Monday 11 May 2015

The Hollies "Another Night" (1975)

You can buy 'Reflections Of A Long Time Past - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of The Hollies' in e-book form by clicking here!

The Hollies "Another Night (1975)

Another Night/4th Of July, Ashbury Park (Sandy)/Lonely Hobo Lullaby/Second-Hand Hangups/Time Machine Jive//I'm Down/Look Out Johnny (There's A Monkey On Your Back)/Give Me Time/You Gave Me Life (With That Look In Your Eyes)/Lucy

"It's the same old band that's swaying, but it's a different record playing" or "Shake my head out of dreams, reality's calling"

'Another Night' is so much more than just another album. It's the template for every record they will go on to make and the moment that the Hollies grow up and turn all adult (until trying to reclaim their youth with the poppy 1983 Nash record anyways). Now, I hear what you're saying dear reader: we've already covered the fact that between around 1967 and 1971 The Hollies become one of the deepest, most intelligent, thoughtful and erudite bands around whatever their label as a 'mere' pop band would tell you. But even those records come with a heavy dose of energy and fizz, that something big and dramatic is going on, like a band's great rocking opening number in a long live set or the sound of a rocket taking off or The Big Bang. Even during the 'folk' and 'solo' years of 1972-73 and the juvenile delinquency of pop return 'The Hollies' in 1974 there's a certain joi de vivre about The Hollies' work, an excitement and energy that for my money no other band could match. However the first half of the 1970s had been difficult for all of them, with band splits falling record sales and boredom eating away at their confidence. By 1975, with Allan Clarke now firmly back in the group and all the band committed to rescuing their career they had the chance to re-model their sound right under their noses, throwing away everything about it that they felt wasn't quite working or had been holding them back. Gone are the silly itty bitty pop songs. Gone are the demented bursts of rock and roll adrenalin. Gone are the protest songs. Perhaps inspired by the success of 'Air That I Breathe' the ballads now number the rockers (six to four) and things will remain like that for the rest of the decade. The songs are slower. The songs are sadder. Nearly every song comes with emotional baggage. It's all a long way from the sheer delight to be alive of early songs like 'Just One Look' and 'Here I Go Again'. Have the Hollies - alongside The Who always the most youthful of AAA bands (what else could they be with Tony Hicks never looking older than round about twelve and Bobby Elliott's undiminished aggression on the drums?) - finally become middle aged?

That paragraph might sound as if I hate this record. Far from it: I love the extra textures this album gives us, the extra weight that comes with the subject matters and while the emotion is occasionally ladled on rather too thickly and sickly (and indeed slickly) it's all far more suitable to the direction The Hollies should have been going in than the pure pop of their last album. If rock and roll has taught us anything it's that the adult world is wrong: it's built on too many lies and corruption and class and money and power and for those too erudite but not athletic enough to become a footballer it's often the way for people to break out of the narrow futures assigned to them. Even those of us talented enough to know that music is the answer without being able to make a living at it ourselves realise this: music gives us comfort that someone out there has out best interests at heart however ugly the world we face and keeps part of us youthful (again Tony Hicks has clearly overdosed on this special quality, given that he was born the week before Keith Richards and looks about a century younger). But all bands it seems have to grow up sometime: that's one of the many reasons why The Beatles split apart, why The Who started writing concept albums about their memories about what life had been like because they didn't 'feel' the same tug first-hand anymore, why the two halves of Oasis are having trouble in the present age, why The Spice Girls now seem utterly stupid even to those who loved them twenty years ago  and why The Rolling Stones - the one group who more than any other refused to grow up - have gone from the band the establishment most feared to a big fat joke (unfairly, as you may have seen us write on this site, but unmistakable as a cultural development even to their biggest fans). The question is how do you grow up in public without slapping them in the face over enjoying what they 'used' to do? If you're Pete Townshend you write musical suicide notes about finding out that the youth they leaned on was all a con, if you're Brian Wilson you grow up so fast you leave your audience behind and if you're Ray Davies you were born middle aged anyway and seem instead to get younger with every record. And if you're The Hollies you build on what came before, but with slower tempos, greater orchestral arrangements and melodies that now sound like sighing rather than jumping eagerly out of bed.

