Tuesday, June 28, 2011

That's What Hits Are Made Of: The Searchers: "Sugar and Spice"

And now, for a moment, a step away from the sturm-und-drang of US pop to the somewhat more placid waters of UK pop. The Searchers were one of those revolving-door-membership Liverpool groups that played in Hamburg as well as their hometown, sticking a bit more closely to their skiffle origins than their compatriots The Beatles; and thus they were eagerly sought after by agents & managers hungry for Merseybeat. This song was written by their producer (not that they knew; he used the fine pseudonym Fred Nightingale) Tony Hatch and while it's not exactly going to win any poetry contests, it does its sprightly best (high, close harmonies; plucky ringing guitars, folk-chirpy melody) simply to show the joy a man can have in having his sweetheart, his honey, that love can be as simple as a nursery rhyme and be charming and even poignant for that. To a nation that was still rebuilding some sense of itself and finding its feet musically, as in so many other ways, The Searchers were part of the morale-bolstering Merseybeat tide that became the first wave of the British Invasion (they were the second group to have a hit in the US in '64). That the tide would be welcomed at all is due to an event outside of the literal boundaries of the charts. Merseybeat is reaching its peak here, marking a time when songs this innocent and direct could be big hits. That is about to change, however, as we near the end of 1963.

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