Mike Pender – no longer searching
[private]Mike Pender talks to David Parker about life in general – and in the fast lane, in particular.
It would be remiss of me to say “I could still be a success” when deciding to go my own way and form Mike Penders Searchers in 1985.
Like they say: “I took a calculated risk and it worked.”
Most people who are successful in life take a risk: “Who dares wins”. It’s always been like that. Confidence is the key!
If you’re confident in what you do, you can do most things in life. It might take some people longer than others, but you get there in the end.
In the preceding years, I was indecisive; I always knew I would split one day. Too many people had brought up the subject. I wasn’t interested in trying for a recording deal.
As “The Searchers”, we’d been down that road too many times and wasted too many years “trying”. So there was no remorse or sadness and certainly no despair.
In truth, I couldn’t wait to get on the road with my new band. Chris Black, Steve Carlisle and Barry Cowell were the most accomplished musicians I had ever worked with. They were great and they made me feel great. I’ve made a few important decisions in my life! This was definitely one of them.
1986 – 1992
In the first five or six years, we worked hard: Australia, America, South Africa, Sweden, Denmark and the UK. I wanted to make as much money as I could. I needed capital to invest and Tony Sherwood provided me with the means to that capital.
In the entertainment world, I learned, a long time ago, that unless you make investments that keep you in the life to which you have become accustomed, you will end up working week in week out, waiting for your agent to phone with a gig you don’t really want but have to take because you need the money!
So I did my homework and things worked out for me and my family.
When ‘ReelinandaRockin’ came along – the show produced by Derek Franks – I just had to do it. This show and ‘The Oh Boy Show’, also by Derek, ran for quite a few years.
Chris Black, my keyboards/guitarist had emigrated to Australia. I caught up with him when ‘‘ReelinandaRockin’’ went over there!
So it was time for a new adventure and those Derek Franks shows were a wonderful experience.
I must mention my son Mike junior! Although he’s getting on a bit now, he’s my drummer and my gig organiser. He will make sure Barry and Keith (bass and guitar/vocal) are at each MPS gig for a sound check and stage set, ready for when I arrive for the gig later. I could not be without him.
Losing our youngest son Nathan, a few years ago, was hard to take as it is for all Mums and Dads when losing a child and, as usually happens, it is much harder for the Mum to get over. My dear wife May will probably never get over losing him, but we still have Michael our oldest, and Stephanie our daughter, and our wonderful grandson Alexander who is a blessing – especially for May.
I must mention Frankie Allen from my old group, The Searchers. When our son Nathan was killed in that tragic road accident Frankie wrote my wife May a very consoling letter, and it did help her a lot to know other people – especially people she had not seen for many years – were thinking of her in her hour of need. Well done, Frankie (and thanks!).
I see my old mate Dave Berry the most out of all the 60s people still around. We find ourselves on the same bill in most 60s shows. This is happening more often nowadays as, like Dave, I sometimes find myself performing as a solo artist – although, as you know, a backing band is provided, like on the forthcoming Solid Silver 60s.
On the previous show I did, three years ago, we had Vanity Fair as the backing band – great band in their own right. They are lovely guys and I always look forward to performing with them. This year, backing will be provided by New Amen Corner, another great band and, like Vanity Fair, are great musicians in their own right. Myself, with Dave Berry, Brian Poole, Wayne Fontana and Tony Crane, have all had the pleasure of working with both bands over the years – and not forgetting The Dakotas, who also provide the essential backing when needed.
May I wish them all health and fortune in this 50th anniversary year.
Travelling has never bothered me. That’s because I don’t and won’t do it on a regular basis except when it’s an organised theatre tour like Solid Silver. I don’t have to shlap up and down the motorway week in week out, 12 months of the year, I’m glad to say.
And that’s the way I like it because venues in this country are not prepared to pay large fees. Many of the gigs are out of the country: “Have 12 strings with travel”. This suits me fine and if the gigs get thin on the ground, I’m quite happy to spend time with family and friends, and especially with my little grandson Alexander.
There’s that word again! Confidence. To be confident that you need to have something to be confident in!
Whatever your profession you need to be good at it. Some people have been good at what they do. For instance, a famous footballer 50 years ago couldn’t do today what he did then. So confidence is no good to him anymore. But someone like myself and many others from 50 years ago can still do today what we did then, even though most of us have grown older.
As I’ve said many times to audiences, it’s not so much how you look, but how you perform or sing!
A few years ago, I got to see Al Martino at 82. He still sounded great, but you could see how confident he was, and that’s because he knew he could still sound and sing almost as good as when he was a heart-throb singing at the Sands Las Vegas. I really enjoy performing today, more so than years ago. Since forming MPS more than 25 years ago, yes – my confidence has grown. My ego has probably grown a bit as well. But we all have a little bit of an ego in this business. At the end of the day, or should I say – “at the end of the night” – no matter how confident you are you‘re only as good as your last performance.