In truth the difference between 'Another Night' was so slight that few fans noticed it anyway: slow moody orchestral ballads are after all one of the things they'd been trying off and on since discovering 'He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother' in 1969. The folk rock years of 1972-73 had been trying to reach out to this style too, with both the Mickael Rickfors Hollies and Allan Clarke's first two solo albums stating at thoughtful and ending somewhere round about disillusioned and fearful. There are even references to past Hollies themes and phrases: ' Look Out Johnny' is a possible sequel to 'Mickey's Monkey' and the band had already recorded a Buddy Holly classic named 'Take Your Time' a mere fraction away from 'Give Me Time' full ten years earlier. However everything is subverted here in a topsy turvy world  where nothing is what it seemed just a few short years ago. That marriage that seemed so guaranteed to last now seems under threat - from too much pressure to settle down ('I ain't finished my playin' round, don't want to go steady!' pleads Clarke in 'Give Me Time' as if desperately hanging on to the last threads of his youth), second doubts ('Second Hand Hangups' and 'Sandy' both touch on this ) or death (the tearful 'Lucy', which comes so out of left field for a generally bouncy happy band like The Hollies it's scary). The might-have-been flirtations and affairs that once seemed inevitable are now ending and the title track finds the narrator scared not just of being alone for a Saturday night but forever.   Even the past isn't what the narrator of 'I'm Down' thought it was, finding to his horror that the life he's assumed was his was meant for someone else: that he was adopted at birth and everybody he knows knew that fact before he did. Usually any Hollies record comes with large dollops of hope: no matter how messed up the period and the lives of the people in the songs (the guilt-ridden 'Confessions Of The Mind' or the deeply depressed 'A Distant Light') one burst of that Hollies harmony sunshine and all things seem possible again, however briefly. Not here: everything sounds the same, yet different; the harmonies don't lift the spirits any more they haunt these songs with cold icy fingertips; the guitar solos don't sting they float sadly; the drums don't pounce anymore they either sound more laidback or pulse with an aggression rare for Bobby Elliott (who sounds more like Keith Moon than his old self on his one chance to strut his stuff on 'Look Out Johnny'). The bright neon covers on the clever front cover (depicting The Hollies on a giant billboard surrounded not by people but similar streams of light as if directly connected to the people below) scream artificial pop madness, but the contents sound more like a sepia-tinged photograph clutched by a character pining for their lost youth and telling us that things weren't like this in the old days.

As this is the dominant theme of the album and there's not much to say about who what or why for this review, do forgive me while I explore that concept a little more. Listening to this album back to back with the Clarke-Hicks-Nash Years it's slowly dawned on me how much this is the direction the band sound like they might have gone into in 1968 had the loss of Graham Nash, the need for hits and the diversions into Bob Dylan and country covers not got in the way. Though in the 'real' world The Hollies followed 'King Midas In Reverse' with the golden glow of the school playground in 'Jennifer Eccles' (interestingly the fear of growing up, so strong across this record, can even be heard there as boy and girl fear different results at their eleven plus and being parted forever), it sounds like they should have gone with a sixties version of 'Another Night', a record that suits the sun's-just-gone-in-and-its-getting-dark feel of 1968 much more than the bright new world of mid-70s disco. In many ways this is a record full of King Midases, looking sadly back on their youthful exploits and wondering where the good times have all gone. The record starts with the narrator in cruise mood, looking to pick up girls as so many Hollies narrators have down over the years - but it's not working, he's been trapped in a cycle of one-night stands with people he never makes an emotional connection with and will never ever meet again. Tonight he can't even do that well: Saturday night is into its dying embers, the drab working week looming ever closer and none of what he used to do is working. 'Sandy', a Bruce Springsteen cover from so early in his career he was still an 'employee' rather than The Boss of rock and roll, is happy but largely told in flashback: the tinge of melancholy in the harmonies sounds to me as if it has a subtext, a sadness that more wasn't made of a brief affair and that it doesn't happen to the narrator anymore. 'Second Hand Hangups' is another in that glorious Hollies run of songs about relationships from the past that might have been, like gorgeous B-side 'I Had A Dream' but with added strings ('it's been such a long time since I had words with you!') 'I'm Down', the first of two influential Hollies songs about adoption, begins to wonder if the past was ever as golden as they thought it was at the time now it's all been proved a 'lie'.'Give Me Time' baulks not at the idea of marrying the wrong girl but marriage in general: the narrator, perhaps even the same one heard in 'Another Night', was only just having fun and now he has to think about responsibilities? 'Don't try so hard!' he blurts out, the blow softened by typically gorgeous Hollie vocals 'Don't spoil your chance!' Without knowing it the girl of his dreams (for he clearly loves her) has just discovered his achilles heel: that's he's old enough to get married and become like his parents, he's not dating or 'going out or going steady anymore - this relationship has risks, will come with ups and downs and the idea is horrific and suffocating to him (was it only eight years ago Carrie Anne was playing games and only four since FBI agents were being seduced by Long Cool Women in Black Dresses?!) Finally and most horrifically the narrator who thought he and his girlfriend had all the time in the world to be together now fin their time running short. As death makes its first claim to 'Lucy' the Hollies finally treat love as something with consequences: there is no other love of his life, this is it and he's going to have to grow up and fast and never be the same again.

