Rock Hall of Fame Searching for Troggs & Zombies?

The Searchers

The Searchers, with their jangly guitars & close harmonies, were British royalty


(No. 46 in a continuing series on artists who should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but are not)

By Phill Marder


Part 2 of the English Invasion leftovers, for want of a better term, brings us three more bands considered great by some, marginal by others.

They all had their moments. The question is, were there enough moments to merit induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

4. The Searchers – Their website refers to them as “the most underrated British band to emerge during the Merseybeat era.” But those who listened closely – The Byrds, for instance – loved the sound of those jangly guitars and spectacular harmonies.

“Their 1964 singles included a venture into folk-rock before the genre had been “invented” in the press, in the form of a cover of Malvina Reynolds’ “What Have They Done to the Rain.” Interestingly, their 12-string guitar sound would become a key ingredient in the success of the Byrds, who even took the riff from “Needles and Pins” and transformed it into the main riff of “Feel a Whole Lot Better,” wrote Bruce Eder at allmusicguide.com.

Hailing from Liverpool, the Searchers, Tony Jackson then Frank Allen on bass, Chris Curtis, drums, and Mike Pender and John McNally on guitars were, of course, overshadowed by another group from the area, but their success cannot be overlooked.

In the United Kingdom, three of their first four singles hit No. 1 with their second single just missing, stopping in the runner-up slot. The initial hit, “Sweets For My Sweet,” was a remake of the Drifters’ 1961 hit. Ironically, it did not even chart in the United States as the group’s releases were often entirely different between the two countries.

But the group’s third hit and second British No. 1 finally broke the band stateside when the Sonny Bono/Jack Nitzsche-penned “Needles & Pins” climbed to No. 13 a couple months after peaking in the UK. This recording, of course, became the Searchers’ trademark hit and one of the most remembered British Invasion classics.

Amazingly, many in the US don’t remember much else by the band, though “Don’t Throw Your Love Away,” another British No. 1, “Some Day We’re Gonna Love Again,” “When You Walk In The Room,” the aforementioned “What Have They Done To The Rain” and “Bumble Bee” all cracked the US Top 40.

Their biggest success, however, came at the close of 1964 when their cover of the Clovers’ 1959 classic, “Love Potion No. 9” soared to No. 3. This gem and “Bumble Bee” didn’t even chart in the UK, where “Goodbye My Love,” “He’s Got No Love” and “Take Me For What I’m Worth – all stiffs in the U.S. – were all major U.K. hits in 1965.

And while the group was not known for its albums, four climbed into the British top 10. And their 1965 release, “The Searchers No. 4” in the U.S., was one of the British Invasion’s unsung gems, mixing sterling originals with Ian Tyson’s “Four Strong Winds,“ Marvin Gaye’s “I’ll Be Doggone,“ the Ronettes “Be My Baby” and Jackie DeShannon’s “Each Time,“ those fantastic harmonies cutting through a previously unheard of maze of fuzz tones and echo. Put their successes together, and the Searchers had quite a track record over a two-year period. When Curtis left, the band’s success waned, but the group has played steadily over the years and continues today with McNally and Allen still in the fold.

But perhaps the band’s most significant statement came long after their heyday with the 1979 album “The Searchers” followed by 1981’s “Love’s Melodies.”

Eder wrote, “Those records, ‘The Searchers’ and ‘Love’s Melodies,’ were the best work the group ever did, highlighted by achingly beautiful yet vibrant and forceful playing and singing, and an unerring array of memorable hooks and melodies.

“The material is some of the most beautiful recorded anywhere in this era, and anyone lucky enough to spot a copy of either of these records — neither of which has yet shown up on compact disc — should grab them.”

Naturally, they bombed. But today both albums are available on one CD entitled the “Sire Sessions: Rockfield Recordings.“

Phill’s Hall of Fame – Oh Yes !
Chances for Rock Hall of Fame induction – Hopefully, next Invasion group in line

The Troggs

Punk bands of the ’70s had nothing on The Troggs, who set the standard for Raunch & Roll

5. The Troggs – Signed by Larry Page, the Kinks’ manager, in 1964, the Troggs often are overlooked when it comes to evaluating the great bands of the British Invasion.

