168. The Searchers – Don’t Throw Your Love Away (1964)

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The swinging 60s were the decade that, thanks in part to the pill, gave rise to sexual liberation. Promiscuity was all the rage by 1964. So it seems odd and out of step that the Searchers final number 1 urged their fans to stay safe between the sheets.

Don’t Throw Your Love Away, written by Billy Jackson and Jimmy Wisner, was originally a B-side for Philadelphia R’n’B group the Orlons, tucked away as the flip to Bon-Doo-Wah. British groups were still in thrawl to black American acts at the time, but this was an obscurity compared to some of the more obvious choices, including the Searchers’ first number 1, Sweets for My Sweet. Drummer Chris Curtis was in the process of wresting control of the Searchers out of singer and bassist Tony Jackson’s hands. As with their previous number 1, Needles and Pins, Mike Pender and Curtis took over vocals from Jackson.

The track begins with promisingly, and predictably enough, thanks to Pender’s 12-string guitar work, but it soon settles into a song that musically is little more than a chorus, albeit a memorable one. The verses bemoan lovers that ‘Just throw their dreams away/And play at love’, and despite the usual strong vocal harmonies of Pender and Curtis, it strays too close to hectoring to enjoy, and isn’t musically interesting enough to be able to make the lyrics forgivable.

This third number 1 marked the end of the Searchers’ chart-toppers, and Tony Jackson left them shortly after. He wanted the band to continue with the soul and R’n’B material, but Curtis was keen for them to move into a quieter, more folk-flavoured sound. Jackson was replaced by Frank Allen from Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers, and he formed a new group, the organ-dominated the Vibrations, but they didn’t emulate the Searchers’ success and were soon dropped. Jackson quit the music business, but returned in 1991 and reformed the Vibrations. However in 1996 he was sentenced to 18 months in prison after threatening a woman with an air pistol after an argument over a phone booth… With a number of health issues and an alcohol problem, Jackson died aged 63 in 2003.

Curtis also had his demons. A manic individual, his desire to cover obscure records found in Brian Epstein’s store may have resulted in their downfall. George Harrison’s nickname for him was ‘Mad Henry’. He left the group in 1966, released a solo track with help from future Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, and helped form the concept group Roundabout. The concept was that the line-up would keep changing as members got on and off the ’roundabout’… Curtis’s mental state was further exacerbated by LSD, but he did have the bright idea of auditioning a guitarist called Ritchie Blackmore for the band. Unfortunately for Curtis, he was by now considered too unreliable to continue. Roundabout soon changed their name to Deep Purple. Curtis left the music business to join the Inland Revenue in 1969. In later years he enjoyed performing karaoke at the pub near the home he shared with his mother when the Searchers began. He died in 2005, also aged 63.

The remaining Searchers soldiered on through several line-up changes. Things were looking up at the end of the 70s when they signed with Seymour Stein, head of Sire Records. They released two albums, The Searchers (1979) and Play for Today (1981), that were highly-acclaimed but commercial flops. Mike Pender departed in 1985 and now tours as Mike Pender’s Searchers, while the remaining group (John McNally is the only original member) have announced they will retire on 31 March 2019.

Meanwhile, in the news, designer Terence Conran opened his first Habitat store on Fulham Road on 11 May. The next day, pirate radio station Radio Atlanta began broadcasting off Frinton-on-Sea. By the end of July, it had merged with Radio Caroline. And further violence flared between Mods and rockers, this time in Brighton, between 16 and 18 May.

Written by: Billy Jackson & Jimmy Wisner

Producer: Tony Hatch

Weeks at number 1: 2 (7-20 May)

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