Although overshadowed by fellow Liverpudlians, the Beatles, the Searchers were one of the most accomplished British Invasion bands. Their close, four-part harmonies and rich, jangling guitar lines presaged the commercial ascendancy of folk-rock bands such as the Byrds.
The Searchers, named after John Ford’s classic 1956 film, starring John Wayne, were formed in 1961 to play behind British vocalist Johnny Sandon. The group—originally comprised of guitarist John McNally, guitarist Mike Pender, bassist Tony Jackson, and drummer Chris Curtis—later struck out on their own, playing the Star Club (Hamburg, Germany) in the wake of the successful run there by the Beatles. A residency at Liverpool’s Iron Door club led A&R man Tony Hatch to offer them a record contract. After charting in the U.K. with the Drifters’ "Sweets for My Sweet" (Pye; released in U.S> as Mercury 72172) in 1963, the band achieved success on both sides of the Atlantic—number one in England, number thirteen in the U.S.—with the million-selling "Needles and Pins" (Kapp 577; 1964). More hits—including "Don’t Throw Your Love Away" (Kapp 593; 1964), "Love Potion Number Nine" (Kapp 27; 1964), "What Have They Done to the Rain" (Kapp 644; 1965), and "Bumble Bee" (Kapp 49; 1965)—and international tours followed.
When their recordings stopped charting, the Searchers continued to earn a living playing British clubs and cabarets. Signing with Sire Records, the band returned briefly to the public eye with two album releases, The Searchers (Sire 6082; 1980) and Love’s Melodies (Sire 3523; 1981). Always hampered by the absence of a talented composer within the group, the inclusion of high quality material by Tom Petty, John Fogerty, Moon Martin, Alex Chilton, and other contemporary songwriters on the Sire LPs elicited critical raves. Nevertheless, both discs sold poorly and the band returned to the touring circuit.