Monday, 6 February 2017

The Searchers: Surviving TV Clips 1963-2011, Plus The Best Unreleased Recordings

The Searchers have been particularly badly treated by the Russian Roulette of the archives, unlucky enough to have released most of their more popular records at a time when rock and roll was viewed as being particularly ephemeral and their career having already peaked at a time when most bands were flourishing overseas. It's also a sad fact that The Searchers never released a music video, their chart entries having disappeared a long time before the technique came along circa 1966. Or then again perhaps The Searchers were just unlucky: they played shows like Top Of The Pops as regularly as the next band but don't appear in any of the complete shows or extracts returned to the archives down the years; a similar story may be true for other shows with a regular AAA hit-rate like Ready Steady Go and Shindig. There are no comprehensive lists of every TV appearance the Searchers ever did out there, unlike a few of the bands we cover, but it seems likely that a complete set would include a far bigger list than this. We can't sadly list everything for you then, but we can at least present a guide to every single Searchers clip which did survive the years, as short as it is. Thankfully what is here is generally of the highest quality, with more live performances than usual for our bands.Please note that we haven't included 'rumoured' items, TV spots that only exist via their audio soundtrack, solo appearances, documentaries that repeat old footage or home taped footage recorded at concerts (which given the amount of Searchers 90s-00s concert clips out there out sadly, but they tend to follow similar set-lists and arrangements anyway).

If you've been searching for The Searchers and haven't got anywhere and your googling arm has got needles and pins from constant looking then fear not: help is at hand thanks to our very own super duper AAA playlist. If you're reading this as an article on the website then your luck is really in - simply scroll back to the top of the page and click through to what you want to see. If you're reading this in book form then you can still see them by visiting our Alan's Album Archives Youtube page at - the page you want is marked 'AAA Playlist #24: The Searchers'. We'll try and keep the list as maintained as possible but do be warned that Youtube videos change round a lot - - so if you can't find something keep looking; chances are someone will have re-posted it and if not we'll have to have a go ourselves (legalities permitting).
But don't throw your tapes away - if you've found something you think we've missed then get in touch; this is, sadly, something of a vague list after all, though we've tried to put it together in as complete a fashion and in as close to a chronological order as we can. Short of listening to the records or taking some love potion number nine, it's about the closest we can manage to letting you fall in love with this most under-rated of bands all over again...

1A. Unknown ('Hully Gully' German TV 1962)
One of those 'blink and you'll miss it' jobs, a forty second extract of The Searchers performing a surprisingly tidy version of 'Hully Gully' for the cameras has survived and was used in a period local documentary about the sort of things disreputable teenagers were getting up to back then. This is the only time you can see the band dresses in leathers and in what many would argue is their natural habitat, but they're clearly being overly 'polite' for the cameras rather than letting go.
1.    Unknown ('Sugar and Spice' UK TV 1963)
Alas no clips of The Searchers performing their debut single 'Sweets For My Sweet' have survived. Presumably there were lots, in Britain at least, given the context of what other publicity departments were making bands do in 1963 but sadly none of them seem to have survived. So we start instead with the second single, with a rare colour clip of a highly respectable looking band in some very dapper suits. I've been trying hard to track down where this clip comes from and have not got anywhere as yet, but the fact that it's in colour and apparently shot on glossy film rather than the cheaper videotape suggests to me it was shot for a 'video jukebox'. We've already covered these in our Hollies list and they were big for all of five minutes in 1963-1964, with fans able to pay their pennies to see recorded clips over and over in places that bought into the technology the way they would a musical jukebox. The band look too smart, frankly, to be playing for a purely teenage audience for a 'Jukebox Jury' or a 'TOTP' of the period, which suggests they're mindful about an adult crowd too. The band seem very inhibited, actually, without any of their usual joy and energy, suggesting that they might be performing for a 'grown up' film director and crew and it's pretty unusual to see them mining, with the three guitarists all gathered together round a single microphone.

