King Midas in Reverse
The Hollies entered the summer of love firing on
all cylinders, and then Graham Nash picked the
wrong single, and it all came crashing down.
(Highest position on
the New Musical Express’ TOP 30 singles and TOP 10 albums in
“On A Carousel” / “All
The World Is Love” (Parlophone, R 5562), Released: February 1967 (5)
An infectious slice of
fairground magic: The protagonist rides the carousel, chasing his dream
girl, constantly changing horses, but not quite catching up to her until we
reach the final verse and testosterone order is restored in a whoosh of
harmonic voices, the colour of rainbows.
The melody rotates
like a carousel around the recurring guitar theme (with a slight banjo
sound), first verse sung by Nash, second by Clarke, and as they approach the
chorus the group’s trade mark turbo kicks in, full force, the three-part
harmonies splash out of your speakers like liquid stardust.
It’s a simple story,
and in lesser hands it would have turned into a tacky piece of candy floss,
but the performance is so strong and the arrangement so clever that the song
becomes a wonderful statement of pop art. 1967 had started. The Hollies
were up for the challenge.
B-side “All The World
Is Love” is built on a quirky rhythmic structure, moving beneath distant
chiming guitars, although a bit monotonous, its oriental seasoning (traces
of “Revolver”) and love-message makes it an early example of English
psychedelic whimsy. The Hollies anticipate the ‘summer of love’.
“Non Prego Per Me” /
“Devi Avere Fiducia In Me” (Parlophon, QMSP 16402) Released: 1967 (-)
Italian only release,
recorded during the “Evolution”-sessions in January 1967. The Hollies sang
this number (written by legendary Italian song-smiths Mogol & Lucio
Battisti) at the San Remo Festival later that same month, but failed to
reach the finale. The only comment relevant here is why?
A-side a Kurt Weill
like march with a standard beat group chorus. B-side (credited to
Speechia/Martinia) a happy-go-lucky ditty, typical Italian pop for its time,
and maybe relevant to Herman’s Hermits. Allan Clarke carries both songs
more or less alone. He does not sound comfortable.
“Carrie Anne” / “Signs
That Will Never Change” (Parlophone, R 5602) Released: May 1967 (3)
The follow-up to the
massive hit “On A Carousel”, and just as catchy. Carrie-Anne Moss was named
after it. Released as the world was entering “the summer of love”, and on
top of the radio DJs’ playlists along with “Sgt. Pepper”, “A Whiter Shade Of
Pale” and “All You Need Is Love”.
production that incorporates Latin American percussion (including a marimba
solo) and razor sharp three part harmonies, the melody is so simple you know
its refrain by heart even before The Hollies have come half way through its
first appearance. The three composers sing one verse each. Clarke handling
the first followed by Hicks, leaving the final philosophical lines to Nash
who at this time was trying to push The Hollies in a more socially conscious
and psychedelic direction, in step with the cooler names of the day, like
The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield. He
had even started to dress the part.
“Carrie Anne” wasn’t
quite there, though, as its lyrical message was rather lightweight, but the
performance made the whole thing sound right. Bright and summery, catchy
pop in kaftans.
B-side is an appealing
folksy mid-tempo ballad that takes us from winter to spring. Traces of
Simon & Garfunkel in “Bookends” mood.
“Kill Me Quick” /
“We’re Alive” (Parlophon, QMSP 16410) Released: 1967 (-)
Another Italian job,
recorded for the soundtrack of the movie “Fai In Fretta Ad Uccidermi....Ho
freddo !” At least these two songs are their own and sung in English.
A-side is a tight,
up-tempo raver with nice harmony singing and a wailing harmonica. B-side’s
got Hicks’ quivering guitar as a bait, the song itself strolls merrily
along, but in 1967 it sounded dated by the group’s current standards. Only
released in Italy.
(Parlophone, PCS 7022) Released: June 1967 (8)
sleeve, released at the same time as “Sgt. Pepper”, but although an
impressive step into the new sounds of the day, not in the same league. All
12 tracks written by Clarke/Hicks/Nash, and none of them released as
singles. A close cousin to “For Certain Because” with bright tunes that
sparkle with three part harmonies and reverberating guitars, but wrapped in
feathers, velvet and cellophane.
Nash no doubt is
responsible for the more whimsical lyrics, well meant, but sometimes
crossing into the silly, like “Ye Olde Toffee Shop”. But overall a
collection of very strong tunes, performed by an inspired combo in its
“King Midas In
Reverse” / “Everything Is Sunshine” (Parlophone, R 5637) Released: September
And this is where it
all went wrong. Mainly written by Graham Nash who defiantly insisted that
it should be their next single. Maybe he thought it would blow people’s
minds. It is hard to see how. It’s just a song about a loser who can’t
seem to do anything right, now he warns his girlfriend, leave, save
yourself, I’m bad karma.
The last verse dives a
few inches below the surface and suggests that perhaps the song concerns
itself with more fundamental questions than one was led to believe, it turns
out that the protagonist is even afraid of losing his soul. There’s nothing
in the preceding verses that leads up to this piece of terrifying gloom, but
credit to Nash for going there. It’s an unexpected turn of events for a
The story is set to a
melody (mainly written by Clarke according to an interview he gave New
Musical Express in October 1967) that begs for an intimate acoustic
arrangement, quite similar to what one would later expect from Crosby,
Stills & Nash. The Hollies’ solution starts out promising: the guitar intro
is delicious, and the verses stabilize themselves on a simple, but
captivating chord progression. The chorus however, is surprisingly tame.
