Life at 33 1/3
By Carl Meyer
Fourth time lucky
The Hollies: Would You Believe (Parlophone)
June 1966, and The Hollies finally deliver an album of some substance. Their
three previous efforts were ramshackle runs through cover versions of your
standard rock’n’roll and rhythm & blues. They sounded clumsy and strained,
they didn’t rock, it was all rickety-rackety playing and tinny harmony
vocals. The Manchester lads (as one would have called them way back when)
were floored by the opposition: The Stones, the Animals, the Pretty Things,
the Kinks, Small Faces, the Manfreds and the Beatles.
The Hollies’ strength was hit singles, stuff that glued itself to your brain
after about 30 seconds, great hook lines, stellar harmony singing, genuine
pop music. When it came to singles they sure knew how to pick quality songs.
19 Top 20 hits in Great Britain during the 1960s says it all. Only The
Beatles had more.
But the Hollies struggled on 33 1/3. The LP’s were throwaways stuffed with
badly realized cover versions and a handful of indecisive self-written tunes
(they hid behind the pseudonym L. Ransford on those – actually the name of
Graham Nash’ grandfather) that left a lot to be desired. The Hollies simply
didn’t know how to make a proper LP.
That was until “Would You Believe” arrived with some splendor. The choice of
cover songs is inspired, and the self-composed material a huge improvement.
A couple of the tracks could easily have been released as singles. There are
only three relapses into old sins here: “That’s How Strong My Love Is” (why,
Hollies, why?!?), “Sweet Little Sixteen” and “Take Your Time”. But apart
from these, the album sounds nice and fresh.
There is a folk approach here that suits the band well, namely in Paul
Simon’s “I Am A Rock”, the Peter, Paul & Mary-chestnut “Stewball “ (a song
John Lennon stole and renamed “Happy Xmas (War Is Over”)) and Graham Nash’
bittersweet “Fifi The Flea”. They flirt with the exotics in “Oriental
Sadness” and even manage to write and perform a piece of British beat that
actually swings (“I’ve Got A Way Of My Own”).
The album checks out with the massive hit “I Can’t Let Go”. It surpasses
everything on the album. But then again, being one of the greatest singles
of all time it would take some effort to beat that monster.
“Would You Believe” catches The Hollies on their way to something much
bigger. They would arrive only a few months later with “For Certain
Because”, the first of three classy Hollies-albums in a row.
Oddity: The song “Would You Believe” is not included on the album but
appeared three albums later on “Butterfly”, released in November 1967. Check
Released: June 1966
Produced by: Ron Richards
1. “I Take What I Want” (David Porter, Mabon “Teenie” Hodges, Isaac
2. “Hard Hard Year” (Ransford) 2:13
3. “That’s How Strong My Love Is” (Roosevelt Jamison) 2:42
4. “Sweet Little Sixteen” (Chuck Berry) 2:21
5. “Oriental Sadness” (Ransford) 2:37
6. “I Am a Rock” (Paul Simon) 2:48
7. “Take Your Time” (Buddy Holly, Norman Petty) 2:18
8. “Don’t You Even Care” (Clint Ballard, Jr.) 2:27
9. “Fifi the Flea” (Ransford) 2:05
10. “Stewball” (Bob Yellin, Ralph Rinzler, John Herald) 3:05
11. “I’ve Got a Way of My Own” (Ransford) 2:12
12. “I Can’t Let Go” (Chip Taylor, Al Gorgoni) 2:26
Allan Clarke – vocals, harmonica
Bobby Elliott – drums
Eric Haydock – bass guitar
Tony Hicks – lead guitar, vocals
Graham Nash – rhythm guitar, vocals