Friday 4 July 2008

The Searchers "Take Me For What I'm Worth" (1965) (Revised Review 2016)

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The Searchers "Take Me For What I'm Worth" (1965)

I’m Ready/I’ll Be Doggone/Does She Really Care For Me?/It’s Time/Too Many Miles/You Can’t Lie To A Liar//Don’t You Know Why?/I’m Your Loving Man/Each Time/Be My Baby/Four Strong Winds/Take Me For What It’s Worth

The Album:

‘Now you’ve gone just as far as I’m going to let you go…’

The Searchers' fall from grace between the middle of 1964 and the middle of 1965 was sudden and a little unexpected. Admittedly most young people had moved on from Merseybeat long ago, but there were exceptions made for bands who'd proved themselves to be particularly interesting or relevant. The Searchers, surely, proved themselves to be both of these things having already invented the single most 'in' sound of 1965 (Byrdsian folk-rock with jangly Rickenbackers) a full year earlier with [54]  'Needles and Pins' never mind competing with the big boys with the riff-heavy [68] ‘When You Walk In The Room’. If anything The Searchers had been too far ahead of their time, not behind, and the 'period' single released from the same time as these album sessions from around Easter 1965 ([99] 'He's Got No Love') was as forward-looking a psychedelic single as anything released in the whole of that year. Moreover that song was a band original, a breakthrough in the one department where The Searchers (for so long just a covers band) had once lagged behind their peers. So why did things suddenly go so wrong, to the point where The Searchers' first album to never go top ten missed the charts entirely?

Well, for once in these reviews I'm not entirely sure, but it is probably fair to say that the band had a fair better idea of what they were doing than record label Pye ever did for poor 'Take Me For What I'm Worth' might well be the most mis-marketed album of the AAA pile of records (or at any rate the 1960s pile). Though bands were now taking longer and longer to make records and The Searchers, especially, were creating more and more exotic creations, Pye asked for album five to be delivered to them even quicker this time, mere months after the release of album four 'Sounds Like Searchers'. After a strained and tired band complied, Pye then decided to change their minds and stick the album on a shelf for a bit, gathering dust until the lucrative Christmas market when fans traditionally had a bit more 'money'. This, though, is patently stupid: the whole point of working bands so hard in the 1960s was because record-buyers had competition like never before and if you weren't in the public eye every few minutes your career had had it (The Spice Girls seemed to have the same idea thirty years later when the record industry was so comparatively poor they had no excuse). Not to mention the fact that, the closer we get to the 'epicentre' of the 1960s, the more fashions and trends changed by the day in some cases - delaying a record by six months or so was career suicide. As a result, the few people who still remembered who The Searchers were by yuletide 1965 probably opened this record alongside The Beatles' forward-reaching 'Rubber Soul', with its all-original song selection, hip soul and melancholic autobiography or the rule-breaking sneer of ‘The Who Sings My Generation’. Putting the retro 50s rocker 'I'm Ready' on as the first track of ‘Worth’ was never going to compare against 'Drive My Car' or ‘The Good’s Gone’. Had the two leading Liverpudlian bands of the day found their careers switched round though (with The Searchers on EMI and the fab four on their own spin-off label 'Apple-Pye') and it had been 'Help!' up against 'Worth' (or something even more forward-looking) the future of popular music might have been quite, quite different. ‘Worth’ is, you see, amongst the deepest, most daring, most forward thinking records of its era and is actually way ahead of what the Stones or Hollies were doing (which was largely the same as in 1964, but softer). A Searchers version of the 'Help!' film would have been fun too, with Chris Curtis even more manic than John Lennon and 'Black Jake' Tony Jackson eventually quitting after being chased around with black paint and hit by too many snowballs.

You see, considering that it has a six month disadvantage to its peers, 'Worth' really isn't that far behind even then. In fact, it's way ahead in other ways and taking into account when it 'should' have come out (in the Spring of 1965, perhaps with 'It's No Love' as an album track) it's one hell of an LP, with the new line-up of The Searchers having settled down from their slightly hesitant start on 'Sounds Like...' and they've finally found a way to do multiple version of [54] 'Needles and Pins' without sounding as if they're repeating themselves. Indeed repeated playings have revealed that this album is basically twelve very different variations on that old Searchers standard: being lonely and yearning for more. Moving on like the stages of denial across side one we get the excitement of ‘I’m Ready’, move through to the well-you-hurt-me reluctance of ‘I’ll Be Doggone’, the doubt of ‘Does She Really Care For Me?’ where the narrator doubts her interest too much to move forward, ‘It’s Time’ seeks cold bitter revenge so his ex is lonely too, ‘Too Many Miles’ is a long distance relationship lacking closeness in all senses, while ‘You Can’t Lie To A Liar’ suffers from definite trust issues. On side two things get warmer as time goes on by: ‘Don’t You Know Why?’ balances a harsh verse about all the things that went wrong against the sheer magic of trying again and getting lucky, ‘I’m Your Loving Man’ pledges faith and commitment given a second chance, ‘Each Time’ has the narrator acknowledging that his sweetheart will betray him because that’s what she does but loving her anyway, ‘Be My Baby’ takes a pledge of devotion to new heights, ‘Four Strong Winds’ has the narrator offering an invite to a lady to share the narrator’s simple existence and finally – after learning all these lessons the band pledge ‘Take Me For What I’m Worth’. He’s through with acting, with pretending, of trying to be moulded into something he’s not – for a relationship to work out it has to be truthful and based on unconditional love for who the other person is. Though this album was never publicised as a ‘concept’ album (and might well have been laughed out the room if it was) this feels like quite a journey and the songs hang together one hell of a lot better than ‘Rubber Soul’ I have to say, with the feeling by the end that we’ve learnt something.

