Tuesday, 12 May 2015
Here's a slightly different article for you to get your reading glasses tuned into this week and something a little bit away from our usual discussions of all things newsical, viewsical and musical - don't worry we'll get back to our usual praisee-ing of obscure albums nobody listens to anymore and harrumphing at modern music and the Spice Girls next week. However this week is a special week - M.E. Awareness Week - which has become increasingly useful to sufferers like myself to get out message across without being branded moaners/whingers/scroungers. Yes, I know, we're a music site and don't usually cover this sort of thing and I've gone without saying anything for the eight years this site has been running (though I've thought about saying it every year), but it struck me reading all the posts last year that we sufferers tended to be preaching to the converted about our illnesses to some extent - what we really want is the general public to learn about them. And while I know there's nothing general about my wonderful, talented, educated, cultured readers who have the fine taste to appreciate the same music as me, I leave this article here in the hope that those of you who've read everything else and still want might learn something and help us stem back the tide of ignorance and arrogance against us. After all, I've always used Alan's Album Archives as a platform for addressing stupidity, ignorance, injustice and hatred, I just happen to speaking it through firsthand experience rather than song form this time.
If you haven't heard of the illness then don't worry, most people haven't - I'm not sure I had except in vaguely prejudiced terms before I became diagnosed with it which soon turned out to be wrong. This is not a well known and hideously misunderstood illness, even though it's one of the most common ones around (affecting some 200,000 people in Britain alone and even then less per population than places like America). No one quite knows what causes it, although as a virus tends to send most people's symptoms off, mine included, it seems likely that a virus is involved somewhere - there's other evidence out there that it's a genetic malfunction, that your body is effectively over-repairing itself after illness or that it's a combination of these and/or bacteria, hormones or too much fluoride (or something that hasn't been found yet. Outbreaks tend to occur in rushes and while its not common in families there are cases of next generations getting the same symptoms (and quite often skipping a generation too. Which is just great - its not just us doomed to a fate worse than death and possibly resulting in said death we might end up inadvertently passing it on to our nearest and dearest too (apologies grandchildren of my future, but at least this site has provided you with the right music to listen to while you're stuck in bed like Grandad/Grandpa/Old Fogey Alan). While there is no one test that can prove the condition and it overlaps with many things, there are various things that can help rule it out - and specialists who see hundreds of patients a year but only tend to give out a few dozen diagnosis if that, plus a few 'rules' that have to be followed (most of the main symptoms over the course of more than six months). Remember, there's no test for multiple sclerosis either, but no one in their right mind would deny that that illness exists (apart from a few Daily Mail readers perhaps). Oh and there does seem to be 'tests' that can be carried out to half-prove the illness - but typically for our luck can only be found when you're dead (it's something to do with the cerebrospinal - now there's a word for your next game of scrabble - fluids being cut and revealing something wrong apparently, which as generous as I try to be to medical science donating my head to be lopped off is perhaps a step too far even for me).
Inevitably as a result of this uncertainty this illness is also woefully underfunded (male pattern baldness gets more money spent on it in this country!) and frequently dismissed, despite the fact that it dates back to the Victorian era (a debate for another time - was Charles Darwin the first patient to suffer from it? Was Florence Nightingale another early sufferer?) and has been listed as a serious debilitating physical condition by the World Health Organisation since 1969. That should surely be end of story shouldn't it? I don't know of any other illness where people say 'The WHO, made up of the world's leading experts on medicine, which has been established for decades and undergoes the most intense scrutiny - yeah they must be making this up for the hell of it!' There is also far more overwhelming physical evidence for the illness than other conditions that also used to be ignored, from Multiple Sclerosis to Aids (one article I once read said that there is more evidence for the existence of m.e. than asthma) and with not just a similar but according to a majority specialists a worse standard of living than many major illness (the restrictions are equivalent to late-stage aids, for instance). Not many doctors agree on anything - least of all a convincing name for it (it really is the illness of a thousand names - variously M.E. or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or most recently SEIDS or Systematic Exertion Intolerance Disease - which still isn't what I'd prefer to call it despite being voted in as 'our' chosen name, but the fact that it spells DIES backwards is rather apt, so hey ho. Many sufferers have been obsessed recently about what name to give this illness which doesn't insult us or belittle us - though personally I'm more angry about getting a cure than what the illness I'm waiting to cure should be named). Things are changing, very very slowly - President Obama has been a big help with funding and only the US and UK are still in the truly primitive stages of treating this disease, which is better treated round most of the world - but at this rate I really will be long gone by the time any concrete progress gets made.
The other trouble is that the illness comes at different rates and different exhaustion levels, so some people do 'seem' to carry out normal lives, fooling people into thinking that the illness is always minor and possible to manage without too many alterations; sadly that's a false picture, most sufferers have it bad and they're the ones you don't get to see because they're asleep (or more likely trying to sleep) safely at home, worrying about the one time they have to be out the house the following week and whether they'll cope. There are in fact a lot of people far worse off than me - permanently bed-bound, unable to wash themselves unable to eat, unable to talk. Remember when you had that really bad cold and nobody saw you for days? Remember how you behaved when you finally had the energy to get out of bed and felt on the mend? 'I'm fine' you said, 'what did I miss?' It's a bit like that for us - nobody really sees the bad side unless you're unlucky enough to be living with someone clobbered by this.