They definitely should have put more work into it.
They treated this
little campfire song as if it was an epic. Inviting Johnny Scott and his
orchestra in, and Scott’s overblown and busy arrangement deprives the tune
of all intimacy. The song’s potential is drowned in strings, horns, choir,
the works. “A Day In The Life” it is not. “King Midas In Reverse” only
reached #18, The Hollies’ worst showing in the Top 30 since the disastrous
“If I Needed Someone”.
There’s a fragile and
beautiful tune hidden in there, if properly arranged it would have fit
perfectly on their “Butterfly”-album. Why didn’t they release “Dear
B-side, “Everything Is
Sunshine” is a lightweight ditty with some nice guitar picking and traces of
psychedelia sprinkled on it. Nash takes the lead vocals, telling us that
everything is sunshine when his girlfriend lets him hold her hand.
(Parlophone, PCS 7039) Released: November 1967. (-)
Midas”-fiasco unfortunately had terrible consequences for The Hollies, or at
least for Graham Nash’s plans for the group. The others reluctantly
accepted the single’s release. They also tagged along when they created
“Butterfly”, The Hollies’ masterpiece. But as The Hollies’ standing had
plummeted after “Midas”, they were now presented with the ultimate blow.
“Butterfly” bombed too, it didn’t even show up in the lower regions of the
Top 15. Nash’s time as the leader of the band was over.
What a pity, as
“Butterfly” is a gem, a contender for inclusion on anybody’s Top 100 albums
of all time. Nash dominates the contents, but it’s still a group effort
proven by Tony Hicks’ exceptional “Pegasus” and Allan Clarke’s majestic
wall-of-sound epic “Would You Believe”. There’s whimsy (Wishyouawish),
naked beauty dipped in dope (Butterfly), oriental left-turns (Elevated
Observation) and high spirited, delicious pieces of bright and colourful pop
(Dear Eloise, Postcard & Away Away Away). 12 tracks and not one dud. Why
people didn’t buy this album in truck loads I still don’t understand.
“Jennifer Eccles” /
“Open Up Your Eyes” (Parlophone, R 5680) Released: March 1968 (6)
1968 was the year when
the Tony Hicks/Allan Clarke-faction overturned Nash and took control of The
Hollies. It was back to the showband outfits and the cabaret circuit, and
then they set out on a project that Nash hated fervently: A full album of
Bob Dylan-covers in lush arrangements.
But before they came
that far a new single had to be recorded. No more experiments and
mind-expanding lyrics, this one had to be super commercial. So Nash found
himself in the humiliating situation of having to sit down with Allan Clarke
to write a good old fashioned, easy on the ear pop tune with no other
ambitions than to sell. The result was “Jennifer Eccles”, hummable, elegant
and immaculately performed, wearing a smile on its face, winking and
whistling at the girls, even leaving a trail of jolly la-la’s in its wake.
All honour to Nash, who wholeheartedly set out to make this an effortless
winner. “Jennifer Eccles” captures the sound of spring.
“Open Up Your Eyes” is
a merry chugga-chugga showcase for their three part harmonies, Clarke, Hicks
and Nash sing one verse each, and you are served a banjo solo to go.
Hollies’ Greatest (LP)
(Parlophone, PCS 7057) Released: August 1968 (1)
Collects 14 of their
17 single A-sides (so far), most of them appearing on an album for the first
time (although by mistake an alternate take of “Yes I Will” was included).
Rounds off with “Jennifer Eccles”. Became The Hollies’ biggest selling
album and their first to hit #1.
“Listen To Me” / “Do
The Best You Can” (Parlophone, R 5733), Released: September 1968 (7)
Graham Nash gave The
Hollies his final blessing before he left for the US and Crosby, Stills &
Nash. “Listen To Me” is his farewell. A Tony Hazzard composition,
performed and arranged as if it was their own. Supreme craftsmanship,
impossible to dislike.
Nash’s harmonic voice
owns the song and his duet with Clarke in the second verse is classic, as
magical as when Lennon and McCartney sailed through “If I Fell.”
The chorus is loud,
soaring skywards, voices shimmering like stardust and quicksilver. The
verses pass like the coaches of a local train, skipping merrily along, one
after the other, Bobby Elliott acting as brakeman in a playful mood. A
nearly forgotten gem in The Hollies-catalogue, check it out.
“Do The Best You Can”
puts the banjo up front, there’s a lot going on, wailing harmonica,
criss-crossing harmony vocals, stop-start rhythm, but the chorus isn’t
strong enough to carry this box of tricks to a fitting conclusion.
This then concludes
our voyage through the classic Clarke/Hicks/Nash-years, 1963-1968. An
impressive stack of records, some of which were as important for the 60’s as
the more familiar songs by The Kinks, Small Faces, The Who, and yes, even
The Stones and The Beatles. The Hollies were family. They are still out
there playing live. God bless ‘em.
The Hollies part 2: The Titans arrive
The Hollies entered
the Premier League in May 1965. By December 1966 they were of Champions
League-quality. Here’s how it happened:
(Highest position on
the New Musical Express’ TOP 30 singles, the New Musical Express’
TOP 10 albums and Record Retailer’s TOP 20 EP’s shown in brackets.)
