The Searchers News

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Issue 129 written exclusively for The Searchers Official Web Site by Searchers front man Frank Allen

©The Searchers Official Web Site. No unauthorised reproduction

Hello again,

It`s always nice when someone comes up to me after a show and says how much they enjoy these once-in-a-while newsletters. For my part it`s not so much what`s in them as rather letting you all know that we appreciate you and trying to show that we are very much involved in the relationship with our audience and are more than happy to play our part. As they say, it takes two to tango and the amount of effort, not to mention expense, that you put in by trudging all the way to our concerts is amazing.  It was summed up in the nicest way recently when a gentleman came up to me in the foyer one night and followed his thanks by saying that it was like having a pen friend. I considered that a wonderful compliment indeed.

Since the last time I wrote we have all enjoyed our annual holiday break although for some the pleasure was just not to go anywhere but simply to chill out at home and enjoy the family and give them the attention they deserve for once.

Scott`s hiatus was definitely the most notable in that he grabbed the chance to get married. And I do mean grab because here in Searcherland the only excuse for not being available is death. It`s a very romantic story in fact.

His fiancée Sam was a childhood sweetheart, a romance which somehow fizzled out as they grew up and went their separate ways. But somehow they managed to connect again in recent years and amazingly the old spark was still there. (Excuse me while I get a bit emotional here and wipe away a tear. I may seem a bit cold at times believe me, underneath this icy exterior beats a heart of pure granite!).

Their honeymoon took in a couple of nights in Las Vegas staying at the Treasure Island Hotel. Scott had such a terrific time in Sin City when The Searchers performed there a couple of years back that he wanted to return and show Sam the town. From there they travelled on to Barbados, a destination just made for those who are young and in love.
Back in the eighties I had also holidayed in Barbados with my ladyfriend Lee staying at the luxurious Glitter Bay Hotel. We were no longer young and by that time we had definitely got over all the mushy stuff so the romantic vibe was completely wasted on us but it`s a beautiful island without a doubt.

For my break this year I jetted off to Canada to stay with my friends Barbara and Caroline in London, Ontario, and had a most relaxing stay. The journey out was extra comfortable because, like last year’s flight to New York, I opted to fly First Class. Believe me, as a child of Scottish parents such profligacy does not sit easily but I`ve decided to lash out in my old age. It`s about time I spent some of my ill-gotten gains.

I can`t report anything exciting. Most afternoons were spent with Barb and I playing the board game Rumikub in the back yard of Caroline`s lovely condominium while red cardinal birds flitted between trees. There were plenty of dinners to go to in the evenings and plenty of spritzers waiting for me back at the house afterwards, with fireflies lighting up the garden like sparks rising up from the embers of a fire. I have made a lot of friends there over the years and it was nice to catch up. I even enjoyed an evening of bluegrass music in the grounds of a tiny country church.

Sound man Phil Hayes zoomed off to his favourite city New York (it`s mine too) and made the most of his time which included a 25 kilometre bike ride round Central Park, a walk on the High Line which is a defunct overhead railway that has been turned into a tourist route, and of course a visit to the art galleries.

As Phil was flying out at more or less the same time as me I managed to have him join me in the First Class Concorde Lounge at Heathrow. And I was pleased that Phil managed to shed his ultra left wing principles for a wee while and just enjoy the decadent splendour of the surroundings. But of course Phil is Phil - with complimentary champagne and a gourmet three course meal on offer he opted for a coffee and a sausage sandwich.

Back line roadie John Semark went for Orlando, Florida, in the company of his mum, his younger daughter Carrie and her boyfriend Ryan. They had rented a villa for the stay and most days were spent taking on the hairiest rides of Disneyworld. It is so nice to see John taking such good care of his mother who is wheelchair bound these days and who would be quite isolated without him taking on the task of making sure she is looked after.  Full marks to him for that.

As an extra treat he was able to catch up with Chubby Checker`s drummer Harry and his wife who came down to stay with them for a couple of days. John had palled up with a few of the Chubster`s band during the Rock The Boat cruise we did out of Brisbane last year and had kept in touch ever since.

Needless to say John McNally managed to avoid any travel whatsoever during our two weeks off. His idea of a holiday is up a ladder painting the window frames or cleaning out the gutters. Well, each to his own. And Spencer also opted for a staycation when he discovered that his young daughter Savannah was not at all bothered about a trip to Disneyworld which had been mooted.

This year has really flown by at a most alarming speed and at the time of writing we are only a  hop skip and a jump away from the Sixties Gold Tour which starts on the last day of September. As you will be aware by this time, it is officially Gerry Marsden`s farewell tour. Will it really be the last? Or is he going to do a Frank Sinatra? How many final tours did Old Blue Eyes take on?

Whether it`s the love of the music or the addiction to the applause that the audience heaps on you every few minutes it is hard for a dyed in the wool performer to give up entirely. We`ll just wait and see. But just in case it really is the end you had better get your tickets now and catch him while you can. In fact that goes for all of us. There will come a time when the touring has to stop. Perhaps it will cease to be enjoyable any more or it may be forced upon us when our bodies just refuse to function.

