Monday, 6 March 2017
The Searchers: Live/Solo/Compilation/US Albums/'Re-Recordings In Stereo' Part One 1963-1987
"The Iron Door Club Sessions: Their Earliest Recording Session"
(Pye**, Recorded Early 1963, Released March 2002)
Sweets For My Sweet/All My Sorrows/Jambalaya/Rosalie/Darling Do You Miss Me?/Maybelleme/Sho' Know A Lot About Love/Maggie Mae/Let's Stomp/Ain't That Just Like Me?/Sweet Little Sixteen
"You know that I love you - I just can't put you down!"
This fascinating little demo tape was believed lost for many years before mysteriously appearing in Tony Jackson's basement just as the bassist was short of money (how come things like that never happen to me?).Long discussed and little heard, even the other Searchers admit in the sleevenotes that they'd never heard so much as a playback before the demo tape got sent away to Pye's Tony Hatch (and presumably then sent back to Tony Jackson). For this is the moment when Searchers history changes and they go from zeros to heroes in the time it took to record a half hour set. The scene is 1963, the location their favoured Iron Door Club (a couple of roads down from The Cavern). The Searchers, frustrated that they were falling behind their Liverpudlian rivals The Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers, had decided that as as no one else seemed to be taking an interest in them they should hire a tape recorder to record a potential audition tape. The club boss and brief Searchers manager Les Ackerly even taped the show himself after closing the club for an afternoon to allow the band to record. The result was good enough to get the band a recording contract with Pye after Ackerley forwarded it on to their A & R man (although it seems likely given the time delay from recording to contract that, like The Beatles, The Searchers were turned down by a few record companies along the way).
The result is the earliest recording we have of the band and as such is one of those fascinating once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity must-hears, however so-so the music on it actually is and one that should be tracked down by everyone interested enough in Searchers history who wants to know what they sounded like in the early days. Unfortunately, like The Beatles' Decca audition tape, The Searchers seem to have deliberately 'cleaned up' their act for the tape, reducing ten minute live draw 'Ain't That Just Like Me?' to a quick 90 second jaunt and tidying up rowdy songs like 'Jamabalaya' and 'Maybelline' until all the fun has been taken away, in stark contrasts to raving period reviews of their pulsating scintillating act. The Searchers are still a charismatic bunch even when tamed, mind and their range is already tremendous with lead vocals switching between Tony, Mike and Chris and song genres hopping from pure rock to folk and pop already even this early in their creation. What's odd in retrospect after knowing the early Searchers so well on their first two albums is both how little pop there is ('Sweets' is the only real pop song here) and how little of Tony there is (just two songs, 'Sweets' again and 'Sho Know'). Hearing this you get the sense that Chris Curtis is very much the band leader and singer, as opposed to the more back role he would take on the band's single choices and album tracks for the next year or two. Interestingly it's mainly the harder hitting songs that come over best though and that you long to hear more of, with Curtis especially playing out of his skin (his wild drum sound is far better suited to the tight echo-ing walls of the Iron Door than the recording studios: just check out the difference in this fiery performance of 'Sho' Know A Lot About Love' to the timid re-make on 'It's The Searchers').
In total there are five of this album's eleven songs that the band will return to and re-record during their career. Of the ones not mentioned a sweet 'All My Sorrows' comes close to eclipsing the finished showstopper on 'Sugar and Spice' and Curtis is already demonstrating his talents as a writer with an early and slightly rushed version of 'I'll Be Missing You', in future the B-side to 1964's hit single 'When You Walk In The Room' but here a charming half-finished track named 'Darling Do You Miss Me?' The tape also includes an early version of 'Sweets For My Sweet' which was strong enough for Tony Hatch to suggest it as the first single and you can kind of see why as it stands out here a mile despite being completely different to anything else on the demo reel. For now the song is very much Tony's baby without much suppoort in the way of harmonies or guitar phrases behind him, but if anything this version grooves better than the finished hit product. By contrast though the band's other favourite on the tape 'Ain't That Just Like Me' is a huge disappointment too, with an off-mike Curtis drowned out by Mike and Tony and the song never really gets going.