Occasionally people assume that this illness is just a phase and will get better and reckon that being bed bound is the worst this illness can do. Nope! While it's only a small number of patients who get it this badly, me/cfs/SEIDS can and will kill (don't believe me? There's a site here that lists lots of the known cases, though the 'real' list of deaths unreported is surely much much longer: http://www.ncf-net.org/memorial.htm) While the m.e. tends to go hand in hand with some other nasty problem (like heart failure or organ collapse) and isn't always recorded on the medical certificate, thousands of patients would not have died without m.e. as one of their symptoms, weakening the body so the other stuff doesn't work. Although I am rather staggered to learn that I am currently in the 'moderate' category', which given that I'm nearly bed bound and spend most of my time struggling - to wake up, for balance, to find a position that doesn't hurt, to get through everyday things I used to take for granted and quite often for a brain that works - I can understand why that can happen. This pain is worse than I ever imagined pain could be and even at my levels my body feels like it's ready to give up the ghost any time. And it's impossible to put into words how helpless you feel with all the 'crashes' that leave me bedbound, unable to think, unable to move, unable to cope, unsure when if ever you will be able to go about your 'just about coping' existence', worried that it could be your turn to go next. And still all you hear is 'Yeah that's right, just a bit of tiredness and a few aches and pains from getting older - nothing to worry about!'
Most of the sites you see say that this illness like getting a bad case of the flu just without the sneezing, but in my previous life I never had an illness this bad or this terrifyingly intense, day in day out. The condition is hard to describe and changes a lot (by the minute sometimes) but I've always likened it to being run over, every single blooming morning, by something (sometimes its 'only' a bicycle, sometimes its a steamroller, most days its a double decker bus). Your body isn't just throbbing it aches all over, in every muscle. You don't just feel as if you've had a bit of a rough night's sleep - you hate it so much you vow never to fall asleep again. You don't just take a few minutes to wake up and come to, you awake feeling completely disorientated and stay that way for hours. It's thought that, somewhere in all this, the body is tied up in a perpetual 'fight or flight' syndrome where the body is always at the limit and can easily be pushed past it - but there's also overwhelming evidence that it is both a genetic and a virus-driven condition. While debate exists about whether the pain caused the fatigue or the fatigue caused the tiredness, one thing's for sure: your body cannot repair and heal itself so anything you've done during the last few days you'll pay for. Very often I'll end up with aching arm muscles several days after lifting and carrying something that I've forgotten all about (sometimes I can't even work out what it was that set me off), or will wake up screaming in agony as a muscle in my legs gives way in my sleep and wakes me up - even though my heavy walking day was so long ago I've forgotten all about it and been in bed ever since.
Muscles don't just hurt, they spasm in my sleep because they can't repair themselves. I don't just get tired, I stay exhausted - and that's on my better days. I don't just feel it a bit the next day if I do something major - I feel every little muscle action, every little ache and pain to an intensity I previously thought imaginable (and as those of you who've read my reviews as seen through the eyes of the cow or the talking heads in the cover of various Pink Floyd albums or our April Fool's Day columns will know, I don't lack for imagination, more an ability to reign it in). I don't just sleep badly, I barely sleep at all and when I wake I can't believe the hour can possibly be right because it either seems like a million years since I was last awake and vaguely conscious - or that I've slept a grand total of about ten minutes (it's not an exaggeration to say I haven't had what most people would consider a proper night's sleep in eight years, even though sometimes I can sleep for 12-14 hours). I don't just get short of breath, I have a permanent tight chest that feels as if my heart is about to give way. I don't just get slight tummy ache anymore, I get chronic indigestion and have ended up loathing the words IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) almost as much as the initials IDS (our failed welfare secretary in the UK, Ian Duncan Smith). I don't just get hungry, I spend most of my time starving, my body so desperate to replace the missing energy it needs that it demands more carbohydrates all the time. My body clock doesn't work, leaving me unable to cope with anything in the mornings and I'm at my brightest a good three years after most civilised people are in bed (which of course makes you want to stay up later so you can put off feeling so rough again). I don't just have occasional headaches, I have pounding migraines that can blur my vision and leave me unable to move. I don't just have a woolly head that can't think straight, I have a permanent cardigan over my bonce, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. My body can shake and shiver because its passed it's limits and last for so long it's scary. And it's not just one day that's a problem - this is an illness that's accumulative, with flare-ups that can last days, weeks, months, years - even decades (I've never recovered from a car ride I took four years ago - and probably never will). This is an illness that leaves you drained and with no shops stocking the right make of batteries. Worst of all this can be a very lonely illness - the world is going to sleep when you're waking up, the shops are shut, friends are out and only your fellow sufferers on twitter seem to be awake (a quick shout out to the wonderful friends I've made there - you know who you are!) And yet after fighting through all this, fighting to do what I can with the only medium I know how and the only thing I can do at all times of the night in my pyjamas if I have to, in between bad spells(writing). The papers will tell you that welfare recipients are living the life of Riley, us especially. But this isn't living - I'm not sure this is even surviving most days.
What's more, whilst other illnesses get the aid they deserve and lots of help and support there's nothing much that can be done for us sufferers - some people find certain pills help and there's medical evidence out there that drugs used to treat other conditions work for us too, but nobody has yet put the money in to find out (and not without lack of trying either). Some of my friends swear by certain painkillers, others use steroids (which have the side effect of leaving you even more like a zombie - and trust me when the zombie apocalypse comes I know I'm safe as I'll be instantly accepted as one of theirs even without taking anything extra). While the baldies out there get money thrown at them to help get them a head of hair they looked better without anyway, I have to get by on paracetamol and occasional life-saving massages (none of the me/cfs sites seem to mention back pain but that's right up there in my 'cfs desert island risks'), the only things I've found that work for me.
