Monday, 14 September 2015

"More Of The Monkees" (1967)



"More Of The Monkees" (1967)

She/When Love Comes Knockin' (At Your Door)/Mary Mary/Hold On Girl/Your Auntie Grizelda/(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone//Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)/The Kind Of Girl I Could Love/The Day We Fall In Love/Sometime In The Morning/Laugh/I'm A Believer

Don't listen to Kirshner, he's recorded all these songs before, he thinks you're pretenders, so put your first right through his wall, there's more to Colgems' little games than your eyes can see, so don't listen to Kirshner or you'll end up with 'More Of The Monkees' (which admittedly isn't that bad at all!)

What's your candidate for the greatest revolution of human civilisation? The French Revolution? The American Revolution? The English Civil War? The Less-Than Civil English Wars (there've been lots of those down the years!) Well, in AAA terms the greatest revolution that ever took place happened in the summer of love to a band who were, at the time, the single biggest musical phenomenon since The Beatles (our younger readers should think of Justin Bieber dating Miley Cyrus and finding out they are the grandchildren of The Spice Girls - our very much older readers should imagine Cleopatra and Marc Anthony recording a duet together and making a reality TV show together). The Monkees were riding high with two American number ones and their first album had sold more copies than The Beatles' last album 'Revolver' and had gone from penniless zeros to millionaire-ish heroes within a matter of mere months - which isn't bad given that The Monkees had never intended to be a real 'band' at all and was simply releasing albums as merchandise from their TV series. However, at the peak of their fame, The Monkees decided to revoke a formula that had been so incredibly successful but so creatively restricting, turning the tables on their puppet masters and demanding to do things their way. In AAA land it was Robespierre Nesmith who shouted loudest (he didn't quite threaten to put musical director Don Kirshner's head in a guillotine, but he did punch a hole through his office wall), aided and abetted by Abraham Lincoln-Tork, while Cromwell-Dolenz was willing to go along with the ride and eventually even Davy D'artagnon acquiesced. In context, the battle was every bit as brave and every bit as unexpected, a sea change in history few outsiders were anticipating: after all, hadn't the kingdom of Monkee-land been more prosperous than ever? And wasn't Don Kirshner one of the biggest names in the music industry at that time - arguably bigger than the Monkees individually even then? In the musical equivalent of the Battle of Bosworth, the Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve or The Battle Of Saratoga, Don Kirshner starts the year with a business opportunity as he's pictured by the press being handed awards for the record sales of 'I'm A Believer' with four nodding smiling happy Monkees and ends it without a job and with a nasty great hole in his wall. However, just as all the 'real' revolutions named above only happened because enough people with power took them seriously enough to help the people without power, so too the Monkees coup only came off because they had support in unlikely places, with show co-creators Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider interested in and concerned enough for the band to give them a shot. It's the equivalent of fourteen King Louis leaving the kingdom of France bloodlessly to become a boyband, the American South agreeing to replace the African-Americans in slavery by agreeing to become slaves themselves or Prince Charles I telling Oliver Cromwell he really dug his warts. For years fans have wondered how on earth these circumstances came to be - and how The Monkees still got attacked for being puppets and fake musicians, even though putting your fist through your controller's wall is a pretty definitive way of taking back your freedom.

The background story behind the revolution (what my old teachers used to call the 'long and short-term trigger events') starts here, with the innocuous second album 'More Of The Monkees'. No, sorry, there won't be much sign of that impending revolution actually here within the grooves and in fact by Monkees standards it's all rather timid: twelve pop songs of varying degrees of niceness, without even the small amount of adventurousness that made the first album so interesting (instead of ending on the comedic outtake gold 'Gonna Buy Me A Dog' the album ends on an international #1, which kind of tells you all you need to know). You won't see it in the cover either, which is the most blatant AAA marketing opportunity before Nike start using Beatle songs to sell trainers or The Rolling Stones allow Microsoft computers the use of the song 'Start Me Up'. In it four Monkees appear in the groovy clothes of retailers J C Penny, under the natural assumption that they were doing a fashion shoot for wannabe TV series sponsors J C Penny and weren't in fact being paid to have J C Penny's clothes on the front cover of a Monkees album (the band were so busy they weren't even photographed together but were the mid-1960s equivalent of 'photo-shopped' in; if you look carefully you can see the tell-tale 'cut' lines around Peter and Davy where the sunlight is brighter). You won't see it on the back cover either, where with true gall Don Kirshner uses the back sleeve of The Monkees' own record to personally thank all the many people who worked on the record, actually drawing attention to the fact that The Monkees were mere members of a cast of thousands (in fact they don't get thanked at all!) In a representation of how out-of-the-loop The Monkees were, they even famously had to buy the album from a shop while out on tour because no one had thought to send them one - and they most certainly hadn't been consented about the music that went onto the album (as far as they were concerned everything except the recent single and its flipside was simply a bit of filler recorded so they could sing something new on the TV series every week - something hastily changed by Colgems when they noticed the added boost first single 'Clarksville' had got from repeated airings). However The Monkees' revolution starts here in earnest, with the band convinced that they can do a better job themselves - and after refusing to allow the band even a token B-side to keep the band onside Kirshner gets the sack, for the first and only time in his illustrious career (in fact the man with the golden ear responded to The Monkees' internal memos by recording Davy on a number of secret sessions that resulted in the rather unloved and overlooked single 'A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You' and releasing them without any other Monkee involvement - something he wasn't actually allowed to do.

As a result poor 'More Of The Monkees' has come to be regarded as the runt of The Monkees' litter. Fan of the early Monkees, who don't listen to the post-revolution stuff, dismiss it as being not as good as the first record; fans of the later, maturer Monkees don't like it even that much.  It is, after all, more of a rollercoaster ride than the largely consistent first album had been, without as much of the debut record's effortlessly pristine youthful pop (which sounds remarkably like the series looks) and lacks the inventiveness of pretty much all the original Monkees record to come (even the bubblegum soul of 'Changes' was pretty daring at the time). What's more The Monkees were right to be cross about the album's contents - quite apart from looking like shifty clothing range models on the cover, Kirshner belies his reputation by taking a completely random selection of recordings his many producers have been working feverishly on (most unforgivably of all, each producer is under the impression that they'll get all of the album to work on and largely don't know about the other sessions taking place down the road; the poor Monkees, particularly Micky and Davy, are worked into the ground even more than normal in this period). However there has rarely been a better time capsule of pop records from the mid-60s than this album, which comes in several extra shades compared to the first album though all of them are dipped in the same sunshine.

Some of Kirshner's selections are characteristically spot-on: 'I'm A Believer' was actually quite a brave choice for the band's all-important second single, setting the band down a slightly more adult path than 'Last Train To Clarksville' while simultaneously giving a big career break to a then-complete unknown writer in Neil Diamond. It is, of course, one of the most perfect pop singles ever made, not least because of Micky's acting abilities in the vocal. Then there are other gems: though Boyce and Hart were fuming for years afterwards that so much of their good work ended up on the cutting room floor, Kirshner has ears enough to include their very best songs such as the sizzling sock-it-to-me power of 'She' and the garage punk of 'Steppin' Stone'. Goffin and King excel on 'Sometime In The Morning', the perfect song for Micky's sweeter than honey vocals. Mike Nesmith proves again that despite being a relative unknown he can more than keep pace with his more famous colleagues and 'Mary Mary' in particular is the single best pop song on the album behind 'Believer'. A second Neil Diamond song 'Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)' isn't in the same league as 'Believer' but is still pretty darn good, while Jack Keller's 'Hold On Girl' adds bossa nova to The Monkees sound and comes up trumps. Yes, sure, Davy's spoken word 'The Day We Fall In Love' can rot your teeth quicker than a sugar sandwich, 'When Love Comes Knockin' At Your Door' is even less funny than 'Gonna Buy Me A Dog', 'Laugh' is abysmal from the first oh-ha-ha-ha-ho to the last and Peter's 'Your Auntie Grizelda' is the sort of song that only a fan could love. The album could have yet been The Monkees' best had these songs been substituted by the cream of The Monkees' particularly delicious crop of outtakes ('I Don't Think You Know Me At All' 'Apples Peaches Bananas and Pears' 'Love To Love' or the first versions of 'I'll Spend My Life With You' 'Words' and 'Vallerie', certified classics all), all of which suggests that even if Kirshner still had golden ears, at least one of them needed a bit of a rinse. But in context, taking into account the hurried sessions (the band were recording a 26-part TV series that year after all, full-time work for most people!) and the lack of input 'More' is a surprisingly strong selection. I'm not saying The Monkees shouldn't have changed - next record 'Headquarters' proves that The Monkees could do all of these things themselves, whilst adding a touch of depth and class with some even stronger songs into the bargain - but they didn't have to change; you can see to some extent why Kirshner thought what he was doing was good enough not to need changing.

The reason I've banged on about the Monkees Revolution so much is that it's important. Obviously it's important to The Monkees' story - they might not have lasted out the year after the 'scandal' broke that they didn't play on their own records (which, of course, was common practice among American pop bands of the day - though I can see Mama Cass having a go on the drums The Mamas and Papas would have been shocked at the idea of having to play as well as sing!) However, it's important to the times as well. Ever since the 1950s invented the 'teenager', teenybopper idols had come along under the strict control of the 'adults' running the show and were casually thrown aside when they questioned things too much. Wannabe rock-stars were two-a-penny after all - it was the managers who considered themselves 'stars', from Colonel Tom Parker down and the average 1950s teenager could name more zvengalis than guitarists back in the days when singers were the stars, not the band they played with. The Beatles broke the mould, making Brian Epstein a contributing factor to their success rather than the sole means of it and as ever The Monkees followed in their heroes' footsteps, seen in the TV series very much as a 'group' who went through thick and thin together. The only time any of The Monkees ever tries to become a 'star' in their own right in the show ('Monkees At The Movies', a parody of just this sort of 1950s scene) the others quickly bring Davy to his senses; because people don't act like that anymore; this is the 1960s when it's all for one or none for all, not a singer too afraid to say anything except 'yes sir'. Don Kirshner was rightly appointed musical director by Screen Gems because he had more experience - but his was a particular kind of 1950s experience where the only point of pop music was to sell lots of records and make lots of money. Bob and Bert know that this formula won't work in the 1960s - they did after all hire four men who all had experience of some sorts in the music industries, even though their acting abilities were first and foremost in their minds and, hey, if you want a nice desperate teenager who can be moulded into shape you probably wouldn't have chosen Mike Nesmith (especially the ballsy way he breaks every rule going in his audition). I find it telling that it's when Kirshner does the most 1950s thing possible (groom Davy into a 'star' without any sign of the others taking part, after writing a sleeve-note where 'he' is the star sending 'thanks', surrounded by pin-up photos of the band members) that the Monkees head (Head...) honchos finally have enough and go to war. This isn't just a revolution between The Monkees and their puppet masters, but a revolution by the 1960s way of thinking against the 1950s one, which typically they win (was there ever a battle the youth culture didn't win before 1968?) And if you're thinking that seems an awfully OTT thing to say about a pop album, then I'm afraid that's just a sign of the times and fact that X Factor/Pop Idol/I Used To Be A Celebrity And I'm Going To Throttle My Agent When I Get Out Of Here has put us right back in a 1950s mindset where talent is plentiful and gimmicks are cheap and its the gurus who make the stars again, just like yesteryear (as well as the idea that its 'just' pop music - nobody over thirty said that in the 1960s and meant it because pop music was so wrapped up into the social fabric of expression for a particular age group). Anyway, out short answer for the future music historians amongst you who want to know an answer to the question 'why did Don Kirshner go against his bosses?' is because 'he didn't know any better'; he'd done what he thought he'd been hired to do by having hits and making money - but while that might have been while Colgems hired him it wasn't why Bert and Bob worked with him. From the beginning the Monkees' music was far more than just the soundtrack to a TV series or a way to make extra money - but that's sadly rather what 'More Of The Monkees' turned out like.

