The old Seekers, as it were, were an Australian soft-folk harmony quartet who had international hits in the mid-60s with records like 'Georgy Girl' and 'The Carnival Is Over'. The lead singer on those records was Judith Durham and when she left for a solo career, the band effectively collapsed. It was a lesson not lost on her erstwhile colleague Keith Potger: an over-reliance on a single figure leaves a group vulnerable.
Potger's original intention was to form a New Seekers with him as a member, but as the concept developed, he chose instead to take a back-room role and to recruit an entirely new band of three male and two female singers: after some initial personnel changes, the classic line-up settled down as Marty Kristian, Paul Layton, Peter Doyle, Lyn Paul and Eve Graham.
Although the membership was entirely British, it was actually in America that the band first made an impact, where their cover of Melanie's 'Look What They've Done To My Song, Ma' went top twenty in 1970. A lot of their initial work was therefore in the States, where - contrary to their image in Britain - they were seen as a pretty credible group. They were signed to Elektra, they played at places like The Bitter End and The Troubador and were generally considered to be in the tradition of 60s harmony bands like the Mamas & Papas and the Fifth Dimension.
Back home, it was a different story: The New Seekers were part of light entertainment: unhip easy-listening. Even so, they were hugely successful. In 1971 they hit big with 'Never Ending Song Of Love' and then with 'I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing', a jingle written by Cook & Greenaway for a Coca-Cola advert: it made #1 here and would have done the same in America if a studio band, The Hillsiders, hadn't rushed out a version before them. The following year they were given the ultimate accolade of being chosen to represent the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest: they appeared on Cliff Richard's TV series - where the song was being chosen - every week for thirteen weeks, gaining them massively enhanced public exposure. The song ('Beg Steal or Borrow') didn't win the contest but was again an international hit.
It also sealed their reputation as being more suitable for family TV shows than for anything vaguely credible. Which is a little unfair, since some of the records are really very good indeed. If you like a nice bit of harmony pop, then a single like 'Circles' takes a hell of a lot of beating, and even their version of 'Pinball Wizard' is better than you would expect - according to Paul Layton, Pete Townsend wrote to the band to congratulate them on the re-work. These records were ultra-smooth, polished productions with some truly inventive harmony arrangements (courtesy of Potger) and the sheer perfection of them enables them to survive.
But there were inherent problems in keeping together a band that had essentially been invented by a management team and, in 1974 after ten top forty hits in Britain, they split up.
Their premature departure from the scene left a gap for a group purveying clean harmony-led pop. Amongst those who tried to fill the gap were Guys & Dolls and, somewhat more successfully, Abba, whose post-Eurovision career in Britain only started after The New Seekers had gone. Coincidence? I don't think so.
The band did re-form in 1976, though without Lyn Paul and without anything like the same level of success. The line-up has gone through a few permutations since then but Paul Layton and Marty Kristian still lead The New Seekers at gigs. Meanwhile Lyn Paul has forged a whole new career - she made a big impression on critics and audiences in Willy Russell's musical Blood Brothers on tour and in the West End.
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the New Seekers