 This also allows the band to take their usual sound and really shake it up from track to track, with several firsts and – alas given the circumstances – one-offs in their catalogue. The older rough edges haven't just been smoothed away into nothing like before; they've been exaggerated or softened, respectively, by the new sonically darker deeper production sound which reveals just how much The Searchers have learnt across the past year. Though the back cover contains no production credit whatsoever, it’s fair to say the band produced this one themselves, escaping entirely from the clutches of Tony Hatch now that their sales were dipping and people were losing interest having milked them dry. Chris Curtis, especially, loves his time in this new exotic world and plays around with all sorts of vocal and drum ticks. Thankfully, unlike the last two albums, the band don’t mess around too much though: the Rickenbackers are still very much central to the sound as are the harmonies. New boy Frank Allen' soulful, natural mournful voice has given the band a whole new style to play with, on its own or in combination with the other three and this more elaborate LP features many more multiple combinations of voices, the singers taking different parts and generally switching the formula of the 'lead singer' around. Curtis has even nailed how to include John McNally, the band's most reluctant vocalist, into the blend and 'It's Time' is by far the most suitable song he got to sing on record in the 1960s, the blare of his voice now softened with Frank's harmony part.

Best of all, Motown fan Chris has discovered how to correct perhaps the only real criticism of some of their earlier records: a slight thin-ness of sound (it's a Pye thing, with their original recordings containing only only 3.14159etc % of the power of period EMI - The Kinks never quite work out how to 'fill' out their sound until leaving for RCA in 1971). Despite working to a far lower budget a million miles away ('too many miles...'), Curtis has learnt how to re-create the 'epic' Phil Spector sound with banks of echo and layers of sound (chances are the band learnt the 'secret' first hand from the Ronettes who performed with The Searchers on tour - Frank was particularly close to Phil's wife Ronnie; maybe they traded music secrets, spy ring style, during their nights out on the town?) This ear-catching timbre really suits the melancholy that’s always been a part of The Searchers’ sound and the menace which has gradually been arriving on more and more recent songs. Only this isn't just a straight copy like inferior Spector copy bands: Chris has kept The Searchers' trademarks, those ringing Rickenbackers, up loud in the sound and they offer a sharp contrast on most tracks, cutting through the murk and doubt of the ballads as if reality is knocking on a daydream and trying to break in. It's a sound that wouldn't work for many bands of the period but really suits The Searchers: from the very beginning their slower, quieter ballads were regarded as something that made them 'stand out' from the competition and the sadder and more reflective their songs get ([54] 'Needles and Pins' being arguably a turning point), the better their music sounds. It’s worth, I think, re-iterating how unusual this was for the period: until psychedelia really started going in 1967 most recordings tended to be dry; the few that weren’t were muddy. Like the decade everything tends to be direct. This would have struck listeners on release as being a very unusual sound indeed, but it’s not used the same way as their elder brother or sisters’ records would have been either. The Searchers even improve on the near-perfect Spector production 'Be My Baby' on this album (to my ears at least). In between though are the last gasp moments of rock and roll in the Searchers canon, with their last rockabilly covers that fly and swoop like never before against this bigger backing of the rest of the album. To my ears no other record has come close to this album's unusual mix of sounds, of clarity and fire mixing with cool murky water) making 'Worth' a unique sounding album that works on its own terms: a record that manages to be both melodramatic and punchy, claustrophobic and precise.

Band accomplishment that it is, 'Worth' is arguably Curtis' greatest achievement: a full twelve songs of ambition that sound like a lot of money had been thrown at them (even though it really, really hadn't), with Chris effectively de facto producer now, choosing the songs to cover from his vast music collection, arranging most of them (though he sensibly leaves 'Be My Baby' alone) and writing a majority of the band originals. He also shines on his two very different main vocals, for full-on rocker 'I'm Ready' and 'Does She Really Care For Me?', where he switches styles from the raucous rocker of [22] 'What'd I Say?' to a Scott Walker style knee-trembling balladeer. Curtis will be out of the band around a year after recording this album (a few months if you're going by the release date), the others having rebelled to some extent once Curtis' choice of singles start flopping in the charts and after an ill-advised and tiring Australian tour where Chris seemed to go a 'bit mad' (whether it was the strain or the pills he was taking to cope with the strain is a moot point - all we do know is that he quit the band after the others staged an intervention and flushed his pills down the hotel loo; the others thought they were doing Chris a service and probably were as Chris' intake got badly out of hand after he leaves the group, but at the opposite end of the world, without a doctor to get more - they were, after all, on prescription - and facing more disinterested audiences and the same old hits it all became a bit much for the drummer who left the band many thought he would never be able to quit). The pressure simply got too much for the drummer it seems and he really didn’t cope with pressure very well, it being likely his undiagnosed manic depressiveness started or at least developed here with so much resting on his shoulders with the two Tonys associated with the band’s hit days both gone. Curtis' powers are at their peak here, though, in mid 1965 with a whole studio to play with and no one else to get in the way: it's no surprise that after he leaves The Searchers Chris becomes a full-time producer for a time and his productions get more and more epic. He learnt a lot on this album despite the always-quick recording time, combining unusual instruments and voices and slathering them in echo to create a record that has a unique sound - not just in the Searchers canon but in mid-60s pop as a whole. A terrific talent who could turn his hand at most things and much under-rated in his day (when all the press attention focussed first on Tony then on Mike - nobody really expected much from drummers back then and even on this album cover he's rather hidden at the back, peering out from his drums behind Mike, standing, and Frank and John, left to right, sitting on his drum riser; though simple it's an iconic picture that's become one of the most recognised and re-used Searchers images), it's one of the great tragedies of the day that Chris ends the decade not as the huge success or recognised talent he should have been but making ends meet as a Liverpool tax inspector in a badly ventilated building that eventually made him ill and lead to his all-too early death at the age of sixty-three, singing rock and roll in pubs on the side (hardly a fitting epitaph to one of the unsung heroes of rock and roll). Sadly Chris only got one real shot at proving what he could do, without distractions from bandmates and producers - who knows what Searchers album six might have sounded like?

