Friday, 11 April 2014

Frank Allen talks about 50 years of The Searchers

The Searchers
I recently chatted with Frank Allen of The Searchers who will appear at Newport Riverfront tonight as part of their current UK tour.
The band featuring John McNally, Frank Allen, Spencer James and Scott Ottaway are currently touring the UK recalling the bands greatest hits including Sweets for My Sweet, Needles and Pins, Don’t Throw Your Love Away and When You Walk In the Room. 
“We’ve matured nicely through the years from the times when we played just six songs as a top of the bill act and got screamed at,” Frank  tells me, “we had to adjust to an adult audience that wanted  a show that was put together well, all the elements for a theatrical piece of entertainment.” 
Frank was originally a member of Cliff Bennett’s Rebel Rousers and met The Searchers in early 1963 when both bands shared a billing at Hamburg’s Star Club. “I palled up with them simply because they were my kind of people,” remembers Frank, “it was wild out there and I was a non-drinker, totally insecure and The Searchers were a beacon of moderation in all that chaos.” 
While both bands were playing in Hamburg, The music scene was changing in England and would soon change worldwide spearheaded by The Beatles. “1963 was the year everything kicked off,” says Frank, “because all the other bands got chances to go into the studios. The Searchers just did it so well getting to No.1 with Sweets for my Sweet. This bunch of guys I’d just palled up with by accident were international superstars.” 
The Searchers invited Frank to join the band in 1964. “There was no great complicated scheme to get involved” remembers Frank, “ the day I joined it was planned for me to take over at some point but it was leaked to the press so they decided to bring everything forward.  It was like “you’re starting with the band next Monday in Coventry!” I hadn’t rehearsed with them; I’d listened to the records at home getting an idea of the routines.” 
“We arranged to get to the Coventry Theatre for 1 O 'Clock to have a run through. This is a top of the bill act and you’ve got to bare in mind that the new guy hadn’t even played with them. I arrived at 1 O'Clock while The Searchers arrived at half past four for a run through, we just went through things in the dressing room and that was my introduction into the professional life of The Searchers!” 
Following his introduction week in Coventry, Frank found the pace of been in a successful band stepped up considerably further, “We went straight into the studio and recorded When You Walk in the Room and then off to do 7 days of concerts in New York with people like The Supremes, Marvin Gaye,  and The Temptations." 
"That kind of fame was pretty awe inspiring. We then went across to Los Angeles to gather more people that joined us for Australia and New Zealand, so I had a world tour of a month within joining The Searchers. What an introduction to the business!” 
Did Frank still think the band would be performing 50 years on?  “I don’t think we thought we’d be doing it five years down the line,” says Frank “when you first have your success you think you can get away with a couple of years and the  talent police are going to catch up with you. Luckily it’s lasted and we still enjoy it way past the age of retirement, on it goes!”
For the latest news on The Searchers visit their official website. A version of this interview appeared in The South Wales Argus Entertainments Supplement The Guide  on March 11, 2014

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