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
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 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.