2.    Saturday Night Out (Film Cameo 1964)
Well it wasn't quite 'A Hard Day's Night', with a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo rather than a starring role, but it was a sign of how big The Searchers were by early 1964 that they were given even this big a deal. Films, after all, were something only the big stars got to do and this 'New York New York' spoof with a trio of sailors left running riot in swinging London had all the right ingredients to be a hit with the film going public of 1964, even if in the end it 's largely remembered now only for The Searchers' part in it. The band wrote the rather simplistic title track especially for the soundtrack, a 100 second romp through some Merseybeat clichés (including some Beatley 'wooo!'s) and some lyrics about having fun at the weekend and can be seen performing it in a pub. Intriguingly John mimes the lyrics along with Mike and Tony whole Chris - the one you'd expect to be doing his best to keep the camera on him - shyly looks away at the floor for the most part. Frustratingly we keep cutting back from the music to the plot, even though the performance is far more interesting than anything the stars Heather Seer and John Bonney are up to. Still, brief as it is, this is quite a coup, The Searchers also releasing their song as the flipside to 'Needles and Pins'.

3.    Ed Sullivan Show ('Ain't That Just Like Me?' 'Needles and Pins' US TV 1964)
The Americans didn't know what hit them. Whereas the fab four deliberately tidied up their early sound for an appearance on primetime American TV ('Till There Was You' especially), The Searchers treat what turned out to be their one and only appearance on the show as if it was just another day at the Cavern Club. 'Just Like Me' was always the heaviest Searchers song anyway, but it's even more unhinged live as Chris tries to sing and drum all at the same time, standing up to peer over his kit at the audience who are so quiet they're probably in shock. Mike grins his head off, enjoying the OTT performance by his partner, while the band have great fun playing around with the dynamics during the lengthy 45 second 'Don't you wanna love me too?' coda. By comparison 'Needles and Pins' is much calmer, but also a little raw with Mike and Tony's vocals not fitting together quite as well as on the record. Still, it's a nice performance and the band really should have been invited back.

4.    NME Pollwinner's Concert 1964 ('Don't Throw Your Love Away' 'What'd I Say?')
The NME pollwinners gigs featured the band that happened to have scored highest in that year's 'best band' polls and naturally included a whole host of AAA bands down the years. The Searchers were riding high after a 1963 in which they came second only to The Beatles and they're about the only act of the night brave enough to offer something a little different to their fans. The Searchers don't play any of their big hits: instead we get what back then would have been a preview of their new single, a rather off-key version of 'Don't Throw Your Love Away' which is brought out every so often on clips shows and a thrilling cover of Ray Charles' 'What'd I Say?' which sadly never is, even though it's one of the best Searchers clips out there. Chris is on top form (and possibly some pills), jokily crediting the author as 'my father!', ad libbing like mad ('The girl with the red dress on lives here in Wem-ber-ley, by the ice rink!') and playing the drums like an octopus re-incarnation of Keith Moon, extending the song by verse after drum solo after verse. The others give him a dirty look when he stops mid-song and admonishes the audience for not singing loudly enough (!) but otherwise go with it, with McNally and Jackson leaping in the air like ballerinas right on cue. McNally then has to go and retrieve a cymbal stand he's knocked over by accident ('You're looking good down there John...' ad libs Curtis). Anyone who doubts my obsession with how great a character Chris Curtis was across the rest of this website/book need look no further: no one else was doing this back in 1964. The tragedy is that The Searchers never put their cooking streamlined version of this classic song on record, keeping it instead as an exclusive for their live set. 
5.    Blue Peter ('Needles and Pins' UK TV 1964)
By contrast The Searchers are on their best behaviour for their appearance on children's favourite Blue Peter. Appearing in jumpers rather than suits, the band look more comfortable if less adrenalin-fuelled and stand in a line, the camera giving plenty of close-ups of all of them (this is a good opportunity to showcase Tony's highly unusual for the 1960s slap-bass playing, something that worked really well in clubs but was reportedly a hard thing to capture in the studio). This is, sadly, Tony's last surviving filmed appearance with the band (at least if we've got our chronology right!), the singer disappearing frustratingly early on in our list.