As for the 'new' (or at any rate 'new to us') songs, you wish that the band had returned to the ferocious rocker 'Let's Stomp' complete with its fierce guitar duels, histrionic Jackson vocal and snappy Curtis drumming and Pender's take on Chuck Berry's 'Sweet Little Sixteen' is of interest, slower and more thoughtful than almost all the other myriad versions being performed up and down Britain at the time (The Beatles, for instance, sped their up and were in all likelihood playing it the same day down the road). A countryfied 'Maggie Mae' brings out the band's inner Liverpudlian too and is sung with more bounce than the fab four will later manage during 'Let It Be' and a revved up version of Cole Porter's 'Rosalie' proves that The Searchers have already established a fondness for unusual cover songs. Overall you have to say that The Searchers passed the audition with flying colours, although it's a shame that some of the much-talked about Searchers showstoppers of the day mentioned by heir earliest fans aren't here (such as Curtis' wild take on 'Runaway' or early versions of 'Twist and Shout' 'Some Other Guy' and 'Money'). A nice historical souvenir fans thought they'd never get to hear complete and even though it makes for a short running CD (not quite twenty-five minutes in all) it's a highly valuable one for Searchers fans who'd been searching for this set for nigh on forty years and never thought they'd live to hear it. In fact, poor Tony nearly didn't but this release helped pay for his medical bills and ease his financial issues during the last year of his life - little did his 25-year-old self think he was providing his own pension when he first sang into the tape machine. Fans, though, are highly grateful that he let them in on his best kept secret, a record release that only enhances the band's reputation as one of the most gifted Merseybeat bands of the early 1960s.
"Live At The Star Club"
(Pye**, Recorded Early 1963, Released '1994')
Sweets For My Sweet/Ain't That Just Like Me?/Listen To Me/I Can Tell/Sick and Tired/Mashed Potatoes/Sweet Little Sixteen/Don't You Know?/Maybelline/Hey Joe/Beautiful Dreamer/Sweet Nothins/Shakin' All Over/Sho' Know A Lot About Love/Rosalie/Learning The Game/It's Always You/Hully Gully/What'd I Say?
"Hold it Tony - you've had enough for tonight!"
As with 'The Iron Door Club' tapes, these live recordings made a few months later are a must have for historical importance but don't always make for easy listening. First up, the good news: The Searchers are on far better form than the fab four were for their similar vintage tapes (hampered by poor sound and Lennon's audible depression over the recent death of Stuart Sutcliffe) and someone at the Star Club has actually invested in some proper microphones this time around so that, instead of sounding like a sonic mess full of echo and noise, these tapes sound a lot closer to the noisy sweaty, drum-laden thud that patrons would have been hearing at the time. The Searchers are, perhaps surprisingly given how quickly their music will go in a completely opposite direction, right at home here in the club scene where energetic rock and roll and noise are the currency of the day. They really sound like a 'band' here, stretching songs out with the sort of telepathy it was always assumed The Beatles had (but which only appears occasionally on their German recorded tapes) and the band members taking it in turns to share the spotlight. We've heard so many stories of how The Searchers secretly hated each other or plotted to kick band members out from the beginning that it's a relief to hear The Searchers as such a tight 'gang', pulling together for the sake of the others and each member working to their strengths (Curtis' affectionate - and often brave - audience teasing is getting people to look at the band away from their drinks, while Pender's voice and Jackson's charisma is keeping them there and at the back McNally is locked into the music and keeping things together). Just as it's a shame we didn't get at least one decent hi-fi Beatles recording in their natural club environment ('Please Please Me' the album was meant to be recorded at The Cavern before it was discovered how many microphones the sweat bouncing off the walls would ruin), so it is sad that The Searchers only exist via this semi-professional recording that they don't seem to be aware was recorded anyway (at least The Beatles got some free beers in return for their set!) How happy we should be though that anything exists at all, never mind something that sounds this good!
With that out the way, though, it's worth pointing how relatively few of the 'new' songs we'd not heard The Searchers record before actually work. The James Brown instrumental 'Mashed Potatoes' is a case of wrong song for the wrong band with the lazy addition of the title being shouted out by the whole band becoming quite irritating before the end and Buddy Holly cover 'Learning The Game' is awfully twee while 'comedy' song 'Hey Joe' is one of the un-funniest three minutes you could ever spend. Revved up attempts at traditional rock and roll classics like 'Sweet Little Sixteen' 'Maybelline' and 'Beautiful Dreamer' are also a little disappointing, without the distinctiveness that other bands of this vintage bring to this material. Early versions of future horror stories The Searchers will return to, such as 'Sho' Know A Lot About Love' and 'Listen To Me' don't sound any better here at this stage either, while 'Sweets For My Sweet' (the only future single here) starts off well with a great lead from Tony but quickly slows down and ends in a confusing mixture of unrehearsed 'aaahs' (changed on the record to 'oohs'!)