More than any other record 'More Of The Monkees' was made for the younger siblings of Beatles buyers, for whom records like 'Revolver' and 'St Peppers' were a bridge to adulthood too far and this record mines that niche more successfully than any other - a still sometimes adult pop album that's typically adventurous and on a par with other mid-60s albums, but not that wacky and adventurous without even a whiff of psychedelia, free love or drugs here (not yet!) However, it's notable that 'More Of' still manages to be tougher and deeper than your average pop record - and far more daring than it's ever given credit for and does mark a step on, of sorts, from the debut. 'I'm A Believer' isn't just a song about falling in love, it's a song about having been out of love for so long you secretly accept that you're never going to be in love again. 'Laugh' is about picking yourself up when life gets you down (even if the laugh is an awfully false one). 'Hold On Girl' is about befriending a girl and pulling her back from tragedy (maybe even suicide the way it's written - especially the first, rather more melodramatic version released on 'Missing Links Two'). 'Sometime In The Morning' is, let's face it, about something more adult than teenage dating - the couple share the same bed for starters! 'She' and 'Steppin' Stone' date from a troubled time in Boyce and Hart's love-lives, full of bossy female characters who 'walk on' the narrator in order to get what they want. Even the seemingly childish 'Your Auntie Grizelda' is about someone getting in the way of the perfect romance - that didn't happen in the books at school where love was something between a boy and a girl that never changed and lasted a lifetime (the sort of thing this album's most 50s song and weakest link 'The Day We Fall In Love' aspires to). This is a whole new idea of love - not completely unheard of before, perhaps, but still surprisingly adult for a record aimed at a pre-teen market who haven't got past the 'crush' stage yet and are still convinced their first love is going to be their only love for the rest of their lives and 'More' never gets the credit it deserves for daring to show early teens that life wasn't all monkee-ing around.

Of course, it helps when selling something like this to have a voice as incredible as Micky's. We said this in our review of the first album but we'll re-iterate it here: Dolenz is incredible in these early years. He manages to juggle every little contrasting bit of direction everyone is giginv him to be everything to everyone: he's sweet and cuddly enough for Kirshner and the 50s brigade (just listen to the cute way he sings 'well...alright now' in the instrumental break to 'Believer') while possessing the perfect voice for radio - but as with all the longest-lasting 1960s songs Micky is authentic too meaning every single word he sings. Though Davy isn't far behind, Mike is already pushing the musical songwriting boundaries and Peter is as ever frustratingly under-used (why oh why wasn't his vocal on 'I Don't Think You Know Me' used over 'Grizelda'?!) 'More Of The Monkees' is Micky's album, full of some of the greatest tenderest, real-lest moments in The Monkees' canon, delivered by a singer who hadn't even sung in a studio six months before this, while simultaneously trying to stay fresh and spontaneous in a TV studio. Though singling one of the group out after what we said about 'groups' in the last paragraph seems like cheating, I don't care: the band's jokey live show intro 'The hardest working man in show business, Micky 'James Brown' Dolenz' wasn't just a joke: Micky never worked harder and yet never sounded better either.

Overall, then, 'More Of The Monkees' is good enough not to be the embarrassment it's often singled out for being - while bad enough to be 'worth' the revolution that came. If only The Monkees had been allowed more input into their music, rather than being treated like second-rate musicians for hire, this album could yet have been great, even done 'their way' with a 1950s sense of pop prisons and simplicity (if only the recording sessions had been run like the TV series, where there was a prepared script and a 'plot' the band had to keep to, but room for improvisation and discussion - as had happened on the supposedly more rigid filming structure, thanks mainly to the input of Bob Rafelson and main series director James Frawley, another unsung hero of the Monkees project). 'More Of The Monkees' is far from the worst album Don Kirshner ever made and one he was rightly proud of to his dying day (yes, even 'Laugh' and 'The Day We Fall In Love'). However it's also no match for the glorious anarchy of 'Headquarters' to come, whilst simultaneously lacking the breezy sunshine of 'The Monkees'. Yes, overall this is the worst original Monkees record, at least up until 'Instant Replay' and 'The Monkees Present' late on, with at least four songs that should never ever have been released - particularly given the dozen or so gems waiting patiently in line instead. But oh what a wonderful worst album this is, full of far more depth, beauty, creativity, intelligence and sophistication than almost any other 'mere' 1960s pop album, all held together by one of the world's greatest pop singers in peak form.

My candidate for the best five seconds of The Monkees' catalogue comes at the start of opening track 'She'. Though much of 'More Of The Monkees' is clearly intended for teenyboppers there's a real howl of pain in Louie Shelton's improvised guitar lick which hints at what a tough song 'She' actually is underneath its shouted 'hey's and a catchy chorus. Though writers Boyce and Hart have gone down in history as craftsman writers who knew what their audience wanted rather than 'from the heart' writers (this song, for instance, was written in a park because they 'needed a hit' - not in a library as so often reported but near to one that backed onto a park), every so often something 'real' will shine through the surface. 'She' is such a track, a heavy chugging R and B song that's closer to the sort of thing the pair chose to record on their own albums (it was, in fact, written pre-Monkees but not recorded by the duo first) and which is musically the perfect fit for a narrator who can't believe he's been betrayed and is struggling to keep on. Micky's narrator can't even bring himself to say 'her' name, as he almost spits out the lyrics of how she vowed she would never hurt him and yet now stands around enjoying the 'hurt' she inflicts on him. The song keeps reaching new peaks of misery throughout as the sadness keeps coming through in waves as like 'Steppin' Stone' the relationship is all revealed as a ruse to make the girl look good: 'She needs someone to walk on so her feet don't touch the ground'. After Micky drops down from his angry snarl to a wail of desperation the track really gets going for a magic middle eight and we reach possibly the second greatest five seconds in The Monkees canon in the middle eight as Micky drops his guard and admits that he still 'wants her, needs lovers her, yeah yeah yeah!' The old Beatles war-cry from 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' which kick-started the British Invasion acts like The Monkees copied has never sounded better, turned on its head so that it's no longer a cry of teenage triumph but a yell of desperation. Micky is great as ever on a sung that's completely unlike any song on the first album but even he's outshone by the backing vocalists, un-credited even on the detailed Rhino CD booklets but surely containing Boyce, Hart and what sounds like Mike, Peter and Davy in there too. Together with one of the pair's classier melodies, 'She' remains one of the writers' most credible songs and one of The Monkees' greatest pre-Revolution recordings not to make it onto a hit single. It was however so much heavier and more powerful that this song stuck out like a sore thumb on The Monkees' TV series, where its tale of genuine painful heartbreak often went at odds with tales of Davy falling in love at first sight, again!

Neil Sedaka and Carole Bayer Sager's 'When Love Comes Knockin' (At Your Door)' is a much more traditional Monkees sound, closer in feel to the first album. You can see why this song would have appealed to Don Kirshner even though the band were arguably recording far better material (including the same pair's 'The Girl I Left Behind Me' recorded the same day, a beautiful song) - as you'd expect from a Sedaka song there's a catchy, bouncy feel that's very 1950s and while Davy copes well with a song alien to his usual style he doesn't sound quite his normal self (and audibly struggles with the double-tracking at places). The lyrics feature Davy trying to urge a friend to love (sounding not unlike 'She Loves You' in the process) and relies a lot on Davy's naturally sunny personality which isn't necessary reflected in the deep notes the song gives him to sing. 'You'll see a rainbow every day' Davy promises, with every day a 'magic carpet ride' - and had this song come out on the first album no doubt it would have sounded that way, but there's something slightly melancholic about the way this song is performed. That goes double for the very Beatles chord sequence at the end, which leaves the song on a sighing note (see 'Hold Me Tight' from 'With The Beatles' especially) and is very clever and far more 1960s. Oh and listen out for the sneaky and (for 1967) rather risque line sung by 'counterpart' Davy: 'I know baby I can make you...high!'