6.    NME Pollwinner's Concert 1965 ('Let The Good Times Roll')
The Searchers didn't fare quite as well in 1964 with so many other bands coming along to steal their thunder, but 'Needles and Pins' scored highly in that year's singles so the band were wheeled back on again. Typically, though, the Searchers elect not to play that song and with only one song spot not two this time play a song of more recent origin, the 'Sounds Like Searchers' album track 'Let The Good Times Roll'. This is - again assuming we've got our dates right - the debut appearance on film of new bassist Frank Allen, whose given a co-lead singing spot with Mike already. Though this line-up will soon become the definitive Searchers one for many, the band feel a little nervous and tentative here, lacking the pure energy of their 1964 show.

7.    Shindig #1 ('Hi Heel Sneakers' US TV 1965)
The Searchers made three appearances on Shindig in total but sadly the first - featuring 'He's Got No Love' 'Bumble Bee' and 'Love Potion no 9' - appears to have been lost (unless any readers can tell us otherwise?...) This, then, is the shorter follow-up which features the only instance recorded on film of John taking the lead vocal. Very nervous he looks about it too, with the camera panning over to him behind Chris' drum stool, though he is at least singing along to the original record rather than simply performing 'live'. John seems to get far more audience applause than usual for the Searchers in the states, prompting a wry McNally grin.

8.    Shindig #2 ('Needles and Pins' US TV 1965)
The Searchers were back a month later for another retrospective performance of what remained their biggest hit in America. This one really is live and an early chance to hear Frank's harmonies on the song replacing Tony's alongside Mike's lead part. By now new boy Frank suddenly seems the most comfortable here, lifting his guitar up to body height to play, while Mike looks earnest and Chris looks bored.

9.    Hullabaloo ('What Have They Done To The Rain?' 'Love Potion No 9' US TV 1965)
Hullabaloo was usually the wild party to Shindig's hipper tone and the Ed Sullivan Show's smarter style. Here, though, The Searchers are as grown-up as they ever were, a smart opening shot featuring the band in silhouette (something The Searchers repeat a lot on their CD re-issue series) and looking earnest on their opening song of ecological protest. It's an impressive mimed performance, with Chris sitting at the back with bongos on his knees. The second track might seem like more of a surprise, an older song from the debut album, but much to the band's shock Pye's American base had just released it as a single and it had been a big hit - the band's second highest after 'Needles and Pins'. This causes something of a problem though: Tony was the band's dominant force on the original and by this point he's been out of the band about a year, which leaves Frank uncomfortably miming along to the song in his place and even walking 'forward' a step to suggest he really is the lead vocalist.

10. Ready Steady Go! ('What Have They Done To The Rain?', possibly 'This Feeling Inside' UK TV 1965)
More raining, this time back in Britain where 'What Have They Done' is introduced by host Kathy McGowan as 'rather a folky one'. Chris has abandoned his drums altogether by now, appearing stage front on the bongos as the band stand democratically in line. I'm lumping the performance of flipside 'This Feeling Inside' here too simply because it 'fits' - those look like the RSGo sets and it would make sense that both sides of a single are performed. This classic McNally song - his first released composition - sounds rather good live, with some added grungy guitar weaving from John and Mike and some extra cymbal bashing from Chris.

11. Unknown ('I Don't Want To Go On Without You' Holland TV 1965)
I'm accepting the Youtube comment that this is from a Dutch TV show in lieu of any better information, but it would make sense: many bands struggling to compete in the UK and US ended up appearing on European shows instead - actually most bands tended to do that on the way up as well but The Searchers bucked this trend in 1963 by getting big, fast. Everything about these performances seems 'cleaner' - it might just be that the tape has kept better but there's a clarity that seems surprising when you've seen as many 1960s TV clips as I have (even some re-mastered sets don't look this good). Which is just as well because 'Without You' is a terribly dreary song that doesn't have much else going for it and a surprise choice given that it was an un-regarded album track about a year earlier than this. If you ever wanted to gaze at admiration of close-ups of The Searchers, however, then this is the video clip for you!

12. Saturday Night At The London Palladium ('When I Get Home' UK TV 1965)
Even one of the most high profile Searchers gigs yet couldn't stop this single becoming the first of the band's big flops, peaking at a lowly #35. That might be because the band struggle to perform this one live; Mike singing the opening line alone (were Frank and Chris not ready?), the guitars slightly out of tune and the drums a tad loud. Still, for all that, this is a highly under-rated band delivering a highly under-rated song in trying circumstances. If The Queen wasn't smiling and waving along in the Royal Box she should have been. This is also - we think - the last appearance of Chris Curtis with The Searchers caught on film.