I would never say I was an accomplished musician! My old mate Chris Black, an original member of MPS, was an accomplished musician. He could read music, write music, play three or more instruments, including guitar, keyboards and piano, and he could sing – and he was a good raconteur.
That’s what I call an accomplished musician. So, ‘musician wise’, I’m pretty ordinary.
“Singer?” well a lot of Record Companies including Pye, Liberty, RCA, KAPP Records in America, Sire Records and Universal Records who recently released a “Searchers Box Set” all think I can sing. So yes to that one.
“Song writer?” – back to pretty ordinary I’m afraid! All my songs have been co-written with the most successful being He’s Got No Love. The song was my idea. I came up with the guitar riff and the melody, but is was Chris Curtis who wrote the lyrics or most of them.
Yes, I’ve written songs but most ended up in the waste paper basket. Broken Hearts, which is on my MPS CD, is okay and a lot of people have remarked on it, but that’s about it.
My all-time favourite song? There are many! Peggy Sue has to be one of them! I was 16 years old when I watched Buddy Holly and The Crickets at the Philharmonic in Liverpool: that was 1958. I’ve been there many times since that wonderful night. Every time I’m there I think of him, and I’ll be thinking of them when The Solid Silver 60s Show arrives at The Phil in April.
A couple of years ago, I was driving home from a gig: it was quite late and I had the radio on (early morning actually). The presenter played a record I’d never heard before and, by the time it ended, the hairs on the back of my neck were standing out. I won’t tell you the title, as I want to record it the first chance I get. But I will be performing that song on The Solid Silver Tour.
Stories of being on the road? The problem with telling stories about this subject is that they’re funny at the time but don’t sound funny when written down! So, we’ll move on.
I really enjoy performing today, more so than years ago. My confidence has grown. My ego has probably grown a bit as well.
When you’ve been doing it for as long as I have – performing that is – the question of retirement always comes up in conversation. Well, it would after 50 years, wouldn’t it! For most people in my business the response will be the same: “I’m gonna rock till I drop.” I could retire tomorrow but I know I would miss it terribly.
There will come a point when some of us will have to hang our guitars up, or microphones. The body will give up before the brain, or vice versa.
Will he retire? They told me it was going to be his last tour. We shall see! Looking back, it’s easy to say: “I would have done this, or I wouldn’t have done that!” People have been saying it for years: “What if?” Sounds like something Stephen King would write about.
We all have ‘What If’ moments in life. What if President JFK had not been murdered in 1964? Would America have still gone to war in Vietnam?
What if Adolph Hitler had not invaded Poland? Would we still have gone to war?
I believe in fate and you can’t change that. We are all fated whether good or bad.
When I found Tony Jackson in The Cross Keys Pub that night in Liverpool, it was FATE that took me there. When Chris Curtis was stepping off that bus in my home town of Bootle a few weeks after finding Tony, it was Fate that I was waiting at that same bus stop.
This is going back to when The Searchers were formed. This was FATE!
Looking back I wouldn’t have changed anything. Fifty years in performing and recording have given me much to rejoice in. My Treasures, My Pleasures, My Investments and most of all, My Loved Ones, My Family.
Will I retire? I think I’ve covered this but the short answer to that question is: “Not this year”, and when I do retire, I will know it’s time to do so.
Music has given me much in life. But fate has also smiled on me. After seeing other people’s misfortunes, especially those unfortunates who are born with the terrible cleft lip – to see those little children with this dreadful abnormality is heart rending! And so we give to, and we support, “Operation Smile”.
We also give and support the NSPCC.
I always have things to do. The days go by so quickly, especially at this time of year. Right now, I’m busy finalising my autobiography. It seems that I started writing it years ago but, in reality, it’s been about two years – on and off! I hope to have it ready for the Solid Silver Tour.
We all have ‘What If’ moments in life. I believe in fate and you can’t change that.
But if not, it will be ready later this year. As you would expect, the book takes priority, but when not writing – or should I say, when taking a break from it – my wife May and I take quite a few holidays through the year – when gigs allow, of course. We take all the family and go to our favourite place, Los Gigantes, a wondrous little town in Tenerife where the sun always shines even in winter.
Right now, I’m busy finalising my autobiography.
We spend a lot of time with our grandson Alexander who, after losing Nathan, is a God-send, and our daughter Stephanie lets him stay with us at weekends and in summer holidays.
We live in lush countryside with sheep, cattle and racing horses from the nearby stud all around us and, yes, we have a very large fridge-freezer, although we do eat out quite a lot. I have many interests and hobbies but I won’t bore you any longer.
Many thanks for the interview, David. I hope that fate has only good times ahead for you.