352) The Searchers — “Popcorn, Double Feature”
Oh, the wonderful Searchers. the thought of their signature songs — “Sugar and Spice,” “Needles and Pins,” “Love Potion Number Nine,” “When You Walk in the Room” . . . — always brings a smile to my face. As Bruce Eder writes in All Music Guide:
Hailing from Liverpool, the Searchers were one of the many bands on the Merseybeat scene that enjoyed international fame in the wake of the Beatles’ breakthrough. The group’s trademark sound was bright, tuneful pop with ringing 12-string guitars and strong harmony vocals which gave even their covers of American R&B hits a touch of sweetness that made them hard to resist. . . .
But, as Eder goes on:
By the beginning of 1966, the group’s string of chart hits seemed to have run out . . . . The[y] continued working, however, playing clubs and cabarets in England and Europe.
Andrew Darlington picks up the story of “Popcorn, Double Feature” from there:
As hair grew longer and riffs got wilder elsewhere in Pop, as other first-generation Beat Boom names were falling by the wayside, the Searchers were graduating into mild string-laden protest . . . . [u]ntil eventually the[y] slide out of the Top Forty with a row of goodish 1966 forty-fives [including] one called “Popcorn Double Feature” which muses wistfully about how ‘music’s coming out of the woodwork, sounds so strange, nobody sleeps’. There’s a kind of amused bewilderment to its tone as if they’re surveying the increasing weirdness around them, the scene they’d once dominated…http://andrewdarlington.blogspot.com/2011/03/searchers-live-in-ossett.html
And Serene Dominic writes that:
‘Rather late in the game and with one year of cabaret gigs under its belt, the group and producer Tony Hatch . . . stepped up the production on its 1967 single “Popcorn Double Feature”. Despite being the grooviest song the band ever attempted, its sinister sawing cellos, housewife strings and hip lingo (“Everybody’s going through changes/ Everybody’s got a bag of their own…” What? Of popcorn?), it failed to change any chart anywhere.https://psychedelicscene.com/2021/08/16/psychedelic-skeletons-in-the-closet-the-searchers/
Too bad, such a cool song and such a wise reflection on its era. The song, especially as masterfully sung and played by the Searchers. should have been a hit.
Not too long ago, Jason Barnard interviewed Searcher Mike Pender, during which Barnard professed that “One of the late Pye singles is ‘Popcorn Double Feature’ from 1967. It’s one of my favourite singles by The Searchers”. Pender responded that:
It wasn’t a song that really grabbed me actually. You get songs offered to you and record companies say “Give it a try, let’s go and do it in the studio and put it down.” You think, “You never know it just might be. It’s a quirky type song that just might get in the charts.” So you go do it and do the best job you can. It’s a song that I’ve never really gone on stage and done. If I’m honest there’s isn’t anybody I can remember that ask for “Popcorn Double Feature”. But obviously there’s going to be people who like it and Jason you’re one of them.https://thestrangebrew.co.uk/interviews/mike-pender-origins-of-the-searchers-and-the-search-for-myself/
Talk about stripping away my illusions and taking away the romance — I wish I never read that interview! Anyway:
[Punk legends t]he Fall covered Merseybeat boy-band The Searchers’ 1967 flop “Popcorn, Double Feature” (written by Larry English and Arthur Weiss and originally recorded by Tim Wilde . . .) and . . . released it as a single in 1990.https://criticscircle.org.uk/popcorn-double-feature/
Crazy? Yes, but the Fall’s version is actually quite good, in a Sex Pistols do “My Way” sort of way.
“Everybody’s goin’ through changes. Everybody’s got a bag of his own. Everybody’s talking ’bout places can only be found in the greater unknown. People are flyin’ and babies are cryin’. Don’t nobody care at all? There’s love and there’s laughter and good things come after. Just follow the bouncing ball. Popcorn double feature, whole world’s a funny farm. Blind man is your teacher. No need to be alarmed. Music’s coming out of the woodwork sounding so strange, and nobody sleeps. And a little man on the corner is holding a flag and making a speech. Coffee each morning. “Don’t park” is the warning. They’ll tow your machine away. There’s so much confusion that’s built on illusion. What’s making the music play? Popcorn double feature, whole world’s a funny farm. Blind man is your teacher. No need to be alarmed. . . .”
Here is Tim Wilde’s original version:
And here is the Fall: