Thursday, July 9, 2009


Do you ever have one of those days when you're too tired to, like, talk about music any more, and you just want to listen to it?

I've definitely had those days before here at A Year in the Life-- hence some of my lamer posts. (Today I think I might actually be coming down with something, though, so forgive my brevity.) And see, when you have to talk about a song like "Searchin'"-- as I indeed do, seeing as how it's an Anthology 1 track and this is the inane project I have committed myself to this year-- you're really just tempted to throw up your hands and say, forget it, just listen to the darned thing. Because "Searchin'" is kind of iconic that way.

This song was a gigantic breakout hit in 1957 for the Coasters, an awesome group who for my purposes is most interesting for their significant presence on the setlist for the Beatles' ill-fated Decca audition. Our Anthology track comes straight from those Decca tapes. Doesn't this song utterly, utterly rule? "Searchin'" is so iconic as to be kind of overplayed, maybe, but it's so awesome-- the kind of song you want to blast out your car window while you drive to the beach. Everything from the thwacking two-note bassline to the relentless drive in the backup vocals to the content of the lyrics, with their silly litany of law enforcement figures-- all contribute to the head-bopping laid-back feel. The bluesy simplicity is classic Leiber and Stoller. (I think this is one of the best songs they ever wrote, not that I'm any kind of expert.) It's no wonder that the Beatles had been covering "Searchin'" practically since the moment John and Paul started playing together, and that by the time they were auditioning for Decca it was an integral part of their Cavern sets.

Compared to the Coasters' version, the Beatles' is far hammier-- and Paul, I'm mainly looking at you here. We all know that Paul loves some corny vocals, and indeed he might be overselling this one a bit. I'm going to chalk it up to nerves. But it barely matters, because I kind of enjoy it even as I realize it's sort of ridiculous. Lord knows Paul is enjoying the hell out of singing this, and everyone else seems to be having an awesome time too, what with the whooping, and the way the whole thing is just on the edge of spilling over into a faster tempo. (Pete Best is drumming here, of course, but I think Ringo would have been able to hold the beat together a bit better.) In the end, "Searchin'" is another one of those covers that the Beatles make a little less smooth and a little more manic than the original. I think this is going to start being my overriding Beatles covers theory.

I'm sure you want to listen to the Coasters' "Searchin'" now, as well you should. Here it is. (This is the best recording I can find-- and no, I have no idea what's up with the Skinamax-tastic graphic here. Just, like, close your eyes while you listen or something.)

"Searchin'," released in the U.K. and the U.S. disc 1 track 15 of Anthology 1, November 20, 1995.

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