“I’m Alive” / “You
Know He Did” (Parlophone, R 5287) Released. May 1965 (1)
And thus The Hollies
got themselves promoted to Premier League. Transformed from a neat
Merseybeat-combo to Titans. The high-flying intro shivering of reverb is a
joyful intoxication in itself, but this recording has so much more to
offer. Clarke enters in calm voice, but then he soars upwards and hits the
chorus, climbing step by step up its ladder to the crowning finish: the
triple repeats of the song’s title as The Hollies’ vocal harmonies wash over
you with the force of a hurricane galvanised by a crescendo of guitars and
Now I can breathe, I
can see, I can touch, I can feel
I can taste all the
sugar sweetness in your kiss
You give me all the
things I‘ve ever missed
I‘ve never felt like
I‘m alive! I‘m alive!
They serve you the
magnificent chorus three times during the song’s 2 minutes and 21 seconds,
and the performance is so brilliant and the tune so masterfully constructed
that it doesn’t need more than two tiny verses to achieve perfection. As a
bonus we get an instrumental break that delivers one of the great guitar
solos of the mid 60’s, a slashing blow of reverberating notes ricocheting
like bullets from a gun. Stunning!
It is a joyous song,
quivering with excitement about – yes, you guessed it – being alive. The
group’s enthusiasm is understandable. This is what they were looking for in
“Yes I Will”, and “I’m Alive” is the challenge that does their mighty vocal
harmonies justice. “I’m Alive” hit #1 in England, and I wouldn’t have
minded if it still was up there. Written by Clint Ballard Jr.
“You Know He Did” is a
Ransford rewrite of “Louie Louie”, hammering staccato guitar-riff and a
rattling tambourine, breaking loose for a moment in the hovering middle
eight, and then right back on the beat, led by a whaling harmonica. So so.
“Look Through Any
Window” / “So Lonely” (Parlophone, R 5322) Released: August 1965 (4)
Not quite in the same
league as its predecessor, but still an excellent pop single. Powered by a
jangling guitar riff that injects the song with a touch of folk rock, but
not the smooth American version. The Hollies are attacking the tune,
harmony vocals sharp and hard as steel, they never allow the tune to turn
soft. Only downer is the break of style in the bridge, sounds like it was
The lyrics? Some sort
of observation of ordinary people in their everyday lives, they are all on
their way to one thing or another. Where? Graham Gouldman and Charles
Silverman, who wrote the song, don’t provide us with any answers.
“So Lonely” is a moody
piece of pop, lots of jangling guitars, and a recurring dark, little guitar
theme that provide the tune with its dynamics. Not bad at all. Another
The Hollies (LP)
(Parlophone, PMC 1261) Released: September 1965 (8)
Slightly better than
the preceding album, but they still leave a lot to be desired. Five
originals credited to Ransford-moniker, of which two already were available
as B-sides. Seven cover versions, six of them never better than OK, though
the group broadens its approach to musical styles incorporating both folk
and soul, and not just sluggish takes on r&b. The folk style suits them
best, and their version of Peter, Paul & Mary’s “Very Last Day” is a gas.
It storms triumphantly along, tight instrumental work and gorgeous steely
vocal harmonies. So strong it was released as a single in Scandinavia.
Probably should have been chosen in the UK too instead of the disastrous “If
I Needed Someone”.
I’m Alive (EP)
(Parlophone, GEP 8942) Released: September 1965. (5)
“I’m Alive” / “You
Know He Did” / “Honey And Wine” / “Mickey’s Monkey”
Both sides of a recent
single, an inferior album cut and a new tune, specially included for this
EP. Motown-tune “Mickey’s Monkey” (lifted from LP “The Hollies”) is
annoying no matter who performs it, and The Hollies aren’t even among the
not so bad ones. Goffin/King’s “Honey And Wine” on the other hand is a
minor gem, quivering guitars and moody atmosphere, sterling harmony-singing
lifting the performance mid way. The song itself sounds like the more
attractive nephew of r&b standard “Got Love If You Want It”.
“If I Needed Someone”
/ “I’ve Got A Way Of My Own” (Parlophone, R 5392) Released: December 1965
subtle homage to The Byrds from “Rubber Soul”. The Hollies’ version was
recorded in a hurry and hit the shops simultaneously with The Beatles-album.
The Beatles’ original
is a musical delicacy with a sleepy chorus and chiming jingle jangle guitars
hovering over a wily counter-current rhythm that creates a fascinating
illusion: As if the verses, pushed forward, line by line, conduct an upward
surge against the current.
The Hollies did not
discover the composition’s wonderful subtleties. Their version is just
noisy, all treble, no bottom, the chorus delivered hard and flat. The
dynamics of the Beatles’ version is lost in a staccato, angular delivery
completely void of charm.
George Harrison didn’t
like this version, can’t blame him. Neither did the record buyers. The
single bombed. A catastrophical ending on what had been the group’s best
B-side is a group
original credited to Ransford. A harmonica-driven dirge with high flying
harmonies, rattling guitars, the verses sung by Graham Nash for a change.
Not exceptional, but so much better resolved than the A-side.