There are exceptions to this of course - no Hollies record is totally without hope - but even these songs seem to come with caveats and warnings. 'Time Machine Jive' is pure escapism and the most retro 1950s song The Hollies have performed since 1964 but the title alone makes it clear that it's an attempt to return to younger days and that the narrator is by now old enough to have a past he's already lived in. 'You Gave Me Life' is a Long Cool Woman style striptease-with-synths as a typically seventies Hollies alpha female gives the narrator a ride he'll never forget; but even here it comes with more of a cost than on 'Long Cool Woman' et al: he's been lied to, he believed the romance was for real not a one-night stand, he's been horribly stood up at their second date and now he's desperate to see her again, hooked on 'that look in your eyes'. Throughout one of the greatest and certainly one of the most inventive backing tracks of them all the world fades in and out, phased and distorted to the maximum, so more vibrant and scary and real than the deliberate 'fog' that runs through 'Long Cool Woman'. 'Look Out Johnny' may or may not be about the old blues slang for heroin (you doubt The Hollies would have learnt such a term - as heard on The Beatles' White Album track 'Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me and My Monkey', which despite the many rumours is most certainly not a racial slur on Yoko - but then again they did cover a few old blues songs in their early days such as Rev Gary Davis' 'Candyman' et al; for the record the charming 'Mickey's Monkey' is almost certainly not about drugs or at least if it is then it hides it well). However 'Johnny' is certainly suffering from something that's about to floor him and which the narrator tries to warn him from though it could be emotional baggage or simply booze, although some fans have heard the word in the first verse as 'pusher' putting us straight back to drugs again despite years of assuming it was 'usher' (given the close links between The Hollies and The Beatles and the timing more or less alongside Lennon's Lost Weekend I'm tempted to think the song might about him; then again 'Johnny' is a very rock and roll name thanks to Chuck Berry's Johnny B Goode; there never has been a lyric sheet for this album on vinyl or on CD by the way).  The one character who sounds happy and content with his lot is the one who on paper should have the least going for them: 'Lonely Hobo Lullaby' in which a tramp sings of the joy of having 'no roots to hold me down' as he winds his weary way to nowhere.

So where did this slab of melancholy come from? The success of 'The Air That I Breathe' certainly had something to do with the sound of this record - dense orchestral ballads - even if the moods couldn't be more different (the same with The Hollies' first in a run of flop follow-up singles, the depressing hard luck story 'Son Of A Rotten Gambler' which the band neglected to include on the album - it would have fitted nicely even if it isn't quite up to standard; astonishingly they will never again score a top ten single anywhere - unthinkable a year earlier when 'The Air That I Breathe' was unlucky to only get to #2!) The general unhappy mood in The Hollies camp too: the band had had a scary insight into what might happen if their records stopped selling again, after two years in the wilderness going their separate ways. There may have been a little bit of resentment too: though 'Breathe' and predecessor 'Crazy Billy' had been pretty big hits returning The Hollies to the charts for the first time in some four years, the tie-in album hadn't done as well as hoped or expected. The public still clearly thought of The Hollies as 'just' a singles act, despite all their many brave attempts to become something more. Throughout this record - and more particular the sequel 'Write On' - there's a sense of 'nobody bothered to listen when we wrote pop songs and nearly wrecked our hard work of the past few years being commercial, so we may as well go back to doing what we like'. It may be too that the three songwriters in The Hollies simply found that these sorts of dramatic songs was what they had most in common with each other. After all, Clarke Sylvester and Hicks hadn't written an album together in years - in fact never all the way through without breaking into 'factions' (although 'Hollies Sing Hollies' comes closest), physically meeting up at Tony Hick's house (right next to Abbey Road Studios in those days) to bash out a song in sessions rather than taking nearly-finished bits for the others to polish off. Given that from now on every original song will be credited to the trio come what may (the exact same thing that so riled Graham Nash back in 1967 when he felt he was doing all the work and only getting a third of the credit) it may too be a sense of unity - a feeling that as the Rickfors Hollies and Allan's solo career both sank like a stone they have to stay together, or else.