'Mary Mary' is the most outré rock moment The Monkees had recorded so far and an obvious winner for the band's stage set. Surprisingly it's written by Mike Nesmith and an early sign of his schizophrenic split between rock and country (actually the only country sounds on the track come from James Burton's ringing country guitar, which sounds to me as if he was actively coached in Mike's style as the wool-hatted one produces from the engineering room). If you're a passionate Monkees fan then you might remember the end of the 'Some Like It Lukewarm' episode where Davy and his collaborator Charlie Smalls explain to us the difference between 'white' and 'black' music - the emphasis on beats 2 and 4 and 1 and 3 respectively. This is The Monkees' heaviest, hardest 2 and 4 beat in their discography, with no less than five guitarists all stabbing at the main beat alongside a very complex drum pattern played by Hal Blaine and Jim Gordon. Altogether the backing musicians cook up a great groove, with a double-tracked Micky getting right in there on the vocals too. The song sounds like an early song written by Mike for first wife Phyllis ('Mary' may have been chosen simply because it had the same amount of syllables as 'Phyllis') and like pretty much all of his (relatively rare) love songs is more obsession and infatuation than the sort of romantic love Davy was always singing about. Micky's narrator could in fact be a stalker the way this song is written ('Where you go I will follow!')  and Mary's response seems to wax and wane, much like Phyllis' according to onlookers of the Nesmith's hot/cold relationship: he even pleads with her in the second verse to come clean about whether she really loves him or is keeping him hanging on. In a typically Nesmith twist, the narrator comes clean about what the song is 'really' about (guilt: 'You know I would never try and hurt you') by dropping all the pop/rock idioms and even gives up trying to rhyme, this moment particularly 'real'. Micky, as ever, picks up on the mood straightaway and kicks into a terrific improvised blues growl on the fade as he demands to know where Mary's 'going to'. A strong performance and a sense that there is something 'real' behind it all make this song's poppier side easier to take and the result is another of The Monkees' strongest songs of the period, easily the best attempt by Nesmith to write something in a 'Monkees style' without sacrificing his own authenticity and grit. This may also be the moment where the Mike/Micky 'bromance' starts big-time, with perhaps the strongest relationship of all the four starting round about here, born out of mutual respect for what the other could bring to The Monkees' experience that the other didn't have.

Jack Keller was perhaps the biggest casualty of Don Kirshner's wheeling and dealing on the second album, with submissions from so many different sources. Having produced everything Boyce and Hart didn't on the first album - including many of the record's best received tracks - Keller could have been forgiven for thinking he'd get a similar deal on this second album. In the end 'Hold On Girl' is his only song and even this one had to be fought for tooth and nail. A first, possibly better take of the song was recorded early in the sessions, with a dramatic, slow-burning fuse that really suits Davy's voice and love of dramatics. This re-recording from around the middle of the sessions is pretty good too though, the song maintaining its distinctive 'bossa nova' feel and with added handclaps and percussion to emphasise the quirky beat (this song most certainly doesn't hit the 2 and 4 in the bar!) Interesting the lyrics again point towards a sadder song than normal by past Monkees standards, although like 'Knockin' Davy is again cast as the likeable brother offering a helping hand to a suffering friend. It's a rather more convincing song than last time round, with Davy not promising 'rainbows' but the more realistic 'the sun will shine again'. Again, though, the person on the receiving end of this advice doesn't sound so sure, with an especially fine harpsichord solo in the middle that does a good job at hinting at the friend's 'reserve'. Also as per 'Knockin' the song ends on another final-note sigh, as if all of Davy's hope and cajoling have failed and they're still as miserable as ever. The end result isn't quite up to the album's very best, but it's easily Davy's greatest moment on this second album and out of the five tracks he's given the one most suited to his charm and acting by far.

Poor Peter Tork hadn't even got the sort of influence Jack Keller had had. Other than appearing on the album covers, The Monkees' most experienced musician had, till now, been relegated to a couple of guitar parts on the Nesmith-produced tracks. Though Kirshner with his 1950s pop sensibilities was appalled at Peter's lead vocals and worried long and hard about how to get Peter represented on an album (to appease his quarter of the Monkees fanbase), his voice is actually very in keeping with the Greenwich Village folk background he'd had. Given that The Monkees had already stretched to include blues, bossa nova and whatever the hell style 'Gonna Buy A Dog' is supposed to be, the sensible decision would be to get a folk writer in: jazz up one of Peter's beloved Peter Seeger songs or hire some bright young folk-rock wannabe (the equivalent of new discovery Neil Diamond, but with a banjo), as well of course as letting Peter write his own songs (though this was unlikely given how hard even the louder and more prolific Mike had had to fight to get his work included). Instead Kirshner dropped the ball in spectacular style here, urging Jack Keller to write a comedy (drama was his forte, not jokes - in desperation he brought in a friend named Diane Hillenbrand to help with the lyrics; though Peter hated them he loved her and the pair made lots of sweet beautiful music together, officially as writers and unofficially as something more). Peter, who wasn't consulted once about his vocal spot on the album, reportedly knocked off the vocal in a single take, as if to prove to onlookers that he was a credible musician (right up until the vocal noises in the middle eight anyway!) Given that Jeff Barry was producing the session (Keller hadn't enough 'experience' apparently, which is odd given how well his songs on the debut turned out) the song didn't turn out the way it was intended: Jack Keller wrote 'Grizelda' in the style of The Rolling Stones' '19th Nervous Breakdown', with the domineering aunt the last straw in a long line of obstacles on the path to true love. Peter was made to sing 'Grizelda' as if he was a music hall comedian having a fit. The result is a waste of everyone's talents: the moment when Peter has to sing 'So righteous making fudge, your Auntie Grizelda' where you can already hear the cogs in motion as he begins to think The Monkees was a bad idea and tries to get out of his contract. Though Peter was hired to play the 'dummy' in the TV series he had so much more to give musically as all of the later Monkees albums he sings on are testament too; though you could forgive the odd pre-teen for being confused about him being an 'actor' you'd have thought the Monkees' production team would have the sense not to confuse the two! Poor Peter has been trying to live the song down ever since!

Thankfully Boyce and Hart's '(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone' is one of the early Monkees' shining gems, a rock song that hits as hard as anything in the charts at the time and comes across with real menace. As the 1960s pop scene got going there were several songs around like this one, where innocent teenage love turns into tales of gold-diggers and narcissists, but this song remains one of the best. Micky, usually so friendly, turns up the sarcasms notch up to a hundred and gets nicely raw as he complains over a girl who had nothing when they met and looks down on him now that's she's famous. Dare I say it, there could be a bit of Boyce and Hart mischief at work here as they complain about how The Monkees team has treated them: after scoring a massive hit with 'Last Train To Clarksville' they've more or less been pushed aside ('You've been awful careful 'bout the friends you choose!') Certainly their production crackles with a lot more energy and realism than most of their collaborations: the main melody to this song is liked a caged panther prowling round it's cage waiting to be let loose, with the long-held notes on 'I-I-I-I-I-I-'m...' sounding simultaneously threatening and like sobbing. Once again Micky is perfect, clearly enjoying the chance to sing something a bit deeper and different and his backing vocal especially is terrific - with Micky losing it and screaming his head off in a way his more menacing and tightly controlled lead vocal never can. Though un-credited even by Rhino, that sounds awfully like Peter and Davy in the background too, which in the former's case especially is extremely fitting for a song about not being pushed around (officially Tommy Boyce himself is the only other singer on the track, but he and Micky can't do all those voices between them!) The result is a real gem, the sort of song that teenagers flicking channels latched onto when broadcast (many many times) in the TV series even if they didn't like the show and which Monkees fans could look their elder siblings in the eye and say 'when did The Beatles last do something as great as this?' In retrospect 'Steppin' Stone' is a real steppin' stone to the tighter, more emotional and 'real' songs of the post-revolution Monkees, a template for how to embellish the band's sound without losing sight of its distinctiveness.

Meanwhile, over on side two, Davy is getting worried about tomorrow. My guess is that Neil Diamond's second Monkees song was written in more of a hurry and to more of a templat6e than 'I'm A Believer', despite featuring his customary chord sequences and the sudden breakout from melody to rhythm in the typically catchy chorus. Diamond may have been thinking of The Beatles' 'Yesterday' when he wrote this song about wishing that 'tomorrow would never come' and could have written a song as powerful as 'Believer' from there. Alas somewhere along the way this song ends up a list of girls that Davy wants to date and the problems of choosing which one (suggesting Neil was being asked to write directly for the series, where this sort of thing happened every other week), which is more the sort of 50s pop Kirshner was after than the more 60s feel of the rest of the album. The result is slightly mis-matched: though it's easy to feel sympathy for the singers of 'She' and 'Steppin' Stone' that opened their hearts and had them broken in two, it's harder to feel sorry for a teenager who has a harem of girls to choose from (many teenagers buying this were struggling to find one - that's just throwing it in our faces Davy!) Ignore the lyrics if you can, though - especially the spoken word section which is cringe-inducing - and simply enjoy the terrific Beatles-style rock and roll beat behind, which features a marvellously eccentric drum part from a session man sadly unknown (even to Rhino!) but sounds like Hal Blaine again, channelling his inner Micky (this is so what the TV character would have played like if the real Micky had been born a drummer not a guitarist!) Sadly Davy's efforts are wasted on a song that only really comes alive on the riff and the chorus, a poor man's 'I'm A Believer'. Davy's excellent take on Diamond's third Monkee song, recorded at these sessions but abandoned up until the 1990s, would have been a far stronger choice.Though hilarious and one of the all-time funniest Monkees moments, an aborted attempt to get Peter on the album by having him as a disc-jockey offering asides (as heard on the Rhino re-issue of the album on CD), is a case of right idea, wrong song. You doubt that Neil Diamond would have found pouring mirth on his largely serious song would have gone down that well - it speaks volumes that Diamond won't offer any more songs to the band post-'More'.
 

Mike's second song on the album 'The Kind Of Girl I Could Love' is much more in keeping with the style of songs heard on the band's first album. A fierce Latin-style rocker and a very un-commercial and gruff Nesmith vocal make for a song that must have given Don Kirshner's ears a lot of extra twitching, but as ever with Nesmith the song is one of the best and most rounded on the album despite his comparative lack of writing experience and it's lack of Monkee signatures. Once again Mike was given a writing partner in the hope that it would bring him more in line with what Kirshner wanted - but again Nesmith had such a strong musical vision that his partner Roger Atkins (who co-wrote Animals classic 'It's My Life') gets swamped into Nez' natural style. The result is a track that's clearly here to tick as many Kirshner boxes as possible with the things Mike could afford to give away (the soppiest and silliest lyrics ever added to a Nesmith song, more in keeping with something Davy would sing- he sounds suitably embarrassed on the vocal) and keeps all the things he wanted: the Latin influence, the guitar sound, the very un-pop'n'rock rhythm shuffle and the general sense of 'earthiness' missing from so many Monkees recordings of this vintage. Inevitably this song tended to appear in the TV series when the band were doing something on a farm and the track has that sort of a rustic feel about it. Though less of a mixture of styles than 'Mary Mary' and less memorable than 'Sweet Young Thing' and 'Papa Gene's Blues' from the first album, this is another very overlooked track that proved Nesmith was at least the equal and maybe even the superior of many of the big names writing for the band. Micky's delightful backing vocals hint at what this song could have sounded like in his hands, though it does suit Mike's voice too.