Oh and pacing myself so that I only do a set amount of work every day no matter how great or ghastly I'm feeling, the only thing that works - well up to a point (planning is a sufferer's best friend, but you'd be amazed at how many people decide to re-write the plan and expect you to do something without warning anyway). Easy you might be thinking - no doubt the pre-illness me would be thinking it too - make sure you have a 'day off' after you need to do something and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead's your uncle. But the world doesn't work like that. I can't tell you how many home or friend emergencies have happened when I simply haven't the strength to cope - but had to find it anyway. I can't tell you how many Government letters and forms have come through my door at the worst possible moment, with demands that the thirty pages (which don't cater the worst aspects of my condition at all) be filled in now or sooner or you don't get any money at all with a deadline two days after you receive them. While the job centre staff I am with now couldn't be nicer, I can't tell you how many problems I used to have back where I used to be - how many ignorant, pig-headed people made me do things I couldn't do at times I couldn't do them or told me that I'd been ill for long enough already, like this illness has a best before date (before you ask, it can get better and there is hope - but for a majority of sufferers it will never go away). While my GP and my old specialist have been wonderful and I can't praise them enough (I'm one of the lucky ones here - though even then I went through my share of nasty ignorant dismissive doctors before I got here), they deserves better than to have me filling his time up asking for the same blinking medical letters every year about an illness that's unlikely to change much. I can't tell you how many appointments I was given at faraway stretched of the country even the healthy couldn't normally get to, only to be told that there was nothing wrong with me - which is always nice to think over when you're lying in bed for a week precisely because of that appointment which wasted your time as well as theirs.
And for my regular readers: as you may have noticed I run a website. This website. The solution looks simple doesn't it? Give up writing and lie in bed all day going 'ow'. I can hear the sceptics from hear reckoning that because I can write this many words a week I must be alright really - even a couple of you have been kind enough to get in touch and say they're glad I must be feeling better because I'm writing more. But actually, especially recently, the worse I am the harder I write. I've been told not to do that many a time, been warned that I was doing too much by my friendlier medical people (whilst at the same time being told I wasn't doing enough at the jobcentre) and I've tried. I really have tried. I've slowed down. I've held back. I've thought more and written less, I've done less of everything. I once barely wrote anything for a whole year - and it was the most miserable year of my life. But oddly enough writing isn't that much of a strain, providing I have the time and I'm not at my absolute worst (in the sense that whatever I did, including lying in bed, is a strain). And, you see, on the days I get it right, writing these reviews can transport me out of the tiny prison of my present existence and offers a chance for most of my sub-conscious to think about something else other than 'I only got four hours sleep last night and need to be ready for something tomorrow - how do I cope on that?' and 'ow ow ow' (pronounced OW OW OW!!!) I actively took the decision a couple of years ago to either slow down, stop altogether or speed up. It was a hard decision to make - and I'm not altogether sure it was the right one - but I needed a 'future' as the illness had taken away so much of my present and it's the writing that gives me one last thing to get up for. Even more surprisingly, to date the only part of my brain that isn't fogbound seems to be the parts of my memory related to my favourite musicians (I can't tell you what I had for breakfast, but I can tell you what the B-side of an obscure Jefferson Airplane single from 1966 was without looking it up) - I spent a long time wondering if it was a part of my brain that had been saved by future sci-fi me during a trip back in time to fix my broken body that went wrong, but it seems more likely that all that stuff just went in too deep for it to be removed (listening to music regularly means the memory gets a refresher course regularly whereas I don't need to remember other anywhere near as much). Given that there's no more important subject in the world than 60s and 70s music, that's what you got on this website - writing about being poorly, though done so well and brilliantly by so many other bloggers, is actually quite boring for me and depressing when it's not good news.
The trouble is too I don't like talking about my illness much - if I was to complain whenever I was in pain or suffering from a lack of sleep then I might never stop. I probably don't complain as much as I should so others forget how much pain I'm in, but complaining costs energy too and I'd rather use that energy fighting this thing and coping with the consequences than spend another year in bed staring at the ceiling and wondering which AAA album cover would work best as a mural (it's between The Hollies' 'Evolution' and the inner sleeve of The Moody Blues' 'To Our Children's Children's Children' as you happen to ask. What do you mean you didn't?!) The fact is too that there are some truly wonderful me/cfs bloggers out there who can tell you so much more than I could (curiously enough I've often noticed how 'alive' and vibrant the writers of most of the me online community are, miraculous for people who are half-dead); for an illness that isolates you as much as this one does there isn't half a solidarity out there amongst the bloggers who are heroes all for having the courage to do this every year. I'm not quite sure who I'm telling my side of the story too either - the people who clicked on this link expecting to read about an obscure psychedelic band named The Chronic Fatiguers perhaps - but the story needs to be told by somebody and particularly to people who wouldn't otherwise have heard about it (and I couldn't sit there hypocritically typing 'people need to be told!' for another year now that my website has been getting more hits). I'm sorry that person had to be you and I'm grateful as always, dear reader, for your patience.
If I could lean on it just a little longer though, there's one particular problem with the me/cfs online coverage that annoys the hell out of me every time I read it and it's a controversial one so I've largely left it to here: the thought that the illness must be a 'psychological' one, despite flying in the face of all the medical evidence (and no its not 'if it was real someone would have found it by now' as soke have argued - there have been several tests demonstrating abnormalities in brain patterns, red blood cells and an over-reaction of the immune system when provoked, but every time a promising paper comes up and the community gets excited the Government block it and even on occasion try to alter the findings).Unlike so many it seems I have no issues with mental illnesses, which are as brutal and limiting as any physical ones and just as unavoidable. I do know sufferers who have both too (if anything was going to cause long-term depression its being ill and nobody believing you after all). However I object to people who assume that this isn't a physical illness, when all the evidence says that it is. There's even a monster masquerading as a psychologist (even though he's barred from practising and doesn't have the right qualifications) who makes it his life's work claiming that me/cfs is 'all in the mind'. The psychiatrists of course know that they're on to a losing cause as more and more tests with this illness are made so have been getting increasingly desperate in recent years - to anyone in the know their cause is clearly failing, although it's still not failing fast enough for general public perception. From the outside that argument may look vaguely plausible and understandably leads to the people who don't 'get' mental illness to condemn you, but let me tell you from the inside it's nonsense: there's nothing more insulting than being told you're 'lazy' when you've never fought so hard in your life to accomplish anything. The fact that this website is about to celebrate its 1000th post - with two-thirds of them some seven thousand words long at the very least - for a grand total of £17.52 (the collective amount of money made from this website - it's not about the money, it's about the music) should show how wrong that statement is and I'm far from the only cfs/me blogger out there with that story to tell. The trouble is, though, that people 'believe' doctors to the exclusion of all else - even when the doctors admit they know nothing themselves; the fact that thousands of us report the same conditions, come up with the same results in tests and the fact that it goes against everything in your character suddenly counts for nothing; of all the problems that are the most damaging in this condition it's the mistaken unfounded betrayal of friends and family that's the worst thing to bear, when they assume that the medical world covering up for being clueless must be right and you're all wrong, despite the evidence, despite the tests, despite the seriousness of the condition of all the sufferers.
The only similarity between depression and me/cfs is that sufferers are to some extent trapped in bed. The differences though are colossal; if you want to know whether you have 'depression' or 'me/cfs' or somebody you know has then surely the biggest difference you only need to ask them what they would do if they had the strength. It seems likely that the patient with depression would answer 'I don't know' or 'it's not something I've thought of' or 'I can't even possibly think about that till I'm better'. The me/cfs patient will give you a list ten foot long, reminisce for hours about all the things they used to do which they long to do now (and do do now, occasionally, when their bodies let them ,whatever price they end up paying for it). They'll even show you proudly some slight effort towards that over life that might have been: they'll have gone back to studying (they may have given up after an hour after being in too much pain, but they'll have tried), they'll have drawn up a sheet of jobs that need dong round the house when they're well enough, they'll have created blogs like this one (there are many many me/cfs blogs, far higher a quota than with most illnesses) or if they're capable they'll be doing voluntary work. The only real similarity between the two illnesses is that the sufferer is trapped - but there's world of difference between the boxes they're trapped in. Depression is a black airless box with no windows and a locked door that can only be opened when the prisoner has just the right amount of force to break the lock, if ever they get that far. Chronic fatigue suffers are trapped in a glass box that offers perfect views of the outside world - a world in which the sufferer can no longer participate and is reminded of the fact at every turn. Every so often you'll see someone doing something you really wanted to do, or making the most of an idea you once had or read about someone living the life you thought was going to be yours one day. Fresh air from outside continual passes through your glass box, reminding you that there's an outside world out there for when you're string enough to get back to it. Sometimes it's a hopeful breeze that calls you to the outside and sometimes it's a tornado, smashing everything you've built up except the box itself. You can't help but look out or see people looking in with scorn on their faces because your box is glass - it's magnified everything that's going on outside (ordinary life is always far less interesting to the people who are living it) and you can't help but see out and see what the world is getting up to without you. The depression sufferer does not care what goes on outside the box (on their bad days at least) because the box is overwhelmingly dark- the me/cfs box is overwhelmingly full of sunlight that you're desperate to get out and feel, but can't. Both of you are prisoners and both of you can't help it, but both of you are prisoners of different cruel monsters and at the mercy of very different beasts.
The other misguided notion is that exercising makes it all better. While some sufferers who are slowly gaining improvements will indeed find it beneficial, it's not a cure for me/cfs and does more harm than good in many cases. Effort takes effort. Effort is what you don't have - and while you can occasionally buy a 'loan' from the bank of energy if you've stored up enough credits (people who don't know about it might enjoy the 'spoon theory', an excellent visual guide to this problem: http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/) this energy bank has worse interest rates than Wonga. You don't just have to rest for a little bit after doing something - you have to rest a lot for a long time. What's more, exercise hurts, it's your body's way of telling you that you're doing something wrong - and sufferers become very in tune with their bodies telling them when something is wrong. The cost you see is just too high - and while being a permanent couch potato is probably worse for you than moving a little bit, it's so easy to go too far. Not least because you don't know that you've gone too far - you might not know until finding yourself unable to get out of bed three days later. People who exercise regularly will of course get tired and a bit achey, but it's a 'good' ache from what I remember from the dim and distant past - a slight pain that tells you you've been working out hard enough to reach your limits and your limits are pretty high. Me/cfs sufferers are already way way waaaaaaay past their limits before they even start - and the ache you get isn't a 'good' ache but an 'oh God I can't move' ache - the ache we've come to dread. To be honest having to suddenly rush to the loo several times a day without much warning means sufferers will be getting more exercise than most anyway, even if it doesn't seem that way.
So, our regular readers might be thinking, that's all nice and well and I'll remember to be more helpful when I hear of someone with the illness - but I came here to read about obscure non-charting solo albums by members of sixties bands nobody remembers - how the hell did I end up here and what does all this rambling mean for this site? The trouble is, I don't know. It could all go away tomorrow (although after eight years at this level of pain that seems unlikely - it generally takes a long to pull yourself out of the hole as it does to get in it, so that's another eight years even if I started getting better tomorrow, which I doubt somehow). It could go on for years or the rest of my life, gradually taking away even the part of my body that can just about hold myself up to type and the part of my brain that can still think about music I haven't heard in years relatively clearly even though I can't remember what I had for breakfast. It could, I fear, kill me. I fear I might not be able to run this site for too much longer. I've been getting weaker, slower and struggling with the repercussions more and more (generally being interrupted to do other stuff unexpectedly on top of heavy writing days). And yet I've been saying that since the beginning and with only two years or so to go before all 500 key AAA albums are reviewed, I know it will take a lot to prevent me from reaching the very end of this project, whatever this illness throws at me. It may be notoriously stubborn, but I am stubborn too. The downside is I have to do this relatively quickly or I really fear it won't be done - the illness will have claimed me totally and I'll either be unable to have the strength to do any of it or dead. I've had less time to re-write these articles (the bit I like doing least of all anyway) and I've noticed more mistakes are slowly creeping in - sorry. This is not a choice I recommend for any other sufferer - pacing, slowness, rests and no stress are the real things you need to help so please do as I say rather than as I do - but if I slowed down I was at risk of not getting anything more done at all and after eight years there's no chance I'm leaving this project unfinished. Neil Young once posed the question 'is it better to burn out than to fade away?' The answer is different for everybody, but for me it's 'burn' - I've been fading away for too long and I have to achieve something, the illness has taken everything else away from me but it's not having this (Janis Joplin and Dire Straits are all ready to go for next week in fact). I often joke that my ghost will still be posting updates until it's over. However do be warned - if I go quiet it's because I can't, not because I won't. May the Gods of obscure prog rock concept albums from 1969 smile down and keep it safe from trolls, hacks and David Cameron.
