The Searchers outlast them all

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They were part of the Liverpool scene that spawned The Beatles but The Searchers never succumbed to a rock and roll lifestyle, and now 50 years later have outlasted many of their contemporaries.

The band’s bassist, Frank Allen, believes that his group’s longevity can be at least partially attributed to their refusal to get involved in the seedy underworld of the entertainment industry.

“We were never very rock and roll… we lived a very, very moderate lifestyle, totally anti-drugs and not that much drinking either. I met them [Allen’s bandmates] in Hamburg, which was pretty manic, and people were going crazy out there, people including

The Beatles were going mad and popping all sorts of pills and fornicating all over the place,” he said.

“We were always the good guys, the clean-cut guys… because of the lifestyle we led, it meant that our health survived all these years and we were able to carry on for 50 years.”

Whatever the reason for The Searchers’ impressively long stint in show business, they are still maintaining a hectic touring schedule around the world.

They will perform at Rooty Hill RSL on Sunday, February 2 with a show that touches on all their greatest songs and also gives the audience an insight into the band’s history.

“It’s a bit mix and match but it’s carefully designed so that the content consists of songs that the audience are going to love. We’re a nostalgia act… but we also communicate with the audience as well – there’s a lot of interaction, stories about what’s happened through our career,” Allen said.

With plenty of popular hits in the 1960’s, The Searchers are probably most famous for their versions of ‘Love Potion No. 9’ and ‘Needles and Pins’ but Allen said that modern audience preferences don’t always correspond to chart listings.

“Of the hits, most definitely I think ‘When You Walk in the Room’ is the one that I like most of all, it’s just an absolute classic pop song. It wasn’t actually quite the biggest hit but it’s been the longest lasting in audience terms, it gets the best reaction, even over and above slightly bigger hits,” he said.

Allen was a latecomer to The Searchers, who had formed “as a little skiffle group” in 1959 and only found professional success in the mid-1960’s.

He had befriended members of The Searchers and was asked to play bass for the group shortly after they began to get public prominence, leaving behind the band Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers.

“I was in a band that was very well known anyway throughout the country although we didn’t have any hits… but when I was offered the job with The Searchers, they’d already had some chart success and it was just something that was too good to turn down, they’d become my friends and they were also, by that time, international superstars,” Allen said.

Liverpool is famous for the innovative music scene it hosted in the 1960’s, with many of the world’s most popular, groundbreaking bands originating there, including The Searchers.

Allen believes that the success rate of Liverpool bands was high because the music was edgy compared to the bubblegum pop of the time.

“Mainly it was that pop music in Britain had become quite sanitised, in the early 60’s most of the mainstream pop in Britain was the silk-suited, pretty boy solo singer thing, bands really weren’t the flavour of the day anymore,” he said.

“Liverpool, for whatever reason, had its own little musical scene, it was very enclosed and it was a very thriving one. I’ve never known a city that had a music scene like that. The bands in Liverpool tended to play a heavier kind of music… when The Beatles got well-known and people heard them play, that was the kind of edge they had.”

The Searchers may have never been as wild as their fellow Liverpool musicians but they did experience the highs and lows expected in a 50-year career, which Allen documented in two books.

He wrote the first, Travelling Man, as a light-hearted recount of The Searchers tours, and then set about writing a detailed biography of the band.

“It was a project that took me four years to do and I’m so proud of the two books but in particular the second one, which is called The Searchers and Me, it’s been one of the greatest achievements of my life,” Allen said.

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