Easily the most questionable decisions on the album is Davy's breathy take on Linzer and Randnell's 'The Day We Fall In Love'. A drippy teenage ballad that Davy intones rather than sings, it's the sort of thing that gave 1950s pop albums a bad name and was laughed at by many the elder sibling of a Monkees fan for being so old-fashioned and dated. Just take these lyrics: 'If the lines I say fall apart, it's because I don't know where to start, but you'll understand when I say them to you because they come straight from the heart!' As with much of the first album, this is very much a teenage romance, when days are perfect and the sun is shining and birds are singing, all wrapped up with a treacly string arrangement that's clearly meant to tug at the heart strings but just makes rock fans feel ill. More than that, Monkees fans who've just rocked out to 'She' and 'Steppin' Stone' feel used: how dare someone lump all these songs together and think of them all as pop songs on the same level; there's a world of difference in the realness and hugeness of these songs on offer. Though its ridiculous to think Kirshner was sacked for one song (and if he was then it was 'A Little Bit Me' released behind the band's back) but chances are the very hip and young show co-creators hated this song just as much as me. Even Davy, the most natural 'ham' out the four Monkees, sounds acutely embarrassed at times and the song is a disappointment from the writing team that also gave us 'I'll Be Back Upon My Feet' (why wasn't the first recording of that song, taped at the same sessions, used on the LP instead?) Don't worry Monkees, soon all your recordings really will come from the heart, you'll see.
A far classier take on love is Goffin and King's beautiful 'Sometime In The Morning', a ballad that was made for a singer like Micky to sing. The two songs are surely not placed here out of co-incidence: they come as a pair, both teenage ideals about what love is and could be. However this is a much more powerful song, with Micky's narrator dreaming of a love that doesn't need birds singing or rainbows in the sky; it'll be a love where he can 'just reach out and she will be there, close as the Summer!' For teenage listeners, who had to wait a whole night/weekend/summer holidays before seeing their love again, the idea of actually being able to spend all day every day with their loved ones is the single greatest prize growing up can give them (note that this song takes place in the morning, with the hint that its just after waking up in bed together). Anytime you have a thought you don't have to wait/write a letter/send an email, you can just turn to your girl and tell her. An idealised vision of the far future has the couple sitting by the fireside as they are still learning things about the other, reflecting on a lifetime of being shown things 'I never thought I would see'. Best of all is the middle eight: 'You'll see the beauty there...and you'll no longer wear a disguise'; this isn't love the way that teenagers fall in to copy each other and keep up with each other but being loved for who they are, with love unlocking a certain 'something' that makes living in their own skins that much easier. Love is companionship mixed with support and mutual learning and love is something that lasts long past the love at first sight tale trotted out by both that last song in particular and much of The Monkees series as a whole. Perhaps because they were barely past being teenagers themselves, Goffin and King perfectly invoke what it is to be young and fearful of love - and it's far from the clichéd guff that married-twenty-years elder writers of the 1950s came up with. Sadly their own relationship won't last the course - they were married ten years between 1959 and 1969, with this song very much written towards the latter stages of their time as a couple - but you won't tell that from this golden, heartfelt track. Micky too instantly gets what an important song this is and sings like a bird (or is that Byrd?), hitting every emotional point spot-on. Yes, true, Micky was only copying what Carole King had already sung on her demo tape (with producer Jeff Barry keen for Micky to nail every line the exact way she sang it), but Micky still manages to sound as if he's living this lovely song, not acting it. Add in a couple of oh-so-cute touches (such as the guitarist 'squeal' kept in after the line 'child-like eyes' that sounds like a giggle) and you have one of the greatest charmers in the AAA back catalogue, so sweet and naive and innocent but just the right side of saccharine and artificiality. This is exactly the sort of thing The Monkees were created to do. Beautiful, just beautiful.

Alas 'Laugh' undoes so much of that good work with a deeply unfunny song that took four (yes four!) writers probably somewhere around five minutes to come up with. The song's urgent, insistent rhythm makes Davy sound angry rather than comical, while the messy 'oh-ha-ha-ha' chorus makes the song sound as if its laughing at the singer rather than with him. The lyrics, about not taking yourself seriously, ought to be a good one (it's very Monkees) but its metaphors are bland and curious: why would you laugh 'when you can't find your shoes to cover your feet'? And why oh why did someone watch back the early Monkees episodes about brotherhood and self-expression and teenagers being lovely people rather than long-haired weirdoes and then write the line 'laugh because you can't tell the boys from the girls?' It's just wrong - we know it and Davy knows it - and stilted laughter isn't going to make me want to join in 'oh-ha-ha-ha'-ing anymore than 'The Day We Fall In Love' ever concerned me that Davy was singing it to someone real. A shame, because unlike 'Love' (which was never going to work in a month of rainbows) there's a decent song in here somewhere. 'Lsugh' has a great stomping beat that's very Monkees, a lovely chorus progression in the middle eight that pushes Davy further and further up the chromatic scale to the point where he sounds hysterical and a song reflecting The Monkees sunshine and anything-is-possible mood where they want the world to laugh with them could have worked. This is just so clumsy, though - did Kirshner even listen to this song before sanctioning it? Another of the band's all-time weakest songs, to rank alongside 'The Day We Fall In Love' 'Your Auntie Grizelda' and the Boyce/Hart oddity that nearly made this album too 'Ladies Aid Society'.

We end with a song that wraps up everything that made the early Monkees great in one big ball of pop concoction perfection. Neil Diamond's 'I'm A Believer' isn't all that original - it's a real crib from Hollies hit 'I'm Alive' by Cliff Ballard Jnr, with the same sad and lonely verses exploding into tears of joy in the chorus. However where Diamond excels is by giving the song a strong hook (played on the organ, which just about holds sadly on for most of the song before exploding in the solo), gospel overtones (which turn love into a religion and make more sense of Micky shouting his conversion from the rooftops) and the snappy rhythm which manages to throw something new in every time you turn around. On top of that sits Micky's simply gorgeous vocal, which is actually blooming tough to do (as anybody whose tries to sing along will tell you). Micky needs to be gentle and sad at the beginning, reach a first peak of excitement in the first verse, sink back into despair but not quite as far on the second verse, explode for a second chorus, cool off for an instrumental and then reach an even bigger exaggerated peak for the finale. Few singers can take that off without falling over, but Micky not only manages to hit every line right he also sounds like he believes it. More impressively yet, he's nearly 'got' the song straightaway from the first rehearsal (included on the album's CD re-issue as a bonus track), recovering well after slightly choking on the first verse. A third version, recorded for the 33 and A Third Revolutions Per Monkees' brings out even more of the bluesy gospel feel, losing the song's feel of innocence and hope along the way. Unlike most fans who think it a 'travesty' however, this re-recording is perfectly placed, coming at the tail end of The Monkees' career when their innocence is long dead. This song was an international #1 for a reason, becoming one of the best-selling single of 1967 (the year when more singles were sold than any other) - and surely would have been even without the TV series to offer the song exposure. Not bad for a largely unknown writer on his first big assignment (Diamond's own 'Cherry Cherry' beat the single to the shops, but hadn't sold that well and the Monkees team hadn't heard it when they 'borrowed' this song), sung by an actor hard at work on a TV series and under some of the heaviest pressure to deliver of any of our AAA stars at any time. Appealing to a wider audience even than 'Clarksville', this is the song that turned so many Monkees casual fans into 'believers'. Though I wouldn't have lost 'Headquarters' for all the bananas in Monkeeville, the sheer casual brilliance of this song does make you wonder what on earth the KIrshner-managed Monkees might have gone on to do next.


Overall, then, 'More Of The Monkees' is all things to all men/apes. The 'missing link' between the delightfully childish first album and the real heavyweight albums to come, 'More' is a difficult second album, made all the more difficult by the fact that several different writers were trying to work with four different singers on a variety of styles that were all parts of the Monkees 'sound'. Not every recording released on the album works by any means - indeed a third of this album is unlistenable and quite probably the weakest quarter-hour in Monkee history until the reunion albums, outtakes albums included (the best of which from this period could have made a good album so much greater). But enough works to make 'More Of The Monkees' more than an album to laughed at down the years, by outsiders, fans of the band's later period and even the band themselves. Though the record would ultimately be deemed 'not good enough' by the band and the powers that helped them and would see them severe all ties with the man who, more than anybody, helped make it, you can see both sides of Kirshner's talents: the man who really did have the ear for the perfect song, but whose ears were most certainly mired back in the past bands like The Monkees were trying to overthrow. With so many cooks not seeing the bigger picture and someone in charge whose bigger picture was a decade too late, not to mention a distracted band more concerned with their filming work, it's a wonder that 'More Of The Monkees' isn't a lot worse than it is. As with all revolutions, a lot of good was thrown out along with the bad and while the Monkees republic to come is a more stable, democratic and altogether more inventive course of history, we should spare a thought too for the innocents caught up in the crossfire (Boyce and Hart, Jack Keller, Goffin and King) who had already done their best to usurp their masters in smaller ways and who had already found a way of making life quite well under their old director, losing their smaller thrones to some extent along with him. As far as The Monkees are concerned, their apprenticeship ends with this album and the band as they were created and imagined end right here. 

