Artist: The Searchers

Needles and Pins ~ The Searchers

The Searchers are a British rock band who emerged as part of the 1960s merseybeat scene along with The Beatles, The Swinging Blue Jeans, and Gerry and the Pacemakers.

Originally founded as a skiffle group in Liverpool in 1959 by John McNally and Mike Pender, the band took their name from the classic 1956 John Wayne western The Searchers. Pender claims that the name was his idea, but McNally ascribes it to ‘Big Ron’ Woodbridge, their first lead singer. The genesis remains unresolved.

The band grew out of an earlier skiffle group formed by McNally in 1957, with his friends Brian Dolan (guitar) and Tony West. When the other two members lost interest McNally was joined by his guitarist neighbor Mike Prendergast. They soon recruited Tony Jackson  with his home-made bass guitar and amplifier, who was recruited as a lead singer, but took a back seat at first in order to learn the bass. The band styled themselves as ‘Tony and the Searchers’ with Joe Kelly on drums. Kelly soon left to be replaced by Norman McGarry, and it is this line-up – McNally, Pender (as he soon became known), Jackson and McGarry – that is usually cited as the original foursome.

McGarry did not stay long, however, and in 1960 his place was taken by Chris Crummey (26 August 1941 — 28 February 2005), who later changed his name to Chris Curtis. Later that year Big Ron had a successful audition with Mecca and became a ballroom singer. He was replaced by Billy Beck, who changed his name to Johnny Sandon. The band had regular bookings at Liverpool’s Iron Door Club as ‘Johnny Sandon and the Searchers’.

Sandon left the band in late 1961 to join The Remo Four in February 1962. The group settled into a quartet ‘The Searchers’ with Jackson becoming the main vocalist. They continued to play at the Iron Door, The Cavern, and other Liverpool clubs. Like many similar acts they would do as many as three shows at different venues in one night. They negotiated a contract with the Star-Club in the St. Pauli district Hamburg for 128 days, with three one-hour performances a night, starting in July 1962.

The band returned to a residency at the Iron Door Club and it was there that they tape-recorded the sessions that led to a Pye Records recording contract with Tony Hatch as producer. Their first single was issued in US on Mercury, the second on Liberty without success and then a deal was arranged with U.S. based Kapp Records to distribute their records in America. Their first album, sung mostly by Jackson Meet the Searchers was released in August 1963, and reached number 2 on the British album charts by the next month. A slightly changed version of it, including the song “Needles and Pins” hit #22 in the US album charts in June 1964.

Hatch played piano on some recordings and wrote “Sugar and Spice”-the band’s UK number 2 hit record-under the pseudonym Fred Nightingale; a secret he kept from the band at the time.

After scoring with their hit “Needles and Pins”, bassist Tony Jackson, who was only allowed one lead vocal on their second album, left the band and was replaced by Hamburg pal Frank Allen from Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers.

Chris Curtis, who had song-writing ambitions, left the band in 1966 and was replaced by the Keith Moon-influenced John Blunt, who in turn was replaced by Billy Adamson in 1970. In 1967, Curtis formed a new band called Roundabout with keyboard player Jon Lord and guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. Although Curtis’s involvement in the project was short-lived, Roundabout would eventually evolve into Deep Purple the following year.

As musical styles evolved, the Searchers could not keep up and as a result, the hits ran out. While they continued to record for Liberty Records and RCA Records, they ended up on the British “Chicken in a Basket” circuit, although they did score a minor US hit in 1971 with “Desdemona”.

The group continued to tour through the 1970s and were rewarded in 1979 when Sire Records signed the band to a multi-record deal. Two albums were released: The Searchers and Play for Today (retitled Love’s Melodies outside the UK). Both records garnered critical acclaim but did not break into the charts. They did, however, revive the group’s career.

According to John McNally, the band were ready to head into the studio to record a third album for Sire when they were informed that due to label reorganization, their contract had been dropped. It was, in fact, because so few people bought the second album, although it was beloved by fans.

In 1981, the band signed to PRT Records (formerly Pye, their original label) and began recording an album. But only one single, “I Don’t Want To Be The One” backed with “Hollywood”, ended up being released. The rest of the tracks, except one, would be included as part of 1992′s 30th Anniversary collection.

Soon after the PRT release, Mike Pender left the group amidst great acrimony and now tours as Mike Pender’s Searchers. McNally and Allan recruited former First Class vocalist Spencer James to fill Pender’s shoes.

In 1988, Coconut Records signed the Searchers and the album Hungry Hearts was the result. It featured updated remakes of “Needles and Pins” and “Sweets For My Sweet” plus live favorite “Somebody Told Me You Were Crying”. While the album was not a major hit, it did keep the group in the public eye.

The band continued to tour with Eddie Rothe replacing Adamson on drums and is considered to be one of the most popular 1960s bands on the UK concert circuit. The Searchers incorporate full band electric performances with an acoustic set as well. In 2010 Eddie Rothe announced that he would be leaving The Searchers to spend more time with his fiancee Jane McDonald. On 26 February he was replaced by Scott Ottaway.

Creating ample amounts of confusion, former Searchers lead singer Mike Pender also tours, formerly with his own band under the name “Mike Pender’s Searchers” but now with various pick-up groups with whom he tours but still using the name “Mike Pender’s Searchers”, as he performs hits of the Searchers and some new material of his own.

Needles and Pins

Needles and Pins” is a song written by Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono. In his autobiography, Bono states that he sang along with Nitzsche’s guitar-playing, thus creating both the tune and the lyrics, being guided by the chord progressions.

The song was originally recorded by Jackie DeShannon. Other hit versions of the song were recorded by The Searchers, Cher, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with Stevie Nicks, Willie DeVille, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, Smokie, the Turtles and by the Ramones.

The Searchers heard British performer Cliff Bennett perform “Needles and Pins” at a club in Hamburg, Germany, and instantly wanted it to be their next single. Soon after, in 1964, “Needles and Pins” appeared on the Searchers’ next album, It’s Fab! It’s Gear! It’s The Searchers.

Audible during the Searchers’ recording of “Needles and Pins” is a faulty bass drum pedal, which squeaks throughout the song. It is particularly noticeable during the opening of the number.

I saw her today, I saw her face
It was the face I loved and I knew
I had to run away and get down on my knees and pray
That they’d go away

But still they begin
Needles and pins
Because of all my pride
The tears I gotta hide

Hey, I thought I was smart, I wanted her
Didn’t think I’d do, but now I see
She’s worse to him than me
Let her go ahead, take his love instead
And one day she will see

Just how to say please
And get down on her knees
Yeah, that’s how it begins
She’ll feel those needles and pins
a-hurtin her, a-hurtin her

Why can’t I stop and tell myself I’m wrong, I’m wrong, so wrong
Why can’t I stand up and tell myself I’m strong

Because I saw her today, I saw her face
It was the face I loved and I knew
I had to run away and get down on my knees and pray
That they’d go away

But still they begin
Needles and pins
Because of all my pride
The tears I gotta hide
Ah, needles and pins
Needles and pins
Needles and pins

  • Audio from the 2009 album, Needles and Pins:
Click to Purchase

(637)