Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Jangle Sound, "Preflyte"

The Searchers, one of Liverpool's finest groups, are noted for their impeccable harmonies, jangling guitar sounds (a major influence on the Byrds), and grasp of various musical styles. They were the fourth Merseyside band to find national success, but the first outside of Brian Epstein's stable of bands. In fact, Epstein's most famous act, the Beatles, often cited the Searchers as one of their favorite bands.

John McNally (rhythm guitarist) formed the Searchers in 1960, taking the name from the John Wayne Western playing in theatres at that time. McNally's school friends joined in: Chris Curtis on drums and Mike Pender on lead guitar. Bass and lead vocalist duties were taken on by a slightly older, well-known Liverpool personality, Tony Jackson. They quickly found residency at the Iron Door Club, eventually serving as a backing group for Johnny Sandon before the usual grueling stint at Hamburg's Star Club. Upon return from Hamburg, the Searchers were discovered by Pye's recording manager, Tony Hatch. Their first single, a distinctive treatment of the Drifter's "Sweets for My Sweet," shot to number one in the UK charts. Hatch composed a similar follow up single entitled "Sugar and Spice," which reached number two.

Nineteen Sixty-Four began as a banner year for the Searchers. Their recording of the Jack Nitzsche/Sonny Bono penned "Needles and Pins," which had been a stateside hit for songstress Jackie DeShannon, became the biggest hit of their career, selling over a million copies. The interesting and influential jangling guitar effects in this song were not achieved on a 12 string; in fact, the song features two overdubbed six string guitars. The Searchers did not use a 12 string until they recorded the single "When You Walk in the Room," which was released in Sept. 1964. Shortly after the success of "Needles and Pins," Tony Jackson acrimoniously parted ways with the group. Sadly, this amazing vocalist did not achieve the recognition he deserved. For more in depth information about the Searchers, please check out Merseybeat expert Spencer Leigh's homepage.

If one is looking for an excellent Searchers CD compilation, I recommend Audio Fidelity's hybrid SACD entitled The Searchers: A Collection (mastered by Steve Hoffman). For a more comprehensive collection, the 3 CD set The Searchers 30th Anniversary Collection on Sequel Records covers the singles, select LP and EP cuts, and rarities. I find both collections to be essential. (The above video clip of "Don't Throw Your Love Away" is from Big Beat '64: the NME Pollwinnners Concert.)

(References: Record Collector article by Peter Doggett, British Beat by May and Phillips, liner notes to the Searchers Collection, various other RC and Goldmine articles I've read.)

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