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Needles And Pins – The Searchers

“I have noticed over the years that close listening to the Searchers recording of ‘Needles & Pins’ reveals what appears to be a squeaking mouse…”

Needles And Pins – The Searchers

1116

Pye 7N 15594 (UK) / Kapp 577 (USA)

Recorded at Pye, Marble Arch, London

Released January 1964

Writers Jack Nitzsche & Sonny Bono

Producer Tony Hatch

UK #1   30/1/64   3 weeks   USA #13  4/64

In the wake of the Beatles enormous success in 1963, British recording executives were falling over each other to sign anybody from Liverpool with a guitar, with varying degrees of success. Second only to the Beatles on Merseyside in terms of musicianship and local popularity were The Searchers, named after a famous John Wayne movie, who were duly signed to Pye Records in 1963. The group delivered a string of Top Ten hits including ‘Sweets For My Sweet’, ‘Sugar And Spice’, ‘When You Walk In The Room’ and ‘Needles & Pins’ under the guidance of writer and producer Tony Hatch – it was Hatch himself who wrote the group’s second hit ‘Sugar And Spice’. Working as a staff producer for Pye, Hatch also produced a number of hits for Petula Clark, including her 2 American Number 1’s, ‘Downtown’ and ‘My Love’, both of which he wrote. Tony Hatch’s best known contribution to British popular music is probably his theme to the long running TV soap series Crossroads, at one time actually covered by Paul McCartney on his Venus And Mars album.

 

Formed in 1960, The Searchers had also paid their dues on the Continental circuit like the Beatles, performing a similar mixture of R&B covers at the Star Club in Hamburg’s notorious Reeperbahn district, while adding their own mixture of country and western and folk material. The longevity of The Searchers chart career was most certainly hindered by a lack of original material. Unlike their competitors the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who and the Kinks, the group didn’t write their own hits. However, to begin with, their choice of covers of mostly American material certainly made them one of the most successful groups of 1963 and 1964. They were one of the first British ‘invasion’ bands to follow the Beatles up the US charts, enjoying 7 US Top 40 hits including their version of the much covered ‘Love Potion #9’ (by Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller and originally recorded by The Clovers in 1959), an American #3 in January 1965, that was surprisingly never released as a single in England.

It should also be noted that the Searchers ‘twangy’ 12-string guitar sound together with the band’s close harmonies pre-empted the American west coast groups of the middle 1960s, the Turtles and particularly the Byrds. While the Byrds are usually noted as the pioneers of “folk-rock”, this trophy arguably belongs to the Searchers, particularly on their 1964 recording of ‘When You Walk In The Room’ which came some nine months before the Byrds arrival and, indeed, the follow-up in December 1964, ‘What Have They Done To the Rain’, an anti-nuclear testing song composed in 1962 by Malvina Reynolds, also known for the Pete Seeger hit ‘Little Boxes’.

While the group are best remembered for their version of ‘Needles & Pins'(which they also recorded in German as ‘Tausend Nadelstiche’ – well worth a listen if you get the chance*), the song was originally recorded by American singer/songwriter Jackie DeShannon, later composer of such hits as ‘Put A Little Love In Your Heart’ and Kim Carnes’ 1981 #1 ‘Bette Davis Eyes’. Miss DeShannon’s version of ‘Needles & Pins’ only reached # 84 on the American charts and this left plenty of room for the Searchers’ assured performance, which combined with the popular Liverpool beat sound quickly propelled their version to #1 in England and #13 in America.

The group apparently decided to record the song after they heard fellow British artist Cliff Bennett perform it at Hamburg’s Star Club. ‘Needles & Pins’ was written by American producer/arranger Jack Nitzsche together with the man later to find fame as half of Sonny & Cher – Sonny Bono. Jackie DeShannon also wrote some songs with Jack Nitzsche and it seems she might have had some input in ‘Needles & Pins’, though credit went to Nitzsche and Bono. (My original Pye copy of this credits the song to Nitzsche & BONE) By the way, it took this author about 25 years to work out that the bit where they apparently sing “Hedna Hedna” is actually “Hurtin’ her, Hurtin’ her“!

Perhaps in repayment to Jackie DeShannon for beating her up the charts with ‘Needles & Pins’, the Searchers later took a song penned by her, ‘When You Walk In The Room’, to #3 on the British charts. This British popularity led Jackie DeShannon to move to the UK for a period of time where she struck up a writing partnership, and had a brief romance, with session musician Jimmy Page, later of Led Zeppelin fame. The Searchers had their last of 14 UK hits with ‘Have You Ever Loved Somebody’, written by Paul and Barry Ryan, in the autumn of 1966. Though highly musically competent, the group ‘sound’ never really progressed and by 1966 their competitors were streets ahead of them. However, since that time they have continued to stomp around the British cabaret circuit and remain a popular nostalgia act some 53 years later in 2017. Incidentally, I have noticed over the years that close listening to the Searchers recording of ‘Needles & Pins’ reveals what appears to be a squeaking mouse throughout the performance, particularly during the opening 20 seconds, and would, to my ears, appear to be an un-oiled bass-drum pedal! Whatever it is, it’s certainly not supposed to be audibly apparent.

I wrote to producer Tony Hatch about this strange anomaly in 2013 and received the following reply: “I’m sorry to disappoint you, however, but I cannot hear the squeaking noise you mention. Firstly, I presume you have an original recording and not a TV or BBC Radio version or something recorded in a club or concert. Assuming, then, that it’s my studio production, if there had been a squeak on the original pre-release test pressing, many people in the record company would have noticed it. First of all Quality Control at the factory would have queried it. Then I and my engineer would have noticed. Also, nobody connected with the Searchers themselves ever mentioned it.” I am most grateful to Tony for his reply, though I still recommend readers to listen to the hit single and judge for  themselves – I also note with great interest that Wikipedia has come to the same conclusion as me in their article on ‘Needles & Pins’.

 

Copyright © 2001/2017 SongStories/Tony Burton

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