I was reminded of this story I published on Facebook exactly 4 years ago today. Interestingly since then I’ve told this story with my own band just a few weeks ago. The various phases of this songs evolution appear in the video at the end of this post. (including the Steve Thompson Band live version)
I was a big fan of the Searchers in the sixties so it was a pleasure to work with them in the early 80’s. Now not many people know this but the song they recorded was originally a “Cowboy Song”. Yes, the first demo demonstrates this both in the lyric and in a short intro by a guy called Ken Black. Ken was a retired policeman and used to come round the studio a lot. For some reason that escapes me now, I had Ken record an intro to each song in the batch of demos. I explained the story behind the lyric as an imaginary western where a bad hombre was hiding away in a backwater one-horse town. The vocals on this track are by Phil Caffrey + Peter + Paul = The Caffreys.
My publisher of the time, called me and suggested if I were to take a verse from another of my songs and the chorus from this one, re-write the lyrics then I’d have a hit on my hands. Always willing to oblige I did as he said and you can hear this version next on the audio collage. On this version, it’s just Smithie on drums and me on everything else (plus, of course, the Caffreys) In the early 80’s I was signed to MCA music and my mentor was Pete Waterman. Pete got the song to The Searchers who decided to cut it as their next single and the producer was to be Peter Collins (Gary Moore, Bon Jovi, Air Supply, Alice Cooper, Rush, Nik Kershaw,The Cardigans etc) who Waterman managed. The next version you hear is the Searchers but this is not the mix that got released. This is the one that Roy Clough sent me.
It’s possible that this mix was a bone of contention between Waterman and Collins and may have lead to the breakup of their partnership. Collins thought that the raw rocky mix was a good representation of the modern day Searchers. Waterman disagreed because, as always he had his sights on the charts. He wanted all the bells and whistles and Collins obliged. The is the next version you hear and the one that was released. The single entered the lower region of the UK charts but it charted and went gold on a K Tel compilation album. Later the Searchers recorded another of my songs “Innocent Victim” and both tracks feature on their 30th and 40th Anniversary albums as well as various other compilations.
The Searchers were performing at Castles in Catchgate (Co Durham UK) which is near where I was raised and where my old band Bullfrog used to rehearse so I arranged to go along (by now I was living in Whitley Bay) When I got to the gig I went into the dressing room and introduced myself to the band. It was a great show and it was quite a blast to hear my song in the midst of all those classic tracks. What made it even better was that John McNally (or was it Frank Allen) introduced the song and said “this song was written by a guy who used to go to school around here and he ‘s standing at the bar over there, Steve Thompson”. I got a big round of applause & it felt great.
So to round it all off we conclude with a live version from our gig at Nemix Studios on Sept 28th 2016 with Terry Slesser on vocals and Mick Whitaker and Lorraine Crosby providing the Searchers type harmonies. You can hear this and other stories again at our next gig which is Live Theatre, Newcastle, December 14th.