Other Monkees articles from this site you might be interested in:

'Pool It!' (1986) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-monkees-pool-it-1986-album-review.html
'Only Shades Of Grey' : The Monkees In Relation To Postmodernism (University Dissertation) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/university-dissertation-monkees-in.html

The Hollies: Live/Solo/Compilation/Outtakes/Covers/American Releases Part One: 1964-1975





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




"Here I Go Again"
(Imperial, June 1964)
Here I Go Again/Stay/Lucille/Memphis Tennessee/You Better Move On/Talkin' Bout You///Just One Look/Keep Off That Friend Of Mine/Rockin' Robin/Do You Love Me?/What Kind Of Girl Are You?/It's Only Make Believe
 "He just wants to spin you a lie - there's nothing new!"
Though we tend nowadays to think of the 1960s records as part of our cultural heritage and something collectors like to moan about when modern-day companies mess with an album from fifty years ago because they think they can 'improve' it (they can't) at the time it came out Merseybeat was just another fad, not the start of a 1960s revolution (in the world of music at least). Back when these records came out, especially the early ones, they were assumed to be 'disposable' - the sort of things no one could ever possibly want to hear again once the next big fad came along and were made largely by a lot of kids and their ambushed producers who didn't know what they were doing anyway. A lot of UK bands in the 1960s were treated despicably by their American record labels from The Beatles down - and The Hollies were treated particularly badly. Not till as late as 1977 is the Hollies discography either side of the Atlantic exactly the same and even today American fans can only buy the 'original' UK releases on import - their CDs tend to re-create the American issues, dodgy track listings weird titles and scary covers and all. To this day there's a handful of songs - particularly second album 'In The Hollies Style' - still not available in the States, a shocking state of affairs for the third best-selling band of the 1960s. So these reviews in grey are mainly here for our American friends (we do have a few!) so that when we talk about a 'particular' album they'll know which of 'their' records it relates to and will hopefully raise a few chuckles from European collectors too!
This debut American release is fairly typical of what these American albums did to the British ones. The US branch of EMI has stuck the band's latest hit single on the album and titled the LP after it, something that made bands a laughing stock in Britain (where albums and singles were almost always two different things, though bands like The Searchers and The Who muddy the waters there a bit). The rest of the songs are made up of other recent singles ('Stay' and 'Just One Look'), B-Side 'Keep Off That Friend Of Mine' (also unavailable on album in Britain) and eight songs taken from 'Stay With The Hollies' (to make an all-covers album: the English version includes debut Clarke/Nash song 'Little Lover'). Sadly the other five songs from the debut album will become rather harder to find in the States - either jumbled up in the middle of later more progressive records (where they sound hopelessly out of kilter with everything else) or not released over there at all. By and large the track listing is as jumbled as it sounds but does have some intriguing 'lucky guesses' along the way - 'Here I Go Again' is often chosen to begin compilations because it instantly catches the ear and ending the record on the final harmonised sigh of 'It's Only Make Believe' for instance works really well. The record also has an entirely different front cover - a triangle in red with The Hollies' grinning faces super-imposed over the top (the surprised expression on Clarke's face is priceless - what is the cheeky looking Nash up to back there?!)

"Hear! Here!"
(Imperial, November 1965)
I'm Alive/Very Last Day/You Must Believe In Me/Put Yourself In My Place/Down The Line/That's My Desire//Look Through Any Window/Lawdy Miss Clawdy/When I Come To You/So Lonely/I've Been Wrong/Too Many People
"I don't understand what you did to me, why don't you realize that I'll never be free?"
Unlike the early Beatles and Stones albums, the early Hollies releases had fared rather badly in America. Goodness only knows why - although the fact that EMI were already so busy with their Beatles cash cows might explain why The Hollies weren't given the push they deserved. As a result it took well over a year before EMI tried again with a second bastardised version of a British Hollies LP and once again the changes are severe. A new unofficially sanctioned gibberish title (which sounds more like a 10cc album than  a Hollies one) and a drastically altered cover for 'In The Hollies Style' (with the song titles now listed to the right of the 'fireplace') hid an album where yet again the contents had been shiggled about more than a bit. This time the included singles were 'I'm Alive' - a British number one that peaked at a disappointing #103 in the States - and 'Look Through Any Window', which despite only making #4 in a Beatles-saturated UK market peaked at #32 in the US. Elsewhere 'Hear! Here!' is basically the third album, ie 'The Hollies' released a couple of months before, but with the cover songs 'Fortune Teller' and 'Mickey's Monkey' removed (it won't be until the CD re-issues of the 1990s that Americans ever got to hear the rather good Hollified cover of their own Neville song 'Fortune Teller' in fact). This track selection is once again a bit odd - 'Very Last Day' is such an opening song that it sounds wrong as track two of anything and particular as it's portents of doom come right after the I-was-doomed-but-I'm-alright now-ness of 'I'm Alive'. Ending side one on 'That's My Desire' also seems like a bit of a slap in the face - I'm not sure I'd turn the record over after sitting through one of only two less than excellent songs on the original. However 'Too Many People' is an excellent finale, so win some lose some I guess. 

"Beat Group"
(Imperial, May 1966)
I Can't Let Go/That's How Strong My Love Is/Running Through The Night/Oriental Sadness/A Taste Of Honey/Mr Moonlight//Don't You Even Care (What's Going To Happen To Me?)/Hard Hard Year/Take Your Time/Fifi The Flea/I Take What I Want
"I take what I want - and baby I want you!"
The third of the 'Americanised' LPs is a typical strange mixture of the usual and the unusual. With Hollies singles for now appearing on parent British albums, there's less of a change by including the hit 'I Can't Let Go' here compared to normal. However everything else is complete chaos - in total eight of the songs from the forthcoming 'Would You Believe?' album appear here, including all of the Hollie originals, a whole month before European fans got the chance to hear them. However 'I Can't Let Go' B-side 'I've Got A Way Of My Own' has been removed along with covers 'Stewball' 'Sweet Little Sixteen' and 'I Am A Rock', substituted for by a really curious mix of old songs. 'Mr Moonlight', one of the few remaining songs from debut 'Stay With The Hollies' makes its first American appearance alongside B-side 'Running Through The Night' (recorded in 1963 but not released till earlier in 1966 when it appeared on the flipside of 'Bus Stop') and the first version of 'A Taste Of Honey' from 1966- a track that amazingly remains exclusive to this set all these years and many Hollies compilations on (the version included on the 'Long Road Home' box set is a re-recording from 1968). That makes for an uneasy hodge-podge of sounds, especially the return to pure Merseybeat in the middle of what is otherwise really something of a folk-rock album. However parts of this album works -the powerful ear-catching throbbing bass lines of 'I Can't Let Go' makes more sense at the beginning of an album than the end, while the British equivalent opening track 'I Take What I want' makes for a blistering finale. The sorrow of  'Hard Hard Year' into the joy of 'Take Your Time' works rather well too, though the retro step of 'Running Through The Night' into the gorgeous boundary-pushing 'Oriental Sadness' is just plain wrong.