Which is not to say that The Searchers are a one-man band by any means. In fact not since the Iron Door Club and Hamburg days have The Searchers been more of a group, with Frank now a fully paid-up member and all four Searchers getting both lead vocals and songwriting credits (even if they sheepishly admitted later to throwing in a few words to a nearly fully finished Curtis song). Frank shines on Marvin Gaye's 'I'll Be Doggone' (a track originally cut with Chris on lead, before he realised that the extra 'weight' of the bass player's voice suited the drummer’s choice of song better) and Allen also turns 'Be My Baby' into what's effectively a love song to Ronnie Spector using her husband's favourite production methods (a brave thing to do knowing Phil Spector's infamous temper tantrums!) John's cameo on his own song 'It's Time' is one of the most overlooked Searchers songs of all, his now much more confident voice combining nicely with Frank's harmonies and based around a typically dense guitar part. As for Mike, he's been blossoming more and more with every album as he becomes more and more comfortable with the idea of being a band 'focal point' and shows off far more styles than he used to get too - or sadly will get to do. Instead of the straightforward slowies and fasties Mike tackles 'Too Many Miles' adding some sour sounding country and western; 'Don't You Know?' veering from singalong pop to crumpled sorrow with nearly every note on a song that’s a tough one to sing; 'I'm Your Loving Man' goes all Bo Diddley and demands intense rhythm and power; 'Four Strong Winds' (with Chris on alternating verses) goes for earnest folk rock (interestingly almost every version, including Mickey and Sylvia's original, goes for an epic production but this is one of three songs The Searchers keep simple here); then the title track invents punk fifteen years early with a snarling spitting Pender vocal about honesty and best of all, 'Each Time' pushes Pender's voice to its limit, growing in scale and vocal range with nearly every line on the single most ambitious and 'widescreen' production The Searchers ever came up with. Though 'Worth' didn’t exactly take long to make, compared to the last four LPs you can tell that the band had much more time to revise arrangements and work out how best to do things (as a lesser alternate take of 'I'll Be Doggone' on the CD re-issue proves) and it shows; how much better still might their other recorded-in-a-day-or-else albums have been with such attention to detail?

The Searchers never lasted long enough or were left alone enough to create one truly exceptional consistent and creative LP (to be fair nor had The Beatles by mid-1965 and again their period 'Help!' comes closest), but out of the five the band made in the sixties 'Worth' is by far and away the closest they ever came. This is one of those great 'assortment' records that has a bit of everything: high energy rockers, simple ballads, built up production masterpieces, moments that look back and remember the frenetic pop past The Searchers have just escaped and moments that look forward to the future, with psychedelia only a sitar and a world-peace lyric away from happening. Almost all of it is done better than any previous Searchers go at the same style – the few that aren’t inventing new styles all the time. Maddeningly, thanks to that decision by Pye to delay the record and some oddly negative reviews since (even the usually reliable website got this one wrong) few fans really know this record, which is the one of the original five that tends to get cut to ribbons on compilations and which has always sold the poorest, both back in the 1960s and in the 1990s and 2000s when these CDs got re-released all over again. Admittedly it's not perfect and not even close: 'I'm Ready' is a lousy opener, an unwanted blast from the past that's treated to the production of the future when it should be a one-take wonder all brash energy and madcap macho-boasting, while 'Too Many Miles' and 'You Can't Lie To A Liar' proves that The Searchers' songwriting was never as consistently prolific as their peers (although I've never bought the theory that The Searchers were poor writers and should have stuck with covers: the other album originals 'I'm Your Loving Man' and 'It's Time' are more than up to standard and amongst the best songs here).