Or perhaps The Hollies simply realised how beautiful their voices sounded with an orchestra. Though the likes of The Beatles and The Moody Blues have gone down in history as the pioneers of putting classical music alongside rock and roll, The Hollies were equal masters of this technique (see the compilation 'Orchestral Heaven' for more on this although even then not all the best orchestrated Hollies songs are there). They'd been amongst the first too thanks to the big band sound on 'For Certain Because' before going on to use the services of Alan Tew, Mike Vickers and Johnny Scott, classy arrangers all. This time around the band are using the services of Chris Gunning and Tony Hymas; the former is best known nowadays for writing and conducting the TV score to the David Suchet 'Poirot' series and as a contemporary of the band (younger than Allan, Tony, Bobby and Bernie and older than Terry) made a change from their usual orchestrators; Tony Hymas, meanwhile, is best known from his work in his own band phd and for playing keyboards in Jack Bruce's backing band and he too was younger than usual: born mere weeks before Tony Hicks in 1943. Hymas will be around for a long time to come, dominating the album credits for '5317704', cementing the sound of this album as 'the' Hollies sound of the decade that everybody thinks of even though it only lasts for some five records in total. Throughout the album the orchestra just makes the record: it adds another layer of depth and meaning The Hollies could have never have provided on their own with every song sounding like a film score, recognisably the old band but now heard in cinemascope (the fact that Abbey Road was by 1975 being used mostly to record film scores means the engineers know just how to get the sound too). The sweeping dramatic strings on 'Second Hand Hangups' are the best use of strings in rock and roll since 'River Deep Mountain High', while elsewhere they'll turn songs like 'Sandy' 'I'm Down' and 'Lucy' into something special. Not that The Hollies themselves are far behind: dispensing with the gritty feel of their last record the band return to the dense folk-rock of their earlier seventies records but instead of the dry sparse sound of 'Romany' and 'Road' they've gone for the lusher, denser feel of what Clarke was up to on 'Headroom'. This teases out some great performances from theme all: Clarke's sweet harmonica and Hicks banjo on 'Lonely Hobo Lullaby', the gritty guitar whallop on the title track and throughout Clarke's sturdy yet now more fragile than ever leads and Sylvester's sighing harmony curls so perfectly balanced between warmth and cold, while Calvert and Elliott remain rock's most under-rated rhythm section (the former's bass playing on 'I'm Down' is a delight', the latter's playing on 'Look Out Johnny' electrifying). Some of the songs on this album mess up, with even the best of them having a dodgy verse or three, but in terms of sheer performance 'Another Night' might well be The Hollies' best record with everything thoughtfully placed whilst sung from the heart.

The Hollies could have done all sorts of things when facing a situation like this: continued with the pop fodder which thankfully they refused to do, write a load of bland generic pop songs (see 'Write On'), jumped on a disco wagon that was already halfway out the station (see 'Russian Roulette') , nearly give up writing songs entirely in favour of cover ballads that sound like Hollies originals anyway (see '5317704') or gone back to being a full-time covers band (see 'Buddy Holly'). Instead they chose to give us one last great attempt at a classic Hollies album in 'Another Night' for which I'll always be grateful. Now I'd never claim that this album is the best thing The Hollies ever did, even in the 1970s and I have an even softer spot for other neglected gems like 'Butterfly' 'Confessions' and 'Romany' over this record which song for song are even greater and more consistent than this one. 'Another Night' isn't even the last great Hollies record (which is '5317704' by the way, although I'll throw a curveball in there too and say 'Roulette' is an equally strong album though not generally recognised as such). But 'Another Night' is the last time The Hollies seem determined to make a great record rather than getting lucky with other people's songs or making a great record despite oh so many mistakes along the way you wonder what on earth they were thinking ('Wiggle That Wotsit' if you hadn't guessed). Every track on this album is something special. Some more than others it has to be said (the title track is a terrific parody of the sort of thing The Hollies always used to do with ease from a new 'loser' perspective; 'Second Hand Hangups' is simply gorgeous; the unlikely adoption song 'I'm Down' is one of the last times the Hollies were as brave as they were beautiful and 'You Gave Me Life' is alongside '48 Hour Parole' the best Hollies rocker that even fans don't seem to know; the rest of them are merely good rather than excellent) but all of them having something to say and - thanks to classy vocals, strong performances and beautiful production throughout - say it so well. If this is 'losing' (as the first really big Hollies album flop with Clarke in the band) then may this band never win.

