Guide to British Music of the 1960s

May 1999

CD Review

The Searchers - Greatest Hits

 

The standard American compilation of the Searchers glory years is this album on Rhino Records. While a plethora of compilations exist, this one does justice to American taste by including all of the charted hits, plus three wisely-chosen album tracks. In an interesting twist, the songs appear in the order they were recorded, which is not the order they were released stateside: a strategy which preserves the traditional Sweets opening, and promotes their top US hit Love Potion Number Nine to an early play in the line-up. The Searchers flooded the USA with nine singles in 1964. The first to hit US airwaves was the excellent Merseybeat anthem Needles And Pins. Thirty-five years later, everybody still remembers and loves it. The guitar sounds became trademark Searchers, trademark folk-rock, and forever hooked millions of fans. Like most Searchers hits, it's a cover of a mediocre USA performance, this one by Jackie DeShannon, although written by Sonny Bono. The Searchers added a fullness, an earnestness, and a bit of swing to its character. With or without the British Invasion, this song stands on its own as an ultimate classic. 

So what do you do next? The energetic Ain't That Just Like Me, not a single elsewhere, was released just a month later. The Searchers version, led by drummer Chris Curtis, is great rock and roll, was a dance favorite, but scrambled for air-time in the barrage of British offerings. The Searchers were on the Kapp label in the USA, but making things confusing was Mercury records, who had bought the Searchers "Star Club" recordings from Phillips. While Kapp began their parade of Searchers hits, Mercury added recordings of lesser quality to the marketplace, the only exception being the belated release of Sweets For My Sweet. While Sweets was a chart-topper in Europe, this Drifters cover was squeezed out by the competition in America. Then came Don't Throw Your Love Away. Above the rancour of other shallow British and American wanna-bes: this simple song is pure class. It's humble, yet clever, and sincere in it's great message about purity. May I interject that my daughters and I have performed a piano-based version of this song for youth groups (and others), and it's message remains as true and relevant as ever. 

When Tony Jackson left the band in the middle of 1964, most Americans didn't really care, but there was a noticeable pause in the Searchers releases by Kapp. To fail to release anything in June or July (for the lucrative summer market) was one of Kapp's many mistakes. Fortunately, the next song was Someday We're Gonna Love Again, pure 60s British rock. Great melody, harmony, tempo, and another meaningful message. But Kapp was not a real strong record company, and their distribution network fell short vs. the Capitol, Epic, Columbia, MGM and Reprise labels. In our part of the world (Rochester NY), we had to hunt hard to find the single for sale. The year marched on with another pop-rock standard: When You Walk In the Room. The trademark guitar hook made me a Searchers fan for life. ( Even the similar-sounding flip side was playing at parties, although it's not included on the Rhino album). As the record companies prepared for the year-end Christmas money-grab, the Searchers released What Have They Done to the Rain in England. Certainly that's a magnificent folk-rock classic, and I won't argue that once it finally hit America in early 1965, it may have inspired the whole folk-rock craze. Rain is a first-of-its-kind ecological protest song, tenderly covered. But in a rare moment of marketing brilliance, Kapp held off pleasing us "true artists" and went for the holiday mainstream market by releasing an album cut, the clever Love Potion Number Nine. I think I'm the only American who didn't like it, if only out of comparison to the other great songs. But they all bought it, and it went to number three (the Searchers highest charting in the US). Then 1965 saw the new, mellow Searchers. The New Searchers LP, which had a really folk-rock cover picture, was the Searchers softest album to date. It featured Rain, but my favorite was, as still is Everybody Come Clap Your Hands. I applaud Rhino for including it on their CD. The performance is cool, and maybe more casual than it should have been, but the whole happy feel of the song is inspiring. Most British seem to scorn the song, but we Yanks love it, and I think it would go down well live, even today. 