“I Can’t Let Go” /
“Running Through The Night” (Parlophone, R 5409) Released: February 1966 (1)
And The Hollies strike
back. They needed something extraordinary after their first grand failure,
and came up with a tune originally recorded by blue-eyed soul singer Evie
Sands in 1965, written by session musician Al Gorgoni and songwriter Chip
Taylor (later of “Wild Thing”-fame). It seemed tailor-made for The Hollies.
Their recording is a
volcanic eruption. Kick-started by Tony Hicks’ impatient, reverberating,
stabbing one note guitar intro, when Clarke finally enters, the bottled up
tension is almost unbearable, the song has to explode. And off we go,
guitars chiming from the high heavens as the group soars into the ultimate
high flying 60’s pop refrain, their three part harmonies sharp as razor
The first minute is
absolutely sensational. There’s no stopping them after that, they cruise
home on waves of enthusiasm, and the whole thing fades out at 2 minutes and
26 seconds. No fat on this recording. The record buyers took it all the
way to #1. What a relief it must have been after their hopeless dabble with
the Beatles’ songbook.
B-side is a fun track,
a country hinged hillbilly stomp, Manchester style. Nash takes the lead,
and there’s some nice guitar picking driving the song home. Credited to
I Can’t Let Go (EP)
(Parlophone, GEP 8951) Released: June 1966 (9)
“I Can’t Let Go” /
“Look Through Any Window” / “I’ve Got A Way Of My Own” / “So Lonely”
Two hits and two
B-sides. The Hollies’ last EP. The format was fading fast. If you had
money on your hands, you’d rather scrimp and save for an album.
“Bus Stop” / “Don’t
Run And Hide” (Parlophone, R 5469) Released: June 1966 (3)
A perfectly crafted
pop song, written by Graham Gouldman who was also partly responsible for
“Look Through Any Window”. More laidback than their previous hits, it’s a
happy, unpretentious ditty, airy with a taste of carefree summer days. The
group’s trademark vocal harmonies are perfectly utilized and the recurring
plucking guitar theme holds the different parts nicely together. A touch of
What the song is all
about? Boy meets girl at the bus stop, it’s raining, he’s got an umbrella,
bus arrives, bus leaves, they stay at the stop, and soon they’ll be
married. Ah, those innocent days of youth!
B-side is another
Ransford original. Has some nice turns even if the chorus is a bit
pedestrian. Sounds like a “For Certain Because” outtake, which isn’t bad.
Would You Believe (LP)
(Parlophone, PMC 7008) Released: July 1966 (8)
The first Hollies
album with some merit. They still insist on doing a couple of r&b and
rock’n’roll-covers, very outdated in 1966, but their take on folk rock in
Simon & Garfunkel’s “I Am A Rock” and the traditional “Stewball” (made
famous by Peter, Paul & Mary) is awesome. The four Ransford-originals are
top notch too, specially “Oriental Sadness”, “Fifi The Flea” and “Hard Hard
“After The Fox” (with
Peter Sellers) / “The Fox-Trot” (United Artists, UP 1152) Released:
September 1966 (-)
Not an official
Hollies single, but the theme song from Peter Sellers’ comedy of the same
name. Written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David on a not so inspired day.
Hollies meet Peter Sellers in call-response duel. The group sing the
questions, Sellers answers them with a distorted voice. The melody is light
as a summer breeze, but hard to remember. The Hollies do not perform on the
“Stop Stop Stop” /
“It’s You” (Parlophone, R 5508) Released: October 1966 (2)
A song about
obsession. Risky stuff in 1966. The confessional lyrics take us to a
nightclub where the main character is transfixed with a young belly dancer.
He is obviously a regular because of her, but what was once a fascination is
now pushing him to the brink of insanity. The lyrics are sung with an urge
that leaves no space for breathing, you already know this is a one way
ticket to disaster.
Blood is rushing,
temperature is rising
Sweating from my brow
Like a snake, her body
I can’t look away now
The song is simple,
rooted in a rasping, enervating banjo theme on endless repeat beneath
Clarke’s feverish self exposure. The chorus arrives with the song’s title
called out over violent dashes of cymbals, breaking the monotony and
cranking up expectations for the next part of the story: The guy can’t take
it anymore, climbs the stage, grabs the terrified lady, overturns tables in
the ensuing scuffle with security. A man astray, high on testosterone,
kicked out, head first, and left in the gutter.
A very unusual topic
for a pop song in 1966. As was the use of the banjo. One can argue that
the melody is monotonous, quite horizontal and on eternal repetition, just
like the banjo theme. But this was a conscious trick, it strengthens the
claustrophobic and feverish mood of the story, you literally feel the sweat
trickling down the singer’s back as his brain melts.
Clarke, Hicks and Nash
wrote it, finally using their own names, leaving the Ransford moniker behind
for good. By the way, I think the song actually is about a stripper, but
that might have been too much for the authorities in 1966, so they chickened
out with a belly dancer.
B-side is another
Clarke/Hicks/Nash-original. A high flying beat combo winner led by wailing
harmonica and some nice harmony singing.
For Certain Because
(LP) (Parlophone, PMC 7011) Released: December 1966 (-)
And finally The
Hollies delivered a quality album, all songs originals, adventurous
arrangements, folk rock, bossa nova, oriental, jazz, with the use of brass
and keyboards. The Hollies were expanding fast and impressively without
compromising their strong sense of memorable and classy pop songs driven by
those glittering harmony voices and Hicks’ chiming guitars. This album is
among 1966’s finest. How it failed to enter NME’s album chart is a mystery
The Hollies – how it all began
Between April 1963 and
May 1965, The Hollies released 7 singles, 5 EPs and 2 albums, and
transformed themselves from a rickety novelty act with clumsy rhythm &
blues-aspirations to a fully fledged and extremely powerful hit machine that
would spearhead British pop music through the mid and late 60’s and even
give The Beatles a run for their money.
