US: Kapp K-729 (Jan 1966)
Image from my own collection - Click for a larger view.
Stereo album version:
Late 1965 must have been a frustrating time for the Searchers. It must have been frustrating for a lot of British bands, come to think of it. The previous couple of years had seen a mass of artists from the UK conquer the USA, the much documented "British Invasion" having become a major chapter in modern musical history. However, the times were changing rapidly. Many a hitmaking band suddenly found themselves unfairly cast aside. Whilst The Beatles and The Hollies made the transition to the latter part of the decade in fine fettle, many others were not so fortunate.
The decline in The Searchers' commercial fortunes seems the unfairest of the lot in many ways. In that initial burst of Mersey Beat, they were by far the biggest chart rivals to The Beatles. They had also stylistically pre-empted the oncoming folk-rock movement. The previous year's acoustic-with-strings treatment of Malvina Jackson's anti-nuclear anthem What Have They Done To The Rain was ahead of the game in this respect, whilst the group's jangling guitar sound was undoubtedly the blueprint for The Byrds amongst others.
Interestingly, The Searchers had earlier come up with the idea of applying their trademark sound to Bob Dylan's composition Mr. Tambourine Man. They must have been gutted not only to hear that The Byrds had beaten them to it, but to then see them sail to number 1 on both sides of the Atlantic. It isn't stretching the imagination by any means to imagine that a version by The Searchers at that time would have sounded more than similar.
The Searchers were still releasing great records, but increasingly the UK record buyers were ignoring them. Goodbye My Love was their last top 10 hit here, the fantastic self-penned He's Got No Love stiffed at 12, whilst a folksy rendering of Bobby Darin's When I Get Home struggled to 35. Things must have been looking a bit pear-shaped for the band.
Which brings us to this one. It was written by P.F. Sloan, who was enjoying something of a purple patch (if you'll pardon the expression), sometimes in collaboration with Steve Barri. Eve Of Destruction had gone through the roof for Barry McGuire, Herman's Hermits had made a hit with A Must To Avoid, and the pair's own side project The Grassroots scored with Where Were You When I Needed You. On paper, you would have thought that Take Me For What I'm Worth was the perfect marriage of songwriter and group, and just what The Searchers required at that moment.
A driving performance, great production from Tony Hatch, fine lead vocal from Mike Pender, not to mention the fact that this was a damn good song... and it stalled at number 20. There must have been scratching of heads and puzzled expressions all round.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote their next single, Take It Or Leave It. That only made 31. When Have You Ever Loved Somebody, made to measure for them by The Hollies only scraped in at 48, The Searchers' chart days were over. What exactly had gone wrong?
The Take Me For What I'm Worth LP from late '65 might give a few clues. Whilst it did show a bit more confidence in the group's own songs, many of their contemporaries were putting much more self-penned work on albums. There was a pointless version of Be My Baby, plus R&B covers which were perfectly well performed but somewhat old hat by then. The group-written single b-side Too Many Miles perhaps pointed more at where they should have been heading, but it may have been too late.
Still, The Searchers continued to persevere. After an artistic Indian summer with the Sire label at the end of the 70's, and subsequent line up changes, The Searchers are still playing, and doing fantastic shows. Meanwhile, Take Me For What I'm Worth stands as one of their finest and most underrated releases, and has become an important inclusion in their live set.