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The Searchers Still Going Strong

by David Soulsby, author of the novel "Somewhere in the Distance"

 

Hundreds of screaming girls, arms thrust forward in frenzied animation, their bodies shaking with intense excitement, create a crescendo of noise so loud that the song being performed by the smartly dressed group on stage is barely recognizable. The jingle jangle beat is there in the mix but the words are smothered by the high-pitched swirl before they have reached even the first few rows in the auditorium. It’s the mid-Sixties and The Searchers are battling boldly against the barrage with a shrug and a smile, enjoying the connection: the buzz coming from the crazy back and forth whirl in the lower seats and the heaving neck-craning fans in the balcony above is electric. It’s communication on a raw, basic level . . .

Fifty years on, and The Searchers are still going strong, but the bond with the audience is a far cry from that of the noisy, hectic heyday. Now the audience is more adult and the communication centres more on interaction and friendly banter. When the group’s popularity waned at the end of the decade, they reinvented themselves, throwing themselves into the cabaret circuit, a week here, a week there, grinding away and slowly but surely perfecting a whole new way of performing and learning how to attract and entertain a whole new audience and a fresh army of admirers that has taken them through the Seventies and up to the present day. Group founder John McNally and Frank Allen survive from the Sixties line-up and are still going strong, true rock ‘n’ roll legends. I caught the group during their current 50th anniversary British tour and they were, as always, excellent. Retirement? That’ll be the day!

Some songs stick in the mind like old friends, signposting vivid recollections from my younger days. Sweets For My Sweet by The Searchers is such a song. It holds a special place in my musical memory. I was familiar with The Drifters original version from their Save The Last Dance For Me album and although I liked it, I hadn’t given it much thought for some time, until the Liverpool lads’ infectious Pye records debut burst on the scene.

It was a joy to listen to then, and still is. It’s not very long, around two-and-a-half minutes, and its sentiment is simple and easy to connect with. There are probably not many people who’ve heard it and not felt happier for it. I know it always gives me a good feeling.

I remember clearly that in early August 1963, the Great Train Robbery was filling the headlines in Britain when The Searchers released Sweets For My Sweet. It went straight to Number One. John Lennon heard it and was blown away. He called it the best single to come out of Liverpool. Later that month, Martin Luther King gave I Have A Dream speech in Washington. In my mind’s eye I can still see the television news coverage and remember seeing Bob Dylan there.

I also see myself rushing home during a school lunch break, clutching a copy of Sweets For My Sweet that I borrowed from a school friend. My parents were both out working, so there was no barrier to leaving the arm off of the turntable, allowing the record to play over and over again, dancing by myself to the infectious beat. If anyone had seen me they would probably have thought I was crazy, but I was just 17 and if I was crazy it was about music. I couldn’t get enough of it, and The Searchers instantly figured highly in my favourite groups list. I still have three other original Searchers singles in my collection, the classic Needles And Pins, When You Walk In The Room and Don’t Throw Your Love Away. These are songs that the group has sung hundreds, if not thousands of times, over the years, and they still sound as fresh today as they did all those years ago. The B-sides aren’t bad either: Saturday Night Out, (I’ll Be) Missing You and I Pretend I’m With You.

 

 

David Soulsby lives in Romford, Essex,David Soulsby England, and is now retired after 46 years as a journalist. During his career, he worked on local and national newspapers and magazines, and in the Sixties met many of his musical heroes, including Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Sonny Boy Williamson, James Brown and Mel Torme. He’s now freelancing as a writer and proof-reader, working from home. He’s the author of Somewhere In The Distance, a novel about four friends growing up in the Sixties.

 

 

 

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