Allan Clarke has
retired and Graham Nash is doing his own stuff, as he’s been doing ever
since he left The Hollies in 1968 for America and Crosby, Stills & Nash.
But original members Tony Hicks and Bobby Elliot are still out there keeping
The Hollies alive, doing the concert rounds, making people happy.
This then, is how it
“(Ain’t That) Just
Like Me” / “Hey What’s Wrong With Me” (Parlophone, R 5030) - Released: May
You gotta start
somewhere. The Hollies do it with a misjudged loan from The Coasters. The
song’s novelty definitely had expired by 1963, and rhythm & blues for kids
never caught on big anyway. The silly lyrics borrow stanzas from children’s
songs like “Mary Had A Little Lamb”. The band seem so embarrassed with the
words that they shoot out of the verses and dive into the propeller fast
choruses with visible relief.
Guitars rattle, drums
are pure 1963 and the guitar solo frantically tries to copy Chuck Berry.
Who could have predicted that this band would end up as one of the biggest
hit-makers in British pop music history? Anyway, this was how the pride of
Manchester started out (Oasis eat your heart out!)
B-side “Hey What’s
Wrong With Me” is Buddy Holly meets the fast walking bass of The Beatles’ “I
Saw Her Standing There”, with their vocal harmonies of “Twist And Shout”
thrown in for good measure.
“Searchin” / “Whole
World Over” (Parlophone, R 5052) - Released: August 1963
In the early 60’s
every British band had “Searchin ‘’ on their playlist. The Beatles
performed it frequently in Hamburg. The raw rhythm & blues classic was
written by legendary team Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller for the humorous, but
extremely talented The Coasters. Their version reached #3 in the US in
The Hollies’ version
is adequate, but not very original. They play it tough enough, the rhythm a
bit square wheeled, the call-response criss-crossing between lead vocal and
backing singers quite exciting. But it still sounds very much like a cover
and the attempt to copy the humour which is an important element in The
Coasters’ original version, seems oppressively forced.
A lonely harmonica,
Buddy Holly’s soft sobbing melancholia and the Everly Brothers’ vocal
harmonies grace the workmanlike B-side, written by Allan Clarke and Graham
“Stay” / “Now’s The
Time” (Parlophone, R 5077) - Released: November 1963
England was slowly
recovering from the Liverpool onslaught when 1963 drew to a close. The
wild, but orthodox rhythm & blues of The Rolling Stones and the jungle
drumming of Dave Clark Five had put London back on the map. And even
Manchester got to play with the big boys thanks to The Hollies establishing
themselves in the hit parade with three releases, all of them medium sized
hits, not a bad start even if none of them could be called classics.
One of the main
reasons for the success was their three part harmonies, fully developed,
extremely tight and powerful with a steely quality, voices sharp as a
razorblades. When they cut through the speaker(s) there was no mercy. The
Hollies sounded like a heavily armed mixture of Beatles and Everly
Brothers. Their rickety instrumental work left something to be desired, but
they got away with it. With voices like that there was no stopping them.
“Stay” was a good
choice for the important third single. People still remembered Maurice
Williams & The Zodiacs’ original, a #1 in the US in 1960, and a Top 20 hit
in England the following year. The Hollies chose to rearrange it
completely, sacrificing playful doo-wop soul for speed. It rattles along at
a frantic pace, Graham Nash’ falsetto desperately trying not to be thrown
off. I’ll give them credit for the enthusiasm.
Trivia: There’s an
exquisite version of “Stay” on the Jackson Browne-album “Running On Empty”
B-side “Now’s The
Time” is a slice of archetypical Merseybeat and moves along merrily with
some nice harmony singing, but the tune itself is faceless. Written by
Clarke and Nash.
Stay With The Hollies
(LP) (Parlophone PMC 1220) - Released: January 1964
13 awful rhythm &
blues covers, and one uneventful Clarke/Nash-original.
“Just One Look” /
“Keep Off That Friend Of Mine” (Parlophone, R 5104) - Released: February
A huge US hit for
Doris Troy during the summer of 1963. The Hollies turn it into a winter
ditty, fresh as peppermint. The rickety playing is Merseybeat at its most
typical. But the harmony singing is outstanding. It elevates the recording
and makes it shine. Captivating.
“Keep Off That Friend
Of Mine” is beat group fodder, easy on the ear, nice vocal interplay between
Clarke and Nash and an above average B-side. Written by Tony Hicks & Bobby
Elliot, the latter no doubt is responsible for the rather tricky rhythm
“Here I Go Again” /
“Baby That’s All” (Parlophone, R 5137)
- Released: May
A Merseybeat ballad
with an overwhelming power-chorus. Sung partly as a Clarke/Nash duet partly
as a three part harmony heaven. The vocal arrangement, the pushy drumming
during the choruses, and that quirky closing chord – The Hollies had never
copied The Beatles this blatantly before, and they would never do it again.
A delightful record. Written by Mort Shuman and Clive Westlake.