However when The Searchers find a song that really suits them, with a mixture of knowing laughter and heavy repetitive rock riffs - such as future masterpieces 'Ain't That Just Like Me?' (much like the record to come but with more screaming) and 'new' classics 'I Can Tell' (an unusual emotional ballad, exquisitely sung by Curtis at his best),'Hully Gully' (a novelty record about a dance which has never sounded so aggressive - if you try and do the actions at this speed you'll fall over!) 'Sweet Nothin's (with its playful band interaction) and 'What'd I Say?' (turned into a masterpiece of cat and mouse playing with the audience - The Searchers sound every bit as thrilling and un-missable as any other better regarded rock band of their day. Having heard that this tape was up for grabs, record label Phillips sensibly released these last two tracks as a single in 1963 (which to most fans seemed to be the official follow-up to 'Sweets For My Sweet') and considering The Searchers did their best to ignore it and tell their fans not to buy it at a time when the pop market never looked so healthy, the record's #48 chart position was highly impressive. In actual fact it's one of the best A and B side pairings the band ever released, gritty heavy and as tough as nails together with a cheeky charm. Had The Searchers played the rest of their career more like this, instead of being persuaded to sing songs about confectionary and sugar, they might have yet become one of the world's most beloved rock bands, as opposed to a band adored by only a small fraction of people like 'us'.
We couldn't recommend this record whole-heartedly then: even though it's been magnificently cleaned up for CD the concert sounds like what it did at the time: four men playing primitively in an echoey room definitely not built for recording purposes. At times The Searchers sound as if they're plugging out their extended three hour set with any old thing, whether it suits them or (more usually) not. However there's something special that happens even during the band's lesser songs, with a charisma so strong it shines out of these old dusty tapes of half a century's vintage and The Searchers light up the room from the minute they first walk into it. If I was passing I'd sure want to go in and see what this band were up to from the noise they were making (the whole idea of having so many noisy Liverpudlian bands play these clubs) and if I was Tony Sheridan I'd be recording 'My Bonnie' with the 'Searching Brothers', not the 'Beat Brothers'. It seems almost a shock to realise that in fact the next recording The Searchers will make will be a tidy professional version of 'Sweets For My Sweet', a song that will see this great rock band pigeon-holed as a pop act for the rest of their days when on the evidence of the best of this record they could have been so much more.
"Meet The Searchers: Needles and Pins"
(Vogue, 'Early 1964')
Needles and Pins/Since You Broke My Heart/Oh My Lover/Alright/Ain't Gonna Kiss Ya/Tricky Dicky/Ain't That Just Like Me?/Some Other Guy/Farmer John/Saturday Night Out/Cherry Stones/Don't Cha Know?
"Won't you come with me on a Saturday night, everything's right, wooooh!"
If you're a regular AAA reader or simply had a lot of overseas friends who lived through the 1960s then you'll know by now that how you experienced your favourite band was not necessarily the way everyone else experienced them. Right up until 1967 (with 'Sgt Pepper's generally accepted as the benchmark) rock and pop musicians only had the tiniest amount of control over how their product was released and marketed compared to their record company, something that seems ridiculous half a century on when everything's released on downloads through the internet anyway. As happened with nearly every other band in the 1960s from The Beatles on down, Pye just couldn't get any interest from the American markets to release anything by The Searchers at first, right up until the 'breakthrough' hit of 'Needles and Pins' (with a chart placing of #13 right at the very start of the year). The only way fans could buy Searchers records previous to this single and album was if you travelled abroad a lot and had room in your suitcase for fragile vinyl records by bands you'd never had any reason to hear of or had a passionate British Searchers fan as a cousin (and a rich uncle/parent willing to pay for transport costs).
