Thursday, August 21, 2003

POPOBIT: Tony Jackson, the original voice of The Searchers, has died of liver disease in Nottingham. Jackson was the vocalist at the time of the band's first hit, Sweets for my Sweet, which was number one for three weeks back when these things mattered more (in 1963, in other words). He left the band shortly after due to illness (apparently the others were sick of him), and formed his own group, Tony Jackson and the Vibrations who... um... didn't have a number one hit. Years of heavy drinking left him unable to play and in 1996 he was jailed for 18 months after threatening to kill a woman with an airpistol. Before he died, he'd cleared the air with his former Searcher colleagues - who were amongst the first to record their memories of the man - and attended a Searchers fan convention with them last year. He turned down the opportunity to reprise his role as vocalist on 'Sweets...', pleading "the spirit is willing but the body is knackered." A brief stint in a revival Searchers band with other ex-Searchers Mike Pender crumbled when Jackson discovered he was going to be paid on a par with the session drummer.

The band took their name from the John Wayne film, and started out on the then-embryonic Merseybeat scene in a uniform of red shirts, black trousers and white shoes (not unlike the Man United home strip, then) before a fatal shopping trip to C&A saw them transmute for the Hives into the Spinners - all polo necks and slacks. The band came within an ace of being signed by Epstein, except Jackson hit the sauce a little too heavily when he attended a Cavern Club performance and fell off the stage. With his habit of falling over a lot, investing two hundred quid on a nose job must have been a bit of a risk, but one which he nevertheless undertook. He'd previously had to have psychiatric help, such was his hatred of his nose. The band usually chose to play The Iron Door over the Cavern; the Iron Door had the reputation as the rougher of the two clubs (since the Cavern attracted Edwina Currie, Peter Sissons and Cilla Black, we can well believe this). Tony Allen, the man who took over the singing when Jackson quit, writes a few words on the Searcher's official website in which he doesn't quite manage to strike the right note: "His final years could not have been pleasant. I'm sure that, quite naturally, he was envious, and probably even resentful, of the way we had carried our earlier success into the revival years of the '80s and onwards." So, his life was shit, then. Thanks, mate.

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