I tell you if The Hollies couldn't get a hit with the title track of 'Another Night' then something was seriously wrong. One of the best of their 'shuffle' songs, it starts off ultra-confident as Clarke stalks the night-clubs 'kicking around' for a hot chick for the night. Hicks' guitars stabs, Elliott's shuffled jazzy drums and some excellent Pete Wingfield piano sound incredibly contemporary, far more so than any Hollies song had been since about 1967. But then the song unravels: it's getting late, Clarke's chat-up lines aren't working and he's facing another Saturday night alone and he's 'losing'. As the song lurches from one minor key crisis to another suddenly the parts of this song sound different: the guitars don't sound like strutting so much as angry outbursts, the keyboard riff sounds haunting rather than jolly and Elliott's drums are now just desperately kicking out in the wilderness, struggling to get by. Like much of the album the narrator reflects on the problems of growing older and reminisces about happier times, drawn to the past when the nightclub DJ 'plays a song from the past I remember'. A touching middle eight has him imagining he's with the girl he's been trying to chat up all night, 'whispering things with my eyes crowd' and the song falls into a comfortably sighing major key. But again comes the rude awakening: 'my fantasy ends - we're not even fri-ennnnds!', that last note falling downwards in a scary parody of the usual trademark Hollies optimism that usually reaches for the sky. A quick Tony Hicks solo that's one of his best later and the narrator is sadly trudging home, having failed to find happiness yet again. One of The Hollies' cleverest ear-catching 'pop' songs, certainly from the 1970s, this song should have been a big hit: instead it stalled at #71 in America and wasn't released at all in the UK.

Bruce Springsteen's 'Sandy' was the only cover song on the whole album, unusual for The Hollies. Clarke was a big fan, discovering Bruce during his sojourn from the band in 1972 and recording his own cover of 'Born To Run' before Bruce's version had even come out yet - typically EMI thought it 'wouldn't sell' and buried it until Springsteen's version had become a hit by which time everyone assumed Clarke was 'copying' his idol's success. The song has become something of a retro hit for the band, regularly appearing on compilations and occasionally in the band's live set even though it was never released as a single at the time. While the song isn't a perfect fit - a Mancunian band don't sound natural singing Americanisms however steeped in the United States they were (as shown in concert when 'those silly New York virgins' became 'those silly Manchester Virgins' or wherever the band happened to be playing, which got funnier the more poverty-stricken and destitute the town!) and the lyric is rather more ambiguous than the more straightforward Hollies are used to. The song appears to be spent in flashback, remembering a happy American Independence Day party when the narrator fell in love but who is the narrator addressing exactly? Is he writing her a letter? Is he writing a diary? Is he simply remembering? Is he really seventy years older and remembering his youth or was it only last night (well, actually studying the lyrics again the fact that 'the cops finally busted Madame Marie' suggests it might have been a while although another lyrics calls this 'tonight'). However the band cope with a song well outside their comfort zone well: Clarke is as perfect as he always is, rueing the day he let his old flame die for 'a waitress who won't set herself on fire for me any more', Terry is right there with him with some exquisite harmony work and the orchestrations manage to be soft and warm and fuzzy without getting the way. Springsteen fans tend to feel that nobody else can do their hero justice and can be quite nasty about cover songs of their hero, but if so they've clearly never heard this one which gets this subtle song more or less spot on. Also, it's one of only three AAA songs to be written about my birthday (The Beach Boys and Yoko Ono both did songs about '4th of July'), which America seem to celebrate to for some reason, so for that alone this song gets bonus points from me!

'Lonely Hobo Lullaby' is a one of those occasional songs that shift in quality depending on mood. On good days it's another gorgeous dreamy ballad with pristine harmonies, profound lyrics and a classy backing  with Hicks working double time on the unlikely duet for fuzz guitar and banjo. Other times it sounds painfully slow, pretentiously simple and all too obviously ripped off from Bob Dylan's 'Knockin' On Heaven's Door' released in 1973 and continually on the radio when The Hollies sat down to write this album in Summer 1974 (just try singing 'knock knock knockin' on heaven's door' over the introduction). The twist in the song is that while the hobo/tramp is indeed alone he's not really lonely - out of all the characters on this album he's the only one without jealousy or regrets or desires, content to move from one pasture to another without looking back. Clarke/Hicks/Sylvester may also have been deliberately trying to write their 'own' version of 'The Air That I Breathe' with this song, picturing a man content with nothing more than the 'coat on my back to keep me warm'. Something odd happens between verses three and four however: at first we're told that the hobo too has an unhappy past whose 'got no woman's love to keep me warm', but next thing we know 'I saw you lying there, a cast off from another man, so I picked you up too you home and home is on my back'. At first we think the narrator's still talking about his love life - but no, he means the coat which is of far more practical use to him than worrying about what his ex is doing. A blistering guitar attack from Hicks (recalling his greatest ever on 'Hard Hard Year') suggests that all isn't well, the sound ringing in our ears long after the notes have all been played, but most of this song seems strangely contented, laidback even with a delicious country-rock flavour that beats anything being made by Poco or The Eagles. Another daring experiment that, today at least, sounds like it paid off - though goodness knows if I'll feel the same the next time I hear it!