The B-side is another
showcase for the group’s wonderful harmony singing delivered on a bed of
chiming guitars Searchers style. Written by Chester Mann.
The Hollies (EP)
(Parlophone, GEP 8909) “Rockin’ Robin” / “What Kind Of Love” / “Whatcha
Gonna Do ‘bout It” / “When I’m Not There” - Released: June 1964
Tracks 1 and 3 are
both inferior cover versions and lifted from the Hollies’ first album “Stay
With The Hollies”. Tracks 2 and 4, both written by Clarke/Nash/Hicks, are
unique for this EP.
“What Kind Of Love”
could have been an A-side in its own right and definitely should have been
the EP’s lead off track. A fantastic and fully realised pop tune with loads
of harmonic voices, Clarke’s steely lead and Graham’s tingeling falsetto, a
strong melody that twists and turns, full of surprises. As good as anything
they would do in 1966 and 1967.
“I’m Not There” isn’t
bad either. Highly commercial, but maybe a little bit dated. It’s got 1963
fingerprints all over it, both the guitar work and the drumming. But the
vocals are pure gold.
Just One Look (EP)
(Parlophone, GEP 8911) “Just One Look” / “Keep Off That Friend Of Mine” /
“I’m Talkin’ About You” / “Lucille” - Released: July 1964
Both sides of their
“Just One Look”-single and then two tracks from “Stay With The Hollies”,
proving that The Hollies were hopeless when they tried their luck with
rhythm & blues and classic rock’n’roll material.
“We’re Through” /
“Come On Back” (Parlophone, R 5178) - Released: September 1964
The Hollies’ first
self written A-side, though Clarke/Hicks/Nash hide behind the alias
‘Ransford’. The melody isn’t that strong, but is saved by a clever
arrangement. Kind of a bossa nova spiced with a reoccurring theme finger
picked on acoustic guitar. Allan Clarke pulls the load in the soft-spoken
verses while we get the full three part harmony treatment in the choruses,
hitting the higher register like a welding flame. “We’re Through” is a mix
of past, present and future. The band are not quite leaving their
Merseybeat origins behind, but the song signals a bolder approach to
arrangements – and proves that they are more than capable of writing their
own hit hits. A memorable tune, reminiscent of the later Unit 4+2.
The B-side is another
Ransford offering. A rollicking humdinger in the early Beatles’
neighbourhood, including frantic bass and blaring harmonica. The middle
eight is a clever detour that saves the tune from sounding too dated.
Here I Go Again (EP)
(Parlophone GEP 8915) “Here I Go Again” / “Baby That’s All” / “You Better
Move On” / “Memphis” - Released: October 1964
Both sides of their
“Here I Go Again”-single plus two tracks from “Stay With The Hollies” that
yet again prove that The Hollies should have stayed out of Rolling
Stones-territory. No way they could handle rhythm & blues with any
In The Hollies Style
(LP) (Parlophone, PMC 1235) - Released: November 1964
Five poorly executed
rhythm & blues-covers, plus 7 tracks credited to their alias Ransford.
Clearly an improvement on their first album.
We’re Through (EP)
(Parlophone, GEP 8927) “We’re Through” / “Come On Back” / “What Kind Of
Boy” / “You’ll Be Mine” - Released: December 1964
The band’s fourth
EP-release in a year. The Hollies used the format to re-sell their most
recent single just as its lifespan had come to an end on the Top 30, and
plug their most recent album by adding a couple of tracks from it. “What
Kind Of Boy” is an adequate cover of Big Dee Irwin song, with a dragging
beat and a strong Clarke vocal. “You’ll Be Mine” sounds like The
Merseybeats, lightweight fodder from the Ransford-moniker
“Yes I Will” /
“Nobody” (Parlophone, R 5232) - Released: January 1965
Big sound, chugga
chugga rhythm that keep the verses running like an engine straight into the
multi-voiced choruses. Every piece is in its place here as The Hollies
finally bid 1963 farewell and capture their future sound, breezy and shiny
full of reverb and steel. Unfortunately the song itself isn’t anywhere as
good as the sound they create; it offers no surprises as it chugs along,
quite monotonous, overstaying its welcome long before it checks out at 2
minutes and 57 seconds. A different take with an even richer sound thanks
to a wall of acoustic guitars was erroneously included on their 1968
compilation “Greatest Hits”.
Trivia: The Monkees
did a horrible version of this tune (renaming it “I’ll Be True To You”) in
1966, with Davy Jones as vocalist.
“Nobody” is a
successful piece of r&b from the Hollies. Wailing harmonica and a jangling
guitar over a drum track that swings with traces of Ringo’s work on “She’s A
Woman”. Graham Nash takes the lead in the sunny middle eight. Not bad, and
credited to themselves under moniker Ransford.
In The Hollies Style
(EP) (Parlophone, GEP 8934) “Too Much Monkey Business” / “To You My Love” /
“Come On Home” / “What Kind Of Boy” - Released: April 1965
With this EP The
Hollies conclude their first phase. Bigger things were to come,
kick-starting with their first #1, “I’m Alive” just a couple of weeks
later. All songs on the EP lifted from the album of the same name, and
someone forgot that “What Kind Of Boy” was included on the “We’re
Through”-EP as well. As “I’m Alive” spun through the airwaves, this
collection sounded as dated as the sleeve looks. No wonder it bombed – and
became an instant collector’s item.
