|~ Goodbye Chris Curtis Hello Johnny Blunt~
By now the group’s clean cut image seemed incongruous beside the likes of The Stones, The Kinks and of course the public’s fascination with the Liverpool Sound was on the wane, virtually all of the Group’s, with the notable exception of the “Beatles”, who shot to fame on the strength of the “Merseybeat” phenomenon, were now desperately trying to find another hit.
December 65 saw The Searchers swansong, at least in terms of Top 20 chart success, with the excellent “Take Me For What I’m Worth” peaking on the bottom rung. The same month saw the release of the album of the same name. For me, this is the best album they recorded during the PYE years and the track “Each Time” was in the same vein as “When You Walk in the Room” and should have been the next single. It was later to emerge though, that this album had been recorded some 5 months previous to release, so in theory “Take Me” could have been released as a single before or instead of “When I get Home”.
1966 saw Chris Curtis leave “The Searchers”, Frank Allen’s book “Travelling Man” implies that his behaviour had become intolerable to the other band members and that basically he’d “Lost the Plot”.
In came John Blunt on drums, who to me never seemed to fit in.
This year saw the band release two singles, both releases having been written by other Groups. “Take It Or Leave It” having been written by Jagger and Richard of “The Stones” and “Have you ever Loved Somebody” by “The Hollies”. Both were excellent singles but the former peaked chartwise at number 31 and despite the fact that the band were able to promote “Have You” on a primetime TV show of the time “Deetime” it proved to be the last ever chart single for the band scraping in at number 48.
In a ironic twist however a rival version of the song was released by Paul and Barry Ryan, the latter of whom was to later have a number one with a single here in England, which became a classic “Eloise”, I say ironic because the producer of their version was none other than Chris Curtis.
PYE persevered with “The Searchers” and three singles were released in 67, “Popcorn Double Feature” a statement type song again, great sound, but 34 years on and still I have not got a clue what it was about.
“Western Union” had been a hit for “The Five Americans” in the states and “The Searchers “ cover version was great but getting radio airplay for the band’s songs was now proving difficult, coupled with the fact that the cleancut, matching suits image of the band was now “Old Hat”, after all, Flowerpower, Hendrix, Cream and “Sergeant Pepper” had arrived.
November saw the band’s final PYE release “Second Hand Dealer” a self-penned number by Pender/Allen or Pender/McNally according to the actual single and I have a sneaking suspicion that the “Searchers” only contributed vocals on the recording. However the “B” side “Crazy Dreams” (again a self penned number) was just different enough and more in keeping with the spirit of the times, to have been a hit.
It was probably something of a shock to the band, not to have their recording contract renewed by PYE. The days of the “Pop Package Type Tours” were on the wane and by mid 67 the band were onto the mostly northern cabaret circuit. 1967 was in fact the first time I actually got to see the band play live and it came as somewhat of a surprise to me, to find that Frank Allen was the frontman, namely because the band were and still are I believe synonymous with Liverpool and I expected Pender or McNally to be the voice of the group. Clearly however the cabaret scene was a new experience no doubt and supposedly they all had a go initially and Frank Allen emerged as a natural to some degree.
It was at this venue that I realised John Blunt’s days in the band were numbered, during one number in a fit of what can only be described as a fit of pique, he kicked his bass drum over, Frank made a joke of it, but you could see in his face, he was thinking PLONKER!
Part Two: 1968 - 1989
Submitted July 4, 2001
© 1991-2001 Roy Clough. All rights reserved.