Given that The Searchers won't last an albums act past 1965 anyway, they're one of the few AAA bands where virtually the whole of their discography was experienced differently by fans on different sides of the Atlantic, with American editions generally reducing the British 14-track all-new albums to ten songs with two recent A or B sides added. This first American record, for instance, came out at a time when The Searchers had already released two records in their homeland and were busy on their third and had already greatly developed their sound. Fans coming to this album, their views already formed by the Mike Pender-sung folk-rock pioneering 'Needles and Pins' would have been deeply confused by the largely Tony Jackson-sung rock and roll classics and the sheer energy of the record; effectively the opposite way round to the sudden switch European fans had just experienced. For some reason whoever compiled this album really doesn't seem to like The Searchers' slow songs and 'Needles and Pins' is the single most rock and roll record in The Searchers' canon, barely drawing breath as one high octane rocker comes hot on the heels of another. Oddly, too, record label Vogue ignore the long-held American tradition of sticking all of a band's past hits onto the first record (in the expectance that the chosen band have already lasted six months and won't be popular much longer anyway) and passes over both 'Sweets For My Sweet' and 'Sugar and Spice'. This record is split more or less equally between current stages of Searchers evolution: five songs from British debut 'Meet The Searchers' (mainly on side one), five from second album 'Sugar and Spice' (mainly on side two) and the presence of A side 'Needles and Pins' and it's B side 'Saturday Night Out'. It makes for one of the better Americanised AAA albums actually, with an intelligently picked selection that comes close to representing the best of The Searchers in 1963 ('Saturday Night Out' is the only weak link) and sounds sufficiently different to every best-of from the era to be worth listening to, though clearly hearing these albums the way they're meant to be heard is the best way to go (the British albums last longer for a start). Vogue even fail in the one area the American companies traditionally beat the British ones counterparts like Pye - the album cover is shocking, even for a Searchers record, consisting of the band standing and looking awkward in suits against a plain white background that must have taken all of five minutes to come up with (left to right Mike, Tony, Chris and John - they look embarrassingly young so there's a chance you won't recognise them!) The album peaked at an impressive #22 in the Us charts.
"The Searchers Meet The Rattles"
(Mercury, Mid 1964)
The Searchers: Sweet Nothin's/Shakin' All Over/Sweet Little Sixteen/Don't Cha Know?/Maybelline/It's All Been A Dream
The Rattles: The Stomp/Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah/Bye Bye Johnny/Twist and Shout/Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream?)/Hello
"Quivers down the backbone, shakes in the kneebone, tremors in the thighbone, shakin' all over!"
Eager to cash in on the sudden boom for all things British (and especially all things Scouse), Mercury bought up the rights to The Searchers' Star Club tapes for release. However, they soon discovered that a simple tape recorder, an echoey room and a band playing sweaty rock didn't make for the easiest of listens back in 1964. Even they baulked at putting the whole thing out but, aware that they'd sell a few copies on the back of the band name at least, they went ahead with half a record of live Searchers. Rather frustratingly for collectors they then 'pretended' that these songs had been taped at the 'Cavern Club'; though The Searchers often played at The Beatles' second home most of these tapes were split between the Iron Door down the road and Hamburg in an entirely different country! As if that wasn't enough, Mercury decided to pad the rest out with another group taped at Hamburg that night: a forgotten local band named The Rattles. It seemed like a good idea at the time: the band were currently riding high in America with their rocked-up version of Disney whistling classic 'Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah' (included here, alongside a cover of the Chuck Berry song 'Bye Bye Johnny' The Searchers also recorded), but it proved to be their only hit until as late as 1970 (when they charted with 'The Witch'). The Rattles remain, however, one of the few successful bands of the 1960s who are now even more forgotten than The Searchers and more than a few fans have scratched their heads over seeing this album listed in discographies (even The Beatles weren't immune - when VeeJay records had the fab four poached from under their noses after buying the rights to their first two singles they filled out a compilation with songs by The Four Seasons', an album even more schizophrenic than this one!) The result is an odd and uneven little album, with some very lo-fi sound padded out with a couple of spare songs that Mercury had bought the rights up for (such as B-side 'It's All Been A Dream'). Perhaps not surprisingly, it's never been re-issued on CD and fetches quite a lot on vinyl today. You're not missing much if you don't have it, though, as all of The Searchers' stuff has come out on other albums since.
"This Is Us"
(Kapp Records, 'Mid 1964')
Don't Throw Your Love Away/Unhappy Girls/Where Have You Been?/Hungry For Love/This Empty Place/Hi-Heel Sneakers/It's In Her Kiss/I Count The Tears/Can't Help Forgiving You/Love Potion Number Nine/Sea Of Heartbreak/I Pretend I'm With You
"Won't you please tell me where to begin, where have you been all my life?"
