Living legends

Frank Allen (second, left) with band mates (l-r) Spencer James, John McNally and Scott Ottaway. Picture: Henry Murphy.
Frank Allen (second, left) with band mates (l-r) Spencer James, John McNally and Scott Ottaway. Picture: Henry Murphy.
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FRANK Allen joked you just have to hang in there long enough to be called ‘a living legend’.

The bass guitar icon will be in Motherwell as The Searchers celebrate their 50th anniversary with a massive tour.

The group who shot to fame in the 1960s with hits such as ‘Sweets for My Sweet’, ‘Needles and Pins’ and ‘When You Walk In The Room’, will perform at the Concert Hall on Friday, May 17, at 7.30pm.

Frank said: “I always like coming to Motherwell, I have no idea how many times we’ve been up but certainly for most of the last decade every time it is almost without fail on the itinerary.

“But we can always rely on a warm welcome, but then it’s Scotland so you expect nothing less, it’s just the same now as it was back in the early days.”

Frank joined the group at the peak of their fame in 1964 and admits he almost turned down the opportunity.

He said: “It was pretty scary when I was asked to join The Searchers.

“At the time I was playing with Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers, he was a great singer and I didn’t want to let him down, but ultimately I couldn’t say no.

“I was a chance I had to take and the best decision I ever made.”

However, even Frank admits he didn’t believe they would still be going five decades later.

He said: “If I’m honest I recognised we were just a pop group and kinda thought that maybe we’d get four or five years out of it.

“To still be here 50 years later and for there still to be an audience wanting to hear us is just amazing.

“They say there are three stages for any group- when you’re having hits, when the hits dry up and then if you can hang around long enough you start to enter popular culture and are considered a living legend.”

Frank lists his highlight with the group as performing on 42 shows over seven days at the Fox Theatre in New York with a line-up which included Marvin Gaye, Dusty Springfield, Smokey Robinson, the Ronettes and Martha and the Vandellas to name but a few.

Frank said: “It was just incredible and I can’t believe such a line-up will ever be put together for a show again.

“Just to be on the same stage as a legend like Marvin Gaye would have been enough, but to have all the other talent there too was just brilliant.

“We also did our turn at the Royal Variety Performance in 1981 and met the Queen, and performed in front of 80,000 people as guests of Cliff Richard for two shows in 1989 which must be the biggest crowd we ever played to.

“I actually just saw Cliff when we were in Australia last month and he’s been a good friend over the years.”

Frank is maybe most famous as the innovator of finger playing bass, but he is rather more humble, saying it was simply due to a lost plectrum.

He said: “I think it is a bit far to say I innovated the style, it simply came from being a poor musician and unable to afford new plectrums so when I lost one I just used my fingers.

“I had seen John Barry’s bassist do it and it was popular in American amongst the guys who had played stand-up bass, Steve Priest of The Sweet said I was an influence which was nice, but I never look it to the level of say a Mark King.”

Tickets costing £19 (concessions £18) are available from the box office on 01698 403120 or visit NLC entertainment