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Issue 126 written exclusively for The Searchers Official Web Site by Searchers front man Frank Allen

İThe Searchers Official Web Site. No unauthorised reproduction

Hi again everyone,

Australia is more or less done and dusted for another year and needless to say it was a joy. A very nice way to earn a living and enjoy all the pleasure that great country has to offer us.
After our over-exhausting schedule last year of twenty-six concerts crammed into a shortened tour of five weeks instead of the normal six which all but killed us, we made an executive decision to return to a full length trip in order to give us some down time. Well, that was the plan.

By the time the tour book came in we found that we were lined up to do thirty-one shows in forty- two days. That`s five more than in previous years so the idea of a full complement of rest days somehow got scuppered. As it happened it hasn`t been too bad. Not as many really long drives as on previous visits and the really lengthy ones of eight hours or more were restricted to the non-working days. But in reality we really should take a firmer stand when these things are being set up. You could not under any circumstances call us spring chickens any more and we do need our rest.

On the other hand it`s very flattering to find that more and more theatres in more and more towns want to welcome us. There were a number of venues where the local crew and staff said that it had been some time since they had that size of crowd.  And at the other end of the scale just two or three, mainly in Western Australia where the mining business has suffered a big economic downturn,  the attendances were just a little light but still very respectable. And without exception the reception they gave us was just amazing.

I`m not going to pick favourites. I did mention a couple of highlights in my newsletter in a previous year and promptly got some mild moans that their town was not mentioned. Believe me there was not one stop on our schedule that did not show us a wonderful welcome and left both us and them feeling very happy indeed.  Oh yes, in the batch of compliments sent via Wendy Burton one lady did point out that my stage boots needed a shine. Point taken. Shoe-shine liquid was promptly purchased and the fault rectified. See, we do take notice.

One other complaint from a ex Liverpudlian fan was that we did not, as in prior trips, return to the stage for an encore. The answer there is that this time round we have been maybe a bit too subtle in that after When You Walk In The Room the play-off music was used and we simply took our bow on the stage before a final two songs rather than running off and risking the applause fading before we could get back on. And because it was decided Scott should stay at the drums it maybe did not have quite the desired effect of a true encore.
Our solution was to take a longer on-stage bow with Scott joining us at the front and a longer portion of the 1812 Overture before picking up our instruments again for Twist & Shout (from the 1963 Meet The Searchers album) and finally the familiar hits medley. I hope that did the trick. It`s a minefield out there trying to please everyone.

As usual our logistics and the inevitable problems that ensue from time to time were most efficiently taken care of by our Scouse tour manager, ex-Swinging Blue Jean John Ryan, now a long-time Sydney resident. There are no doubt others who cope efficiently but very few who do it with the kind of enthusiasm that he does.

John acquired the position after a few years of just hanging about with us while we were in Australia, because he enjoyed the company of pals from back home and fellow Liverpudlian John McNally in particular. We appreciated his voluntary input so much that we expressed our feelings to Tony Brady at ATA Allstarartists (our Aussie tour company).  Eventually he became a fully fledged and invaluable member of the team in Australia, so much so that he has gone on to tour manage The Glenn Miller Orchestra, The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Pipe Band. And I can only imagine what coping with that bunch is like. Dealing with just one hairy Scotsman on stage in a kilt trying to strangle an octopus is bad enough. Multiply that by twenty and it becomes unthinkable. Congratulations and thanks to John Ryan.

And I almost forgot to mention one thing. John`s instrument with The Jeans was the drums and at sound check one afternoon while waiting for Scott to arrive at the stage Ryo sat in on drums for just one number. And very good he was too.

Once again we have to say sorry to those who miss out on catching a show because we play very few RSLs or Leagues Clubs these days. Ninety-five percent of the Australian venues we play these days are now theatres, in the same way that our touring year in the UK is planned. We really don`t have any say in this at all. Quite understandably the promoters have to ensure that they make a decent profit at the end of the run to make it worthwhile. The outlay in bringing a group out from Britain is far greater than you might imagine. Hotels, air fares, food, equipment hire, crew, vehicle hire and so much more. I can sympathise to a great extent.

