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Issue 131 written exclusively for The Searchers Official Web Site by Searchers front man Frank Allen

ŠThe Searchers Official Web Site. No unauthorised reproduction

Hello again everyone,

It`s that time again when one year melds into the next and we all start wondering what great changes, either for better or for worse, we are going to find ahead of us. I hope the holiday period will bring you all the joy and fun you wished for and that 2018 will provide you with the health, wealth and happiness that we would all wish for ourselves and for others.

I must say for me I am hoping for better things. 2017 was as near as I wish to get to (I am paraphrasing Her Majesty here) an “annus horribilis”. For both professional and personal reasons it fell far short of being an especially happy period.

Needless to say on a work related front the exhaustion of a particularly hectic Australian tour earlier in the year was followed by a bout of pneumonia for John McNally and then he had the misfortune in late September to suffer a stroke from which he has now mercifully made a complete recovery. I won`t even burden you with any personal issues, mostly about illness in the family, but they were pretty much as depressing as group matters. All in all I am glad to be rid of the past twelve months. Time to look forward I think.

The best news I have to give you is that John McNally has now recovered enough to resume duties with the band. His debut was at the Butlins Sixties Weekend at Skegness on 9 December, where many of our old regulars were there to welcome him back.  The show was pretty much trouble free which is remarkable when you consider that John had not played any of the tunes in a proper situation for almost three months and it doesn`t take long to forget words, choruses and arrangements.

The next day in Stratford on Avon involved a death defying journey to the town through the appalling road conditions caused by the heaviest fall of snow the country had seen in a long long time. The sold-out house was diminished a little by the non-appearance of a number of patrons who found the conditions just too dangerous to take on despite the fact they had booked and paid for their tickets. It was quite understandable and came as no surprise.  But those who braved the treacherous roads gave the band, and John in particular, a rapturous reception. There is no doubt that he had been very much missed.

Thankfully there were some very bright moments to look back on over the past year. In fact for we Searchers at least The Sixties Gold Tour, despite missing the essential element of John, was a joy that started off with concern as to how we could make it through but turned out to be smooth sailing across trouble-free waters from start to finish. And just about all of the venues were packed to the rafters.
Steve Thompson of the Pacemakers accepted the challenge of enrolling as a temporary Searcher with gusto. He stepped into the breach, did his homework diligently and made the whole thing seem effortless. Yes, there was a difference in the sound; not a huge one but obviously it was devoid of that distinctive twelve-string guitar jangle that comes from the McNally amplifier. Steve alas has never found the need to use the instrument and with him being left-handed we were not able not lend him one for the tour.

And if we could have got hold of a left handed guitar (rare items in the guitar world and almost non-existent in the 12 string department) it would have required a fair amount of practice to handle one safely in front of an audience. The tuning is exactly the same as a standard guitar and the chords are the same shape. That`s fine if you just want to simply strum a pleasant jangly embellishment through the songs but to use it to its best effect one has to accurately pick out riffs and arpeggios, the Walk In The Room riff springs to mind, at which point it takes a considerable time to grow accustomed to the wholly different spacing of the strings. Not insurmountable or complicated but it takes time to acquire a natural technique. In the end the compromise we attained was a more than satisfactory solution to what could have been a disastrous dilemma.

So, getting back to John, he is back in the fold at last and more or less back to normal and fighting fit although still feeling fatigued more than previously. For the initial return dates he acquired the assistance of his son John Junior who flew over from his home in France to temporarily take over the driving duties. The okay has being given for John to drive but in practical terms he has to build up his strength first.

Sitting at home doing very little was driving John mad. He is a workaholic and kept telling me he was bored. I asked him if he would rather be bored or dead and he had to agree that the analogy was very pertinent. We all decided he should have a good long rest to make sure he was back to full fitness.  There was no rush. Steve was available with only a couple of exceptions, to the end of the year. Amazingly John took our advice and now, with the trial gigs successfully completed he is back in the line-up to the delight of our followers. Thank you Steve, you were terrific, and welcome home John.


Staying with the tour for a bit, the poor Tremeloes went through some quite hairy moments with Brian Poole, Chip Hawkes and Dave Munden all suffering from a variety of ailments which resulted in every one of them taking time off during the run. In fact we were never sure what combination of Trems were going appear from one night to another.