The rest of the album, though, is the single best non-compilation half hour The Searchers ever made. Most of these tracks are filled with those sort of great little details that make a good album a great album. The song choices, the performances, but especially the arrangements – everything just works and after two treading-water LPs trying to find a new sound post-Merseybeat The Searchers need search no more. It's a tragedy that the band's career gets effectively killed off here, just when they were getting exceptionally good 9as opposed to really good) and had finally established a new sound away from their Merseybeat beginnings after a year or so of trying out different identities. There are more singles on Pye to come, including some really great ones that owe an obvious debt to the new darker side of this album ([107] 'Popcorn Double Feature' is a return to this album's denser orchestral feel,  [109] 'Western Union' a last great attempt to combine simple pop with epic productions and [111] 'Secondhand Dealer' takes the depression of 'I'm Your Loving Man' a stage further) but in a major way The Searchers are over as a creative force here and now, blown forever on the breeze of make-or-break singles that have to sound contemporary and yet all fail to sell but do sometimes create just enough of a ripple to allow the band to have another go time and time again. Had Pye got their act together, had Curtis not lost his temper along with his pills,  had the band come up with just a couple more original hits, had The Searchers just been a little bit luckier (the dynamic take-no-prisoners title track, for instance, was exactly the sort of thing the band should have been doing to get their street cred back and deserved to be more than just another middling-seller) The Searchers might yet have grown and grown into the best of the period bands, keeping pace with The Beatles and giving them competition for so many years to come. Over-shadowed and over-whelmed by contemporaneous releases for 40 years, ‘Take Me For What I’m Worth’ is exactly the sort of album we love on this site: a forgotten gem that got everything right except the timing (which of course matters nothing half a century on), ripe to be re-discovered by all adventurous collectors. It is now surely time that was taken for what it is – a last glorious burst of pure Merseybeat but with several signs that The Searchers had learnt to both build and widen the scope of what to do within that genre. A whole style died out with The Searchers here, the 'other' surviving Liverpudlian band of 1965 disappearing too (The Beatles having long ago dropped their Merseybeat identity) and music was never quite the same again. Today's listeners should always judge an album by its 'worth' more than its record sales though and if production epics, carefully crafted pop and the chance to hear an album quite unlike any other appeal to you then 'Worth' is worth its weight in gold discs, one of the most unfairly over-looked records of the entire 1960s.

The Songs:

A cover of Fat Domino’s [85] I’m Ready demonstrates just how much has changed since The Searchers made their last LP and why, at last, I speculate that they might have just found their new direction at last. Had this simple rocker been recorded as part of ‘Meet The Searchers’ or ‘Sugar and Spice’ it would have been high octane Merseybeat, all violence and adrenalin and power. Had it been recorded as part of ‘It’s The Searchers’ or ‘Sounds Like Searchers’ it would have been detached and light, froth to enjoy in between the earnest folk. On this  album its somewhere in between the two: the sound is loose, funky and raw and yet somehow it’s still tidy and polished. Chris probably didn’t have to look too far through his dense record collection to find this one, a song popular enough to be have been covered by just about everyone (including The Monkees on TV) and it’s a tip of the hat back to the more obvious song choices of old. The song really isn’t an obvious Searchers one: it’s aggressive rather than passive or yearning, with Chris right in the face of a stranger asking her out, telling her that he’s willing and that he can rock and roll ‘all night’. The song tells us that he can’t wait for another interaction because he’s impatient now: that talking on the phone is ‘not my speed’ and there’s no point in letters because ‘I can’t read!’ The Searchers do, though, read this song well even if it isn’t an obvious choice to perform and they pull together well for two minutes of mayhem. Those familiar purring Rickenbackers don’t purr so much as stab, there’s a very 1950s boogie-woogie bass riff sadly ducked very low in the mix and most oddly of all the ‘lead role’ until Pender’s messy guitar solo is an uncredited Jerry Lee Lewis piano part that somehow keeps the song a reeling and a rocking. The Searchers really find their groove on this track, which would have been a riot back in the days of the Iron Door Club and it’s good to have The Searchers’ dipping another toe back in to their origins. You have to say though, great as this song is, it sounds like the past in a way all the other songs on here point towards the future – maybe the others had a point when they told Tony they had to move away from his desire to play pure rock and roll? Perhaps the main problem is that the albums market has by now moved on to three minute recordings at least as a matter of course – this song doesn’t quite make two!

[86a] I’ll Be Doggone is much more in keeping with the album sound, being dense emotional and complex. Indeed so much so that The Searchers spent probably longer on this than any other song, Curtis calling on the others to scrap a planned version with himself on lead and try it out with Frank instead, while developing more of a Spector wall of sound to go behind the band, shifting it from rock and roll into melodrama (this second version can be heard as a bonus track on the ‘Worth’ CD and is reviewed here as [86b]). The end result was worth all that effort and is one of The Searchers’ most sumptuous cover songs. The band’s Rickenbackers sound superb and menacing drenched in layers of echo that make everything feel slightly out of synch with each other, while Frank’s double-tracking is his best vocal work by far with the band, his deeper slightly sour voice much more suited than Chris’ sweeter falsetto. This was a track written by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles but one of a series of songs they never recorded themselves as such but backed Marvin Gaye on, scoring a #8 hit in the process (one of the first big hits Gaye had). Released in February 1965, it must have been an absolute last minute choice by The Searchers to record for this album (with most sessions held in March) and had this LP not been delayed till Xmas would again have surprised people I think, one of the whitest of white bands really doing a good job of recording Tamla Motown. This recording would also surely have proved The Searchers’ arranging genius: the original is chirpy and upbeat, turning into flashes of anger, with the distinctive sounding riff sounding much happier played sped-up on piano and surrounded by handclaps. The Searchers’ version is moody as hell, full of barely concealed loathing. This narrator isn’t having a lover’s tiff – he’s at the very end of his tether, daring his lover to put just one foot over the line of fairness and she won’t ever see him again for dust. While modern ears may blanch at the middle eight (‘Every woman should try to be whatever her man wants her to be’) The Searchers get out of trouble by emphasising not that line but the one that follows (‘…And I don’t want much, all I want is for you to be true to me!’) Together with some groovy backing vocals, some of Curtis’ best drumming (at half-speed compared to average) and a guitar that sounds as if it’s about to give you whiplash backing Frank at his emotive best, this is surely one of the best things The Searchers ever did, proof of just how good The Searchers were getting by 1965. No other bands were doing anything remotely like this – even the original didn’t risk being quite so dark and brooding.