It has obviously turned out that theatres give them the best chance. Cairns was very fortunate in that the Civic Theatre has been demolished and they are still waiting for the new one to be completed. Thus the Brothers Leagues Club was substituted. And my, what a success that was. With the first show sold out with an almost indecent space they took up the option of a second day and the same thing happened. The club wanted a third but sadly it was not a practical option.  It was a shame in some ways because Cairns is a very nice setting in which to enjoy a short time of rest and recuperation. Another day in that seductive tropical environment would have sat very well indeed with us.

I will however give a special mention to one venue in particular because this was the first time we have performed at the Enmore Theatre in the Newtown district of Sydney, a vibrant and bohemian part of the city with a plethora of fascinating restaurants and shops. The Enmore was built in 1908 and has become one of the foremost stages for rock acts;  despite its ageing façade the amenities backstage for the artistes are very impressive with room to eat, relax and prepare for the concert.

We achieved an excellent attendance of over 900 people and the night was made a little more special by the on stage appearance of Glenn A Baker, the Aussie guru of pop music and I suppose the equivalent of our Paul Gambaccini. He was one of the personalities included in the Rock The Boat Cruise we did out of Brisbane last November.

At the beginning of our set he eulogised about our history, our performances and our status in popular music in a most flattering way and from what I can gather the approval of Mr Baker goes a long way in Australian youth culture.

Phil Hayes did spot one very amusing notice on the wall backstage which seemed quite ironic at a Searchers concert. It stated that there was to be no crowd surfing. And surprise, surprise, there was none.

You might already know that the schedule for the Sixties Gold Tour which begins at the end of September is already on the website. This is to be Gerry Marsden`s last tour as he has been advised to cut down on his activities due to his continuing ill health. I suppose there comes a point for all of us when the body can`t quite cope with the demands of touring.  Because of this I would think that an awful lot of people are going to take the chance to catch Gerry before he retires. It`s going to be an exciting tour and an emotional one.

And that’s about it. I`ll write again when there is more to tell you. See you at a show soon I hope.

Frank Allen
VIA THIS WEBPAGE:   If you would like to ask him a question, which will be answered
by e-mail, and might even appear at the end of a future issue of this newsletter, please
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Question 1:  Back in the 60s all vehicles were a lot smaller than they are now.  How did you all get on transporting your equipment from venue to venue in those days?  I'm sure you wouldn't get all the great equipment you have now into a Ford Thames or a Commer as the vans were so narrow back then.

Answer:   In those days we transported very little of our own equipment. Three amplifiers and a drum kit. We had a very basic PA system consisting of a small amp and a couple of speaker cabinets but most of the time we used in-house systems. The sound must have been awful but of course it would have been awful for everyone else as well.

Question 2:  Why do you encourage people to get up and dance, especially in theatre shows, when they spoil the view for others who have paid good money for a seat.

Answer:    It is of course impossible to please everyone. People have different likes and different requirements and we understand perfectly that in a theatre situation people do not want to spend the evening having to stand up or have their view blocked. And neither do we want to have the controlled environment of a theatre interfered with as it alters the show considerably and not necessarily to the better.

We always try to hold back such crowd involvement until the last three songs in our concerts, but there is no doubt that the majority of our audiences enjoy this last part of the evening where they can build up their excitement level to where they feel they can go home having been lifted into a special kind of atmosphere. We have to try to make sure that everyone is accommodated to the best of our ability. There are many nights when the entire audience without much encouragement at all cannot wait to get on their feet for the last section.
In contrast, a lady came up to me after a concert last year and was most irate because we did not get the audience up dancing throughout our show. I carefully explained that it was not appropriate when others wish to sit and enjoy the music. But she was having none of it and she stormed off complaining that her night had been ruined because they had not been allowed or encouraged to dance all the way through. So you see there are very careful compromises to be made and I feel that the way we handle it is the fair one for everyone.