Though released only a few short months after the first Searchers album in America, suddenly everything has changed. Both The Beatles and Searchers have now appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show and British rock and roll is now in (and in a big way too!) As so often happens, poor Vogue - the small record label that took a chance on The Searchers - have been ousted to make way for the big boys (relatively speaking) with The Searchers now transferred to Kapp Records. A good move as it turns out, as nearly everyone of a certain age is desperate to catch up on what they've been missing and fans are quickly dividing themselves into 'gangs' dedicated to a particular group (far more so than in Britain where fans tended to collect by songs they liked more than staying loyal to an artist, as a very general rule). The Searchers never reached the same giddy heights as Beatlemania but they weren't all that far behind: Unluckily for them Vogue had already taken up the rights to the band's first bona fide US hit 'Needles and Pins' while Kapp, surprisingly, passes over the band's breakthrough hits 'Sweets For My Sweet' and 'Sugar and Spice'. However the presence of the band's second American hit 'Don't Throw Your Love Away' and a surprise runaway hit in the release of American-only-single 'Love Potion no 9' still made this record a huge seller at the time and easily the band's biggest in the States. In truth though it's even more of a mess than the first, covering a wide variety of styles split between slightly rushed debut 'Meet The Searchers' (one track), the harder edged sequel 'Sugar and Spice' (two tracks) and the softer folkier and recently released third LP 'It's The Searchers' (eight songs), together with the B-side of 'Don't Throw Your Love Away' 'I Pretend I'm With You'. Some of the selections from the third album are questionable (no 'Shimmy Shimmy'?!) though at least 'Pretend' sounds good at the end of the album. The packaging too is something of an improvement on the British equivalents with a nice simple shot of the band leaning round Chris' shoulders against a photographic backdrop (and where the band actually seem uncomfortable, unlike the overly posed covers of the first four albums in Britain).
"The Searchers No 4"
(Kapp Records, 'Mid 1965')
You Can't Lie To A Liar/Goodbye My Love/Don't You Know Why?/Does She Really Care For Me?/So Far Away/I'll Be Doggone/Each Time/Til' I Met You/I'm Your Loving Man/Be My Baby/Four Strong Winds/He's Got No Love
"I never knew about love til' I met you"
Oddly the American Searchers album no 4 is a sneak preview of British Searchers album no 5 'For What I'm Worth', released at the time when it *should* have been (ie when they recorded it) rather than Pye looking for an extra seller over Christmas. Just to confuse us even more, the Americans have re-used the cover for album no 4 'Sounds Like Searchers' for this one (though they've played around with it a little bit, putting the photos of the band in line with each other and removing the writing from the top of John's head to a banner at the top). Apart from the fact that album no 5, 'Take Me For What I'm Worth', is arguably the best of The Searchers albums anyway, Kapp records actually improve on the British version anyway by including period A sides 'Goodbye My Love' and 'He's Got No Love' (candidates for their two strongest) and strong B sides like 'Til' I Met You' and 'So Far Away'. Of course, the American market can't break the habit of a lifetime and get it all right, so the songs that have been dropped from the 'Worth' album to make way for all this extra stuff unfortunately includes many of the best tracks: 'It's Time' 'Too Many Miles' 'I'm Ready' and even the semi-hit 'Take Me For What I'm Worth' itself. Ah well, this is still the strongest American LP of the lot (ending with 'Four Strong Winds' into 'He's Got No Love', which works rather well) - and sadly the last.