We started with Dave withdrawing for a few days due to a urinary infection and then all three taking a break because of a strong bout of flu. Mick Clark of the Rubettes was on permanent standby to deputise for whichever Tremelo was not able to perform. Sometimes we had three on stage, though not necessarily the trio that started the tour. At other times it was perm any two from three. And towards the end of the voyage the audience were presented with a four man Tremeloes with Mr Clark augmenting Poole, Hawkes and Munden. Quite bizarre but it certainly left us on our toes.

Gerry of course has come through a very bad period of illness and had to withdraw at various points. Indeed he was unable to perform during the last two weekends. The Fortunes turned out to dep for The Trems at The Indigo while The Merseybeats were recruited for a few nights in place of Mr Marsden.
Steve Ellis, a terrific performer, still in great physical shape and a thoroughly nice guy, turned up without fail and the audiences just loved him. Vanity Fare too were there for every concert and provided excellent backing to The Tremeloes and to Steve as well as reproducing their own hits to perfection. And Steve presented me, for no apparent reason, with a brand new denim jacket. What a nice guy.

There was a very nice surprise at the very end of the tour when the whole cast, at least those who were still standing and present, assembled in the canteen of The Grand Theatre, Leeds, to receive tokens of appreciation from the promoters.  In past years such things have been very basic and took the form of perhaps a bottle of wine or a framed flyer. Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick but perhaps not exactly riches beyond your wildest dreams or suitable thanks for a strenuous bout of touring. This year however the scale of the reward had been raised considerably.

The piles of large boxes which had been piled into the room contained extremely elegant wicker hampers stuffed with a selection of very acceptable goodies. White wine, red wine, Christmas cake, posh preserves and other delicacies to tickle the taste buds. Well done Robert Pratt, Alan Field and Mark Howes. And much appreciated.

Appreciation also goes to tour manager John Craig who coped with all the dramas with quiet efficiency and aplomb. And as we were the closing act on all the shows apart from Liverpool and Glasgow he took special care to ensure that our needs were met, particularly in matters of parking at the venues. 

And if we are thanking John Craig I guess there is another John who deserves a mention too. Our very own back-line roadie John Semark took over tour manager duties for five days due to prior commitments for John Craig. And a brilliant job he made of it too, an opinion endorsed by so many of the cast and crew. Roadie, driver, embryo drummer, painter and decorator, tour manager.  Is there no end to his talents?

We`d better not forget a mention of Phil Hayes. He may have stuck to his designated job as our sound man but that is one of the most important elements of a Searchers show and he does it magnificently. Always calm. Always efficient. No fuss. We never have to worry about a thing with Phil in charge.


The news of a compilation of the now legendary 1979/80 Sire sessions was being issued by an American label called Omnivore was indeed welcomed by Searchers fans. We were not at all sure whether or not it would be available in the UK but eventually it was included on the lists at Amazon.
Tim Viney naturally placed his order very speedily but after a while received the news that it not coming after all. That was disappointing to say the least but then came some rather better tidings. Others who had placed order were told that although there would be a delay their copies would be delivered by December 21st. Let`s just hope that is the case. Believe me those recordings are well worth having in your collections.

They demonstrate the musical potential that was sadly hidden away and which, if taken advantage of in that 1966-67 period when we had somehow strayed from the path that led to the charts, would have elevated the band and established its true position in the hierarchy of pop music around the globe. A lost opportunity for sure but at least the evidence is out there again for all to see, to listen to and to enjoy.

For those of you who got the sessions first time round your little treat in this collection is the inclusion of Ambulance Chaser, a John Hiatt song that never made to the original release. The odd thing is that I seem to recall it didn`t make the final list because it wasn`t up to par but on this latest hearing I really liked it. Perhaps it could have done with a few finishing touches but even so it`s a good track and performed well. I think my powers of recollection have faded somewhat because I always had it in my mind that some brass instruments had been added but I heard none when I played it in the car. So it`s either my memory playing tricks or they removed those parts from the master tape. I think we can take it that the fault lies with this deteriorating brain of mine rather than any subsequent remix.


I`m almost at the end but as it is the close of another year in Searcherland I want to express our usual thanks to Wendy Burton, Gary Jackson and Tim Viney who slave away to get the information to you and make sure our profile in the world of entertainment is maintained. You do a marvellous job on our behalf and it wouldn`t be the same without your input.
So, do try to get to one of our shows in the near future, especially to welcome back John McNally and to show him how much you have missed him. And here`s to a happy and successful new year to you all,

Frank Allen

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