John McNally of the Searchers interview (Part 1 of 2) – Getting it partly right with John McNally


S02 Ep13 (Part 1 of 2) – Getting it partly right with John McNally of the Searchers

Interview Date: July 20, 2012 @ 2 pm

Special Guest: John McNally of the Searchers – Known for hits like “Sweets for my Sweet”, “Needles and Pins” and “Love Potion Number 9” the Searchers were one of the leading bands to come out of the Merseybeat scene out of Liverpool in the early 60’s. Known for playing at the Star Club in Hamburg, the Cavern, and the Iron Door in Liverpool, the Searchers went on to become part of the first wave of the “British Invasion” with a TV appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and a major US tour. The Searchers have continued to entertain and tour 50 years on. In this podcast we talk about what the Mersey sound is, Skiffle, The Beatles, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Fats Domino, the Cavern, The Star Club and more.

The Path to Becoming Recognized as a God and Gaining Ecstatic Joy and Unfathomable Riches (Through Rebellion, Grief, and Failure)

It’s a topic that’s been plunged into several times over, but we’re going to breech it here again: John Lennon. He had tough beginnings. An absent father, and brought up by a strict Aunt, his free-spirited mother encouraged him and probably aided to his “corruption.” Later traumatized by her early death, which left unresolved issues (somewhat revealed in his song “Mother”). Lennon was an outsider. He was troubled, and obviously didn’t fit in. In school days (in the staid and restrictive British education system), he was disruptive and deemed unteachable. He failed all his O levels, but was accepted into Liverpool Art School. In those days, he put his energy into his passion – Rock & Roll. He bought a guitar before he even know how to string one and played it banjo style.1(31)

Despite his lack of knowledge, he was driven, and he was persistent and persuasive; he enticed his friends to join along with him to form a skiffle group. He emulated his rock & roll idols in style and attitude, Elvis being one of his biggest. And, apparently, he didn’t temper his attitude for anyone. He had numerous fights with his Aunt. While most kids adopt a rebellious style for posturing, Lennon must have had a better understanding of the alienation and frustration and the need for creative expression and release like the original artists of the music he was identifying with, having a depth gained through sorrow and estrangement. The driving rock & roll beat must have led to both fueling and allowing him to vent his frustration and anger. But obviously, it was not enough; he was known to get into fights and beat his women. (Listen to “Jealous Guy”)

Spurred on by the excitement, emotion, encouragement from his mother, plus the attention it gained from girls, Lennon kept up with playing the heavy beat rock & roll that came from the United States. Although not as musically talented, John recognized well enough to cater to it, even if it bruised his ego, and begrudgingly accepted Paul McCartney into the group and later took in George Harrison in a similar fashion. The band grew, others left for other interests, or were forced out.

But it’s not just John’s leadership, recognition of talent, or even the idea about the whole of the Beatles being greater than the sum of it’s parts that led to Lennon’s success; more than that it’s the few people that stepped in and helped immeasurably, sometimes unknowingly, like the schoolmaster who wrote a letter encouraging enough to get him into art school despite failing the O levels where he met his first bandmates, and Allan Williams, owner of the Jacaranda Club, who was the one who got them the contract to play in Hamburg, Germany where really, it all came together, and of course, Brian Epstein. Although the Beatles later became critical of Epstein’s management (save for Ringo Starr), without Epstein, the Beatles most likely would never have been so widely known. He persuaded the band to clean up their image, and did so at a time when John was still hurling insults to the audience and for behaviour that nowdays leads to a quick path of getting institutionalized and medicated. John was reluctant to change, but through Epstein’s insistence, John complied,although, he didn’t temper his attitude and behaviour off-stage. A tough transition, though it worked. The tough, leather-clad band simply wouldn’t have been marketable to such a wide audience as Epstien made them. Success made it too rewarding not to comply for appearances. And they were gaining success in torrents.

But it was John’s pain, wit, attitude, intellect, collegiality and ability to collaborate which contributed most of all to his success. It was not by controlling, conforming, and pigeonholing, but more through guidance and encouragement that John was allowed to tap into his inspiration and creativity and it was this that allowed the inspiration to flow and to be received and appreciated by the greater western world. This was only the start. The God status came later, but he carried his grief and trouble with him throughout it all.

More of the story to come later.

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