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Frank Allen, Spencer James, John McNally and Scott Ottaway are The Searchers.
Frank Allen, Spencer James, John McNally and Scott Ottaway are The Searchers.

FEW people would work into their 70s without retirement crossing their minds, but the lads from iconic rock 'n' roll band The Searchers still like to keep a hectic schedule.

Formed in 1959 (before even The Rolling Stones had played a gig), The Searchers are now celebrating their 50th World Tour Anniversary this year with an international tour, stopping by the Lighthouse Theatre on February 3.

Legendary rockers Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Marshall Crenshaw and The Byrds acknowledge their debt to The Searchers, whose hit songs Sweets For My Sweet, Sugar And Spice, Needles And Pins, Love Potion Number 9 and Don't Throw Your Love Away, have contributed enormously to the British music industry, with record sales well in excess of 40 million.

The group has toured Down Under each year since 2000 and bassist Frank Allen, aged 69, insists there's no talk of slowing down from the blokes who, along with The Beatles, were a key part of the 1960s Liverpool scene.

"I was brought up with that work ethic and it wouldn't occur to me not to work," he told Offbeat.

"(Guitarist) John McNally is 71 and doesn't look it we both feel about 25.

"We never stop touring.

"The most time we take off in a year is a two-week holiday period.

"We attract a good loyal crowd so we're very popular on the level of circuit we play and we enjoy what we do, so we love working.

"A lot of bands don't work that much."

Allen said the group's old school approach had kept them in show business as the industry evolved over the decades.

"When we were successful it was still very basic, not like now," he said.

"We weren't living in luxury, being choreographed and groomed all over the place.

"We didn't have minders, there weren't paparazzi around, we were just lucky amateurs."

While he still enjoys new music, citing The Killers as one of his recent favourites, Allen says he struggles to relate to the new generation of pop stars and the notion of reality TV fame.

"Music today and the attitude behind it is so serious and money orientated," he said.

"Everyone wants to be rich and famous at any cost without having anything to be famous about.

"We've lost the amateurish enthusiasm and spontaneity. Successful people on shows like X Factor expect they will go into arena tours where people take them over, decide what clothes they wear and what tunes they do, with banks of dancers behind them.

"Sadly one thing disappoints me an awful lot is pre-recorded and lip-synched huge acts that don't even sing at all, but that's what kids are brought up with."

The 1960s, as Allen remembers it, represented a time when the Baby Boomers' teenage fandom took over and made rock 'n' roll a worldwide sensation.

"Kids had money for first the time, they had the Kennedys in the White House and there was social, economic, political change just a new freedom for people everywhere," he said.

"The Beatles kicked the doors open and Britain ruled the world.

"Bands later didn't have that impact."

Allen promises a fun and interactive live show with The Searchers recounting stories from their heyday which included an Australian tour with The Rolling Stones in 1966.

"The Rolling Stones were sailing through the tour with no controversy whatsoever, but we were having a nightmare with our drummer Chris Curtis carrying pills in his bag, collapsing in a TV shooting one day at the Sydney stadium and acting very threatening towards a producer," he said.

"We went back to the hotel and flushed all his pills down the toilet. We all wore suits, we were the clean cut Searchers almost in the middle of a drug scandal while the Stones were sailing through like Mother Teresa."


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