Chris Curtis then gets the chance to do his best Scott Walker impression on [87] Does She Really Care For Me?, a very recent single by Ruby and the Romantics that sadly flopped (chances are Chris was one of the few people to ever own a copy!) Another recording quite unlike anything else The Searchers ever did, this is Chris using his voice not as a sweet falsetto or as primal rock and roll but as an instrument of tenderness and love. He’s totally believable as the balladeer with the big range, nailing the tricky double-tracking as he worries pensively if his lover really loves him or is ‘just whispering words in my ear’. The single best use of orchestra on a Searchers song rushes in from stage left to gather the song up and scoop Curtis up in a fairytale of perfection – but behind him The Searchers play one of their thickest, heaviest backing tracks, especially Pender’s stinging nagging guitar and Curtis’ own drum hiccups. There’s even a gorgeous moment in the instrumental solo where the orchestra swells up reaching to Heaven – only for the guitar to stomp on its dreams, nailing it to hell. It’s the production, though, that makes this song: having finally free himself from the clutches of Tony Hatch Chris has one last chance to make this recording big, bold and beautiful and he gets it by aping the Spector wall of sound so that everything is swirling in a great big fog, perfect for the sentiments of the song. Though it only lasts for barely two minutes, this song feels like an epic and everything is big and huge. The Searchers have really changed their sound and have rarely sounded better – again no other bands were doing this sort of thing in the first half of 1965. Curtis’ last big chance to show off and he excels in every single department, with this song improving in every way on the scrappy, tinny, insincere original. How the hell did this genius of music end up working in a tax branch of Liverpool just three years down the line from this?

[88] Its Time is the first Searchers original on the album but unusually it’s not Chris’. To date all Searchers compositions have either been by the drummer or by the group in tandem based on an idea by the drummer, but this song starts the life-long if compacted list of works by The Searchers’ talented guitarist John. He and Frank already had something of a double-act going fifty years before their current shows and sound ridiculously good singing together on this country-rock number, which again takes The Searchers in a whole new exciting sound. Lyrically this is the latest in several Searchers songs to have someone being dumped, but its unique in that the narrator is doing the dumping. Instead of crying in his room feeling [54] ‘Needles and Pinza’ he’s letting his girl really have it: ‘it’s time’ she realised how nasty she’s been not to just to him but to all her exes, how many tears he’s cried over her, that someone else makes her cry with their lies, that she was made ‘the fool with the blues’. There’s a hint, too, that this isn’t just pure revenge but shock therapy: ‘You know my love will never die’ John sighs in a mournful middle eight that darts to the minor key, asking himself why it came to this and figuring, well, ‘it’s time’ she felt the way he does because then she might realise just how much it hurts. Finding stuff about Searcher marriages is tough going, but I did see reports that John married in 1968; was this song inspired by an ex flame or did it have a happy ending or is it pure fiction? A suggestion that it’s the latter comes from the idea, oft-repeated in the band’s early press, that John was ‘the quiet one’ of the group often compared to George Harrison (in both cases, with bandmates like those, who wouldn’t be?!?) Urged and supported to try out writing John may have been looking out at George’s first songs for inspiration and there’s a definitely flavour of Harrison’s grumpy first song ‘Don’t Bother Me’ in both the sentiments and the free-falling tune, which in different circumstances would be jolly but here screams ‘leave me alone!’ A big success for all concerned, especially John’s guitarwork and Frank’s harmony, It’s Time this classic track got the recognition it deserved from fans as yet another example of a band who had so much more to give in so many more directions across 1965.