In the UK, the Searchers released Goodbye My Love, and it did very well, but in another example of difference of taste, Americans were disinterested in this, the Searchers own favorite of their hits. Kapp then released another album cut, Bumble Bee, which like LP9, was an odd/cute offering. It got plenty of airplay, and had to be released twice (once with A Tear Fell as the b-side, once with Everything You Do), as sales exceeded Kapp's initial vision. Then came a 4-month gap in single releases, and somehow, the USA forgot the Searchers. When He's Got No Love debuted on TV and radio, I thought it sounded fantastic, and I rushed to buy it. But it took forever to find it, and by the time I did, it had already faded from its disappointing #79 in the charts. Too bad, because it's again got beautiful guitar sounds, a pleading yet pleasing melody. It was the only Kapp single penned by the Searchers, and I found their writing to be very, very good, if not prolific. Over in the UK, the Searchers then released the Bobby Darin cover When I Get Home. It could have been great, if it had been recorded properly. The initial guitar hook fails when the song abruptly changes key entering the first verse. And from there it sounds suddenly dark, plodding, instead of energetic, as it should. Kapp blew it off, and instead released an album cut You Can't Lie to a Liar. This failed miserably, and so when Rhino went to pick up the pieces for their release, they bagged Liar in favor of When I Get Home. The relative failure of those releases led to the rushed-release and heavy promotion of Take Me For What I'm Worth. Another folk-rock classic, its structure and melody are just great. The message in verse two is atrocious ("nobody's perfect, so don't judge"), and I wonder if the message is also antheistic, which in my book makes it foolish. But I never quite picked up on all of that back then, and to this date, I can ignore the trite attempt at philosophy and just enjoy the song. Mike Pender's vocals are once again just perfect for it, and the whole guitar orchestration is simple but still splendid. Kapp "struck again" by releasing a Take Me For What I'm Worth LP that contained seven songs already on the previous album. In those days, getting just five new songs (or just 3 if you already had the Take single) for $3 wasn't a great deal for us hard-working Yanks, and so the album missed the charts in spite of many great tracks. My favorite was Each Time, and again I applaud Rhino's inclusion of it on their album. The guitars ring with an energy and character typical of the Searchers, while this fourth Jackie DeShannon cover flows with a beautiful melody, and a lyrical tale of an almost sad, yet loyal, pledge of love. By then, 1965 was over, and Kapp didn't release anything for nine months. In that time, the Searchers gave the rest of the world Take It Or Leave It, a beautiful song, similar in character to He's Got No Love. It showed on American TV, I went hunting for the single, and came up empty until 1970. It's the one song Rhino really missed including. 

Also in 1966, Chris Curtis made some of the mistakes that young stars often do, and the inevitable result was his departure. John Blunt replaced him, and hammered away nicely on Have You Ever Loved Somebody. It thought the song was great, and that it would re-launch the band. But the fast-tempo, high energy rocker just didn't get enough airplay. Everyone I showed it to never heard of it. The Rhino compilation skips uncharted Western Union and Popcorn Double Feature. No great loss, although Popcorn could have been better if they could have stayed with the Searchers guitar sound (as on the BBC tapes) and a faster tempo. The string arrangements confuse the whole thing, (in my humble opinion). And so it concludes with Second Hand Dealer, and unfitting end to a great run on Kapp records. But great songs live on, and so here they are. Other compilations might be more massive (like the 3-CD 30th anniversary CD), but for just one disc, this one's an appropriate display of the very best in Merseybeat music. I think it'll play it again.

Rob Bolton of the Searchers USA Page, April 1999

Released: 1988
Rhino

Essential Tracks:

  • Sweets for My Sweet
  • When You Walk in the Room
  • Needles and Pins

Track Listing:

  1. Sweets For My Sweet
  2. Love Potion Number Nine
  3. Sugar And Spice
  4. Ain't That Just Like Me
  5. Needles And Pins
  6. Don't Throw Your Love Away
  7. Someday We're Gonna Love Again
  8. When You Walk In the Room
  9. What Have They Done to the Rain
  10. Goodbye My Love
  11. Bumble Bee
  12. He's Got No Love
  13. When I Get Home
  14. Take Me For What I'm Worth
  15. Each Time
  16. Everybody Come Clap Your Hands
  17. Have You Ever Loved Somebody
  18. Second Hand Dealer.

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