Their breakthrough hit, the incomparable “Wild Thing,” didn’t come until the Summer of 1966, the very tail end of the initial British onslaught. Grinding its way to No. 1 in the states, the song became such a classic that the Troggs became pegged as one-hit wonders, much like the Kingsmen, who started with “Louie, Louie” and the McCoys, who broke out of the pack with “Hang On Sloopy.”

When a band starts off with a recording of that magnitude, what follows is often forgotten and, in the case of those three bands, a lot followed. One hit wonders, no way.

In fact, the flip side of “Wild Thing,” “With A Girl Like You,” also charted, reaching No. 29. But in the Troggs’ homeland, “Wild Thing” stopped at No. 2 while “With A Girl Like You” topped the charts two months later!

The Troggs’ first two singles were entirely opposite, a pattern the group’s releases followed throughout their peak period. The raunchy “I Can’t Control Myself” (need I describe further?) was followed by the soft ballad “Any Way That You Want Me,” which gave way to “Give It To Me” (need I describe further?), then the mystical “Night Of The Long Grass,” all major hits in the U.K. without making a dent in the U.S. probably due to two factors, the lack of U.S. touring and a dispute over distribution rights between two labels, both of which issued Troggs’ product in the U.S.

While the Troggs didn’t write “Wild Thing,” they did compose much of their other material, but self-penned or not they had an ear for real oddball LP tracks, “Cousin Jane” “Strange Movies” and “Hi Hi Hazel” for instance. And bone crunchers, such as “I Want You,” so raw even a caveman could dig it,, helped make their two albums great listening.

In 1968, “Love Is All Around” became another Top 10 classic on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Stooges? The Ramones? The Clash? The Sex Pistols? All these bands are in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But the Troggs were as punk as punk gets, and they were punk at a time when it really was dangerous to be punk, some of their nastiest singles banned in several quarters.

They could play, they could write and they could incite.

Phill’s Hall of Fame – Yes…or else.
Chances for Rock Hall of Fame induction – not too good.

The Zombies
The Zombies were not big sellers, but their few hits made a major impact

6. The Zombies – Currently touring once more, The Zombies have fanatical followers who scream for their induction into the Hall of Fame. But, truth be told, The Zombies had little impact during their time except for a trio of fantastic singles.

In fact, in their homeland only one record ever charted, the single “She’s Not There,” which stalled at No. 12.

It did much better in the States, climbing to No. 2 with the follow-up, “Tell Her No,” getting to No. 6. Four years later, “Time Of The Season” made it to No. 3, but by then The Zombies already had broken up. Their ‘60s albums charted in the U.S. only, but never got close to being called hits, though “Odessey and Oracle” was a true masterpiece.

Albums released later, including one released in May, featured different combinations of members and failed to make any chart impact.

And there lies the dilemma of The Zombies. I have just about everything they recorded and love most of it. I bought their albums when they were released and they quickly became favorites. Obviously, I was in the minority.

Part of the group’s problem was a lack of exposure that resulted in a missing focal point. While most can tell you Peter Noone was the lead singer of Herman’s Hermits, Eric Burdon led the Animals, Mick captained the Stones, Gerry fronted the Pacemakers, Freddie did likewise with The Dreamers, Billy Joe Kramer was the voice of the Dakotas, etc., only real fans would be capable of naming Colin Blunstone lead singer of the Zombies, even though he was one of the Invasion’s most distinctive vocalists. Rod Argent? Again, the very knowledgeable know him, the average person wouldn’t have a clue.

The critics do, though. Richie Unterberger of allmusicguide.com wrote, “Aside from the Beatles and perhaps the Beach Boys, no mid-’60s rock group wrote melodies as gorgeous as those of the Zombies. Dominated by Colin Blunstone’s breathy vocals, choral backup harmonies, and Rod Argent’ shining jazz- and classical-influenced organ and piano, the band sounded utterly unique for their era.”