Erm, anyway, back to subject - though I must confess its hard using the same medium to talk so much about my illness that writing has been is good helping me repel. By now you might be feeling a little concerned on our behalf if I've written this right - you'll almost certainly be feeling angry, if only at me for making you read so much. So what can you do with that anger/outrage/new found wisdom? Well the trouble is we can do so little for ourselves. It's one thing writing a blog - it's another actually having your voice heard by someone who can do something about it. We can't go out and campaign ourselves - because most of us are bed-ridden. We can't raise a lot of money - because most of us are struggling to make ends meet on benefits that only a few of us were lucky to get in the first place anyway. We can't even really be seen - because if you do see one of us around you can bet your highly prized Beatles wig collection you're seeing one of us on a moderate-to-good day or we wouldn't be out the house at all. (A place where that old bugbear question of the me/cfs patient 'How are you?' tends to be answered with 'I'm alright', no matter how many double-decker busses parked on top of steamrollers and sat on by Brian Blessed happen to be on top of you at that very minute; it's just what you're trained to say and most people can't follow or care for the explanation anyway). In short, we can't get on our high horse en masse - because the horse is too high to sit on. We need you - yes you! - not to rally on our behalf necessarily, not even to raise money (although there are several excellent me/cfs charities that would be grateful for it) but we desperately we need you to 'get' it. And to keep this all in the back of your head the next time you write some sniffy article by someone who doesn't 'get' it. And to tell your friends and family off when they 'don't get 'it'. And to keep on telling them until they do get it. Power to the people, as John Lennon once said - we can't change the minds of those in power if we can't change our own first. We just want to be heard and understood and know that you're reading the 'truth' from someone who has the illness firsthand rather than from an ill-informed reporter who thinks the illness just means sleeping a bit more often or from biased and crooked medical practitioner (which is all the fault of our old bugbear Margaret Thatcher and her pal Ronald Reagan - afraid that early tests suggested a link between the illness and pollution they set off on a smear campaign to claim it was a made-up disease in order to not have to pay people compensation - there are still records locked up under the official secrets acts for another 90-odd years, far longer than any other health documents and no doubt that will be extended again next century; luckily there have been 'leaked' copies). It's an unfair fight, dear readers, that none of us were ever supposed to win.
But we are. Little bit by little bit. Every year more of the word spreads. Every year there's a new test with promising results, even if those results get swept under the carpet. And it's not all bad - occasionally there'll be an me/cfs piece on television that actually bothers to be balanced and - occasionally - very much on our side after years of stupid comments back in the 1980s and 1990s (Matthew Wright's Wright Stuff for instance is particularly good in this regard and deserves more kudos from our community whenever they're brave enough to tackle this issue). Each time of year that me/cfs week rolls round I'm super impressed how many people are out there raising money by doing the activities we could never do in a month of Lazy Sunday Afternoons. Every few months someone important, someone the papers can't ridicule too much will come out and say 'I have me/cfs and I hate the way it's treated' at the risk of their careers - take a bow Cher, Michael Crawford, author Laura Hillenbrand, Britain's former number one squash player Peter Marshall (whose autobiography 'Shattered' is still the best single book on the illness I've read) and our very own Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian (whose recent CD includes 'Nobody's Empire', a gorgeous song about his own experiences) who've had the guts to speak out about their experiences. They tried to tell us this illness didn't exist and they even won a few battles early on - after all, this is hardly a fair fight between people who have all the power and those who can barely get out of bed. But we can still win. We are winning. We will win. Those of you still fighting - keep in the fight because we will be heard! Those of you not in the fight but who know people who are - help them fight! Those of you who haven't got a clue what I'm talking about but have been swept up in the fervour anyway - fight for us anyway, we need you! This Dickensian attack on the suffering has gone on for far too long, but it won't last forever. One day the world will be a fairer place, if not for 'us' then our children or grandchildren might have a cure or at least a better and fairer understanding. One day the world will stop offering us made-up solutions they just know will help, honest, long enough to listen to what us patients are actually saying. One day the world will see the truth and it won't be because of a major change of policy but because of a major change in people's minds. The time for that change is - well actually it was a long time ago, but better late than never; that change needs to be now. That was a party political broadcast on behalf of Alan's Album Archives and we will shortly be returning to normal service.
But before I go, one last thing to reward the music fans who've struggled on this far, a quick 'top ten' of suitable AAA chronic fatigue-inspired/inspiring songs and where to find them (an expanded version of our very first website post in fact!):
1) Belle and Sebastian "Nobody's Empire" (from the album 'Girls In Peacetime Just Want To Dance' 2015) 'I clung to the bed and I clung to the past, I clung to the welcome darkness...intellect ambition fell away and they locked me up for my own good, we are out of practice, we are out of sight, on the edge of nobody's empire'
2) Graham Nash "Another Sleep Song" (from the album 'Wild Tales' 1974) 'All I need is someone to awaken me, much of me has gone to sleep and I'm afraid to wake up...There is no time to waste another day because we watch them fly away!'
3) The Rolling Stones "Rocks Off" (from the album 'Exile On Main Street' 1972) 'I want to shout but I can hardly speak...heading for the overload, down some splattered on the dusty road, kick me like you kicked before, I can't even feel the pain no more...How come I only get my rocks off when I'm sleeping? How come I only get my rocks off when I'm dreaming?!?'
4) The Beach Boys "I Went To Sleep" (from the album 'Friends' 1968) 'Ten thirty I turned my radio on, some group was singing a musical song, it wasn't too long - and I went to sleep!'