 [89] Too Many Miles is a return to the sweet ballads that served the Searchers so well in the pas and a song that I confess I’ve only just connected with (after twenty odd years of constant playing). You see it sounds almost a parody, with its flute overdubs being overly pretty and Mike’s vocal being unusually sour and tongue-in-cheek, as if (at best) The Searchers are laughing at folk conventions or (at worst) trying to be American. This is perhaps the one recording on the album where the playing isn’t top-notch and spoils what could have been quite a lovely song – those flutes for instance play such a gorgeous tune it’s almost a shame when the solo stops flowering up from nowhere and we go back to The Searchers again at their plodding worst.  The fact that album, on LP or CD, don’t include the lyrics, no lyric websites have considered this song important enough to update yet and you can’t hear the lyrics also means that this is one of those songs that only really connects when you sit down and joins the dots, even if it takes several re-writes of a website and books to do it. Lyrically, this is one of the best things The Searchers ever wrote: it’s profound and complicated, with an AABA rhyming scheme throughout that really stretches the band’s word knowledge and yet also tells a very believable and heartfelt story. With too many miles between a long distance couple everything gets accelerated and exaggerated by the time apart: all it takes is one tear from his baby’s eyes and the narrator feels that he has to end a long distance relationship because it’s not working, feeling she’s unable to see just how upset he is. In the second verse a tiny problem that would normally be a ‘grain of sand’ becomes a desert that obscures his love from view and in the third verse one angry word is enough to break them up forever, the pair ‘too far to hear’ what the other one is truly saying to each other. If any of you have ever been in a long distance relationship as I have, you’ll know it really isn’t easy and this song is as spot-on as any I’ve come across regarding the mixed signals, crossed wires and general frustration that being apart from your sweetiepie entails. I just wish these clever lyrics had been attached to a different tune (this should be sweet and jolly and doesn’t sound right being played sourly) and that The Searchers had played it better. Even for this album, though, it’s something of a hidden treasure.

[90] You Can’t Lie To A Liar so believe me when I tell you that with this track you have reached the ‘middle’ song of the book, as well as the end of side one. Congratulations! This song by Bobby Vee is perhaps the most puzzling moment of the record in that it changes everything about The Searchers style – even the Rickenbackers. A stomping rocker that feels as if it’s had its wings clipped being treated to the same production echo as most of the rest of the album, this is the one song here that would have been better performed straight for power. Mike is in a grumpy mood as he tells a girl off for lying and cheating to him when he’s the one who always does that in a relationship. Far from getting his comeuppance as other bands would have put it though, he fails to see the irony of the fact that she’s only doing to him what he was going to do to her. The opening peal of electric guitar sounds oddly Hendrix-like considering that at this point in time Jimi is best known for being the prim and proper guitarist in Little Richard’s band and it’s an odd introduction for a song where the fuzz guitar then boxes a piano throughout  in what’s less of a sparring match than a stranglehold stalemate. A sprightly middle eight (‘Well I’ve lied and I’ve cheated’…) is the most ear-catching part of the song, upping the ante by pushing the song up a key, but alas this too peters out and leaves us back where we were, feeling sorry for ourselves on what must be one of the weirdest backing tracks The Searchers ever came up with. Also, whoever is singing the harmony line behind Pender (Chris I think) obviously haven’t learnt the words yet and gets into a right old muddle on the song’s last verse, a fact that’s buried in the mix to save the band re-recording them. Overall, an untypical Searchers misfire – in this period anyway – but the one recording on this album that arguably gets the prediction for the 1966 craze of ‘freakbeat’ (sad muscly songs of power) spot on. Oddly this is the one song, apart from the title track, that regularly makes its ways to Searcher compilations and no doubt responsible for putting more than a few people off buying this fine and often expensive LP down the years.

[91] Don’t You Know Why? starts side two off in classic form with a swirl of energy and adrenalin like the days of old. Instead of confidence and power chords, though, this second group composition is given another echoey production that really helps bring out its sense of drama and confusion. The song sounds as if it is trying to do the decent thing, to burst out into Merseybeat joy as a funny sunny pop song, but the central melody line keeps being interrupted, delayed by all sorts of dark segues into lurking minor keys that grab at the tune’s ankles and hauls it down. Somehow the song still manages to fight its way out for the chorus but even that falls off a cliff without us expecting it (‘Don’t you know you treated me so bad loooo-ve?’) and ends up being absolutely demolished by a ringing guitar that’s stomped all over by some crazy drumming. The lyrics too takes a new twist on The Searchers’ ‘yearning for love’ template by instead yearning for a relationship to be over. They’ve been tortured, made fun of, criticised, mocked, the narrator can’t take anymore. He pleads ‘don’t you know why I act this way?’, listing all the ways he tries to make her life better to a drum thwack and silence. Regaining his composure Pender tries again: ‘it’s love and it’s here to stay’ he concludes, putting the rift down to ‘love’s funny ways’ but he knows he has to make his sulking girlfriend feel better about the whole thing too, the song peeling off in what used to be a cry of ‘yeah yeah yeah’ with the line ‘I hope you’ll see some day’.The band’s three-part harmonies get a great chance to show off just what they can do on this track, Chris and Frank swooping up and down the melody, sometimes in tandem with Mike and sometimes in competition, sweeping  along come what may despite the pit-falls and pratt-falls of the stop-starting backing track beneath them. Like many of the Searchers’ early originals, the band don’t quite know where to go after the song’s opening two verses and middle eight, so they simply repeat the whole thing again twice, losing impact each time they do so. Until the second half of the song lets itself down, though, you can hear all the thrill and power of Merseybeat bottled into a song, full of so much excitement despite the sad words that it recaptures the listener’s imagination again single-handedly. A very cleverly constructed song.