The Everly Brothers "Two Yanks In England"
(Warner Brothers, July 1966)
Somebody Help Me/So Lonely*/Kiss Your Man Goodbye/Signs That Will Never Change*/Like Everytime Before*/Pretty Flamingo//I've Been Wrong Before*/Have You Ever Loved Somebody?*/The Collector/Don't Run And Hide*/Fifi The Flea*/Hard Hard Year*
Note: though not credited on the original album, The Hollies perform the backing for at least half of the album (possibly more). * indicates a Clarke-Hicks-Nash composition
"Stand by me my love and I'll give you anything you want, anytime you want"
By 1966 even the idols of a decade earlier had begun to realize that the musical landscape had changed irrevocably. Some, like Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Carl Perkins just ignored it and got on with what they'd always done, safe in the knowledge that they would come back into fashion one day. Others, like Elvis, claimed to love the new music in public but apparently hated it in private - although that didn't stop Elvis jumping on the Lennon/McCartney bandwagon a few times down the years. Some, like Bo Diddley, thrived on appearing with their younger 1960s counterparts - even while they insulted them (The lyrics for The Animals' 'The Story Of Bo Diddley' has the band proudly recounting a story of how Bo Diddley came to see them on stage, dismissing them with the tag line 'Well if this isn't the biggest load of rubbish I ever heard in my life!') Or you could go down a fourth route: re-introduce yourself to a younger audience by appearing with their idols and getting them to say nice things about you. With sales having been on the slide for a while (breaking away from their 12950s manager was a bad move, effectively blocking them off from the Bryant Brothers' publishing company that had supplied all their early hits like 'Bye Bye Love' and 'Wake Up Little Susie'), The Everleys figured if you can't beat 'em, join 'em and travelled to England to knock on some doors. Their first port of call was The Beatles, but while they were accommodating (the fab four actually covered more Everly songs than The Hollies if you include their BBC Sessions) but incredibly busy, with even a direct appeal to Brian Epstein ending in failure. However while The Everlys were in London they put a call through to Abbey Road Studios on a day The Hollies happened to be recording (presumably one of the tracks released on 'For Certain Because'); a disbelieving Graham Nash took the call and was only too eager to help out. To this day the time spent making this album is often cited as a 'Hollies Highlight' for those in the group at the time - for Clarke and Nash especially after their experiences queuing together in Manchester for hours to see them a mere seven years before.
There's a question mark, though, over how much The Hollies take part in this album - not least because these tracks were recorded at the less fussy Decca Studios round the corner from the paperwork obsessives at EMI's Abbey Road. While there's no debating the fact that The Hollies play on some of 'Two Yanks In England' (that's definitely Nash crooing along on 'Fifi The Flea' and I'd bet my collection of Carousel Hollies fanclub newsletters that's Tony Hicks copying his solo on 'Hard Hard Year') and positively write a whole two-thirds of it (a whole jumble of songs already released, about to be released and not released for years to come) there's dispute about how much of it they do play on, receiving no actual credit on the original album at all. However a lot of other session musicians are credited on the paperwork (including a pre-Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, who both did a lot of work for Decca in 1966) and The Hollies rarely sing, just play. The fact that most of The Hollies songs were recorded in London in May, with the four non-Hollies songs plus 'So Lonely' and 'I've Been Wrong' in Sunset Boulevard in June, using several big local names like Glenn Campbell and Louie Shelton, suggests to me that The Hollies were along for the first 'ride' but didn't go to the second, with the two 'leftover' songs perhaps arranged by The Hollies but abandoned when they all ran out of time. Interestingly, too, Allan Clarke is not credited on any of the session listings which everyone presumes means he wasn't there - but if I know my Hollies lead singer like I think I do, there's no way he'd have missed this gig, he was probably sat in the control room or something instead, perhaps too shy to add his own vocal to the brothers' distinctive voices (I'm willing to bet that's him playing tambourine on 'Hard Hard Year' too, though I'm less sure this time round so I'll bet something I don't need quite as much - my copy of 'Hollies Sing Dylan' will do!)
As for the music, 'Two Yanks' is arguably the best of The Everly Brothers' post-'hits' career - admittedly I'm biased in that I've discovered their music thanks to The Hollies rather than the other way around, but this is far by the duo's most consistent album outside their first three having heard them all and the rockier edged sound suits them far more than the increasingly desperate sounding country songs of the rest of the decade (with 1960's 'It's Everly Time' our other AAA recommendation). Both the brothers get a chance to 'star' - unusual indeed for the times when Don tended to dominate Phil - and their harmonies sound much more natural, The Hollies perhaps bringing out the best in the duo. Whoever plays on this album does a good job at conjuring up the immediate pre-psychedelia mood in Britain, with fiery covers of The Spencer Davis Group's 'Somebody Help Me' and Manfredd Mann' 'Pretty Flamingo' in addition to what The Hollies write for them (indeed this album is a far better representation of the music of 1966 than the band's own 'For Certain because' LP). Unusually The Everlys only write two songs for this album - while 'Kiss Your Man Goodbye' is rather predictable and forgettable, Don's moving piece 'The Collector' may well be his best song, an olde worlde vision of England full of lonely academics, Victoriana, melodrama and harpsichord (Note: in another confusing much-debated move, the piece is credited to songwriter Sonny Curtis but he's since claimed that Don wrote it and gave it to him to publish, knowing that his hands were currently tied with a publishing dispute).
However it's The Hollies material that excels. 'So Lonely' is a stunning song anyway, having been previously released by the band in 1965 and while this version lacks Hicks' elegance and the curious decision to sing the title phrase as 'lonnnnnnnleeee' is off-putting The Everlys largely do justice to a fabulous song. 'Signs That Will Never Change', which won't be released by The Hollies for another ten months when it appears as the flipside to 'Carrie Anne' in May 1967, is another lovely song that sounds well suited to the brothers, even if the cutesy keyboard work and the flamenco guitar and even the harmonies to be honest aren't a patch on The Hollies' own. 'Like Everytime Before' is perhaps the biggest change between the two versions: The Hollies won't record their version until Nash's dying days with the band in 1968 and it will only receive a limited release anyway until 1988: one of the band's better rockers, made for Clarke's piercing voice and his overlapping lead with Nash, played largely straightforwardly. The Everlys arrangement of this song is far more bossa nova, with no electric instruments at all and a curious kick in the rhythm section and with Phil singing solo throughout it loses that 'conversational' feel of The Hollies' version. 'I've Been Wrong Before' first appeared simply as 'I've Been Wrong' on 'The Hollies' in 1965 and is perhaps the weakest track here: The Everly Brothers just don't 'get the pure rock and roll spirit of Merseybeat and presumably at their insistence everything about this song is slowed down, with a whole new guitar part (presumably played by Louie Shelton as it doesn't sound like Hicksy - and that's definitely not Bobby on the patacake drums!) An early preview of 'Have You Ever Loved Somebody?' later released on 'Evolution' sounds less like The Hollies' fierce driving song that plays cat and mouse with the listener to the end as The Searchers cover of the song - though featuring all the same ingredients this is a cake that tastes very different and loses most of the impact. 'Don't Run and Hide' is the album's other great success story and at least equal with The Hollies' own version, released as the B-side of 'Bus Stop' a mere month before this album's release. The Everly's version, with Phil taking the lead this time, teases out the country-rock influences largely overshadowed by the bluesy harmonica bursts of the 'other' version. It's slightly slower too, with less of a sense of menace, although what the brothers lose out on over power they win back through sincerity, sounding like an elder brother offering sagely advice rather than an elder brother offering to go beat up your bullies with a big stick. 'Fifi The Flea' however fares rather less well, Nash's curio turned into an over-emotive piece of drama, slowed down to a crawl and losing the listener's patience early on - only Nash's nonchalant 'humming' counter-vocal really catches the ear, while at times Don sounds as if he hasn't got a clue what this odd song about a broken relationship between circus performers is really about. Finally, 'Hard Hard Year' - the classic from 'Would You Believe?' released a month earlier - is also a pale facsimile of the gorgeous Hollies original, especially the comparatively 'normal' guitar solo so different to Hicks' poverty-fuelled scared original. However it's such a great little song it'll stand up to anything, including the curious plodding tempo and the addition of a Hammond organ, with the switch in instruments bringing out much more of the lovely acoustic guitar work - presumably played by Nash.
Overall, then, 'Two Yanks In England' isn't quite the sum of its two parts: The Everlys are already on the turn from having 'The Midas Touch' while The Hollies don't really get a chance to have much input into the album, despite writing most of the songs (although it's interesting to hear what they consider to be their 'strongest' songs in this period - personally I'd have loved to have heard the brothers wrapping their tonsils around 'To You My Love' 'Baby That's All' 'Too Many People' 'Oriental Sadness' and 'I've Got A Way Of My Own' as well, all songs which might potentially have suited the duo better than what we have here). However it is a very good album which is well worth digging out - after all, it's a unique document, stars from the 1960s helping out stars from the 1950s for a whole album, more or less, with a lot of love in the room both ways (the only real equivalent of this is Paul McCartney duetting with Carl Perkins and that won't happen till the 1980s). Even longterm Everlys fans seem to rate this record very highly, even if most of them seem to be under the erroneous idea that the duo sang these tracks better than The Hollies did, a view the writers of the CD sleevenotes seems to hold as well! (which as you and I know, dear reader, is blatantly not true!) However the album failed to sell any better than the previous run of Everlys albums and the experiment was abandoned (which is a shame: I'd love to have heard The Everlys doing The Who for instance; their rocking version of The Everlys' 'Man With Money' shows that they 'got' the style despite appearances to the contrary). Sadly The Hollies and The Everly Brothers never cross paths again, although Phil will unknowingly repay the time and effort The Hollies put into this LP after the band discover 'The Air That I Breathe' lurking on one of his solo LPs in 1974... At one time this album used to be one of the rarest The Hollies were associated with, right up there with the German-only 'Out On The Road'; thankfully a long overdue first CD issue in 2005 finally put that right.

"Bus Stop"
(Imperial, October 1966)
Bus Stop/Candyman/Baby That's All/I Am A Rock/Sweet Little Sixteen/We're Through//Don't Run And Hide/Oriental Sadness/Mickey's Monkey/Little Lover/You Know He Did/What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?
"You take a pride in making me blue"
Even by American standards, this re-jigged album is a bit of a mess and must have been a very strange listening experience for any hip young buyer at the time when music was changing by the week - some of these recordings go back years while others are brand new back in a day when the charts changed enough for this to matter! Once again the album is titled after the band's latest hit (not included on an album in Britain until 'Greatest' in 1968) and its B-side 'Don't Run and Hide' , with both songs once again opening the two different sides of the record. Everything else though is a complete jumble: 'Candy Man' 'Little Lover' and 'What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?' were left over from 'Stay With The Hollies', 'Baby That's All' was the B-side of 'Here I Go Again', 'We're Through' was an A-side unreleased in the States (all of these dating back to 1964), 'Mickey's Monkey' was left over from third LP 'The Hollies'), 'You Know He Did' was the B-side to  'I'm Alive' (both 1965) and the rest were all taken from contemporary British album 'Would You Believe?' (including 'Oriental Sadness' which is being released again after already being issued once on the last American album 'Beat Group'). Was anybody paying attention anymore? The result is a real mishmash of styles, none of which work together all that well, although at least 'Bus Stop' is a strong, sturdy opening track and 'Don't Run and Hide' a strong side closer (though 'What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?' must be the least convincing finale to any Hollies LP of any country). At least the album cover was nice, an unseen picture of the band dressed in smart (and very brown) suits from their early days - but even then Imperial seem to be missing a trick here: what record buyer in 1966 would possibly want an album with an image so obviously dating back to 1963?! (Bobby even has hair in this photo - that's how early it is!) Yikes! Against all the odds, though, the Americans actually leave the next album 'For Certain because' alone (well, they leave the track listing alone anyway, but they still mess around with the front cover - a shot of the band sitting on Mama Cass' floor at 'that' party, which is a more apt depiction of the album and it's hidden messages than Imperial perhaps realised at the time - and re-title it 'Stop! Stop! Stop!' after The Hollies' second Stateside mega-hit).

"Live In Popgaster, Stockholm"
(Released on 'A Long Road Home' 2003, Recorded December 1966)
Released Track Listing: Reach Out,  I'll Be There/Too Much Monkey Business/Stop! Stop! Stop!
Possible Additional Surviving Tracks: I Can't Let Go/You Don't Know Like I Know/The Times They Are A Changin'/Very Last Day
"Blood is rushing, temperature is rising, sweating from my brow"
By 1966 The Hollies were big news across Europe. As The Beatles passed on touring and the Rolling Stones slowed down because of Brian Jones' drug problems, The Hollies filled the gap by becoming one of the most prolific of the touring bands who had survived the post-Merseybeat cull and were regular guests o various radio and TV shows. While a lot of BBC sessions for the UK survive that are much older (including The Hollies' first ever show guesting on 'Pop Go The Beatles' in July 1963 where they play a natty version of 'Searchin' that's long overdue for release) , the earliest really 'live' performance appears to be a short set taped for Swedish radio. As almost the only sixties live recording, three tracks were chosen from a broadcast in February 1967 (recorded just before Christmas the previous year) for the final 'live' disc of the 'Long Road Home' box set in 2003, although bootlegs suggest there might have been as many as seven songs played that night (possibly more). The recordings are worth mentioning because they show The Hollies in a playful mood, possibly end-of-year hysterics, as they perform some very unusual material alongside a couple of their latest hits. As heard on the box set the band play a storming live version of 'Monkey Business', both faster and wilder than the version from 'In The Hollies Style' with a truly demented guitar solo and an arrangement which after getting the main song out the way suddenly includes segues from other famous songs along the way. It's fascinating to hear what The Hollies pick to play (including The Lovin Spoonful's 'Daydream' and The Who's 'My Generation'), two songs that pretty neatly describe their past and their future, from noisy brash Englanders toppling old institutions to relaxed reconstituted  hippies. In addition, The Hollies play their only known version of Four Tops classic 'Reach Out, I'll Be There' with Clarke a convincing soul singer and Hicks doing a good job of replicating the sound of Motown on his guitar. Even the version of 'Stop! Stop! Stop!' is a delight, with a slightly different guitar lick and Hicks bravely tackling his famous banjo riff on what sounds like a Rickenbacker while Bobby Elliott is on top form, hurling himself round the kit. Even without the other possible tracks  (which may well date from a different session but certainly come from a similar period - 'Very Last Day' is great too and there's another soul song The Hollies never officially recorded, Sam and Dave's 'You Don't Know Like I Know' which is odd but strangely delightful) this is easily the best Hollies concert out there and puts paid to the idea that The Hollies were 'just' a studio band as in their early days at least they make up for what they lack in finesse and polish with gutsy energy, enthusiasm and drive. It's just a shame that to date you can only buy it in part and as part of a pricey and increasingly hard to find box set. Oh and before you ask, sadly without the visuals even I haven't a clue who the guy the audience is meant to be staring at throughout the show is ('it does look like him!') - given the period and all that screaming going on, though, it's safe to presume it's someone resembling a Beatle!

