Chris Park chats to The legendary Searchers
Sweets for my Sweet, Sugar and Spice, Needles and Pins and Love Potion No9 are just some of the songs that The Searchers brought to us an incredible 60 years ago. Since then, amid many a line up change, they have played relentlessly but the decision has been made to call it a day on 31st March of this year in Milton Keynes.
How is the tour going?
We’ve just done two so far, we’re off on the road again on Thursday over to Yorkshire and then down the East Coast. It’s going very well, it’s surprising us because a lot of the venues are sold out.
Maybe because it’s the farewell tour, normally we get a few sell outs but most are selling out so far. It’s surprising after sixty years. It’s nice that they still come and see us.
I was thinking of carrying on but after the stroke (John suffered a stroke in 2017) I get fatigued quite quickly.
I don’t know how I’m going to feel driving home that last night. It’s going to be hard. It’s all I’ve done all my life.
What will you miss the most?
I’m going to miss the live shows. I won’t miss the motorways, closures, diversions. It is a nightmare out there.
What made you come to the conclusion that this was the finale?
Frank was wanting to give in. The last 18 months since we did Australia in 17, he wasn’t himself and I thought there’s something amiss here. He just said “I can’t take any more, I can’t take the anxiety of getting to the gigs, the motorways and endless waiting in traffic”. He lives in London and getting out of there is just a nightmare.
I had a stroke in 2017, I was off for three months. First of all I couldn’t drive, I was shaking with nerves driving but I got over that. My car is three years old and I’ve done over 120000 miles.
I couldn’t play guitar at first when I picked it up (after the stroke) and I thought “I’m finished”. I had a chat with the stroke nurses and they were great, they said pick it up and if you can’t play, don’t get frustrated, do it again the next day and it will all come back. The brain starts to find a new pathway. I’m 100% now but its fatigue that gets me.
If it wasn’t for the band I would have made a slower recovery, it kept me going. I made a few mistakes but the lads just accepted it and its getting better and better.
I’m hoping to get back to five a side but I have my doubts. I’m going for walks but I need that extra running and the fun you get with a crowd of lads, that’s what I miss. Musicians are a pain in the neck but with a crowd of lads playing five a side, you have a laugh. I was the centre forward. They call me off side Johnny.
Do you have anything special planned for the final show?
No I don’t want to make a big thing of it. I wanted to do the final show in Liverpool, at The Cavern or somewhere, but unfortunately the 31st March is the end of the financial year and the accountant said that if you go into 2019, it will cost you money so we had to forget it.
What is the thrill of performing live
It still gives me a buzz. I still get nervous. If you don’t get nervous I don’t think you can get the edge, but once you strike the first couple of bars and you’re into a song, its plain sailing, you can do it quite easily.
I like to be spot on. If the drums are too loud I’ll sneak to the side and tell our roadie to turn it down. I’ve never been any other way, I like things to be right.
We don’t play it like the records, you’ve got to put excitement into live music. You always play it slightly faster because of the environment of live music. Years ago when I first started learning the guitar, I’d put a record on and try and tune the guitar to whatever key it was, but what they used to do, when they record it, they’d speed it up slightly and it tightens the track up. I could never understand why tuning it didn’t work and when we went to record, we did the same thing.
Why do you think the Mersey Sound is so enduring?
They are three minute pop songs. So good, so clever, so original and it all stemmed from mid 50s, the old American records. We all had brothers and cousins in the merchant navy bringing the albums and singles home to Merseyside and also guitars because they were so cheap over there. It stemmed from all that. Any 60s song you can play in the pub or a family gathering, anyone with a slight use of a guitar can play them. They are so easy.
When did you realise this was a lifetime thing?
We had hits and a great run and when it started going flat, you start to take interest in the business side of it and you think, hang on, all this touring, America etc, I’ve only earned this amount? We sacked our manager and got an agent and started managing the band and realised we’ve all got mortgages and this is a business and how we earn our living. We knew we would have to concentrate on the live work and it must have worked because sixty years later we’re still doing it.
With all the changes, we managed to get through it all. It must have been our live show goes down well with our audience.
We’ve got a very good fan base, in fact they’re a bit naughty sometimes in telling us what to do. I’m getting it every night “What are you packing it in for? What are we going to do?”.
We get loads of gifts, loads at Christmas, the usual t-shirts and jumpers and things, Frank gets more odd ones because he interacts with the fans and makes friends with them and he gets shoes and all kinds of things. He’s got a fan who works in Northampton and every time we play there he gets his own shoes.
If you could give one piece of advice to yourself in the 60s, what would it be?
Look into the business side as soon as you have your first hit. We didn’t know, none of us were the brains of Britain. Words in a contract, “in perpetuity” which is forever and that was written in the contract, we didn’t know what it meant and we were too ashamed to ask. It meant they own all the tracks.
We were easy pickings for agents and managers, they knew how to work the system legally. You’re just a short term item. You’re seen as a generation and once that generation moves on, you’re finished. When the 60s ended for us, the screaming stopped, we had to go into the clubs and the only clubs were the cabaret clubs, we called it our chicken in a basket period. When the clubs started drying up, we went into the small theatres and since then we’ve never looked back.
The Searchers are on the road for the last time between now and March. For all information, please visit via link below
By Chris Park for Canal St OnlineRead More