The shortcut to
obtaining all the tracks mentioned is called “The Clarke, Hicks & Nash
Years: The Complete Hollies April 1963 – October 1968”, a nifty 6 CD box.
The Who’s real golden years – Part 2
The Who, The Track Singles 1967-1973 (Track/Universal)
“The Track Singles
1967-1973”-box is part 3 in a lovely series of the original British Who
45’s, re-issued in replicas of their original sleeves (for the Track-singles
part plain white factory sleeves – with two exceptions).
In last week’s column
we got half way through the box. This week we focus on the second part:
1970-1973. During this period they released three of rock’s greatest albums
of all time: “Live At Leeds”, “Who’s Next” and “Quadrophenia”. And even if
Pete Townshend lost his enthusiasm for the single format back in 1967 when
“I Can See For Miles” bombed (see last weeks’ column), he still managed to
work up enough passion to record and release a string of fabulous 45’s too.
All on Track Records. All of them included in this box. (Number after
release date denotes highest placing on New Musical Express’ UK TOP
30, except from numbers in brackets which are from Record Retailer.)
“The Seeker” / “Here
For More” (March 1970) #17
Searching for the
meaning of life John Lennon would renounce all gurus including Dylan and the
Beatles in the song “God” on his “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band”-album at the
end of 1970. Pete Townshend beat him to it with “The Seeker”, released nine
I asked Bobby Dylan
I asked The Beatles
I asked Timothy Leary
But he couldn’t help
But while John Lennon
slipped into some sort of self-oriented coma, replacing the gurus with
himself and Yoko, Townshend bristled with frustrations, he was already
I won’t get to get
what I’m after
Till the day I die
Thus anticipating the
frustrated anger and sorrow that would pour out of “Won’t Get Fooled Again”
a year later. “The Seeker” is a forgotten jewel in The Who canon.
Presumably because it was released in no man’s land between two studio
albums and not included on any of them. It has a violent, pulsating drive,
lots of guitars, a swaying chorus and a strong melody for an unusually
restrained Daltrey to cruise along.
“Here For More” is a
piece of philosophical advice: We are not born into this life to waste our
time on nothing. Fair enough. But it would have helped saying it with a
better lyric and a stronger tune. A rare Daltrey composition, sounds like a
demo and has a country & western feel to it. Daltrey found it hard to write
songs. And it shows.
A-side on compilation
album “Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy” (1971). B-side on compilation “Rarities
Volume II” (1983).
“Summertime Blues” /
“Heaven And Hell” (July 1970) (#38)
Lifted from the
fantastic “Live At Leeds”-album. Three glorious minutes of hard kicking,
monster-heavy fun, The Who turning the Eddie Cochran chestnut into a classic
of their own. Nothing refined about this performance. Townsend’s
aggressive, ragged guitar is all over the place, the pumping rhythm section
of Entwistle/Moon re-starts the song with explosive vengeance after each
On the B-side John
Entwistle delivers a full-blooded rocker, highly regarded by the band and
always a live favourite. The lyrics are concerned what happens after death
- we either end up in Paradise or in Hell, and Entwistle doesn’t find any
comfort in destiny either way:
Why can’t we have
eternal life, And never die,
This is a studio
recording from April 1970.
A-side from “Live At
Leeds” (1970). B-side on compilation “Rarities Volume II” (1983).
“See Me, Feel Me” /
“Overture” (October 1970)
One of the definite
highlights of the rock opera “Tommy”, also performed with grandeur at the
Woodstock Festival in August 1969. It was only a matter of time before it
would appear as a single. But in October 1970? That was a year too late,
the song had lost its momentum by then. It’s a great tune, though. The
disciples’ renouncement of Tommy in the opera’s grand finale still gives me
goose bumps. (NB! This is the original studio version, not the Woodstock
B-side is the overture
from the same album. A powerful journey through the opera’s key themes.
Incredibly well produced. Marvellous on expensive stereo equipment. Both
sides from “Tommy”.
“Tommy” EP: “Overture”
/ “Christmas” / “I’m Free” / “See Me, Feel Me” (November 1970)
One year too late they
started milking “Tommy” for all its worth. Two of the four tracks on this
EP had already been released as a single four weeks earlier – with no
success. So the record company tried a different angle: It’s soon
Christmas, “Tommy” includes a song called just that, let’s go for it. So
they recycled the two single-tracks, added “Christmas” and “I’m Free” (a
nice, little pop tune) and released the thing in a picture sleeve. Didn’t
work either. The EP bombed just as the single had done.
As for “Christmas”,
it’s very catchy, but, come on, it’s not a Christmas song at all.
All tracks from
“Won’t Get Fooled
Again” / “Don’t Know Myself” (June 1971) #9
What a marvellous
single! The Who’s best produced piece of music by far at the time. Heavy
and well rounded bottom. Entwistle’s bass cables pack a tremendous punch,
and combined with Moon’s massive pounding and Townshend’s power chords,
parts of the performance turn into a stampede. However, the structure of
the song is incredibly disciplined, nailed in one of rock’s finest monster
riffs and a click track keeping Moon at bay (to the drummer’s annoyance).
himself in the the sharp and extremely well written lyrics, there’s lots of
reasons to shout out in anger and frustration here, and Daltrey delivers the
words with burning rage! His blood-chilling scream near the end is
terrifying. The sound of a band about to implode!
