The British Invasion during the 1960s changed the face of music in the United States. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Dave Clark Five, The Animals, and a host of others provided some of the best music of the decade. The Searchers may not have been as well known or as influential as the previously named groups, but they were a slick and smooth pop band that produced a number of hit singles during the mid-1960s.
They were formed in 1960, and by 1964 their most famous line-up was in place. Guitarist John McNally, guitarist/vocalist Mike Pender, bassist/vocalist Tony Jackson (who was replaced by Frank Allen during 1965), and drummer Chad Curtis were always more popular in their home country, as they had six singles reach the top five with three topping the charts. McNally, Allen, and 1985 replacement Spencer James continue to record and tour as The Searchers to the present day. Drummer Billy Adamson, who joined in 1969 and left during 1998, was the other long-term member of the band. Former lead singer Pender performs under the name of Mike Pender’s Searchers.
They did not have the creativity or lasting influence of The Beatles, the blues base of The Animals, the energy of The Dave Clark Five, or the rock approach of The Rolling Stones. They also rarely wrote their own material. What they were able to do very well was take other people’s material, add their own harmonies and jingly guitars, and create some of the best light pop/rock of the era.
The Very Best Of The Searchers is the best overview of the British Invasion part of their career. The 14 tracks cover all their big hits, both American and British. Their U.S. hits, “Needles and Pins,” “Don’t Throw Your Love Away,” and “Love Potion Number Nine” combine with their U.K. best, “Sweets For My Sweet,” “Sugar and Spice,” “When You Walk In The Room,” and “Goodbye To Love” to present some of the better pop of the 1960s. Throw in such tunes as “What Have They Done To The Rain,” “Bumble Bee,” and “Have You Ever Loved Somebody,” and you have a consistently strong album.
They had a knack for taking material of different styles and from different eras and turning them into memorable versions. “Love Potion Number Nine” was an old Coasters song and “Bumble Bee” was a LaVern Baker obscurity from 1960. “Don’t Throw Your Love Away” was an Orlons B side, while they reached back into R&B history for Barbara Lewis’ “Someday We’re Gonna Love Again.” Their versions may not have been the originals, but they were catchy and stayed with you.
The music of The Searchers did not change the face of rock ‘n’ roll, nor did it expand the boundaries of popular music. The British Invasion bands that survived or became extremely popular were the ones who could produce commercially successful albums. The Searchers were a singles band in an ever-increasing album world, but they have stuck to it for just over 50 years now, still playing their own brand of smooth pop.
Their legacy is one of creating some catchy songs that make a person feel good, and in the long run that’s not so bad. The Very Best Of The Searchers is an album that will take you on a pleasant ride through the up-beat side of the British Invasion.