Saturday, August 27, 2016

COVERING THEIR TRACKS: "Searchin" by Leiber & Stoller

A new feature every Saturday for a couple of weeks, gang. I'm calling this "Covering Their Tracks" since it has a perfect dual meaning for both music and mystery fiction. I've become obsessed lately with random allusions to fictional detectives in pop and rock music. Over at Patti Abbot's blog I heard yet another rock tune that arbitrarily inserts a Sherlock Holmes reference and it reminded me that a couple of months ago I attempted to get the Tuesday Night Bloggers to do a salute to Golden Age mystery writers and their characters in pop music lyrics. Didn't go over well with the one person I approached so I didn't even ask anyone else. Now I'm doing it myself.

Travelling way back to 1957 (there will be many modern tunes a-comin' my friends, don't worry) we have this allusion loaded tune. The melody is simplistic, jaunty, a bit too repetitive but the lyrics make it my first choice. So I had to start with this one.

Originally written by Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller for The Coasters "Searchin" was later covered by The Hollies, Neil Sedaka, The [Silver] Beatles (in the Peter Best days), Spencer Davis Group and The Grateful Dead (my least favorite) among many others. Musically the arrangement I like the best is the Spencer Davis Group cover but they cut all the lyrics about the detectives -- sacrilege! The Silver Beatles cover mixes up the lyrics something awful and they cut out Boston Blackie and add Peter Gunn instead. So I'm going with the true original. Here's The Coasters appearing on Dick Clark's short-lived second TV show "Saturday Night" from the episode aired March 19, 1960.


Below are the lyrics with the list of detectives. For all you young'uns out there Boston Blackie was a safecracker and thief turned detective created by writer Jack Boyle. The first story appeared in the July 1914 issue of The American Magazine. The Boston Blackie stories were adapted for both silent and talking movies, radio and TV from 1919 through the late 1950s. That's a long life for a detective and now of course he's almost entirely forgotten.

Yeah well, Sherlock Holmes and Sam Spade
They got nothing, child, on me
Sergeant Friday, Charlie Chan
and Boston Blackie
No matter where she hides
Man, she's gonna hear me comin'
I'm gonna walk right down that street
Like Bulldog Drummond

Cause I've been searchin'
Woah Lord now, searchin'
For goodness, searchin' every way which way, oh yay
I'm like a Northwest Mountie
You know I'll bring her in someday


  1. I so rarely am able to pick up the lyrics that I'd never catch it. I'd have to go online and look for them. Not sure if this is a hearing problem on not.

  2. Fantastic, John. I have heard that song many times over the years and never noticed the references to Holmes and Spade, etc.

    1. Then you probably heard the Spencer Davis Group cover or someone else's later version. I listened to as many of the covers as I could find and so far only the original Coasters recording and The Hollies cover retain the section in the lyrics with all the detectives.

      Next week: a tune inspired by the works of Agatha Christie recorded in 1993.

  3. I had the 45 of this, listened to it countless times and did hear and sing along to those lyrics. Not my favorite Coasters song, but I don't think I had a favorite of theirs.

  4. That's brilliant - thanks John. I'm one of those people who forgets lyrics but can remember the tune, so I definitely all the help I can get - great idea chum!