Eric Haydock's Rockhouse: Assorted Singles
Eric formed his own band within weeks of losing his job as a Hollie, perhaps putting paid to the idea that he didn't turn up to sessions because he didn't like playing (or at least not with other people). Rockhouse was an interesting little band with even more of a turbulent line-up than the early Hollies, with Eric the only real mainstay amongst an ever changing course of musicians (originally pinched from an already formed band named The Soul Executives). Eric reputedly answered an ad the band had placed in a music paper after their old bassist walked out on them - naturally the band passed on all other newcomers and went with Eric, a tried and tested name. The band had a much more R and B flavour than the recent Hollies albums, turning the clock back a couple of years, which might perhaps be why this band didn't do too well in the charts despite a lot of media fuss and Hollie-fan goodwill. Peter Ainsworth was the original singer on these recording and is good without being close to Allan Clarke, but it's the bass-drum swing by Eric and Hector Smith that really gets these recordings groovin'.
In total two singles were released between 1966 and 1967. The first was a cover of Sam Cooke's 'Cupid' which is fairly standard stuff but the fun B-side 'She Thinks' is much more interesting. Effectively Merseybeat jazz, it's a swinging ringin' dinger of an instrumental that features many of those trademark fat and heavy bass runs. A second single, 'Lovin' You', is an interesting one - Eric must have been more respondent to Nash's tales of life in American than anyone thought as it's a cover of one of Graham's new friend's The Lovin' Spoonful's John Sebastian's song . The B-side, meanwhile, might be the best of the four, a fierce jam simply titled 'Haydock's Rockhouse'. Alas the band broke up soon after and Eric all but dropped out of the music business - until a surprise re-entry on our list in 1981... Find them on: Alas not on much at the present time, although 'Cupid' does appear on the various artists set 'The R & B Scene' (1985)
"Dear Eloise/King Midas In Reverse"
(Epic, November 1967)
Dear Eloise/Wishyouawish/Charlie And Fred/Butterfly/Leave Me/Postcard//King Midas In Reverse/Would You Believe?/Away Away Away/Maker/Step Inside
"You don't need an invitation, if you feel the inclination, you just call on speculation, step inside!"
American album number seven is back to the curious hybrid beast so beloved by EMI-offshoots in the US, although at least this time all the recordings come from the same year. In essence this is the 'Butterfly' album a month on (nine tracks) with The Hollies' American single 'Dear Eloise' (only ever an album track back home) promoted to title status. The other tracks are the flop single 'King Midas In Reverse' (a track I'd have assumed would have done better in the States, but no - it crawled to #51, worse even than the UK peak of #17) and 'Leave Me', a song curiously left off the 'Evolution' album whose bluesy sound seems even more out of date amongst the 'Butterfly' tracks. Sadly Graham Nash's departure the following year put an end to any chance of mopping up the 'missing' tracks ('When Your Light's Turned On' 'Water On The Brain' 'Pegasus' 'Elevated Observations' - oddly 'Try It', another missing 'Butterfly' track, replaced 'Open Up Your Eyes' as the flipside to 'Jennifer Eccles' in America - thus putting The Hollies' most 'juvenile' and 'adult' songs together!) which together with the 'next' run of Hollies A and B sides ('Jennifer Eccles' 'Open Up Your Eyes' 'Listen To Me' 'Do The Best You Can' 'Like Everytime Before' and the World Wildlife Fund song 'Wings') might have made for their greatest ever Stateside aberration. Trackwise 'Dear Eloise/King Midas' is a mess from the title on down, with side one bizarrely ending with the upbeat 'Postcard' before side two begins with the slow tempo of 'King Midas', although yet again the Americans get lucky with the final track as 'Step Inside' rounds the album out in style. At least the American market got one thing utterly right though: the cover shot of The Hollies standing in front of a news-stand at the height of their 'cool' is one of the great Hollies images and is often used as my computer screen-saver when I'm in a 'Hollies' mood!

"Hollies Greatest"
(Parlophone, August 1968)
I Can't Let Go/Bus Stop/We're Through/Carrie Anne/Here I Go Again/King Midas In Reverse/Yes I Will (I'll Be True To You)//I'm Alive/Just One Look/On A Carousel/Stay/Look Through Any Window/Stop! Stop! Stop!/Jennifer Eccles
"I can taste all the sugar sweetness in your kiss! You give me all the things I never missed! I never felt like this! I'm alive! I'm alive! I'm alive!"
To this very day the first of many (hundreds!) of Hollies compilations is the best-selling album ever released by the band and a launch-pad for many interested in the band. Containing more UK top twenty hits per square inch than any other sixties compilation (seriously - even The Beatles' 'Oldies but Goldies' can't match it!) you can see why this record is as well loved as it was, for both long-term fans who'd worn out or lost their precious records from the early days (five years was a long time to wait when these songs went out of print so quickly!) and new fans who fell in love with the band from the moment the record came out. After all, it's hard to fault a record that contains fifteen big sellers or with EMI's decision to just stick to the singles this time around rather than being clever, with every single single from 'Stay' up to the closing 'Jennifer Eccles' - the latest at the time of release with 'Listen To Me' a month away - all present and correct. EMI had, probably co-incidentally, even got the timing right - Nash's departure meant there was no new Hollies album in 1968 for the first year since 1963 (though there's been two in 1967!) and this record marked a pretty neat line in the sane between the 'Nash years' and the 'Sylvester' ones. With an album cover that still managed to look vaguely cool in 1968 (an outtake from the 'Butterfly' back cover sessions, with the Hollies on peace and love mode), it sold particularly well in America where EMI piggy-backed on the success of Crosby Stills and Nash and turned local fans retrospectively on to The Hollies (a band who for most Americans seemed to appear overnight in late 1966 with 'Bus Stop' and then disappeared again for years). For once The Hollies were in the right place at the right time, with this record spending an impressive  seven weeks at number one in the UK and becoming their only American number one album, an impressive statistic even for a compilation; the only bad thing to say about this compilation that EMI were so surprised at getting it right first time that they still insisted on 'improving' things with a series of spectacularly dodgy attempts to re-do the success of this compilation over the years despite the fact that 'Hollies Greatest' had already said everything that needed to be said.

"Live At The Lewisham Odeon"
EMI, Recorded May 1968, Released as part of the Clarke-Hicks-Nash Box Set May 2011)
Stop! Stop! Stop!/Look Through Any Window/The Times They Are A-Changin'/On A Carousel/King Midas In Reverse/Butterfly/ Jennifer Eccles/Carrie Anne
"There's a battle outside and it's raging"
Though the Hollies were always better known as a studio than a live act, their concerts were still much talked about because of both their jovial banter (Nash and Clarke make for a great double act!) and the use of - wait for this - pre-recorded tape, their so-simple-why-didn't-everyone-do-it? solution of their stage act becoming increasingly difficult to perform on stage (Hicks often jokes in modern interviews about the audience straining to see behind the curtain to see the orchestra that played on 'Butterfly' or the steel drum solo on 'Carrie Anne'!) Alas you don't really get to experience much of either on this half-hour live set, taped by EMI for possible use as a live album but shelved after Nash quit the band mere months later - at least the pre-recording tapes are there but without the visuals Nash could be singing in the middle of an 80-piece orchestra for all we know! Alas The Hollies are not on great form this night in London - or at least not as great a form as other bootlegs of the 1966 and 1968 tours - with Bobby Elliott getting increasing desperate in his attempts to gee-up the band from his drum stool! The band simply sound bored running through all their hits for the umpteenth times and given what we learnt later about Crosby hanging out on stage and keeping Nash as separate from his old friends sounds in retsrospect as if there's more than a little frostiness between the members. At times, though, their friendship shines through and defrosts any problems between them - the first officially released recording from this set (an energetic reading of 'The Times They Are A-Changin', first released on 'Rarities' in 1988) is a delight, Clarke trying out his new transatlantic accent for the first time while Nash sounds decidedly Mancunian alongside, apparently as enthusiastic as anyone in the band despite junking the idea of doing a whole album of such covers this year (incidentally, this is the only track both he and Crosby have in common in their respective sixties bands' repertoires before joining CSN). Hicks' virtuosic banjo playing - on a real instrument this time - on 'Stop! Stop! Stop!' also seems to lift both band and crowd, while a rare chance to hear 'King Midas' with Nash in the band is a delight, however tentative the performance. In retrospect EMI were probably right to shelve this album at the time - but were equally right in giving fans the chance to hear it at last after including the entire set at the end of the 'Clarke-Hicks-Nash Years' box set.