My favourite song on this album every time though is 'Second Hand Hangups', a song which makes good use of the 1970s Hollies' passion for drama and strings. Opening with a glorious Hicks picked guitar part and a slow fade up of a mammoth orchestra before Bobby Elliott's drums move the song into another gear, 'Hangups' sounds the 'waking nightmare' sequel to the gorgeous  'sleeping meeting' of 'I Had A Dream', the narrator still missing an ex after a bitter fight but still too pride to pick up the phone and tell. 'It's been such a long time since I had words with you' the Hollies accuse as if it's her fault they've been apart, 'tell me what you been doing?' as a demand rather than a kind gesture. He sounds as if he's had reasons to be unhappy, he's been back in contact with all the friends they used to share and they all have 'stories' about her bad behaviour 'though they aren't all the same', with loyalty and division rippling out far further than just this one split. Throughout though the strings point past this icy cold exterior of gruffly demanding sentences and sneering disdain and reveal that that in fact the narrator is a gibbering wreck of emotion a long way away from the 'closure' he pretends to have in public. Matters come to a head in a typically glorious Hollie middle eight when Clarke pleads 'look out girl you're gonna be caught, run!', finally concerned for her welfare as much as his own, pleading with her to 'get on the right track and then I'll have you back'. A flamenco guitar flourish from Hicks points at this still blossoming relationship and the orchestra swells up to one great swirl after another in the finale - but you sense it's not enough to put them back together again and the song ends instead on a mournful swirl of lost opportunities and stubbornness, the narrator ending up right where he began demanding her attention without wanting to break the silence first. This is a game they've clearly played before ('this ain't the first time around!') and a game they're likely to keep playing forever. A masterful song, even by Hollies standards, only a slightly twee and unfitting chorus ('Don't be disillusioned, I'm a member of the union, membership paid on my dues!')  prevents this from being the single greatest Hollies song post 1970.

Alas side one ends on the album's weakest song 'Time Machine Jive'. This though is more a measure of how strong and consistent this album is as this return to retro rock is far more likeable than most of the similar attempts on 'The Hollies' in 1974. The track sounds suspiciously like a Hicks/Lynch song though its credited to the three Hollie writers alone, with the same sluggish thuggish melody as 'Out On The Road' and 'Born On The Run' and may well have been started off by Hicks deliberately to make the most of Clarke's harsher aggressive voice after the folk-rock years when Rickfors gamely tried but could never pull these sorts of songs off. Clarke is indeed excellent and there's another great backing track behind him with more fuzz guitar from Tony and Bernie's walking bass very much getting the feel of the era, but something about this song doesn't click: the repeated title in the backing harmonies is irritating and the lyrics odd. 'You'd better look out your winder tonight' slurs Clarke as if recalling 'Look Through Any Window', promising to be 'that cat on a hot tin roof' like he used to be in his youth. But the Hollies never sounded like this before (well not before 1974 anyway): this harsh, this aggressive or this petulant. The boast that 'my star trek's music's gonna set you high!' is like a bad parody of the Nash years of the band without the sweetness or the hope:  instead of a love song this is a drunken man stumbling for chat up lines that aren't working and as such is vaguely of-putting. All that said, though, full marks to The Hollies for having the guts to even attempt a song like this and poor as many of the lyrics are, proper kudos for not making even more of a mess of it than they do here.

Similarly 'I'm Down' has so much going against it I'm hard pressed to know where to start. We join the song at the point the morning after the narrator has discovered that he was adopted, long after everyone he thought were once blood relatives knew. 'The early bird's been up all morning' he sings, but still too much in shock to move and live the rest of his life just yet, adding 'I've got no intention of moving from where I am'. Everything he thought was certain is now out for debate: that wasn't his mother who gave birth to him, his father who went 'off to war' and only a 'pseudo brother' who emigrated. Some of the exposition is a little bit clumsy ('Thought it was my sister who fell off the wall' and the rhyme of 'mother' and 'another' which threatens to turn this oh so achingly serious song into a comedy) but by and large the Hollies judge mood and atmosphere spot on. The narrator feels he's trapped in lost and found, running through all those memories again looking for clues, the happy childhood he thought he had now based on a lie and the times that once 'fell in line' on a straight path from A to B now scattered like crazy paving. By the end of the song Clarke is moved to imagine his real mother's plight, 'left on her own - couldn't afford to clothe me' and returns to the question of identity that's been bugging him ever since his first solo album 'My Real Name Is 'Arold' - 'I don't even know my real name!' As far as I know none of The Hollies were adopted; they wrote this song simply because they felt it would be a fascinating hook for a song and it is, cleverly conjuring up confusion which is a much harder emotion to write about than happiness, sadness or anger. Clarke is on fire even by his standards, stretching from tearful sighs to spirited screams at the drop of a hat, but it's the lovely Hollies harmony wrapping round him like cotton wool that makes this album work and hint to the listener that though the short-term was a shock in the longer-term this narrator is not as alone as he thinks he is (note that though he's cross at the situation he never once lashes out at his 'pseudo-family' for keeping things from him. Though another flop single (peaking at even more lowly #104 in the States) this song's reputation has grown in passing years to the extent where The Hollies were invited to write a sequel for a TV series about adoption in the 1990s (thanks to being pretty much the only band brave enough to handle this tricky subject). Only the fact that the Bee Gees have forever ruined the phrase 'hah hah hah hah' thanks to their wretched (but not quite as wretched as 'Wiggle That Wotsit') disco track and the fact that the band had already used the 'falling, calling' chorus on their last LP taints this brilliant song, on which everything from the sighing melody to the words to the see-sawing sympathetic strings are handled with admirable care.

