The Searchers - 40th Anniversary Collection (1963-2003 )

The Searchers are held in high esteem by fans of Sixties British music. This is because of the string of hit singles the group has between 1963 and 1966. This 40th Anniversary collection covers all those hits, but also shines a spotlight on the whole of their recording career which went on until the early 1980s.

As well as the singles, you get EP and LP tracks as well as B-sides. The Searchers are arguably the most successful of the 'Merseybeat' groups to come out of Liverpool after the Beatles. They followed the Beatles to play in the Star Club in Hamburg. Their demo of the American R&B group The Drifters US hit of 1961 "Sweets for My Sweet" was heard by the then recording manager of Pye, Tony Hatch, who knew that if they were recorded in a proper studio he would have a sure fire hit. After performing the song on an all Liverpool edition of the top pop show of the day "Thank Your Lucky Stars" the record went straight to No 1. "Sugar And Spice" written by Hatch soon followed and made No 2. The third hit was a Jackie De Shannon song "Needles And Pins" written by Sonny Bono of Sonny & Cher fame. They  raided the Jackie De Shannon song book for a later single "When You Walk In The Room" which is perhaps the best example of the groups distinctive guitar sound provided by the Rickenbacker (pictured on the front cover incidentally) which heavily influenced the Byrds in America who used it to great effect on records such as "Mr Tambourine Man".

All the hit singles, LP & EP tracks which were all mostly R&B and early soul cover versions make up Disc 1 of this collection.

Disc 2, which takes up The Searchers Story from 1966, starting with their version of Jagger / Richards "Take It Or Leave It" highlights the groups problem in not being able to write their own material. Although the group carried on recording sporadically until the early 1980s their ability to have hit singles disappeared. The tracks on the second disc  run from the inspired to the insipid. The best tracks are taken from two albums for the Sire label, home of the Ramones and Madonna, presumably intending to appeal to a 'New Wave audience'. "Hearts In Her Eyes" and "Everything But A Heartbeat" both written by Will Birch of power pop combo The Records along with "Loves Melody" written by Andy McMasters of The Motors combined the classic sixties Searchers sound with the New Wave. There are also covers of John Fogarty's "Almost Saturday Night" and a previously un-issued version of Steve Stills, Buffalo Springfield classic "For What It's Worth", but for every good track there is something as bad as "Kinky Kathy Abernathy" or Somebody Shot The Lollipop Man".

The history of The Searchers is told in the informative sleevenotes written by Spencer Leigh of BBC Radio Merseyside, detailing line-up changes etc. The insert opens up to reveal a montage of record sleeves and labels.

Derek McCann

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