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Music / The Searchers

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Clockwise from top: Tony Jackson, John McNally, Mike Pender, Chris Curtis

"Sugar and spice, and all things nice...
Kisses sweeter than wine...
Sugar and spice, and all things nice...
You know that little girl is mine!
Sugar & Spice
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The Searchers is a 1960s band that was known for being part of The British Invasion. They were a part of the Invasion groups that came from Liverpool and are arguably one of the only groups from there to still be going strong in the 21st century.

The band evolved from an earlier skiffle band guitarist John McNally founded in 1957 with Brian Dolan on guitar and Tony West on bass. Dolan and West eventually lost interest and were replaced by Mike Pender (born Mike Prendergast) on guitar and Tony Jackson on bass. Joe Kennedy joined for a short time on drums before being replaced by Norman McGarry; the latter's arrival in 1959 is usually cited as when The Searchers were officially born, even though he too didn't last long in the band, being replaced by Chris Curtis (born Chris Crummley) in 1960. The vocalist position was initially held by "Big Ron" Woodbridge (born Ronald Woodbridge), who was replaced by Johnny Sandon (born William Beck) in 1960. Sandon left in late 1961, with Jackson taking up lead vocalist duties.

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The Searchers rose to fame with their cover of The Drifters song "Sweets For My Sweet" in 1963, which was followed by such hits as "Needles and Pins", "Don't Throw Your Love Away" and "Sugar and Spice". "Needles and Pins" rose to #13 on the US charts, granting them an appearance with other British groups in the British Invasion, along with their friends The Beatles and Cilla Black, but it was at this point when lead singer and bassist Tony Jackson decided to leave the group. This was later followed by drummer Chris Curtis two years later, and the two men had brief solo careers.

It's believed that the band didn't recover after the two shock exits. As the 1970s began to come around, The Searchers continued to play the "distinct Searchers sound" — covering songs from the early years of bands, like The Rolling Stones and The Hollies. Their last ever UK chart hits were in 1966, and continued to make music for their fans, even though they weren't popular to be played on the radio. To this day, the band continue to tour around the UK, playing all of their old hits to their loyal public.

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Meanwhile, Tony Jackson joined a band in the 1970s called the Vibrations that struggled to make it in the music business, eventually leading Jackson to retire his singing career. He died in 2003 from numerous medical problems, possibly from the result of his alcoholism. Chris Curtis was partly responsible for the band Deep Purple, by manufacturing their early group Roundabout. In the meantime, he released a single that went to #19 in the UK charts briefly, before dropping out almost immediately. At the end of the 1960s, he left the music industry for good, but managed to record many music demos that were never released as singles. He died in 2005.


Members (founding members in bold, current members in italic)

  • Brian Dolan — guitar (1957-1959)
  • John McNally — rhythm guitar, vocals (1957-)
  • Tony West — bass (1957-1959) (died 2010)
  • Tony Jackson — vocals, bass guitar (1959-1964) (died 2003)
  • Norman McGarry — drums (1959-1960)
  • Mike Pender — lead guitar, vocals (1959-1985)
  • "Big Ron" Woodbridge — vocals (1959-1960)
  • Chris Curtis — vocals, drums (1960-1966) (died 2005)
  • Johnny Sandon — vocals (1960-1962) (died 1996)
  • Frank Allen — bass, vocals (1964-)
  • John Blunt — drums, vocals (1966-1969) (died 2013)
  • Billy Adamson — drums, vocals (1970-1998) (died 2013)
  • Spencer James — rhythm guitar, guitar synthesizers, vocals (1998-)
  • Eddie Roth — drums, vocals (1998-2010)
  • Scott Ottoway — drums, vocals (2010-)

Tropes

  • Adorkable: Chris Curtis, in many of his lead vocal tracks, as well as during live performances, in which he's the only member encouraging the crowd to enjoy themselves.
    • When it came to his songs, the notable on was "Ain't That Just Like Me", in which the voice tries to chat-up someone by comparing himself to characters in nursery rhymes.
      [after reciting Humpty Dumpty] Now ain't that just like me?
      Cracking up over you?
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The implied plot of "Don't Throw Your Love Away", which is probably a song warning Serial Romeos about falling in love with every attractive person they meet (aka, "throwing their love away").
    Lovers of today just throw their dreams away, and play at love.
    They give their love away to anyone who'll say "I love you."
  • Cover Version: Many of their singles were.
    • "Love Potion No. 9" — originally by The Clovers.
    • "Don't Throw Your Love Away" — originally by The Orlons.
    • "Someday, We're Gonna Love Again" — originally by Barbara Lewis.
    • "This Empty Place" — originally by Dionne Warwick.
    • "When You Walk In a Room" and "Needles and Pins" — originally by Jackie DeShannon.
    • "What Have They Done to the Rain" — originally by Malvina Reynolds.
    • "Bumble Bee" — originally by LaVern Baker.
    • "Sweets For My Sweet" — originally by The Drifters.
    • "Sweet Nothins" — originally by Brenda Lee.
  • Cult Soundtrack: For the 1964 British movie Saturday Night, The Searchers made a cameo in a night club scene performing the movie soundtrack called "Saturday Night Out", which was included on their album. Unsurprisingly, the song became more popular than the movie, and since then, the film has faded into obscurity.
  • Gypsy: Madame Ruth in "Love Potion No. 9".
    You know, that gypsy with that gold-capped tooth?
  • Gypsy Curse: The strange potion that the voice drinks in "Love Potion No. 9" in order to become attractive to other women.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: In the Tony Jackson years, he was often the lead singer, but there were tracks on their albums when the other members would get a lead vocal. Chris Curtis-led tracks often received more popularity than the others.
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