[92] I’m Your Loving Man is Curtis solo and it’s equally impressive but in a quite different way. Admitting to Record Collector Magazine in 1998 that he ‘stole’ the tune from Aretha Franklin single ‘Can You Just See Me?’, actually he would have been closer if he stole the style: it’s that sort of soulful one-note nervous jangly track that was common in 1965 rather than a specific steal (‘Loving Man’ only uses about four notes for its melody but that’s still three more than the song he stole it from; both are great songs though). Moody and slightly discordant, this song has a very uncomfortable air with all three Searchers singers taking parts they’re not usually suited to (Pender’s deep baritone is now in falsetto and Curtis’ high tenor is singing bass for a second time, with Allen somewhere in between the two). The claustrophobic melody, which is simply two riffs stuck together, perfectly suits the song’s lyrics that again seem to find life falling apart for the narrator, as does the closely miked recording which leaves all of the singer’s nuances open for analysis. It’s the ultimate Searchers song in many ways: this narrator is the unluckiest in their catalogue: after his girl walks out on him his car won’t start and ‘the world don’t turn’. In despair he looks to the sky and the sea but neither give him answers, but the sky is dry and the seas are empty. Even his dog has stopped barking fondly causing him to ‘cry and cry’ and admit how ‘I made a mess of my life’ by letting his girl leave. The chorus tries to right things, switching to the major key, as he pleads ‘you know I lo-o-ove you, try to understa-a-a-and’ and offering his services anyway as a one-night stand, which is an interesting variation on the typical breakup song (together with the title and lustful feeling of the music it’s very risqué for its days – the narrator is clearly offering sex without strings to placate her here). The song’s unusual sound is nothing like any other Searchers track: almost all of them are driven by melody and some by rhythm and melody equally but this one is all about the rhythm baby. A sea of percussion is thrown into The Searchers’ echo chamber and layered on top of a tricky quick-stepping riff that keeps up the manic edge of the early Searchers recordings. It sounds utterly lost until a brief guitar solo from Pender which sounds like someone shouting, hands on hips. The result is, however much Curtis may have dismissed this song for being ‘stolen by naughty boys’, one of the most thrilling Searcher recordings there is.

Even better is [93] Each Time, the fourth final and perhaps greatest Jackie De Shannon cover the band performed. In an epic production that’s bigger even than [67] ‘When You Walk In The Room’ The Searchers take a simple lover’s tiff and make it into this huge out-of-control mess that drives a dagger into our hearts. The echo production works wonders here, swirling around so that everything seems taken out of proportion and so much bigger than it should. As for the lyric, it’s a familiar one about arguments being taken out of context and exaggerated. The narrator loves his girl so much he forgives her time and time again, the verse-into-chorus structure sleepwalking its way through another fight-breakup-reunion scenario because both parties are too invested to walk out for good. Together with the music it sounds like they’re hypnotised by love, each one refusing to give up and forgiving each other ‘each time’. The song’s second most brilliant moment comes on the middle eight, which swaps over two lines in from Mike to Chris, where the narrator laments his problems: he wishes now that he’d walked out for good the first time and just kept going as the song switches jarringly to a minor key and seems to be falling – only to be revived on an unexpected resolution to the tune on the line ‘but now I know it’s wrong – because good or bad It’s with you I belong!’ However the other moment of genius happens right at the beginning, a ghostly piano (again uncredited) haunting first Pender’s then McNally’s guitar as both try to run off in tandem (pianos were suddenly big again in early 1965 for some reason, after being booted out of 1950s rock and roll and skiffle groups to make room for more guitars). With the echo meaning instruments are flying about the speakers all the time this is proof that The Searchers really ‘got’ stereo much quicker than their peers (of all their songs this is the one with the biggest difference between mono and stereo) and this is perhaps the most exciting record they ever made, taking a quite brilliant song and making it even better. Why the hell wasn’t this released as a single? Even in 1965 with fading sales it’s surely too good not to arrest the band’s slide downhill. Perhaps the greatest moment of the greatest Searchers record.

After hearing the masters of The Wall Of Sound at work it seems something of an anticlimax to go back to a straight copy of Spector’s work. [94] Be My Baby is the only Searcher cover on the album that sticks religiously to the original (albeit Frank Allen sings the lead about three octaves lower than The Ronettes did!) Amazing vocalist that he is, Frank isn’t right for this song, sounding too frail and lost in this song that demands the narrator come to sweep his lover off her feet. Even so, I sympathise with why it’s here: Frank reveals in both his autobiographies that he used to have a huge crush on Ronnie Spector (in many ways he still does!) and one of the reasons he became a Searcher was when he realised the two bands were playing on the same tour. What better way to ‘hint’ at your lover through the music business than to sing them a love song using lines that they were themselves famous for? The rest of the band do Frank proud too: Mike and Chris’ mock-angelic harmonies are sweet but not too sugary, Chris nails the original song’s distinctive drum pattern and the band’s Rickenbackers are put to good use. However Frank is floundering and there’s perhaps just that little bit too much echo here, the band so unsure on quite what to do with this song that instead of ending on the fun ‘false ending’ of the original they simply tail off into the darkness on a wo-wo-woah’. Something tells me this version of the song wouldn’t have been a hit the way the original was or inspire as many people (Brian Wilson still talks about it as being the most perfect song ever), but it fills in three minutes without too much pain. You hope Frank got a peck on the cheek at least after going to such lengths to make this recording – arguably though he tries a little bit too hard.