5) The Beatles "I'm So Tired" (from 'The White Album' 1968) 'I'm so tired I haven't slept a wink, I'm so tired my mind is on the blink...You'd say I'm putting you on, but it's no jokel, it's dong me harm, you know I can't sleep, can't stop my brain - I'm going insane! - I'd give you everything I've got for a little piece of mind!'
6) The Kinks "Sleepwalker" (from 'Sleepwalker' 1977) 'Everybody's got problems, buddy, I got mine, when midnight comes around I start to lose my mind, when the sun puts out it's light I join the creatures of the night, oh yeah!'
7) The Small Faces "Every Little Bit Hurts" (unreleased live show 1968, found on various compilations) 'Every little bit hurts, every night I cry, every night I sigh, every night I wonder why you treat me so cold - won't let me go...I can't keep on giving my life away!'
8) The Who "Sh-aching All Over" (from the album 'Live At Leeds') 'Quivers down the backbone, chills down the thigh bone, tremors in the back bone - aching all over!'
9) Neil Young "Brain-fog Of Loneliness" (unreleased 1969, found on 'Anthology' 2009) 'Bad fog of loneliness put a cloud on my single-mindedness...So long woman I am gone, so much pain to go through!'
10) Pink Floyd "Uncomfortably Numb" (from the album 'The Wall' 1980) 'You are only coming through in waves, your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying...I can't explain, you would not understand, this is not how I am!'
and a special mention for The Byrds' "Fido" (from the album 'The Ballad Of Easy Rider' 1969), which is surely a mis-spelling for our sister condition fibromyalgia 'Fibro (made me) stay up late, would not go home, asked him to leave, felt a pain in every bone, but I'm still lonesome, wide awake, staying up late, wishing I was not! You were on the outside talking to some chick, I was on the inside feeling mighty sick, sleep is what I wanted, but you know what I got, wide awake, staying up late, wishing I was not!'
Monday, 11 May 2015
One last word from me on the election and then we'll go back to the music but I had to say something about that election result last week. Even for Conservative supporters the result seemed a little...odd. Everyone was expecting for there to be a minority Government - and I mean everyone: even Cameron himself had admitted as much - as reported here (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/general-election-2015/11581187/Ed-Miliband-defends-tomb-stone-Labour-pledges.html) - and wife Samantha had even finished packing, against all protocol, so sure was she that her family was moving house.
Like many other people I was confused as to how so many of the world's leading political experts could be wrong (including US statistician Nate Silver, who got the last US election spot on) time and time again, right up until the exit poll a few hours before the results started coming in. The experts tries to explain it via 'shy tory voters' - but that makes even less sense to me; the few Tory voters I know are anything but shy about it and the evidence was that the election would go quite a different way (after all why would a lib dem voter frustrated at their inability to hold back the tories vote for the Conservative party instead of Labour? It made no sense!) And this wasn't just in one or two constituencies where weird things always happen in politics, but in patterns repeated right across the board - which never happens in politics. I wouldn't say I was at all confident about what kind of a Government we would have on May 8th but I was absolutely confident that it wouldn't be a majority Conservative one - that just ran in the face of everything.
So as the impossible had to be eliminated I did a little bit of digging to find the improbable. And a bit more digging. And a bit more digging. Because I couldn't believe what I was seeing: unreported by the major press (except in small ways) were at least thirty examples of at the very least suspicious circumstances and at worst a wholesale vandalisation of the electoral process. Now there's always something funny going on at an election - you get that humans together counting crosses late into the night and under pressure to work fast and there will always be mistakes. But we've been doing this election thing for a centuries now and I can't say I ever remember reading more than two or three unusual things happening at elections: this years there's ten times that! And twenty-five constituencies out of 650 - many of them suspiciously expected to be close before the election - is a high enough percentage to make a difference. Remember too that in this election things were so close in so many seats that a few hundred votes either way had huge ramifications - far more so than in any other election since the 1970s. So I put it to you: Ed Milliband won, David Cameron lost and should be thrown out while an investigation is undergone because we don't have cheaters in power in this country (well, not this soon after election anyway!) The votes have been altered and falsified along the way in a variety of cunning ruses and our electoral system is a shambles. Also, while many are complaining about the amount of people who didn't vote again this year, turnout was roughly 1.5% higher than last time in 2010 - just enough, suspiciously, to make the difference in tightly contested seats. And yes I may be a sore loser, but that's because I don't think I did lose and I hate being lied to. The Conservatives do after all have form with this with their notorious mis-use of statistics during the Coalition (this onbe, on benefits, is my favourite - Tory haters all have their own favourites on crime figures, employment and even flooding: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/may/09/iain-duncan-smith-benefits-cap-statistics) There was no way Cameron could have won that election outright, although there was always the chance of a minority Conservative Government. Instead we demand a new election, a fair one this time, overseen by someone that we trust.