(Marble Arch, '1966')
Needles and Pins/Farmer John/Sugar and Spice/What Have They Done To The Rain?/Take Me For What I'm Worth/Love Potion Number Nine/Til' I Met You/He's Got No Love/Someday We're Gonna Love Again/Sweets For My Sweet
"My love would not only last forever but forever and a day"
Sometimes I don't understand record companies. Pye pushed The Searchers for more and more product as the years went by and then did their best to pretend the band didn't exist in 1965 by delaying their fifth album 'Take Me For What I'm Worth' to the point where it was doomed to failure. They then followed this up by releasing a best-of and trying to cash in on the band's name (a record made with such care and attention that the 'official' title used on the album sleeve is actually 'The Searcher's Smash Hits', complete with wrongly inserted apostrophe). What makes all this even odder is that most bands celebrating their third year had already had more than one compilation out by now - if anything Pye were rather too late at cashing in on the band's success. All that said, 'Smash Hits' was a respectable seller and a popular LP for many old fans who'd worn their old singles out, while it even gave the band a short burst of life with new ones too. 'Smash Hits' did all this by being slightly unusual: it passes over obvious hits like 'When You Walk In The Room' and 'Goodbye My Love' in favour of some relatively unknown songs: classic B-side 'Til' I Met You', album track 'Farmer John' and lesser known hits 'Someday We're Gonna Love Again', 'He's Got No Love' and 'Take Me For What I'm Worth' (all five of which sum the Searchers sound up quite nicely between them). Pye were obviously keeping a few hits back for 'Volume Two' which they were already working on for the following year. 'Smash Hits' has never been re-issued on CD in this form, although it's interesting to note how frequently this bunch of tracks will appear on future compilations of all eras, usually with the 'missing' hits re-instated.
"Smash Hits Volume Two"
(Pye, 'Early 1967')
Have You Ever Loved Somebody?/You Wanna Make Her Happy/Hungry For Love/If I Could Find Someone/When You Walk In The Room/Don't Throw Your Love Away/This Feeling Inside/Goodbye My Love/Take It Or Leave It/Saturday Night Out
"Just take it - or leave it, either one will do!"
Top five hits 'When You Walk In The Room' and 'Goodbye My Love' plus number one 'Don't Throw Your Love Away' - a surprise absentee from the first volume - were, undeniably, smash hits; as smashing and as record breaking as any hits of the 1960s. But fans could probably get away with challenging the rest of this track selection under the trades description act: nothing else here made the top tenin fact. Instead we get the lesser portion of the lacklustre singles recorded towards the end (Stones cover 'Take It Or Leave It' and Hollies cover 'Have You Ever Loved Somebody?'), film soundtrack fodder 'Saturday Night Out' yet again, a B-side 'This Feeling Inside', one album track from 'Sugar and Spice' and two from 'Sounds Like Searchers'. This makes for one heck of a disjointed jumble, covering a two year period from the days when styles changed by the week and a record that's underwhelming compared to the constant hit rate of the first volume. Still, the cover's nice (with a moody shot of the band from the 'Take Me For What It's Worth' period) and for years this was the easiest way for collectors to seek out the rarer singles.
"Golden Hour Of The Searchers"
(Golden Hour, January 1972)
Needles and Pins/When You Walk In The Room/I Don't Want To Go On Without You/He's Got No Love/What Have They Done To The Rain?/Farmer John/I Count The Tears/Someday We're Gonna Love Again/Goodbye My Love/All My Sorrows/Have You Ever Loved Somebody?/Sugar and Spice//Sweets For My Sweet/Take Me For What I'm Worth/Four Strong Winds/Love Potion no 9/Hungry For Love/Til' I Met You/Don't Throw Your Love Away/You Wanna Make Her Happy/Saints and Searchers/Sea Of Heartbreak/This Feeling Inside/Take It Or Leave It
"I always knew why the sun was shining and why the clouds passed by"
A typically strong and varied set from the 'Golden Hour' franchise (who also did compilations by The Kinks, Status Quo, 'Trad Jazz' and, umm, comedian Tony Hancock), this was a useful way back in the day of collecting some of The Searchers' rarer material that was rather hard to find five years on. Though all the hits are here, the hour running time means that there's also space for such lost gems as Hollies cover 'Have You Ever Loved Somebody?', obscure Searchers original 'You Wanna Make Her Happy' and pioneering psychedelic masterpiece 'He's Got No Love'. Of course, like most releases in the series the packaging is minimal, the running order leaps about all over the place (we start firmly in 1964, go back to 1963 and peak in 1965 somewhere in the middle) and you can buy this sort of stuff much more easily and comprehensively on any number of modern CDs. More than worth a spin if you come across it in a charity shop though and back in 1972 this was at least a candidate for the best Searchers LP to own, with far more care and thought given to it than the Searchers' earlier best-ofs. Followed by a second volume in 1973.
"Second Take" aka "Needles and Pins - Re-Recordings In Stereo"
(RCA Victor, '1972')
Sugar and Spice/Don't Throw Your Love Away/Farmer John/Come On Back To Me/When You Walk In The Room/Needles and Pins/Desdemona/Goodbye My Love/Love Potion Number Nine/Sweets For My Sweet/Take Me For What I'm Worth/What Have They Done To The Rain?
