Fans of the 1960s music scene have a chance for the very last time to re-live the greatest hits of the decade when The Searchers and PJ Proby make their final appearances on the Sixties Gold package tour alongside The Merseybeats, Steve Ellis of The Love Affair, The Fortunes and Vanity Fair at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall on October 5, 2018.
The Searchers, who currently consist of founder member John McNally, Frank Allen, Spencer James and Scott Ottaway, have achieved world record sales exceeding 50 million, ensured songs like ‘Sweets for My Sweet’, ‘Sugar & Spice’ and ‘Needles & Pins’ hit the number one slot on the charts. They’ve maintained their huge popularity down the decades with a fan base of all ages throughout the world. And will be making their final package tour appearance on this year’s Sixties Gold Tour.
Andy Howells recently spoke to Frank Allen of the band about the shows.
The Searchers have announced they are retiring from showbusiness, is the Sixties Gold tour our final chance to see you?
Its going to be our last package tour, it’s not our total last tour, because our last tour will be our solo tour running from January until the end of March in 2019.
Have both yourself and John McNally enjoyed working alongside old friends from the 1960s on the Sixties Gold shows?
Well that’s been the fun. Package tours were the only kind of yours in the old days. Of course, over the last 30 years we’ve established our all evening show, so we do tours of our all-evening shows where we do two hours by ourselves.
Once a year we do these big package tours and they are great fun because we lead an isolated life (on the road) only seeing each other. When we’re on one of these tours with chums from the old days and mixing with new faces, it’s a great treat,
I’m really looking forward to it, its going to be fun!
Also, on the bill is your old friend, PJ Proby?
We’re great friends and supporters of PJ. We were such admirers of him that in the 90s we were going to do a tour and we wanted him with us. We had a real fight with the promoters to get him and I think he’s always been grateful for us bringing him back on the touring circuit.
That voice is still there, he’s great! He was such a big star and bigger than us in the 60s, by the time he had taken off, our career had started to dip rather badly, he was bigger than anything except maybe the exception of The Beatles. He was incredible on stage a pheromonal, iconic and charismatic person!
The Searchers old Liverpool friends, The Merseybeats are also on the bill.
Of course. We’ve known Tony Crane and Billy Kinsley for years and we also know the rest of them! They change slightly depending on who’s available to Tony when he wants to tour, they’re great guys and they always do a superb show.
You joined The Searchers in 1964 while John was with the group right from the beginning in 1958. Will it be difficult for you both to give The Searchers up?
I’ve just passed my 54th anniversary with The Searchers while John’s been with the Searchers since 1928! (Laughs)
It’s hard to let go, yes, I am looking forward to retiring and I don’t want to do any driving anymore.
I’m looking forward to a new and exciting period in my life. I’m moving to a new house, a penthouse, so it’s a weird and wonderful time. I’m looking forward to it more than John is, he’s wondering how he’ll fill his time in but I think he’s getting used to the idea that it’s going to happen.
As well as been in the band you’ve written books on The Searchers. Has the group proven to be a real passion in your life?
I think whatever you go into you’ve got to put your heart and soul into it. When I joined The Searchers, I wanted to do everything I could to make it successful.
I am a words person and a bit of an anorak about the history of the band so writing the books was a great thing for me and one of the proudest things I’ve ever done. I’ve done two books and the second one, The Searchers and Me, well, I was so proud of the achievement because it took me four years to write. So yeah, I’m serious about The Searchers, their history and the part their music has played in the history of Great Britain!
Do you think you’ll carry on with writing into retirement?
I would love to. I don’t know where that would go because its not that easy these days finding the outlet for your writing especially if you’re an older person. I would love to do more writing and I intend now I’ve got the time to take my laptop away to Spain, write a bit more and see if we can get that going.
The Searchers have been described as one of the hardest working bands from the 60s still touring.
I don’t know anybody else who does more dates throughout the year. Even Cliff (Richard) says that every time we run into him. He’s astonished by how many dates we do. its generally about 200 dates a year but its been more than that. We are a hard working band.
Do you still attract younger fans to the shows?
I’ve always said The Searchers audience in the new millennium goes from the incredibly young to fast approaching death! That about covers it really! They’re all ages!
Looking back over your Searchers career what have been your highlights?
My first trip to America with the band where we worked in 7 days of concerts in New York. We did six shows a day for seven days and the bill was fantastic. The bill was The Searchers, Dusty Springfield, Millie, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Martha & The Vandellas, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The Temptations, The Contours, Little Antony, The Ronettes, The Shangri Las, The Dovells, The Newbeats and Jay & The Americans. That was stunning, been on 42 shows with that line-up.
The other two things were The Royal Variety Show in 1981 been presented to The Queen and two days at Wembley stadium with Cliff Richard in 1989.
Saying that, some of the smaller and most atmospheric shows we’ve done were ones for the British Forces particularly in The Falkland’s where you would play to a Mountain Camp of about 40 people, it was the most incredible experience.
Which song have you always enjoyed performing in The Searchers?
When You Walk in The Room will always be my favourite. it was the first one I ever made with the band and the first I got to play and sing on. That’s not the reason its my favourite, its just a great classic pop song it’s a powerful song, great lyrics, great tune, a wonderful guitar riff and it’s the most dynamic of our hits to play on stage. It always goes down bigger than Needles and Pins, it goes after Needles and Pins in the show and ts the one that gets the audience involved!