This is “The Seeker”
times ten. Townshend skepticism regarding politicians, leaders, activists
and fashion prophets brilliantly summarized in the punchline: Meet the
new boss, same as the old boss.
It turned out that the
single-version was a brutal edit. The definitive eight minute plus version
appeared two months later on “Who’s Next”.
The B-side, “Don’t
Know Myself”, is a paler approach to the same subject. Recorded back in
1970, a “Lifehouse” reject (“Lifehouse” was an ambitious rock opera-project
that Townshend abandoned, rescuing some of the songs for the non-concept
album “Who’s Next”). “Don’t Know Myself” almost ended up on an EP (that
also was abandoned). A nice enough B-side with a hint of country & western
thrown in for good measure.
A-side (single edit)
included on compilation album “Who’s Greatest Hits” (1983). B-side on
compilation “Rarities Volume II” (1983).
“Let’s See Action” /
“When I Was A Boy” (October 1971) #17
No way The Who could
top the monumental “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, so they lowered their ambitions
for the sequel. “Let’s See Action” is an acceptable solution. It skips
merrily along, highly commercial (like an older brother of “Squeeze Box”).
It’s easy to imagine this song performed unplugged by a gang of buskers.
The Who give it the full electrical treatment. A tight blues rig loosened
up by feisty piano playing, partly honky tonk, partly boogie Jerry Lee
style. Townshend works energetically around the rhythm, alternating between
metallic, slashing chords and razor sharp solo runs.
and fun. Daltrey unleashes stacks of powerful outbursts, handing the mike
to Townshend for a couple of choir boy lines every time the song slows down
for its middle eight.
The lyrics are clever
and articulate, with a suprising sign off stanza:
I don’t know where I’m
I don’t know what I
But I’ll get to where
I’m gonna end up,
And that’s alright by
George Harrison came
to the same conclusion in “Any Road”, one of the last songs he wrote before
he died in 2001. Pete Townshend already had the wisdom of an old man in
John Entwistle dropped
his guard for a change on the B-side, “When I Was A Boy”. No quirky or
bizarre lyrical turns here. It’s about growing old, all disillusionment and
nostalgia. A surprise, even if it’s not among his better songs.
Both sides included on
compilation “Rarities Volume II” (1983).
“Join Together” /
“Baby Don’t You Do It” (June 1972) #9
with synth programming didn’t suit Keith Moon well. The pre-recorded
synth-patterns locked the rhythm structure of the songs and restricted the
drummer. The wildman was forced to behave. On “Join Together” he takes the
backseat and remains hesistant the whole song through.
They are still The Who
though, meaty, beaty, big and bouncy. The flickering synth sounding like an
electric jew’s harp, grabs your attention. As does the sudden attacks of
harmonica that pierce through the mayhem. The band builds a staccato
rhythmic drive around these elements, punctuated by Townshend’s agressive
chords. Daltrey recites the lyric more than he sings it, except for the
chorus where the whole band take part turning it into a singa-long battle
The synth programming
provides the tune with a hypnotic quality, but because the song runs out of
steam way too early, the synths gradually gets on your nerves. Definitely
one of The Who’s weaker singles.
The B-side is a 1971
live recording of the Marvin Gaye classic “Baby Don’t You Do It”. A violent
and thunderous version that drags on a bit. Their 1965 version of the same
song (found on the 1998 CD remaster of “Odds & Sods”) is more entertaining.
Both sides included on
compilation “Rarities Volume II” (1983).
“Relay” / “Waspman”
(December 1972) #19
Third Who single in a
row that was not lifted from an album, and yet another leftover from Pete
Townshend’s abandoned “Lifehouse” project.
“Relay” picks up from
its predecessor. There’s a lot going on and melody is forsaken for rhythmic
drive. It’s a heavy shuffle, almost chugga-chugga with an extremely active
Townshend galvanising the funk-groove, his guitar stone skipping across the
waves of percussion leaving short bursts of soloing in its wake. All
resting on a bed of acoustic guitars. And pushed onwards by Keith Moon’s
stop-start drumming, delivered with fierce punches.
Not much of a melody
for Roger Daltrey to work with, but he is giving his guttural, burning all.
Time is running out, civilization as we know it about to end:
Relay, things are
Relay, there’s a
Relay, relay, hand me
down a solution, yeah.
The B-side is one of
Keith Moon’s rare “compositions”. Just a simple riff churned out on repeat
while Moon personalize the Waspman yelling “Ssssssting!” every now and then
like a John Belushi on uppers.
Both sides included on
compilation “Rarities Volume II» (1983).
“5:15” / “Water”
(October 1973) #17
“Quadrophenia”, and one of the precious few tracks from that ambitious and
unified piece of music that actually works as a stand alone too. It
captures the protagonist, teenage mod Jimmy, and his extra-sensual
experiences on the train from London to Brighton, sandwiched between two
elderly gentlemen in bowler hats – representing every thing Jimmy is not,
and will never be. A very memorable riff, big production, lots of power and
a cleverly developed arangement that makes the music ebb and flow. Should
have been a bigger hit.
“Water” is another
reject from “Lifehouse”, recorded back in 1970, and considered for
single-release in 1971. Luckily that did not happen as it’s a rather
overlong and charmless rocker. OK for a B-side, I’ll give it that much.
“Quadrophenia” (1973). B-side included on “Rarities Volume II” (1983).