Box set release: The Searchers, Heats In Their Eyes
Release date: 25 June 2012 
Label: Sanctuary/Universal 

Across four CDS and 121 tracks, this box set is the first complete career retrospective of The Searchers, who between 1963 and 1967 notched up hit after hit on Pye Records, rivalling The Beatles and, unlike most of the other Merseybeat groups, having an enduring influence with their inventive jangling guitar sound and strong harmonies. American groups from The Byrds through to Tom Petty and beyond are indebted to The Searchers. Their classic treatment of Jackie de Shannon‘s Needles And Pins (the second of three UK number ones) which earned them their first US Top Twenty single in March 1964 clearly anticipated folk rock.  And uniquely among British beat groups, they also recorded gentle folk protest songs Where Have All The Flowers Gone? and What Have They Done to The Rain?

Originally formed in 1960 as a backing group for Johnny Sandon, they branched out on their own in 1961 soon following the traditional Merseybeat route to Hamburg in 1962 (captured here from the German LP At The Star Club) before Tony Hatch signed them to Pye and helped mastermind a string of hits that only began to peter out by 1966. They issued their first single Sweets for My Sweet in July 1963; it got off to a slow start before eventually knocking The Beatles off the number one spot in October. All the group’s hits are here: Sweets For My Sweet, Sugar And Spice, Needles And Pins, What Have They Done To The Rain?, Don’t Throw Your Love Away, When You Walk In The Room alongside selections from their five Pye albums, EPs, radio sessions, even their original Pye demo tape.

By 1967 The Searchers were out of time and were let go by Pye, as Jon Savage observes in an essay included this first ever Searchers’ box set (there are further contributions from Bob Stanley and Searchers’ bassist Frank Allen), saying this was “an ironic state of affairs, considering they had laid many of the musical foundations for Psychedelia.” The group carried on and released several singles, first for Liberty, then for RCA in the early 70s. In the late 70s, they were surprisingly signed to Sire where they became label mates of the Ramones, Talking Heads and the Flamin‘ Groovies and made two strong power pop albums - Searchers and Play For Today (covering songs by Will Birch of The Records, Costello and Big Star). Their signature sound was back in fashion once again but the lure of the familiar cabaret circuit was stronger than a critical renaissance among new wave audiences.

In the 21st century founder members Mike Pender and John McNally, along with bassist Frank Allen who joined in 1964, continue to play under variants of The Searchers’ name. Original drummer Chris Curtis and bass player Tony Jackson have both died - in 2005 and 2003 respectively. As this wonderfully comprehensive anthology shows, The Searchers' ringing guitar sound and four strong vocal harmonies have never dated. 

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