13. Beat Beat Beat ('Sweets For My Sweet' 'Love Potion no 9' 'C C Rider' German TV 1966)
The only legally available Searchers DVD set - as part of various artists set 'Beat Beat Beat Volume #3 - comes surprisingly late in the run. The first of the band's performances with new boy John Blunt on drums, it's something of a last hurrah with a run through of two of the band's very earliest songs and a current live favourite that sadly never made its way to a studio album (the only available version is on 'The Swedish Radio Broadcasts' CD). This gig is remarkable mainly for hearing Frank and Mike tackle the two earlier songs, Allen's deeper tones pushing Pender's higher, while Blunt gets even more enthusiastic on his cymbals than his predecessor. 'C C Rider' is a good 'un too, a rocking version of a 12 bar blues that dates back to the 1920s that should have been a single, with Frank and Mike trading lines as duetting over a funkier guitar riff than usual for The Searchers and one of the best Pender guitar solos caught on film.

14.    Beat Club ('Umbrella Man' 'Shoot 'Em Up' German TV 1969)

There comes next, sadly, a three year gap during which time The Searchers soldier on making great records that annoyingly nobody seems to hear or buy. The band make their first appearance in three years and their last for a decade with this the only known surviving TV appearance of the John Blunt line-up. The band start
by miming to one of their better ideas of the period, 'Umbrella Mabn' correctly introduced as 'a beautiful song' but sadly it never was 'a monster hit' as the emcee promises. 'Shoot Em Up' is a bit weirder, all fuzz guitars and aggresive lyrics, and the band can barely be seen behind some dancers. The band now have much longer hair but by contrast look far cleaner-cut and play against a typically ambitious set of the time which features lots of added effects and feature the band playing in front of themselves on a screen. Though mimed once again, these are both nice clips of a songs that deserves to be much better known.

15. Local News (North West Tonight?) ('Feeling Fine' 'It's Too Late' UK TV 1979)
A decade later and The Searchers were back, with a record that made the most of the recent sixties bandwagon jumping titled simply 'The Searchers'. The band still struggled to get the world to take notice, however, launching their record with an appearance not on some international TV show but on a local programme broadcast in the North West. The Searchers are described as 'one of the few to have survived the 1960s' with 'no expense spared' as they turn in an impressively tight rendition of two of their better comeback songs. That's yet another new drummer, Billy Adamson, in the line-up (he's the one wearing shades), although he's hard to see given the lighting designer appears to be having something of a nervous breakdown during the shooting of this sequence, with pinks and blues overlaid on top.

16. Unknown ('Nothing But A Heartbeat' Swedish TV c.1980)
The band return to Sweden for a fun performance of another comeback song, looking smart and sounding smarter. Why didn't this record perform better?

17. Unknown ('Hearts In Her Eyes' Unknown c.1980)
This time the band are plugging the sequel 'Love's Melodies' and are dressed as tuxedos as if it's the 1960s all over again. That said, there's no mistaking the incredibly 80s set or the fact that the band are now looking their age a little bit.

18. Pebble Mill #1 ('Silver' UK TV 1981)
For once, The Searchers aren't the oldest act on the show - they come on after Helen Shapiro and are jokingly billed as 'youngsters' by comparison. Presenter Bob Langley asks the band if they still get on and gets the jokey reply 'no!' yelled in lots of directions, while John explains that most of their disagreements tend to come from supporting different football teams. Asked if they have lean periods, John jokes that they'll play 'weddings, bar mitzvahs - anywhere!' The performance of 'Silver' is rather good too, with an energy the band haven't had in a while and more of that distinctive Rickenbacker sound.

19.  Unknown ('When You Walk In The Room' 1983)
With no new music to plug, the band instead play an old favourite with a near solo Pender performance (to be fair, the others' microphones seem to be down) in front of an enthusiastic crowd. It's a fun version, with Mike for one clearly enjoying being back in the spotlight again.