CD Bonus Tracks: The World Is Waiting For Tomorrow/Love Is Everywhere/And A Button/Sing Singer Sing/Vehevala/Madman/Solitaire/Spicks and Specks/Bite It Deep/Indigo Spring/I Really Don't Have The Time/Think Of My Life/Don't Shut Me Out
"This record wants to makes the old songs new, full of re-recordings too - and a button!"
By 1972 The Searchers had been six years without a hit and seven years since they'd last made an album. Though RCA could have compiled a nice collection of songs from their recent run of flop singles for the label, they wanted something a bit more commercial and encouraged The Searchers to re-record their hit singles instead, enabling the label to go head to head with Pye's re-releases of their old material. That concept, though, was surely badly flawed. Fans interested enough to still be buying Searchers product were largely canny enough to know a re-recording when they heard them and RCA's insistence of simply re-recording these songs as closely to the originals as possible robbed the band of the chance to prove what they'd learnt and where they'd gone since making them. 'Take Me For What I'm Worth', for instance, could have been even more powerful if sung by a moody, hungrier band determined to keep true to their traditions, while 'Goodbye My Love' had added poignancy now that it seemed clear in retrospect that it was almost certainly a 'goodbye' to the charts and 'What Have They Done To The Rain?' was the sort of ecological protest far more in vogue in 1972 than 1965 and could have been great if made like a contemporary 70s epic prog rock ballad. Instead of this, we got four middle aged men doing the audio equivalent of re-creating their baby photos, eager to get every last nuance the same under orders even though to audiences in 1972 the sound of 1963 sounded like a completely different time, not just an earlier decade. Given the fab songs the band were still writing and recording when given half the chance, this album seems like a big fat waste as the only Searchers album of 'new' material (well, you know what I mean) right in the middle of a fourteen year lean spell.
There are, at least, a few reasons that make this set still worth buying. The band do have to slightly alter their arrangements, if only to cover the fact that Tony and Chris are long gone from the band, with Mike and Frank doing double time on the vocals. Given that The Searchers still haven't ever released an official live LP, it's your only chance to hear what the post-1966 Searchers sounded like in concert re-doing their hits (although, to be frank, a straightforward live album complete with added atmosphere would have been a far better bet). As well as The Searchers' seven most famous songs, they throw in a few oddities: 'Desdemona' from 1971 is a lost classic and fully deserving of a second airing; 'Farmer John' is a surprise highlight, sung with a tongue-in-cheek feel worthy of a bunch of thirty somethings returning to their teenage years and trying to remember how to act 'wild'; the band also add a nice piano 'n' guitar riff to 'Goodbye My Love' and a heavy drum part that sounds like the narrator is being metaphorically dragged out the door - if only the vocals had been up to speed this sort of reinvention might have been the way to do this album. We also get one solitary new song in 'Come On Back To Me', a sweet new ballad from Frank, John and Mike that's by far the most comfortable with the 1970s sound settings and sounds not unlike The Moody Blues. As the original album went, however, this is a record that's thin on ideas and there aren't really many reasons to recommend an album of re-recordings that are less well performed and often rushed and given an overly glossy 70s production sound that really doesn't fit, with 'Second Take' easily the weakest of the original Searchers albums.
It was, too, far too costly a record in the long-term. When RCA made the offer to the band to re-record their old material they'd assumed that the band's old contracts made the way clear for them to make an album like this. The Searchers kind of thought that too. So they were horrified when Pye served the band and RCA with an injunction soon after release after finding a small print clause in their contract that prevented The Searchers doing exactly this sort of an album, leading to the album - eventually - being pulled from the shelves and killing even the paltry few sales of this record in one go. As a result the original vinyl copy of 'Second Take' is one of the rarest Searchers albums and many fans had never even heard of it until the CD re-issue. RCA, annoyed at being hit for extra money for so little return, promptly dropped The Searchers from their label and another promising lead of making music got snuffed out long before time, giving fans another reason to really really dislike this album.