Here is the evidence:
1) First of all the one mentioned more or less during election night: Glasgow East. The police were called in when a voter tried to use their poll-card only to be told that someone had already voted in their place. At the time of writing nobody has found who the real culprit was. While it's possible it was a mistake, who knows how many other names they or a crowd of people voted under? This scandal might never have been found if the people doing it had picked their 'victims' with care as people unlikely or unable to vote. The losers? Labour The winners? The SNP You can read more here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/generalelection/general-election-2015-police-investigate-fraudulent-vote-allegations-in-glasgow-10234021.html
2-4) Other, similar cases came to light afterwards and were reported in the Edinburgh, North Lanarkshire and Cumbernauld areas. The losers? Labour The winners? The SNP again Suspiciously the original article I found this in, via newspaper The Daily Record, seems to have been taken down but here's a shorter article from the BBC that's still up: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2015-scotland-32634888
5) The one that's causing all the headlines now - South Thanet. Loathe him or loathe him, Nigel Farage and UKIP were a shoe-in for the seat and even if he'd lost slightly I'd understand it given what the polls were saying; but he didn't, he lost badly to the Conservatives again. Furthermore UKIP won the council seat in South Thanet easily, the one that the Conservatives don't much care about - which is odd. Normally votes for MPs and councils are roughly the same. This can alter when you have a major figure as part of an area whose 'larger than his party' if you will, but in that case the vote actually went against Farage and for his party. Why would people vote in the party and yet not a leader who is, within his own party following, almost universally popular? Farage is actually calling for an official investigation into this one which will be very interesting to hear about, with claims of election boxes left untouched until the last minute of the count (when they weren't done 'properly') and an eight hour delay before counting started which still hasn't been explained (the vote-riggers were running a bit late?) The losers: UKIP The winners: Conservatives. You can read more here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/05/09/thanet-rigged-south-north-general-election-nigel-farage_n_7248496.html
6) The other one that made the news although everyone seems to have ridiculed it - George Galloway's allegations of a conspiracy against him in Bradford West. Normally I don't believe a word George Galloway says, but his loss of his Respect seat - which had been so secure five years ago and against every opinion poll in the area - was as big a shock as any other on the night. Galloway didn't just lose by one or two votes either but by over 10,000 votes which is a figure that would surely have broken the swingometer had it been used in his constituency. A few hundred voters can change their minds after polling day - but 100,000? Galloway demanded a recount and actually got less votes the second time round, ending up in trouble for breaking parliamentary practice by tweeting the first results before they were officially declared. Perhaps, just perhaps, if Galloway is taken to court the bigger story behind all this might come out too. Losers: Respect Winner: Conservatives http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/may/10/george-galloway-to-mount-legal-challenge-over-election-defeat
7) Plus potentially the most shocking: a van full of ballot papers which was held up and stolen, affecting two constituencies - Eastbourne and Hastings/Rye - who both had slightly higher than average turn-out (allegedly). Officially the burglars were just making off with an unmarked van and didn't know about the contents - which seems a bit odd truth to be told (this has never happened before either in all our years of elections!) Some 250,000 ballot papers were stolen - enough to make a sizeable difference in the region (one blog reckons it would be enough to swing 30 different seats). Winners: By far the Conservatives, who gained Eastbourne in a tight contest and just held on to Hastings/Rye in an equally close fight with Labour. http://news.channel4.com/election2015/04/29/update-4354/
8) Now the ones that didn't necessarily make the news but still suggest something fishy going on. First up, a computer glitch that affected Hackney (Diane Abbott's region) where many residents (perhaps several hundred, directly affecting 30 people who came to cast their vote) were not listed as eligible to vote despite registering in time and being sent their polling cards (Ian Duncan Smith's welfare computer system again?!) Winner: Labour won this one easily, suggesting it may have been a genuine mistake (they do happen - just not in these sorts of numbers!) http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/may/07/election-glitches-unable-to-vote-hackney-bournemouth
9) The same article adds a paragraph on another case in Bournemouth, specifically Kinson, where a botch-up at the printers meant that the wrong candidates were mentioned on the voting cards. Nine polling stations were affected and the mistake wasn't pointed out until the second voter through the doors queries the mistake. Losers: Labour Winners: Conservative Here's a longer article on the same constituency from their local paper http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/vote2015/12936317.Kinson_voters_told_to_come_back_later_after_polling_stations_sent_wrong_ballot_papers/
10) We're off to Pendle next, virtually the only region in the whole of the North West to fall to the Conservatives. This news story actually dates back to a week before the election when Conservative candidate Sajjad Karim raised the issue of postal voter fraud. Lord Greaves, on Pendle Borough Council backed his colleague up, referring to 'exceptionally high' postal votes in the region which had already been returned - up to ten days before the election. There were claims raised about postal voters being 'pressurised' to make their mind up quickly too as can be read here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-32391737 As for winners and losers - who knows? The conservatives raised the issue, but they won the seat comfortably - and against the pattern of the region
11) Another hit for the UKIP party, this time in Darlington, where their local candidate David Hodgson was horrified to find his name was missing from the ballot paper, which couldn't be replaced in time. I don't know about you but I've never ever heard of this happening before - these ballots are checked and re-checked so how did this error get past? Winners - Labour oddly (did the Conservatives overestimate their popularity in the borough?) Losers - UKIP http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/election-2015-name-ukip-candidate-david-hodgson-missing-darlington-ballot-papers-1500184
12) The Wirral, too, went back to becoming a Labour stronghold, but the Conservatives had been adamant that the hated MP for the disabled, Esther McVey, was going to get in again. So much so that the party fought tooth and nail for the position and threw everything they had at the area (despite it being a lost cause - most of the people I know from round there are deeply ashamed at how Ice Queen Esther McVey turned out). Did they decide to accidentally *ahem* lose a whole batch of postal votes in the Wirral just in case? New ballot papers were issued to the Heswell region, apparently, but do we know for certain they reached the voters in time? http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/general-election-2015-investigation-reports-9195178
13) Stoke-On-Trent: This constituency had a major discrepancy between the number of votes counted in before counting and the total once all the votes had been added up. A recount was quickly undergone which then tallied - but was a 'fake' box added into the mix somewhere in the night? As it happens Labour held the region, though only just. http://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/General-Election-2015-Missing-votes-blunder/story-26464842-detail/story.html