 [95] Four Strong Winds is another of those lush, sweeping ballads the Searchers used to specialise in. Though not as powerful as [32] ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’ or [2] ‘All My Sorrows’, this is nonetheless a strong reading of a song about loneliness, restlessness and – in keeping with the album theme – the painful breakup of a love affair. Ian Tyson’s early 1960s hit is much covered but usually by straight country artists: it fits in better with their ‘and to top it all my little ol’ dog just died’ scenarios than most rock and rollers. But The Searchers always brought more to their main genre and do this song impressively straight (compared to all the Rolling Stones country cover songs anyway…) A couple are trying to make out their next move after they leave each other, blown by four strong winds and seven seas whose tide is higher than their love for each other. They promise to look one another up and wonder what might happen to them in the future, in ‘Winter’. The narrator offers to take his love with him one last time but knows the answer because ‘we’ve been through that a hundred times or more’. Wistful rather than depressed, if out theory about the twelve stages of grief is right then this song sounds like acceptance: things can’t go on this way, this is the right thing to do, with no tears or acrimony. You can really hear how well the second line up of the band’s harmonies gel together on this gorgeous song, with a much more grown-up reading of the song than most of their covers with Mike and Frank sounding gorgeous on the harmonies and Chris’ solo in the middle stealing the show. Melancholy without going over the top and bravely dropping the tempo of Ian Tyson’s original to an even slower crawl, this is the Searchers at the top of their arranging game.

 [96a] 'Take Me For What I'm Worth' wraps things up with a title song so good that even in The Searchers’ swift year of decline it went top twenty, becoming their last substantial hit. A classic outsider rebel anthem in The Kink’s mould, with reflective verses and a yelled chorus, it sounds like the Searchers asking their audiences not to write them off with the rest of the out-dated Merseybeat scene but to celebrate them as they were in 1965. This PF Sloan cover defies the band’s increasing image as mummy’s boys by being rebellious without being stupid. Instead of nicking a car or stealing a motorbike or knocking a policeman’s hat off they square up to their girl and by association society and ask to be treated and accepted for what they are, flaws and all. Pender is at his all-time best here, fully in charge of a song that’s unusually aggressive for The Searchers, portraying himself partly as a 1950s rebel without a clue (‘I’ve got too many problems that keep pounding on my brain!’) and partly as a sensitive soul who doesn’t want to see his lover getting ‘hurt’ by finding out they’ve only fallen in love with an idealised version of himself. The song then rounds off by saying that if a couple has to part then he doesn’t want his girl to be sad because one tear ‘is all I’m really worth’ before promising that after time, when bygones have been bygones and they can start being affectionate to each other again, he’ll be back to see if she’s ok. Best lyric: ‘Though you think I’m weird don’t try to change me dear, for if you want me you’ll take me for what I’m worth!’ Recorded at a time when The Searchers’ backs were really up against the wall, this defensive song that’s so out of character could have gone hopelessly wrong but instead it feels oh so right. After ten tracks of playing with the echo production the crystal clear Rickenbacker line really stares out at you with real menace, Pender’s lead brilliantly counterpointed by McNally’s acoustic and the singalong powerpop chorus is great, Allen sacrificing his usual accuracy for a wild shriek of joy. Great as this song is as a single, giving the band back the street cred they so richly deserves, it also works brilliantly as the song that ties up the themes of the album, asking to be judged not as ‘saint’ or ‘sinner’ but as a flawed human being who tries his best while hoping for a future reconciliation. Would that all albums from 1965 had been this adult, a superb cover of a great great song. 

Well, The Searchers will be back on LP one day when their wandering is over – but it’s with an aching breaking heart I tell you that it won’t be for another fourteen years (barring a sort of half-hearted low-release collection of re-recorded hits in 1972 and even that’s seven years away). I feel so robbed, no doubt so do the band: they were right at their peak, recording songs that were every bit the equal of the times in which they were made and after two albums of struggling to find a new direction the band finally find it with an album that sounds quite unlike any other LP that was ever recorded. What an awful crying flaming terrible excruciating painful rotten shame the Searchers lost their momentum when the rug was pulled out from under their feet following this album – they were at an all time peak and getting better and better and this record might well have arrested their sliding fortunes had their record company been even half competent. It might not be very well known and includes only one single even some fans don’t know, but ‘Take Me For What It’s Worth’ really does represent the best of this band’s output and wins on songs, performances and especially arrangements. The whole band worked their socks off to make this record great and musically it paid off in spades even if commercially the band were left in free-fall, reduced to recording singles for a living and touring the British club circuit when they should have been filling arenas (though good luck reproducing most of this album live!)Forgotten and unloved for far too long, this album should be viewed not through the sneer of a Rubber Soul-savvy audience but through the eyes of a record collector who know buried treasure when they find it and can take this album for what it is worth. In my eyes that’s a price tag very very high indeed (which is just as well given that this poor-selling album does indeed go for a pretty hefty price tag these days).  


'It's The Searchers' (1964)

‘Sounds Like Searchers’ (1965)

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

'The Searchers' (1979/1980)

'Play For Today' aka 'Love's Melodies' (1981)

‘Hungry Hearts’ (1988)

Surviving TV Clips  and The Best Unreleased Recordings

Solo Recordings 1964-1967 and 1984

Non-Album Recordings Part One 1963-1967  

Non-Album Recordings Part Two  1968-2012 

Live/Solo/Compilation/US LPs/'Re-Recordings In Stereo’ Part One: 1964-1987

Live/Solo/Compilation/Rarities Albums Part Two:  1990-2014

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