA Ooo Nee)
  65.   Let's Stomp
  66.   Maggie Mae
  67.   Darling Do You Miss Me
  68.   Jambalaya
  69.   Love Potion Number Nine
  70.   Learning the Game
  71.   Rosalie
  72.   Sweet Nothin's
  73.   Maybelline
  74.   Push Push
  75.   This Boy's in Love
  76.   No Other Love
  77.   Somebody Told Me You Were Crying
  78.   Lonely Weekend
  79.   Ils La Chantalent II Y a Longtemps
  80.   C'est de Notre Age (Sugar and Spice)
  81.   Mais C'etait Un Reve (It's All Been a Dream)
  82.   Liebe
  83.   Wenn Ich Dich Seh' (When You Walk in the Room)
  84.   Don't Shut Me Out
  85.   Spicks and Specks
  86.   Solitaire
  87.   Sing Singer Sing
  88.   Love Is Everywhere
  89.   Everything But a Heartache
  90.   I'm Ready
  91.   Cherry Stones
  92.   Oh My Lover
  93.   Unhappy Girls
  94.   One of These Days
  95.   Shimmy Shimmy
  96.   Glad All Over
  97.   New Heart
  98.   Innocent Victim
  99.   Aggravation
  100.   Sweet Little Sixteen
  101.   Four Strong Winds
  102.   I'll Be Doggone
  103.   This Empty Space
  104.   All My Sorrows
  105.   Don't Cha Know
  106.   Hungry for Love
  107.   Listen to Me
  108.   Crazy Dreams
  109.   It's Just the Way (Love Will Come and Go)
  110.   Don't Hide It Away
  111.   Too Many Miles
  112.   (I'll Be) Missing You
  113.   I Pretend I'm With You
  114.   What Have They Done to the Rain
  115.   Desdemona
  116.   It's Too Late
  117.   Lost in Your Eyes
  118.   This Kind of Love Affair
  119.   Feeling Fine
  120.   Everything You Do
  121.   Till You Say You'll Be Mine
  122.   A Tear Fell
  123.   Let the Good Times Roll
  124.   I Don't Want to Go on Without You
  125.   Magic Potion
  126.   If I Could Find Someone
  127.   Everybody Come Clap Your Hands
  128.   Western Union
  129.   Popcorn Double Feature
  130.   Have You Ever Loved Somebody
  131.   Take It or Leave It
  132.   Take Me for What I'm Worth
  133.   Each Time
  134.   Goodbye My Love
  135.   Sea of Heartbreak
  136.   It's in Her Kiss
  137.   No One Else Could Love You
  138.   Saints and Searchers
  139.   Some Other Guy
  140.   Saturday Night Out
  141.   Everything But a Heartbeat
  142.   Infatuation
  143.   Radio Romance
  144.   Silver