The Zombies seem to have perfect credentials for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame…not many sales, not many followers, but a small, select group that thinks they were fabulous and the passage of time which makes them seem much more important than they were, which they should have been.

Phill’s Hall of Fame – Certainly.
Chances for Rock Hall of Fame induction – Very much alive.

3 thoughts on “Rock Hall of Fame Searching for Troggs & Zombies?

  1. The link to the Gold mine article was forwarded to us and I`d just like to thank the lobbyists for their faith and support. The years have flown by amazingly and to think it will be 50 years next year (48 for me) since the group chucked in their jobs and ferried over to Hamburg to play at the Star Club which is where I met them.

    I was still one of Cliff Bennett`s Rebel Rousers at the time we hooked up over there.Tony Jackson was on bass at the time and it was a year till I (Frank Allen) would take over from him.Chris Curtis was on drums. Mike Pender shared vocals with Tony. John McNally was on rhythm and still owns and operates the band along with myself today, although these days he has transformed himself into an excellent lead player and a master of the 12 string guitar.

    It`s nice to think that in time our turn may come but we`re philosophical about it and not holding our breath. There are plenty of other outfits in the line, you`ve already mentioned two of the best. The Zombies were our support on a number of tours in the U.K and The States way back and Colin Blunstone`s voice was always magical. And everything written about the Troggs is correct. Punk before punk without a doubt. Good luck to both of them.

    I noted that the piece refers to Bruce Eder who happened to be the guy who gave us the best review of our lives following our 80s appearance at the Bitter End (or The Other End as they had temporarily renamed it). The headline was ONE OF THE GREAT SHOWS – EVER. It then went on with such a mass of embarrassing but welcome praise that you`d have thought he was in our employ. Thank you once again Bruce.

    Who knows who The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame will eventually induct. They have a hard task and they are in a no win situation. We can only wait and hope. Chris and Tony passed on a few years ago and are sadly missed. We are, I`m afraid, very much estranged from Mike following harrowing court cases and there is no prospect of any rapprochment despite what those ardent Searchers devotees might wish. John McNally and myself have continued to operate The Searchers continually week after week, year after year (we play around 190 shows a year) because we love it. And as far as can see at this point in time we will continue to do so.

    Frank Allen
    Bass player and front man with The Searchers.

    Frank-Many thanks for the nice letter & for years of great listening.-Phill

  2. I sincerely hope the Hall inducts the Searchers promptly, but like Frank says, I won’t hold my breath either. They were one of the greatest, most influential groups to come out of the ‘British Invasion’, bar none. Garage bands coast to coast in America, including mine, made youthful attempts to recreate their records, but they were so finely crafted and gorgeous that only real players could come close to pulling it off. “Close, but no cigar…” Yes indeed, the Byrds, Love, The Leaves’ “Hey Joe”, and so many others owe their entire rhythm guitar trademark style to the guitar figure in “Needles & Pins” and other early Searchers tracks. Like many other British bands, The Hollies & Zombies come to mind, the Searchers were masters at finding obscure American recordings and turning them on their head, making them pure and permanent SEARCHERS records, such as “Don’t Throw Your Love Away”, originally a buried B-side by The Orlons. I saw the Searchers in 1989 at a workingman’s hall outside London, and they were wonderful still, in every way. John McNally is well & truly the master of the 12-string and their vocals had only become smoother, if that’s possible. The Hall Of Fame has a long track record of ignoring the obvious, however. The Dave Clark Five in 1964 & 1965 were arguably as important as The Beatles in America, and served to permanently blaze that trail for so many other British bands and laid the foundation for bombastic heavy rock, yet the Hall unforgivably waited decades to acknowledge them and by the time they did Mike Smith & Dennis Payton were gone. Chris Curtis & Tony Jackson are already gone. Let’s hope the Searchers aren’t inducted posthumously, it would be hypocritical in the extreme, like much of the activity in the Hall where inductions are concerned. Long live The Searchers.

  3. The Searchers deserve to be in the rock and roll hall of fame. Their influence on others has been phenomenal and the twelve string guitar playing if John McNally deserves to be recognised. The Searchers were then and still are one of the best live bands of the 1960s

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