20. Pebble Mill #2 (?) ('I Don't Want To Be The One' c.1983)
Goodness knows where this clip is from, but it has the madcap/amiably amateurish 'feel' of a Pebble Mill show and the band were clearly keen to appear on shows like this in this period so that's what we've gone with. The last appearance of Mike with the band before he quits to form his own version of The Searchers, it's a nicely confident and vibrant performance.

21. Top Of The Pops (?) ('Needles and Pins '94' 1994)
The Searchers celebrated the 30th anniversary of perhaps their most famous song with a re-recording, which despite the release date in the title is as 1980s as the band ever got. Sadly for the band, though, Mike isn't around to sing it anymore - that's new member Spencer James performing the lead guitar/lead vocal role instead, who does about as good a job as anybody outside the original could - with the last appearance for drummer Billy Adamson behind.

22. The Time - The Place (Frank Allen only UK TV 1994)
We don't tend to include interviews with one member of our AAA groups because our list of clips for bands like The Beatles and Stones would run forever and a page. There are so few interview clips with the group around, though, that we've added this clip of Frank appearing on a 1960s memory show and throwing in a few plugs for his new book 'Travelling With The Searchers' along the way. Frank talks about The Beatles opening the doors for bands like The Searchers to travel, that modern bands are less looked after nowadays than they were thirty years ago but that the woman 'still chase after us - they just run a bit slower now!' Zooming forward a quarter hour, Frank talks about how modern music is 'extended' and made for dancing to, all about the beat rather than the melody and that the 1960s was 'the end of the classic songwriting with a beginning, middle and an end'.

23. Open House With Gloria Hunniford ('When You Walk In The Room' 'Sweets For My Sweet' UK TV c.1998)
A suddenly much older band pay a house call on British TV. McNally is in a mischievous mood, interrupting the bland opening chatter with a burst of the James Bond theme on an acoustic guitar. Frank 'complains' about having so many hits there's never enough time in the stage show to do anything else and wishes fans knew more of the obscure records. John discusses his opinion on the many Liverpool bands, because of the baby boom after the war leading so many teenagers to need something to do. Frank can still remember the exact day he became a Searcher (August 3rd 1964) and how rushed his first rehearsal was, learning mainly through listening to the records with just a solitary band performance ('what more did you need?' John quips). That's new member John Rothe on drums who jokes that he got two rehearsals and after two years 'I've nearly learnt it all'. Frank also talks about the band being stranded the night Sarajevo was bombed and turning the local crowd over by the end of the second song. The band perform a 'proper' electric version of 'Sweets For My Sweet' which brings us nicely full circle and there's a nice unplugged version of 'Walk In The Room' thrown in too (as it's Gloria's favourite). All in all, the best Searchers clip since 1969!

24. Lunchtime Live ('When You Walk In The Room' UK TV 2011)

We close, though, with a plug for the band's show in Burnley where they discuss nearly half a century of performing (gulp, where did all that time go?!) The band discuss a cancelled gig where they were meant to duet with Cliff Richard on 'Walk In The Room', the thrill of performing two hours' worth of material for a change now that they're no longer part of a package tour and joke that their new slumming it costumes are 'just because it's lunchtime'. Poor John doesn't fit on the sofa and has to stand throughout, even on a lovely unplugged version of 'Room' which turns out to be yet another presenter's favourite song!

That's all for the TV clips, but as this article was a touch shorter than our average we thought we'd bring you a bonus: the seven best unreleased Searchers recordings!

It won't surprise you to learn, what with the difficulty we fans have i tracking down the 'released' Searchers stuff, that the unreleased material is even harder to track down. There isn't a lot of it and most of it dates from long past the band's heyday but there are a few tracks worth seeking out and/or nagging the Searchers' various record companies into releasing! As an aside, am I right in thinking that The Searchers are the first AAA band we've covered who've never had even a single bootleg CD of their own? Some outtakes, of course, have been released on Pye's CD re-issue series, but many haven't as yet. Clearly that has to change! The dates, by the way, are extremely vague and based on who I can tell singing/the sound of the production - I could be way out on more than a few of these...
1) Rock and Roll Music (c.1965)
A nice run through Chuck Berry's classic sounds at one with the 'Sounds Like Searchers' style to me. Frank and Mike duet on the vocals, which sound not unlike their similar work on 'Let The Good Times Roll', while the arrangement is rather schizophrenic, with the singers taking things slow and Chris and John throwing everything they've got into the drum and guitar parts. It's not a formula that quite works, but this is still an intriguing recording.