That said, the CD - which finally appeared in 2005 - is a whole different beast, sensibly padded out with a bonus thirteen songs that combined run for longer than the original record. Four of these had been released as A and B sides prior to the 'Second Take' album, with 'Desdomona' plus 'And A Button' true inheritors of the Searchers' natural earlier brilliance, even if the other two - 'The World Is waiting For Tomorrow' and 'Love Is Everywhere' - aren't quite as strong. The Searchers eventually repaired their burnt bridges with RCA in time to release two more singles in 1974 with similarly mixed results: Neil Sedaka's 'Solitaire' was even a minor hit for the band (their first since 1965), while 'Vehevala' is a candidate for the band's last truly classic release (a naval-gazing song about the navy with a terrific catchy melody, though the flipsides weren't worth walking into the room to be honest. That leaves five songs originally unreleased: 'Don't Shut Me Out' is a worthy return to the two minute pop single and 'Indigo Girl' an even worthier attempt at something a shade deeper. The others, though, were probably best left vault-bound: 'Bite It Deep', especially, wins the award of 'weirdest Searchers song' and for once that's not a compliment with a weird and unpalatable mixture of lust, fruit and Biblical references. Ah well, at least it beats more re-recordings of the hits I suppose. Overall, then, a bit of a mixture even on CD but worth owning as the easiest place to track down the last brilliant half dozen or so songs of the band's career and as a reminder that The Searchers definitely had a 'second wave' in them somewhere - even if recording 'second takes' of old songs probably wasn't it.
Note: we've debated long and hard about to what to do with our layout here as, technically speaking, the original album only consisted of twelve re-recordings even though 99.9% of fans only know this album from the CD re-release anyway. After deliberation we've decided to keep the 'album' and 'recordings' separate - the way we have with all our compilations - but we've placed the actual review here rather than in 2005 when the CD came out so that it's spaced roughly in the middle of these releases- please look up and look down if you want to read about the tracks individually! A quick note too on the name: it seems generally accepted that this album's 'real' name is 'Second Take' but some discographies still list the 1972 album as 'Needles and Pins - Re-Recordings In Stereo' hence the fact we've included both; the CD re-issue is named simply 'Second Take'.
"Golden Hour Of The Searchers Volume Two"
(Golden Hour, '1973')
Bumble Bee/Does She Really Care For Me?/Second Hand Dealer/Ain't Gonna Kiss Ya/Magic Potion/Too Many Miles/Livin' Lovin' Wreck/Be My Baby/Something You Got Baby/Western Union/Dont'cha Know?/I'm Ready//Everybody Come and Clap Your Hands/Crazy Dreams/Stand By Me/Goodnight Baby/Some Other Guy/If I Could Find Someone/Each Time/When I Get Home/Let The Good Times Roll/I'll Be Doggone/Listen To Me/I Can't Help Forgiving You/Hi-Heel Sneakers
"I 'm ready and I'm willin' and I'm able so you better come go with me!"
The second volume of 'Golden Hour' recordings brings together an even more obscure collection of songs than its predecessor, with this surely the only Searchers compilation not to include a single top thirty hit on it (the closest is 'When I Get Home' which peaked at #35). For fans like who prefer the later, obscurer Searchers this a very welcome fact, with space given over to neglected songs from albums three, four and five plus a smattering of the band's rarer flop singles for Pye released between 1966 and 1967. There's a lot of great stuff here heartily recommended, including the voodoo jive of 'Bumble Bee', Phil-Spector-doing-The Walker-Brothers-epic 'Does She Really Care For Me?' and the cheery morse code joy of 'Western Union'. Unfortunately there's also a fair few disasters in here too - the silliness of 'Livin' Lovin' Wreck', the lack of passion felt in the Searchers take on 'Stand By Me', the depressing country of 'Too Many Miles' and the weirdest version of 'Hi-Heeled Sneakers' you will ever hear (and which makes for a particularly unsatisfying set closer). Had the Golden Hour series stretched to a third set they would surely have got things totally right, with the only things left to release such pure gold as 'Each Time' 'Til' I Met You' and 'Ain't That Just Like Me?' That was never going to happen given how poorly this set sold - it seems amazing in retrospect that the un-hip Searchers of the mid 1970s sold enough to make a second set (they remain the only 'Golden Hour; act to get two volumes; even The Kinks didn't sell enough for that!) Still, though far from perfect, this second hour goes some way to proving the breadth and depth of The Searchers catalogue, Would that more of the band's best-ofs followed suit and included even a tenth of the daring shown by this compilation.