SIXTIES legends The Searchers are coming to Weymouth Pavilion next week. Joanna Davis spoke to front man and bass player Frank Allen about a music career spanning 50 years, his gratitude to the Fab Four, and never really getting to know Weymouth...
THE Searchers were part of the Merseybeat scene and emerged alongside The Beatles, the Hollies and Gerry and the Pacemakers.
They recorded hits such as When You Walk in the Room, Sugar and Spice and remade The Drifters’ 1961 hit Sweets for My Sweet.
Frank joined the group in 1964 after leaving Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers.
He said The Searchers’ longevity as a group is down to band members’ good health and the enthusiastic and loyal following that makes it a financially feasible possibility.
Frank said: “Most of all it is the absolute love of what we do.
“It is a long time since I have had to perform because of the need for money.
“Retirement is usually anticipated because it gives you the chance to do the things you love and never had enough time for.
“What we love is what we are doing now so retirement seems fairly pointless.”
The explosion of Merseybeat music in the 1960s, a sound emerging from Liverpool, saw skiffle groups turning to rock and roll.
Frank said: “But then I never saw the Mersey phenomenon having the incredible impact it did.
“When Epstein said The Beatles would be bigger than Elvis I thought he was mad. How wrong I was. It is because of The Fab Four that all the others like ourselves got the chance and took it. We should thank them every day of our lives.”
Although the sound has changed over the years, the spirit and essence of the Searchers remains, Frank said.
“To alleviate any boredom for both ourselves and the audience we occasionally insert new material into our set and to keep up with the time our playing has had to progress and improve.
“And even when we perform our old songs the style changes to a degree. No one stays the same forever.
“But I think we have maintained the spirit and essence of The Searchers. Our fans seem to approve anyway,” he said.
Band members are showing no signs of slowing down just yet, with The Searchers freshly returned from a tour of New Zealand.
Frank said: “Strangely enough none of us seem to have any trouble with that long 24-hour flight to New Zealand and Australia.
“I know many who absolutely quake at the thought, but we seem to cope.
“We could of course say no more than we do and maybe we will start dong that. It might be time to slow down a little. We keep up an incredibly hectic schedule.”
The group’s longevity means that dozens of artists have recorded cover versions of their hits over the years, including Cher and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Frank said: “It is hard to make an absolute choice about my favourite but Paul Carrack’s version of When You Walk In The Room would be my pick of the bunch.”
This isn’t the first time The Searchers have performed in Weymouth, but the group’s commitments mean they have rarely had time to explore the resort.
Frank said: “I remember performing here when I was with Cliff Bennett and The Rebel Rousers in the early sixties, but we only know the town on a superficial level. Once we arrive we are busy doing sound checks, feeding or resting.
“And when the show is over we are in our cars and on to the Travelodge or perhaps home.”
Spontaneity is missing from the music industry today, Frank said.
He said: “We play completely live as did all of our contemporaries and there is so little of that now.
“Things can and do go wrong and that is how live music should be. It should be fun, instant and a little bit dangerous.
“We’re also very naive and innocent in our appearance. The whole industry is sexualised to an intense and probably unhealthy degree.
“I suppose looking back to our decade is the antidote to that. I don’t begrudge today’s stars their success, though. We had ours and now it’s their turn.”
The Weymouth concert will be ‘fun, packed with hits and value for money’, Frank said.
“Ourselves and Gerry and the Pacemakers have been around the block more than a few times and it is amazing to think that people still flock to the shows but I’m glad they do.
“There’s still a bit left in us yet. The end may be coming but it’s not in sight yet.”
l The Searchers are at Weymouth Pavilion on August 28 at 7.30pm.