Maybe those of you who live to the East or South East of London should try to get to the O2 Indigo at Greenwich on Sunday October 22nd. The O2 has become the premier concert destination in the capital and although we are not playing the vast arena which has a capacity of 20,000 the smaller Indigo seating a little over 1,600 is apparently a superb hall. The size should suit our audience perfectly and one can still enjoy the other facilities in the marvellous complex. I went there to catch one of Cliff`s concerts a few years back (in the main hall of course) and was amazed at the variety of eateries where you could relax, drink and dine before the show. Every kind of food is available in the seemingly endless stretch of restaurants which circle the main hall. The Docklands Light Railway takes you right to the door and if you feel adventurous or romantic you can even get there by river taxi.
This is the first time we will have performed at The Indigo and it will be very interesting indeed to find out if it is the right setting for our kind of entertainment. I have a feeling it most definitely will.

Referring once again to our frequent trips to Australia and my mentions of the extremely long flights out there and back, I thought you might like to see an old black & white photo of John and myself snoozing on the journey back from our very first tour there way back in 1964. I think the flight then was in the region of thirty six hours. I may be a little out there but it certainly makes the ordeal today pale into almost insignificance by comparison. By the way, the photo was taken by Peter Asher of Peter & Gordon.

We get a fair amount of requests for Till I Met You, the lovely song penned by John McNally that was relegated to the B-side of Goodbye My Love and it looks like it is back in the show at last. By the time you read this we should have re-learned it and found a space in our already overcrowded set list. I hope that pleases many of you. And other changes are due as and when we can get in to have some rehearsal time. That brings another problem in itself in what has to be removed from the set list to make way. It`s never easy.

During the setting-up time at The White Rock Theatre in Hastings recently John and I were filmed as ‘talking heads’ for a new documentary DVD about the early days of the Mersey Sound both in the UK and in Hamburg where so many Scouse musicians had found a new appreciation for their skills at The Star Club in St Pauli.

As I was not involved in those very early embryonic days in the Pool being a namby pamby Southerner who infiltrated The Searchers when they were already at their peak in the summer of 1964, my recollections were in the main based around the German experience where I played with Cliff Bennett`s Rebel Rousers and where I first became friends with John, Mike, Chris and Tony.

Oddly enough it was with The Rebel Rousers and not The Searchers that I got to play The Cavern and The Iron Door in Liverpool. Both experiences were a little disappointing for us. The Iron Door gig came as part of a short Northern tour during which our hired van broke down several times. And one of those breakdowns was on the way to the famous club that was considered the home of The Searchers.  We arrived somewhat late but eventually got our stuff sorted and did our usual show. But the Scouse scallys who ran the place took advantage of our misfortunes and refused to pay us citing our late arrival as justification. It was hardly justified. They lost nothing and instead profited handsomely from our unpaid fee.

There were no such financial or logistical problems on the day we performed at The Cavern but the ever changing temperature in the dank basement played havoc with the tuning of our dual saxes resulting in a few unplanned pauses for adjustment. On top of that the audience, heavily populated by the groups we had made friends with in Hamburg, was arranged for whatever reason on very neatly aligned benches in front of the stage in a slightly formal manner which was not conducive to a great atmosphere. All in all it was okay but not the high point we were hoping for. Ah well, some you win etc……

It was in the Grosse Freiheit that I first became aware of the amazing music scene that existed on Merseyside. Up to that point the city was just a name on a map to me and of no great importance whatsoever. How wrong I was. The whole country soon learnt that the group scene there with its own ratings poll of local artistes and its own music paper, Merseybeat, had a uniqueness and a vibrancy that London did not.

The working title of the DVD is Made On Merseyside and sounds like an absolute must for all devotees of the genre. I have no idea when it will be released. That title may not remain. As I said it is just in use for now and the final product may well have a different title entirely.   The company involved is the same one that produced a Dusty DVD a couple of years ago to which I contributed a few memories of a great friend, a superb talent and a truly lovely person. If I get any more information on when it will hit the stores or become available for download I`ll let you know.

The World Wide Web still seems like of those things that happened just a few years ago but Wendy Burton pointed out to me that our website has actually just passed its twentieth birthday although not quite in the same format that we have now.

Gary Jackson, who does all the clever things to put on line the information and photos etc that Wendy and I pass on to him, already had his My Generation site up and running when Wendy first encountered him on the Isle Of Wight Ferry in July 1997  They were of course both on their way to a Searchers concert. Gary had already established a Searchers page on his site and the meeting of these two great minds gave rise to a separate, and badly needed, Searchers internet magazine of their own. And boy hasn`t it grown over the years. Congratulations and thanks are certainly due to Gary and Wendy.

Just to tail things off here`s a clip from an Italian television show, Studio Uno, which we appeared on in Rome, 1966. I hope you enjoy it.
All the best from us
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
e-mail it to:

Question 1:  How does your stage volume today compare with that of past decades? 
Answer:   It is much louder because of the higher levels and quality of sound available now.. Back then nothing was mic`d up. We were never a loud band but these days even we are much louder. Because of the enhanced quality and hopefully excellent work by pur sound engineer, Phil Hayes, it is altogether a better experience for the listener.

Question 2:    With all your international travelling, do the changes in humidity adversely affect the guitar necks? 
Answer:  Guitars in the holds of a plane (especially the 12-string) have to have the strings slackened beforehand because the temperature tightens and breaks them. Alternately a hot climate will loosen strings and so the tuning before and even during a show has to be carefully monitored..

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