The Searchers, Alright

The Searchers were a beat group out of the Merseybeat sound, contemporaneous with the Beatles and the Hollies. They recorded a lot of pop covers early on, and good ones, like Sweets for My Sweet, Love Potion #9, and most notably Needles and Pins, which they helped make a classic.

I’ve long thought them to be an important band, because they played so well, and were such an important part of this most important pop scene, but I’ve been listening again lately and as much as I like all these songs, and admire the polish and playing on them all, the variety of styles and approaches leads me to conclude that the Searchers may have been, in their day, the world’s best wedding band.

I don’t mean that as a put down. Wedding bands are different from first rate rock bands, so I’ve dug a hole the Searchers have to climb out of, but I think they can do it. My point is that bands usually coalesce around some principles that guide their sound, their choice of material, their approach, or in other words, their vibe.

The Searchers didn’t really. They had the beat group sound, but they sampled pop and soul sounds without any orthodoxy. They just played, and like the best wedding bands, they brought great chops and energy to everything they did.

Which brings us to Alright, which seems to owe a lot to Ray Charles, but which also has a kick ass guitar solo. I love the way these guys play, but I also see that they’re not very visionary. Nothing wrong with that, but it does tamp down expectations. In any case, enjoy this!

15 thoughts on “The Searchers, Alright

  1. I’m the baby of this quartet, so understand I know The Searchers much less than the rest of you, for sure. As usual, that won’t stop me from commenting ignorantly.

    1) Peter, how did you manage to run into all these “great chops and energy” wedding bands? Switch out “wedding” for “good cover” and I get what you mean. Perhaps wedding bands were better back when most people didn’t simply opt for a cheap, shitty DJ.

    2) Kind of to Peter’s point, The Searchers seem very processed to me – too perfect, almost robotic. Even The Beatles had (good) loose ends once in a while. I wonder how much of their recordings were studio musicians? Did they cut the mustard live?

    3) Much prefer “ev-ry” to “ev-er-y” in “Walk In The Room.”

    4) Speaking of live, I think my favorite thing of this whole shebang is the white bass guitar a Searcher is playing in the one photo in the “Walk In The Room” video. What’s with those giant horns? Like an SG on steroids. Anyone know what that is?

    • Two more stupid comments since checking out The Searchers live (the black & white ones, not the old men still kicking around) on youtube:

      1) They’re OK live. Not Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, but OK. If anything – ignorant “cart before the horse” comment coming up – they remind me a lot of The Wonders (Oneders) from “That Thing You Do.”

      2) I keep expecting Adam West/Burt Ward Batman and Robin to come busting in on these teen dance videos.

  2. You know, cover band would be the same as wedding band, except every band starts as a cover band. Someone hires a wedding band to play covers in all styles. They want some Motown and some Merseybeat, they want some Donna Summer and maybe some Edgar Winter. A wedding band plays it all.

    A wedding band comes with a big book that has the charts for every song ever written, and they’re solid enough to play them, even if they all don’t know the tune.

    When I got married we hired a real band. It was expensive, but whatever anyone threw at them they played, and we all danced. It was perfect.

    But Steve, it occurs to me that part of the thing about the Searchers is that they are a cover band. All these song (well, most) were recorded by others before them. I’m not sure if I heard the Colvers’ Love Potion No. 9 or the Searchers version first, but the Clovers did come first.

    So maybe that was my point. The Beatles did some covers, but they became more than just good when they started writing and recording great songs, which gave them a personality that was only their own. The Searchers’ music doesn’t suffer from their playing, it is fantastic, but their personality seems a step or two removed.


    • 1) I guess I would term the kind of band you’re describing as (the dreaded) variety band. Wedding/variety, probably six of one, half-dozen of the other.

      2) Ugh on that video. I’m old to be sure, but I prefer not to watch oldsters doing their youngster stuff live. Why I can’t get excited about paying $150 to see The Rolling Stones or Black Sabbath – especially at some arena to sit politely 1,000 rows back and watch the nearest TV monitor.

      3) I’ll bet those old Searchers still get laid a lot though. Don’t forget the Viagra and lube.

  3. Chris Hillman always sighted the Searchers as an influence on the Byrds. McGuinn used to do the same but in recent decades has focused more on the Harrison influence instead.Not sure why. The first two Byrds albums are very reminiscent of the Searchers sound.

  4. The early Brit Invasion bands – including the Beatles and the Stones – were all trying to get it RIGHT, and they all cut their chops playng live. I daresay they tried to ELIMINATE their own personalities, at least at first. The variety of styles was just the way it was done. The Beatles played “Besame Mucho” and “Red Sails in the Sunset” and no doubt would have tackled “Tiny Bubbles” had it been around. They were all dance bands (like wedding bands), and some people only do slow dances. Pandering! What later seperated the Beatles and Stones from the Searchers and the Animals and the rest was songwriting, and the Artistic Pretensions that eventually ruined the Beatles while making the world safe for Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

  5. Excellent points re live bands first, songwriting and the Byrds. Funny how the Beatles pretensions pretty much disappeared after they split up. There are McCartney’s mid-song shifts and I’m sure there are some Plastic Ono cuts that are tough on the ears, but the solo sense of all of them was back to basics (songwriting and playing).

  6. Yes, I hadn’t thought of that but you’re right, they did all go back to basics. Part of that was I think the Dylan influence. His answer to Sgt. Pepper was John Wesley Harding, which is a minimalist work. Let It Be was a conscious retrenchment although you can’t say that about Abbey Road. McCartney’s first solo album was an audio selfie, Lennon’s was pared to the bone musically, and while All Things Must Pass was sprawling stylistically, the sitars were gone and the tunes are simple enough. Ringo made a country album.

  7. This is all great shit.

    I too love The Searchers treatment, and when I did my album release gig several years back, When You Walk in the Room was one of the covers we did (along with The Kids are Alright and Baby’s on Fire).

    But, I think my fave thing about it all was reading in Mojo at some point some story about the Stones in the mid-60’s and a bunch of bands were all in some insane hotel being crazy and someone was looking for Jackie and was cut off because, “Keef is on another room shagging her.”

    I like Keef and Jackie together a lot more than Marianne Faithful and Mick, and i liked them, too.

    I do get the points as live/wedding/cover bands. we have a 12/22 gig and were scrambling for an xmas song on the set. it seems to boil down to Father Christmas and Jingle Bell Rock. I am banking the ladder since we are sort of a Rockabilly band. But, never thought i would play that one.

    Needles and Pins was written by Sonny Bono, I believe. And, the Searchers did a great cover of Love Potion #9 and had another hit, Bumble Bee I always dug.

  8. Wow, never heard her version before. Passionate and banging indeed, the vocal makes the Searchers sound like they’re rushing to get through it – quite a feat since their singing definitely scored on the emotional intensity meter at the time and ever since – and makes Joey Ramone sound like a parody.

    Personal to Lawr: try “Santa Claus is Back in Town.”

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