'Look Out Johnny' is a rocker that like 'Time Machine Jive' doesn't seem to have had the same attention lavished on it as the ballads. For once that's to the song's benefit, however, with a sparser and less elaborate arrangement squeezing the last drops of Merseybeat out of the band who to my ears defined the genre like no other (despite being Mancunian!) Bobby's having great fun finding a shuffle rhythm, Bernie finds another great walking bass riff, Tony turns in another great grungy guitar solo and Clarke is in true rocker mode on the vocals, proving again that The Hollies would have made for a mighty fine 1950s band too. However there's no getting away from the fact however lively the performance as a song this is a lesser work compared to most on the album - the sort of stuff usually saved for a B side rather than an album track. Johnny seems to be a drug dealer (though see our rambling take on the lyrics above) but the pusher gets pushed away by one of his clientele who thinks he's been giving him placebos, chased out of town while his car carries his last bags of 'stuff', a 'heavy load' in every meaning of that phrase. The fact that the 'mob' catch up with in a bar doesn't sound good but thankfully the action cuts away before we see things get nasty. Even so, 'Johnny' is an unusually nasty and aggressive song by Hollies standards - there's no one to sympathise with in this song (normally we'd know why this character became a dealer and wheeler and understand him more at least but not here) and the cruel wit of the dealer who gave so many others 'monkeys' ie drug problems now being chased by his own 'monkey' in the form of the mob is handled with strangely dispassionate taste. Which is not to say that this song is terrible - there's a great groove in this track, which starts off as a Rolling Stones strut before turning into a comic parable about the narrator's vanity and attempts to pull a fast one backfiring on him. However it comes out of left field at this point in The Hollies' career, at one with other future songs from the seedier side of the streets like 'Daddy Don't Mind' and '48 Hour Parole'. I wouldn't want to hear a whole album of these songs but one to break the sound up is on balance a good idea.

'Give Me Time', meanwhile, is what The Hollies do best: a passionate ballad with lots of spit and polish but a very real and scary emotion underneath it all. Telling his baby to 'back off', the narrator worries that their relationship is going too fast and is unready to fully commit himself to their relationship. Somehow The Hollies again manage to soften the blow with some more sublime harmonies and a lovely country-rock feel from Hicks and Wingfield and once again the lyrics sounds reasonable even though once more the words are pretty harsh: the narrator feels he's 'first class flying' and expects his intended to wait for him till he's finished 'playing'. In a middle eight that comes out of nowhere, Clarke growling like never before, he even warns her 'don't try too hard - don't spoil your chance' as if assuming that he's ever going to get another one. In real life he's more likely to get a slap for coming out with this and it could be that this song is another on the album told in the 'past tense', a 'warning' for younger fans of where it all went wrong and why so many Hollies characters seemed to live their lives looking back at the past and sighing over what might have been. However that's not what you take from this song unless you study it: instead you take away the beauty, the gorgeous melody and the even more lovely thing The Hollies do with it in the studio.

