Monday, August 10, 2015

The Searchers: 10 Top Tunes That You Should Know

1. "Western Union" U.K. Pye 7N.17308 1967
Launched the exact same day in Britain as The Five Americans original (April 21st 1967) The Searchers clearly weren't exactly going with anything novel for this release.  Regardless the band do a competent version which I actually enjoy more than the original.  Rather than perform a note for note version of the band strip it down and make it their own with a pseudo raga guitar solo by Chris Curtis with the band's prerequisite harmonies to the fore.

2. "Crazy Dreams" U.K. Pye 7N.17424 1967
The Searchers pretty much eschewed psychedelia but there are notable exceptions.  The closest they came was this November '67 flip of "Second Hand Dealer" characterized by some silly lyrics that speak of little green men and laughing clouds behind a tough musical backing propelled by a  fluid bass and solid drums groove with some gnarly guitar and an almost Dylanesque sneer from lead singer Mike Pender. "Sitting up here in the sky. I don't care cos I'm high".

3. "Each Time" LP cut U.K. "Take Me For What I'm Worth" Pye NLP 18120 1966
The band are well known for being Britain's foremost interpreters of Jackie DeShannon's material. This jangly echo drenched DeShannon cut appeared on their 4th U.K. LP and would've made a decent single, but Pye thought otherwise and this Youngbloods/Byrdsy masterpiece languished as a track on an LP.

4. "Popcorn Double Feature" U.K. Pye 7N.17225 / U.S. Kapp K811 1967
This January 1967 cover of Tim Wilde's brilliant track (later released in the US as Tower 353 in July 1967) rates as one of the band's most sought after 7 inchers and rightfully so. Behind lush strings and Tony Hatch's brilliant arrangement it announced what was hoped to be a new era of progressive direction for the band. Sadly it flopped but still rates in my opinion as one of their best tracks.

5. "The System" U.K. Pye NEP 24201 1964
"The System" was the band's title track from the Oliver Reed flick of the same name (re-titled "The Girl Getters" in the U.S.).  It's probably also the first and last time Ollie's mug appeared on a pop record sleeve! Lead off by Chris Curtis and Mike Pender's tandem harmonies beneath a catchy beat group groove it's upbeat and frantic in all the right ways.

6. "Take Me For What I'm Worth" U.K. Pye 7N.15992 / U.S. Kapp K729 1966
This November '65 take on P.F. Sloan's greatest composition further cements their "English kings of folk rock" crown and is also one of the toughest Searchers sides recorded.  It starts all sweetness and light before it starts to rock and Mike Pender's vocals grow from soft to snarling beneath the usual precise Searchers musical arrangement.

7. "Take It Or Leave It" U.K. Pye 7N.17094 1966
The Searchers last venture into the British charts was this Rolling Stones number (it unfortunately stalled at #31) which surprisingly unlike many other contemporary Jagger/Richards compositions was not savaged in print by it's authors. Released after the two bands toured Australia together and exactly one day before The Stone's version hit the streets (as a track on the U.K. issue of the "Aftermath" LP) it actually works.

8. "I'll Be Doggone" LP cut U.K. "Take Me For What I'm Worth" Pye NLP 18120 1966
The idea of the Searchers doing Motown is actually a pretty hard idea to get ones head around.  Enter this version.  It starts out in typical note for note cover version fashion with a bass/piano intro and then the melody rings out on the guitars ala "Needles And Pins" and the Motor City/folk rock mash up works PERFECTLY! The bands excellent vocal ability saves the day and Chris Curtis amazing drum fills are the proverbial cherry on top.

9. "Have You Ever Loved Somebody" U.K. Pye 7N.17170 / U.S. Kapp K783 1966
Though not a patch on The Hollies original (which surfaced a year later on their "Evolution" album) it's still a rocking affair thanks to some subtle fuzz guitar and the 100 mph pace lead by new Keith Moon influenced drummer John Blunt who had recently replaced Chris Curtis. Compare with versions by Paul & Barry Ryan AND The Everly Brothers.

10. "Umbrella Man" U.K. Liberty LBF 15159 1968 / U.S. World Pacific 77908 1968
The next to last 60's Searchers (as "The Searchers", there was one more in '69 cut under the incongruous pseudonym of "Pasha" in '69 on this label) 45 saw them dubiously sacked from their longstanding contract with Pye and cutting the first of three 45's on Liberty in the U.K. "Umbrella Man" is an upbeat poppy slice of toy town psych with some great bits (steady hand claps through out, sublime strings, a snatch of saxophone) that epitomizes "groovy". Penned by Kenny Young who produced this as well and who who authored one of the worst 45's ever ("Somebody Shot The Lollypop Man") which was Pasha's A-side. Dig the clip below of the band on German TV's "Beat Club" with guitarist John McNally's Roger McGuinn stache.

1 comment:

Steve Coleman said...

A great overview of some of the Searchers lesser known tunes that are still on the money. What a shame that for many years the only place you could find "The System" was on that 7" ep. Can I put in a mention for the "Sweet Nuthin's" b/w "What'd I Say" 45 on Philips? Both tracks recorded at The Star Club and illustrate what a cracking rock'n'roll band The Searchers were.