14) Mendip, a region of Wells, was another constituency where many voters failed to get their postal ballots in time. The council whirred into action and printed up enough replacement ballots for everyone - but didn't have time to post them, instead making them 'available' in their offices at short notice, meaning that several residents might not have known where to get them from. Losers: Labour Winners: Conservatives http://www.thewestonmercury.co.uk/news/election/late_re_issue_rush_as_postal_ballot_papers_go_missing_1_4064598
15) The list goes on - Oxford West and Abingdon also had postal voters unhappy at not being sent their polling cards in time. The seat was one of the closest in the whole of the UK and every vote counted - so even though the 150 people affected would not usually have made much of a difference, it might well have done this one time. As with the other cases above, no official explanation was ever given, just an apology. Winners: The Conservatives Losers: Liberal Democrats, just for a change http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2015-england-32604143
16) Here's an odd one - in Thirsk and Malton, North Yorkshire, the official polling boxes were found not to have been 'officially sealed' with the electoral ties but a home-made variety, which is another first as far as I know. This means that the boxes that left the polling station could have been tampered with before arriving at the count by someone who knew what they were doing. To quote from the article attached "It is almost as though a systematic plan has been implemented to render the ballot-boxes open to tampering during the period between the closure of the Polling Stations (at 10:00pm) and arrival at the count". This was another tight seat the Conservatives clung on to. Winners: Conservatives Losers: Labour http://nyenquirer.uk/thirsk-malton-ballot-box-infractions/
17) Does Milton Keynes strike you as an eager postal vote borough? Me neither - and yet concerns were raised after a 'deluge' of last minute postal votes almost brought the count to a stand-still. Those present who'd been to lots of these counts knew what to expect: three or four boxes arriving from the post office which had arrived on the last eligible day for counting. Instead 18 boxes were there - an unprecedented number containing nearly 5000 unexpected votes, more than enough to swing another close election. To be fair the postal ballots were scrupulously checked and found to be genuine - but counters under pressure can make mistakes, inside men or women could be found and it may even have been a ruse to distract from other electoral fraud stories - as well as a fourth possibility of a genuine coincidence. Normally I'd think the latter, but the 16 other examples above suggest otherwise... Winners: The Conservatives hold, though not by that much Losers: Labour http://www.miltonkeynes.co.uk/news/local/concerns-over-ballot-rigging-after-last-minute-flood-of-postal-votes-1-6730869
18) Another candidate's gone missing from the ballot papers, this time in Hull - seriously this happened twice for the first time ever in the history of UK elections? - and on this occasion with both Labour candidate Karl Turner and Green candidate Sarah Walpole missing from hundreds of postal ballots erroneously sent out to the local borough. Unusually Labour won this one easy, which was itself an odd result not just for the missing ballot papers but because of the size of the win and the fact that two of the four neighbouring boroughs turned Conservative. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2015-32514019
19-20) Alas the link to these two have suspiciously gone down since this afternoon but both South London and Dorset experienced similar glitched to Hackney, with users registered to vote not turning up on the electoral list.
21) This one's one of my favourites: in Norwich North a fire alarm went off and everyone had to be evacuated. The fault was explained away to the press as both a 'faulty tea urn' and 'a faulty fire alarm box' which seems odd - it could plausibly have been because of both, but why such different stories? And why tonight of all nights? (the tea urn in the picture doesn't look new or particularly old and run down!) In the confusion could something have happened? Norwich was won by the Conservatives by the way! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/politics/constituencies/E14000863
22) I'd never heard of a fire evacuation during a count before - and then I read about another one, this time in Dundee! This time the winners were the SNP but the losers, as ever , were Labour http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/politics/constituencies/S14000015
23) Alas, this example features a labour candidate, thus ruining my theory, but we leave it here just to show that electoral fraud does go on: Quesir Mahmood, a candidate for Blakburn borough council, was arrested 'on suspicion of electoral fraud and integrity issues' in late April and has not been sent up for sentencing as yet. See it does happen sometimes - so why not en masse everywhere else too?! http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/election-candidate-arrested-postal-vote-5602527
24) Saving the best till near-last, Eastwood Hilltop polling station 'accidentally' misplaced two boxes of votes after the count was officially declared. The boxes contained some 500 votes each - crucial in such a closely fought constituency - and the declaration had to be pulled and a re-count made. Would you believe it? The Conservatives held on in a ithgtly contested seat!
25) And finally, a general point: many many votes come in from ex-patriot Britons living overseas who still want a say in their old constituencies. Usually the votes are taken in early, having longer to travel, but this year things seemed a bit left to the last minute and over 100,000 people may have been affected living in countries such as Australia, America, France, Singapore and Brazil - easily enough to swing a rigged election, especially if only a few 'choice' votes go 'missing'. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatnews/11584068/Expats-in-uproar-over-missing-ballot-papers.html.
And that's all I've found but who knows? That could just be the tip of the iceberg - keep your eyes peeled in your local paper for more underhand dodgy dealings and potential fraud! So, a case of massive electoral fraud? I fear so. Some, perhaps even a few of these cases could be innocent mistakes, made by human error and not quite all of them affect the labour candidates in a bad way. But all 25? Has there ever been an election so hindered by incompetence? And even if this is all just a coincidence, shouldn't somebody from the national media have picked up the story by now - not just the 'pockets' of trouble like Glasgow East and South Thanet but the whole bigger picture? Because the bigger picture is that The Conservatives need to 'finish off' their policies, to rid the country of the NHS and the Welfare State and to be in power before the next election so they can right the results even more their way and make it harder for anyone else to get in (how is that fair?! See here - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/11593496/New-Commons-boundaries-top-Conservative-government-agenda.html ) This is a battle and one it looks like we've lost, but there's no way I'm going to sit back and let them think they won. More people voted for other parties - all of whom argued against the cuts - than voted for the Tories. The demonstrations in London prove how desperate and isolated the two-thirds of the country that didn't vote Tory are (maybe more if the above is true?) And I won't take it lying down: while I accept that labour would have had as many difficulties winning outright as the Conservatives were unlikely to have had, there is no way that many people voted Tory after what they've done the past five years, no way that the opinion polls were that far out and no way that either party could ever have won a majority after one of the biggest down-the-middle division in British political history.
Update: there's now 67 cases of electoral fraud being investigated and a petition for you to sign to get a proper investigation into whether the election was rigged: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/a-rigged-general-election
Update: there's now 67 cases of electoral fraud being investigated and a petition for you to sign to get a proper investigation into whether the election was rigged: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/a-rigged-general-election
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.