So far fans of the 'new-look' rocking Hollies haven't had much to enjoy, but late on in the album we finally get a slinky rocker to go alongside 'Long Cool Woman' 'Hold On' and 'Curly Billy'. 'You Gave Me Life' is pitched more like the middle song (a track from 'Distant Light') which is a slow blues revved into first gear thanks to the sheer noise going on even though its actually played pretty slow (its very like the Crazy Horse way of working in fact, the whole sound 'swimming' together to sound bigger than it really is). Clarke is again on top form (is this is best album vocally? It's this or '5317704' I'd say) and unlike 'Long Cool Woman' its the backing track that plays hard to get while he pours out his heart in his greatly gritty vocals. That's fitting for a song about the narrator being warmed up and then given the cold shoulder on successive dates with a mysterious woman. She's not answering her phone, she doesn't turn up to their planned meal - where the hell is she? After all they didn't just have a nice time the night before they really connected and now he's hooked, addicted to the 'life' he felt in her eyes. However it's Ron Richards' impressively modern production values that really make this one: layers and layers of distorted synth noises that phase in and out like some bonkers sci-fi movie, two parts moving in tandem up and down in the extreme left and right speaker, apparently chasing each other though they always seem to be going in different directions. The opening of this song is particularly ear-catching with another terrific riff; I've started many a Hollies compilation for those who ask me with this song because it's a real 'what the?' moment that catches you off guard - especially for those who think the Hollies were only responsible for a few twee singles. Hicks too is on top form, somehow weaving his guitar throughout this madness as if he's the only stable person in the room as all hell breaks loose around him. This is how The Hollies of the mid-1970s should always have sounded: tough, contemporary, bold and right on the money.

By contrast I have a rather mixed feeling about 'Lucy', the sadly soft ballad that wraps up the album. This song is just so devastatingly sad as the narrator is told that the love of his life 'ain't much time' and that he's going to have to 'hold things together' - which he does but only for a verse before asking 'how'm I gonna tell the children that mommy's going away?' Clarke promises the world to get her well again and up and out of bed and after singing most of the song in a soft whisper (well, soft by Clarke standards anyway) the sudden burst of panic on the line 'I'm gonna make you make you feel fine!' is electrifying. Unfortunately the rest of this song is just that little bit OTT it loses the impact at the heart of this song: there isn't just an orchestra with sweeping strings but a blooming great mournful horn part too, while the tempo is just that bit to slow and the harmonies, surprisingly, a tad over lush. Compared to the rest of the album - which is almost entirely a pleasure to listen to - this song is hard to sit through, with repeat after repeat. And yet I defy anyone to hear that momentous minute long fade where Clarke hurls everything at the song desperate to do anything to extend the awful moment when he has to hit the truth head-on without a tear in the eye, scat singing taken to the extreme. The melody too is gorgeous, tender and warm yet unbearably sad, an awful moment where the bite from the colder side of life bites deepest that still oozes warmth and tenderness. Even at one of its lower points, oh 'Another Night' please stay.

As you might have gathered, 'Another Night' really is more than just another album. Consistently excellent, beautifully performed and with a talented band finding their second wind as they lay down their differences to work together, it should have been recognised as one of the Hollies albums the world needed to own. But of course this is The Hollies, the group that nobody outside their core fanbase ever realised could be this moody, this melancholy, this magnificent and were laughed out the room when they were. For me it's significant that it's this album that starts the long downward slope from success to failure for the band which peaked at a full one hundred places lower in the American charts whilst missing the British charts entirely (another year and I'm looooooooosing!') Because for the first time The Hollies have completely broken away from their cheery cheeky juvenile selves and have made their first fully adult album that relies not on energy, passion and fury but wisdom, worry and nostalgia and the world just wasn't ready for such a complete change from a band who'd always had problems being pinned down to a single category. Not for the last time though, sales mean nothing when an album is as good as this: had this been released by a new band or one known for their deeper work then 'Another Night' would have been the hit of the year, a winner to the band's core fanbase and badly in need of a critical revival.


'Stay With The Hollies' (1964)

'In The Hollies Style' (1964)
'Would You Believe?' (1966)

'For Certain, Because' (1966)

'Evolution' (1967)

'Butterfly' (1967)

‘Hollies Sing Hollies’ (1969)

'Confessions Of The Mind' (1970)
'A Distant Light' (1971)

'Romany' (1972)

'Out On The Road' (1973)

'Headroom' (Allan Clarke solo) (1973)
'The Hollies' (1974)
'Another Night' (1975)

‘Write On’ (1976)
'A Crazy Steal' (1978)

'5317704' (1979)
'What Goes Around..." (1983)
‘Then, Now, Always’ (2009)

'Radio Fun' (BBC Sessions) (2012)
The Best Unreleased Hollies Recordings
Surviving TV Footage 1964-2010
Non-Album Songs Part One: 1963-1970
Non-Album Songs Part Two: 1971-2014

Live/Solo/Compilation/US Editions/Covers Albums Part One 1964-1975
Live/Solo/Compilation/US Editions/Covers Albums Part Two 1976-2014

No comments:

Post a Comment