'In search of Mike Pender' - interview with Diana Bucuroiu from Romania

'In search of Mike Pender'  - interview with Diana Bucuroiu from Romania

Quite nervous, I entered the backstage door of the Woking theatre hall, looking for Mike Pender. After three wrong doors and asking, step by step, five people, I found Mike Pender in his room, resting between the two concerts. It was fascinating to find him besides his wife, May, who turned out to be the same girl who was waiting for him to return from Hamburg, 50 years ago. Now, they are the most charming couple I've met, whose beauty and serenity didn't change a bit over the years. Mike was vividly answering to all my questions, while May, calm and graceful, was completing his responses with precise years and delightful memories.

Mike was expecting a journalist from America who turned out to be me. We were amused by the misunderstanding and I explained him that I flew from Romania to see the Solid Silver '60s Show live. Mike remembered coming to Romania two years ago, to perform in a local TV show: "When my manager told me to go in Romania to do a TV show, I said: "We've never been before to Romania!” and I found it hard to believe that '60s music or Searchers' music has been big in Romania, because we've never been there. But I was wrong."

”I assured him that so many people in Romania listen to the '60s music and that "Sweets For My Sweet” is a legendary song, known by all my friends. Then he smiled:"That amazes me because you are so young!"

This is how my legendary interview with the legendary Mike Pender began!

OldiesMusicBlog: Can you tell me more about the founding of the band?

Mike Pender: It's well known, it has been written down many times and talked about. Like most of the bands in Liverpool, we got together… two people, John and myself. Then I found Tony. I went in the Liverpool city center one night, into a pub, and Tony was there singing and I got to talk to him. And we become very good friends. So we were three then. Some months later, I found Chris. He went to the same school as myself, in Liverpool. The four of us got together and after a couple of months it was decided that we would get a lead singer. Then we got Johnny Sandon and he stayed with us for 12 months maybe. Then he joined another band, The Remo Four, that had a contract with a record company. He wanted to earn some money, because we were only doing it for the gigs.Then we went to Hamburg. We saw there Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles and it was amazing. We all had given up our jobs in Liverpool and we were playing in Star Club in Hamburg.

OMB: How old were you then?



MP: We were all about the same age, Tony was a bit older, he was 22-23. When we came back to Liverpool, we recorded some songs. A record company in London, Pye Records, heard the songs. 50 years ago, exactly this year, we were number 1 with "Sweets For My Sweet”. He had "Sugar And Spice”, number one, "Don't Throw Your Love Away”… So we had three number ones, one number two. And we had other successful songs like "When You Walk In The Room”, "Goodbye My Love”, "Love Potion No 9”. '63, '64, '65, '66, those years were really really good. Me and May got married, we started a family and the children came. It's been a good life, isn't it?

May: It certainly has been! We've been blessed.

Yes, we've been blessed. Now I sing with my band, Mike Pender's Searchers (MPS), and my son, Michael Junior, is playing drums. We've got in America later this year to do a big show in Springfield, Massachusetts, then we had gigs in Holland, gigs in Germany, gigs in UK. I wouldn't like to do it as we did years ago. We did it all the time. You finish one tour and you start another tour. After we'll finish this tour, we have to go on a holiday! If I had to do it all the time, I wouldn't enjoy it. The necessity to do it would make it like a job. Now we can do it… and then have a six-week holiday, a break, and we came back and we're fresh and we enjoy it more. So that's the way it is now. I don't know how long we will do it. '60s music, as you say, is still popular!

OMB: Is it true that you were inspired by a John Wayne movie for the name of the band?

MP: Yes, I remember I was very young… it was only 1957… and I was 16 years old. Me and a couple of friends went to see the movie. And I said "Wow! What a great name! Let's call ourselves "The Seachers”!”. I loved cowboys, westerns… As a kid, I went to see a movie every Saturday afternoon. American cowboys were very famous in the '50s to a lot of kids like me.

OMB: Who were the artists that inspired you?

MP: It has to be Buddy Holly for me. In 1958, which was the year after seeing the movie, I got my ticket and I went to the Philharmonic in Liverpool to see him – Buddy Holly and The Crickets. And it was actually fantastic! And I thought: ”Well, this is what I'll love to do!”. He, for me, was the one to introduce me to music. I think there were a lot of Liverpool bands that came out later that year, like The Beatles. And they all got to see him.Obviously, when I was in school, there was Elvis… singing "Heartbreak Hotel” and I said: "What a great song!”. But then Buddy Holly came along. I liked all the rock'n'rolls – Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry – that was the music for me. But, for inspiration, it was Buddy Holly.

OMB: On the Liverpool scene, at that time, there were a lot of bands (Gerry and The Pacemakers, The Merseybeats, The Beatles). Were you rivals or friends?

MP: We were never friends like good pals. We all got to The Cavern and we were all on the same scene. We were competing, we all wanted to be the best. At that time I thought "Beatles were really good!”. When I first saw them on a stage in Liverpool, I thought: "What a group! Unbelievable!”, because they got the biggest fan group. Each group in Liverpool had fans, a lot of fans…

OMB: How were fans acting in the '60s? I saw videos and they were all screaming…

MP: That's what they did! Lots of groups were screaming so that you could hardly hear the music. That was part of the '60s experience.In the old days, you had a fun club, a secretary and everything. We still have a fun club today, but it's changed now, you don't get so many letters. We use the website. That's the way it is going now.

OMB: What was the moment when you reached the peak of your success?

MP: The biggest moment has to be going to America and appearing in The Ed Sullivan Show. Because, at that time, if you didn't get to The Ed Sullivan Show, I think it was still a good chance of not really making it.

OMB: What was the year?

MP: '64. '64 is probably the best year for the band. We did The Ed Sullivan Show, we had all those number ones, we toured America.

OMB: What are the top three songs that you cherish the most?

MP: "Goodbye My Love”, "When You Walk In The Room” and "Needles And Pins”. Concerning other people's songs, one of my favourites is from the '50s. There was the Italian-American singer, Al Martino. He was in the movie The Godfather and his big song was "Here In My Heart”. It was no 1 in the '50s and his voice was fantastic. I've always liked Gerry Rafferty – "Baker Street”. The other one has to be a Buddy Holly song – my favourite one is "Peggy Sue”. All because of the drums… or what they called drums, that apparently were some boxes.

OMB: If you were to do it all again, would you change anything?

MP: Not really, I wouldn't change anything. We had a good life!

~Diana Bucuroiu