The Second Band from Liverpool to Have a Hit during The British Invasion: The Searchers’ “Needles and Pins”

February 1964 saw The Beatles take the U.S. by storm to say the least, and usher in what became known as “The British Invasion”. While the high-profile band from Liverpool dominated the Billboard Hot 100 for many months, few realize that the second hit by a band from Liverpool was “Needles and Pins” by The Searchers.

“Needles and Pins” entered the Top 40 on March 21, 1964, staying in the Top 40 for eight weeks. It peaked at number 13, and miraculously stayed at number 13 for three weeks. In January 1965, their song “Love Potion Number Nine” would climb to number three. The band had five other hits in the Top 40 between March 1964 and April 1965. They were: “Don’t Throw Your Love Away” (# 16), “Some Day We’re Gonna Love Again” (# 34), “When You Walk in the Room” (# 35), “What Have They Done to the Rain” (# 29), and “Bumble Bee” (# 21). The Searchers had other hits that charted in the UK.

Prior to “Needles and Pins” entering the Top 40 on March 21, 1964, that other band from Liverpool had five songs chart in the Top 40. The first was “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, which held the number one position for seven weeks. “I Saw Her Standing There” hit number 14. “She Loves You” was number one for two weeks, followed by “Please Please Me” which peaked at number three. “My Bonnie”, their recording from their Hamburg days with Tony Sheridan, hit number six. Then, “Twist and Shout” stayed at number two for four weeks.

The Searchers were originally formed as a skiffle group in Liverpool in 1959 by John McNally and Mike Pender. Their classic line-up that had the hits in the U.S. consisted of Mike Pender and John McNally, both on guitars and vocals; Tony Jackson on bass and vocals, as well as Chris Curtis on drums. The band’s name was taken from the 1956 western The Searchers starring John Ford.

The band heard “Needles and Pins” for the first time at the Star Club in Hamburg, the famed establishment in Beatles lore where they were the house band during two different stays in Germany. It was being sung at the Star Club by British singer Cliff Bennett.

Before being recorded by The Searchers, Jackie DeShannon released an unsuccessful version that had no traction on the charts. Of course, Beatle fans know that the Kentucky native received her big break when chosen to open for The Beatles on their first U.S. concert tour in 1964. She had an international hit in 1965 with the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song “What the World Needs Now Is Love“, which reached number seven on the Billboard Hot 100. Years later DeShannon would co-write the song “Bette Davis Eyes“, which was a monstrous hit for Kim Carnes, holding the top position on the Billboard Hot 100 for an astounding nine weeks.

“Needles and Pins” was written by Sonny Bono and Jack Nitzche, two underlings of Phil Spector. Bono would produce minor hits such as Larry Williams’ “Bony Maronie” and “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” prior to a successful recording career with his wife Cher. After massive success on American television with The Sonny and Cher Show and a divorce from Cher, Bono would eventually drift into politics, becoming the mayor of Palm Springs and then serving in the U.S. Congress from 1995 until his death from a skiing accident in January 1998. During his years he teamed up with his wife Cher as the famed duo Sonny and Cher, he was famous for sporting a “caveman vest”. The piece of legislation for which he is best known during his career as a congressman was extending the term of copyright by 20 years. The United States Copyright Extension Act of 1998 was passed by Congress nine months after his death and became commonly known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act. Of course, this legislation helps songwriters.

Jack Nitzche (1937 – 2000), the other co-writer of “Needles and Pins” had an amazing career, and was Phil Spector’s righthand man for many years. He later did work for The Rolling Stones on occasion, playing electric piano on the hits “Paint It Black” and “Let’s Spend the Night Together”, as well as writing the choral arrangement for “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Nitzche worked on the film scores for many blockbuster movies such as The Exorcist, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and The Razor’s Edge. In 1983, Jack Nitzche won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for co-writing “Up Where We Belong”, the theme song from the movie An Officer and A Gentleman starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger, which he co-wrote with Will Jennings and Buffy Sainte-Marie. “Up Where We Belong“, a duet with Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, topped the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in November 1982.

The Beatles started the British Invasion and are the best known band from this era, but when they put Liverpool on the entertainment map, it should be remembered that the second band from Liverpool to score a hit during the British Invasion was The Searchers with “Needles and Pins”.

Fired Beatles drummer Pete Best became a Beatles multi-millionaire in 1995!

The subject of the firing of Pete Best as the Beatles drummer on August 16, 1962 is one of the most talked about and debated incidents in Beatles history. Best had been with the band for two years when they were in the trenches in both Liverpool and Hamburg, ranking as the most popular of the four Beatles. He was replaced by Ringo Starr, almost immediately after the band had the great fortune of being signed to a recording contract with EMI’s Parlophone label.

The reasons for the firing of Pete Best is a historical debate that cannot be done in a single blog post, nor a hundred blog posts for that matter. The topic of this blog article will be the pleasant surprise that in 1995, some 33 years after being replaced as The Beatles’ drummer, Pete Best was finally financially rewarded in a big way for his two years with the band.

1995 saw the famous Beatles Anthology, which consisted of the release of a set of three double albums, a television documentary a three part documentary. The first CD Anthology was released in late 1995, and the following two in 1996. As most Beatles fans know, The Beatles sold more albums in 1996 than in any other single year in the 1960’s.

The first Anthology CD contains ten songs from the band’s famous audition for Decca records, which of course did not earn them a recording contract. Since Pete Best was the drummer on all of these ten songs, he was able to finally reap some financial rewards for his storied two years with the struggling band. While he definitely received in the millions, both the Beatles management and Pete Best have thought it best to keep the exact amount private over the course of the last 24 years.

The ten songs on the first Anthology album which feature Pete Best saw their first official release with this album, but had been circulating in the bootleg world for almost thirty years. The ten songs included on the album are “My Bonnie”, “Ain’t She Sweet”, “Cry for a Shadow”, “Searchin’”, “Three Cool Cats”, “The Sheik of Araby”, “Like Dreamers Do”, “Hello, Little Girl”, “Besame Mucho”, “Love Me Do”.

Estimates of the payments to Best have ranged from four million pounds to 25 million pounds, but nothing concrete ever came out. While the three remaining Beatles opted to pay Best for his work on the infamous “Decca tapes”, Best was not invited to participated in the television documentary nor the book.

In a June 5, 2003 piece “The Booted Beatle” in the Washington Post, David Segal wrote quoted Pete Best stressing the need for the amount of his royalty payments from The Beatles to do be disclosed. He said, “I think the number needs to remain private. It’s security for my family and my grandchildren. I didn’t move to a 35 story mansion with a swimming pool and three Ferraris. I’m very happy with the life I’ve got so there’s no need to change it.”

Pete Best left the entertainment industry in 1968 and took a job in an unemployment office, rising to supervisor and retiring after 20 years with a good pension.

It may have taken 33 years, but ex-Beatle Pete Best finally earned many millions for his two year stint as the band’s drummer.