Friday, September 9, 2016


Yes, those Searchers, 12-string wielding pop group from Liverpool, who, following in the merseybeat jet stream of the Beatles, were 2nd band from that city to have a hit in the U.S. (OK, 2nd equal, as the Hippy Hippy Shake by these guys also made the hot 100 that day in March 1964, but that was their sole hit and had nothing to do with nine or with september, this fortnights assignment.) So what had the Searchers to do with nine or September? Have patience and listen to this song, which doesn't, but was their 1963 debut single, a cover of an original by the Drifters, worth a listen if only to confirm the consistency of sound across the decades:

The remarkable thing about the Searchers is that, despite you, or your parents, only remembering their early 60s output, they are still going strong. Or, still going, anyway, and with sole first to last man standing, John McNally, plugging away on guitar and vocals OK, it is a while since their star was high in the firmament, but the cabaret and nostalgia circuits will still produce an audience, eager to revisit a youth, however distant.

Their heyday produced a glut of singles, all made distinctive by the harmonies and chiming electric 12-string guitar, widely attributed to the Rickenbacker model, and which preceded and arguably influenced Jim McGuinn, as he then was, of the Byrds and their sound. Intriguingly, as I prepared this piece, I discovered that, despite active promotion of this mythology, maybe that is what it was, certainly to begin with. Here is latter-day guitarist, 1969 onward, on the subject.

OK, to task, here is a song relevant to topic, number 3 in the US, their take on Lieber and Stollers chestnut, 'Love Potion Number 9':

OK, so not such a great song, or not one I am fond of, but it kept them in the charts, their run eventually dwindling as the 60s petered out. But then a remarkable situation took place a decade or so later, when Seymour Stein, a longterm anglophile music fan, signed them, in 1979, to his Sire label, possibly odd label mates alongside the Ramones and the Talking Heads. That was enough to jog my attention and I kept an ear open. Still the jangle, but now morphed into a new-wave sensibility, the choice and covers and image keel-hauled to have a more contemporary appeal. I bought into this, as the songs and sound were sturdy enough to hold muster against newer upstarts. I even bought their ever so nearly hit single, 'Hearts in Her Eyes', which has a pleasingly Dave Edmunds/Rockpile vibe. I bought the album too and commend it, from which my 2nd contrived link to this weeks subject arrives, another version of the song celebrated by Andy de la Raygun below.

After that? Sadly nothing. After 2 fairly well-received albums, on the verge of their 3rd, Sire got bought up and the Searchers were dropped back into the chicken-in-a-basket circuit, where they still plod on. I guess it's a living but the shame is immense. They were stars once, given the chance of being contenders again and it was shattered by the vicariousness of the biz. Pity. I wish 'em well.

Buy! You've got oldies or the goldies

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