2) Baby You Don't Have To Tell Me (Chris Curtis c.1966)
This is Chris solo on a song that may have been recorded for an intended second solo single that was aborted when 'Aggravation' didn't fare too well in the charts (did he record a B-side too? If so I've never heard it). This recording is more in keeping with the orchestral style Chris pioneered on the 'Take Me For What I'm Worth' album and is in fact a song better known by The Walker Brothers - the band Chris is aping on 'Does She Really Care For Me?' Though the girl choir is distracting, this is rather a lovely cover and Chris sounds good singing at the bottom end of his vocal register.

3) Crying (c.1967)
A Roy Orbison cover recorded by The Searchers only once, for a radio broadcast sometime around here. Mike sings the lead in his best Orbison impression, while the rest of the band play so quietly they're barely audible. The arrangement recalls the later 'Solitaire'.

4) Lay Down Your Weary Tune (c.1967)
A Bob Dylan cover, perhaps best known from The Byrds cover back in 1965, here The Searchers repay what their American cousins nicked from their guitar sound with a far more 'Merseybeat' arrangement that's faster and more about the rhythm. The band sound magnificent on the a capella opening and Mike and John alternate some classy lead vocals too. We've put this song about here purely because it sounds like John Blunt on drums, which puts this in a narrow two year period.

5) You Got Me (c.1972)
This one is, apparently, an outtake from the early 'Second Take' sessions. A teary heartstring pulling ballad, like many from the era, it features Mike doing his best emotive vocals over a gentle Rickenbacker riff. There's a particular nice chorus where the harmonies cut in with a feeling of solidarity in the narrator's loneliness on a track The Searchers should definitely have released at the time.

6) She Came In Through The Bathroom Window (c.1974)
Similarly, The Searchers' one and only Beatles cover is an impressive cover again only recorded once for a radio broadcast. The arrangement is tougher by far than the original on 'Abbey Road' and is actually closer to Booker T and the MGs' soul recording. Mike sounds good on the lead, while John's chunky guitar fills are superb. It's worth cobbling an official Searchers rarities set like this one together one day just to hear this forgotten gem.

7) Don't Hang On (Alternate Take c.1979)
The Searchers recorded this for their self-titled 1979 'comeback' album, but like much of that record it's a good and catchy song rather lost in a slick and over-produced arrangement that just sucks all the life out of everything. This first take is a lot clumsier but comes with a lot more heart, with Frank's cute lead featuring many snappy rhyming couplets on a song urging a girl to let him go, before an excellent guitar solo brightens the song up considerably. Though 'Don't Hang On' would have sounded very out of place if released like this in the middle of a production heavy album, it would surely have been the highlight.

8) Silent Night/White Christmas(c.1979)
Performed just once for a Christmas concert (luckily in front of a fan's tape recorder), The Searchers performed a rather good rendition of two festive favourites. Pender has the sort of bright tenor voice that suits Christmas records (though that's not an invitation to record a full album!), while hearing the familiar melody from 'Silent Night' played on a familiar sounding Rickenbacker is one of the small pleasures of being a Searchers fan. 'Silent Night' fares the better, with 'White Christmas' a little too like every over drunken karaoke version played in pubs at that time of year with Pender trying to direct the crowd. Still, both songs are a nice treat for longterm fans.

9) Love Song (c.1979)

Frank chose one of the band's more obscure covers, a lovely folky song from Lesley Duncan that sounds much like The Beatles' 'Dear Prudence'. Mike really nails the song's idea of love being fragile and hard-earned for, while the band's harmonies are particularly exquisite tonight. Why on earth did this lovely song never come out on a Searchers record? (Was it perhaps intended for the third Sire album?)

That's all for now - join us for more Searchers next week! 

More Searchers articles from this site:

‘Sounds Like Searchers’ (1964)

'Take Me For What I'm Worth' (1965)

'Play The System' (B sides and rarities) (1988)

No comments:

Post a Comment