"The Hollies Sing Dylan"
(Released in America as 'Words and Music By Bob Dylan' with the same track listing)
(Parlophone, May 1969)
When The Ship Comes In/I'll Be Your Baby Tonight/I Want You/This Wheel's On Fire/I Shall Be Released/Blowin' In The Wind//Quit Your Low Down Ways/Just Like A Woman/The Times They Are A-Changin'/All I Really Want To Do/My Back Pages/Mighty Quinn
"Guarding fumes and making haste just ain't my cup of meat"
With Graham now gone, The Hollies set about making the album that had helped split them apart - an album of Bob Dylan covers that must have made Nash (busy making the first and most adventurous and pioneering CSN record) feel ever so slightly smug. There's a case to be made that the world needed an album of Bob Dylan made by people who could actually sing - The Byrds made a very lucrative idea of it after all before discovering that their own songs were both weirder and braver and yet more accessible anyway. The Hollies had also had fun recording two previous Dylan songs - 'Blowin' In The Wind' in the studio in 1966 (released on 'Long Road Home') and 'The Times They Are A Changin' (recorded live in 1968 when even sceptic Nash sounds like he's having fun. There's a case to be made too that The Hollies are potentially the best Dylan cover band - they straddle even more of a folk-rock divide than The Byrds (who were truly more about the divide between country and psychedelia when they get going) and were clearly influenced by him as writers ('Too Many People' is what 'Bringing It All Back Home' would sound like if Bob could clone himself and sing in tune). However, not for the first or last time, The Hollies got the timing completely wrong, releasing this album at a time when Dylan's reputation was about as low as it's ever been thanks to a motorcycle accident and a decision to keep out of the limelight and at a time when anybody doing any cover songs suddenly seemed highly questionable in as creative and passionate a year as 1969 (we know now, of course, that Dylan was writing some of his best material, but the world didn't know that until The Band and then Bob at the 'Bangla Desh' benefit shows set up by George Harrison appeared in public again in 1971). Furthermore Dylan represented the sound of 1965, very much yesteryear in the ever-changing pace of the 1960s, not only long after the horse had bolted but after its great-great-grandchildren had as well. Why were the band so insistent on making this album? Were the two earlier arrangements really that fun to play? Did they really have nothing of their own to offer just yet? Did they think tackling a grown up composer made them appear grown-up by association? Sigh, we'll never know - the answer is blow-woah-woah-ing in the wind....
'Hollies Sing Dylan', then, was an album that was always going to have the odds stacked against it, even if the band had created the perfect LP of Dylan cover songs. However this album is far from perfect - whilst new-boy Terry Sylvester is terrific on his first record (effortlessly filling in the Hollies harmony hole), the vocals as a whole are a step down from the recordings of 1968. Clarke, a born interpreter of songs that appeal to him emotionally, suddenly has to connect to these songs intellectually and make them sound like they mean something to him - a very different challenge to singing your own songs or covering songs that you've adored since childhood. Bobby Elliott is so desperate to add a bit of life to proceedings that he badly overplays his hand, adding all sorts of noisy thrashing rock to the album - the only time in Hollie history the drummer isn't 100% on the money. Orchestrator Mike Vickers, who was so spot-on for the slightly posh childhood feel of 'Evolution' is well out of his depth here, either going for the treacly route (so very un-Dylan!) or experimentation that really doesn't fit.
The song choice is safe throughout and apart from the over-covered 'Mighty Quinn' and 'Just Like A Woman' the already-done-better 'Times They Are A Changin' and 'Blowin' In The Wind' (both of which sound a whole lot worse) none of these songs sound immediately Hollies-like (in contrast just imagine how good this record might have been with Clarke soaring on 'A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall' or a Hicks solo to compare to Hendrix's on 'All Along The Watchtower', a track that's always sounded to me as if it was missing a mass of vocal harmonies on the chorus). The Hollies are in disarray, unsure of who they are anymore without Nash around to lead them and though in many ways recording a 'minor' album is a good way to re-build yourselves, doing a full album of someone else's material is a hopeless idea - too often The Hollies sound is subsumed by Dylan's and when they do add their own touches it tends to be the Merseybeat style 'beautifully voices thrash' which by 1969 is horridly out of date. Perhaps the biggest single disaster in The Hollies canon (until the 1980s at least) 'Hollies Sing Dylan' proved Nash right: this isn't a ship that's a coming in, it's one that's already bolted and despite being a surprisingly big seller at home (peaking at #3 nearly two years on from 'Butterfly' not making the charts at all) is arguably the greatest mistake in The Hollies' canon (a verdict even the band have come to agree with in the years since, Clarke adding 'I was just reading the words not singing them - it could have been a lot better'). This band should not be covering these songs at any time and absolutely not at this time in their career. Remember that the band rejected the likes of 'Marrakesh Express' so that they could record this rubbish, and weep.
However The Hollies are too good to mess the album completely. The one song that works all the way through is perhaps deliberately chosen as the opening track - 'When The Ship Comes In' has a real sea shanty lick to it and features the greatest Hollies performance of 1969: Bernie's twinkly piano, Tony's banjo, Bobby's brushes-drumming and a scintillating vocal from Clarke on one of Dylan's most straightforward track shows what this album might have been: the song 'builds' nicely, a songwriting device Dylan never seemed to quite understand or care for, has an excellent faux-comedy riff doubled by banjo and piano and the whole track 'sounds'  joyous. It's probably no coincidence that this is one of the more obscure Dylan songs on the album too, from third album 'The Times They Are A Changin'. Clarke's harmonica puffing intro to 'I'll Be Your Baby Tonight' is a welcome return for an instrument that once dominated The Hollies sound but hadn't been heard in four years by this time. While Clarke sounds even more lost singing this track than Roger McGuinn with The Byrds, the new and very Hollies lick added to the chorus of 'This Wheel's on Fi-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ire' suits the song so well I always feel slightly disappointed when I hear a cover version that doesn't do it (the same with the 'blow-woah-woah-woah'in in the wind', which is surely the whole point of the song). 'I Shall Be Released' features a great Clarke vocal, in heavy contrast to the rest of the LP, even if the steel drums are a bit annoying. While the main part of the song 'Just Like A Woman' is atrocious (slow, insipid and totally missing the point), the sudden key change in the middle eight (not there on the original) is fabulous, staying right there where it's uncomfortable for longer than we think The Hollies would ever dare ('It was raining from the first, I was dying of thirst...') leading the band to chant with real power and emotion about 'This pain in here! I can't stay in here!' There's an a capella opening to 'All I Really Wanna Do' which is sadly the only one in The Hollies' discography and it's staggeringly good (with an added fourth voice by the sound of it, doing a very deep bass growl - was Tony double-tracked?), even if the rest of this cover is appalling: who on earth heard the original of this song of burning passionate desire and though 'I know what that needs - another steel drum solo?!' The bass and drums invention to 'My Back Pages' gives the track an extra 'kick' missing from most covers of this peculiar song. However there's absolutely no excuse for livening up 'Mighty Quinn' with a banjo lick and an oompah brass band, even if Mike Vickers does get 'revenge' on Manfredd Mann who scored a big hit with this song after he left that band!
However these little nuggets of greatness can't disguise the fact that 'Hollies Sing Dylan' is woefully mis-cast. While The Byrds often sounded as if they didn't know what they were doing either, at least they had Bob's half-blessing (well sometimes, mainly the beginning and the end, mercurial character that he is) and access to a lot of his then-unreleased material. All The Hollies had was a few worn-out records - and apparently just the same ones everyone else had at the time given the track listing. Whilst Graham wasn't quite right when he warned the band that he feared the album would become just another 'Las Vegas covers act' with this record, you can see what he means: there's a sort of 'ba-daaaah!' feel to this album, thanks to the hokey banjo, tack piano, OTT orchestra and The Hollies' love of a good chorus that feels as if the band have completely mis-read the original songs. Dylan, when covered in the right way, should still sound mysterious, cagey, shadowy and intellectual, even if those covering his songs happen to be able to sing in tune and have the decency to separate his lengthy songs into 'proper' distinctive categories for easy listening. By tidying up everything they think will make this album more accessible, The Hollies accidentally tidied away this album's soul into a box as well. The only truly terrible Hollies album of the 1960s, although to give the band credit they seemed to realise as soon as the album was out and instead set about reclaiming their own sound and writing their own songs. Next up the confident plea that instead of 'Singing Dylan' the Hollies 'Sing Hollies', which makes for a much better bet all round...

"He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother"
(Epic, November 1969)
Why Didn't You Believe?/Don't Give Up Easily/Look At Life/Please Sign Your Letters/My Life Is Over With You/Please Let Me Please You//Do You Believe In Love?/He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother/You Love 'Cos You Like It/Reflections Of A Long Time Past/Goodbye Tomorrow
"Don't be too hasty - the table's been turned"
By 1969 almost all EMI records were being released the same way both side of the Atlantic. However, with the massive hit of 'He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother' still riding high in the charts, it's perhaps inevitable that Epic - taking over from Imperial - would make a few changes to the American edition of 'Hollies Sing Hollies'. This time the hit single is the only new addition, unusually placed in the middle of side two rather than at the start as usual. The bad news is that the shiggling of the track listing means that one of the better tracks - 'Marigold/Gloria Swansong - has gone missing, even though it's perhaps the most 'American' track up to that time (it's based on the story of Hollywood actress Gloria Swanson after all). The track will re-appear on the next American LP 'Moving Finger', which is probably what The Hollies gave their American record company when they discovered their hard work was being messed around with for no reasons again. The good news is that as horrid as the new album cover is (a curious inky black blob that looks like a face superimposed on a bunch of clouds - wha???) it's still better than the shot of The Hollies in frilly lace shirts. Otherwise this record is much the same - one of the more 'normal' American Hollies revisions.

 "Moving Finger"
(Epic, November 1970)
Survival Of The Fittest/Confessions Of A Mind/Lady Please/Little Girl/Too Young To Be Married//Man Without A Heart/Isn't It Nice?/Frightened Lady/Marigold-Gloria Swansong/Perfect Lady Housewife/Gasoline Alley Bred
"I know I'm going to love you for a long time"
The moving finger writes and having writ moves on ('write on' in fact). Although the American branch of EMI had finally left The Beatles well alone by 1970, they still had different ideas about how to package Hollies albums in the States. I'm not quite sure why anybody would object to the title 'Confessions Of The Mind' (surely an international rather than European phrase) or why they should think 'Moving Finger' was a suitable substitute (is it a reference to how much The Hollies style has changed?) Also it would be hard to make an album cover that's worse than the bland white-text-on-a-black-background  of the original sleeve but The Americans manage it anyway, with a hideous cover of ten finger gestures which are meant to be hand-sign gestures, but aren't (not that there's any that say 'The Hollies' anyway I don't think or even 'Mancunian Merseybeat hit-makers'  which would have been fun). However I actually rather like the track listing on this one, which substitutes the classy half-hit single 'Gasoline Alley Bred' (which 'fits' the protest and underclass concept of the album nicely) and 'Marigold-Gloria Swansong', a holdover from 'Hollies Sing Hollies' which sounds even better in this deeper company than that mixed bag of a record. These two tracks are substituted for two of the weaker album tracks too, 'Separated' and 'Wanna Shout', although sadly the weakest song 'Isn't It Nice?' is still there too. Americans fans can currently buy this album on CD anyway with the 'deleted' songs added as bonus items alongside period B-sides 'Dandelion Wine' and 'Mad Professor Blyth'. 

"Hollies Greatest Volume Two"
(Parlophone, November 1972)
Gasoline Alley Bred/Searchin'/Listen To Me/Too Young To Be Married/Dear Eloise/He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother//Hey Willy/(Ain't That) Just Like Me?/Sorry Suzanne/If I Needed Someone/I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top/Blowin' In The Wind
"The road is long, with many a winding turn that leads us to who knows where?..."
With memories of how well 'Hollies Greatest had sold and the current band seemingly at the end of the road, EMI swiftly put out a second 'greatest hits' set, even though the band hadn't really had that many hits in the years since 1968 - at least not enough for a full album. Undeterred they threw this set together anyway, a mis-mash of the band's two earliest singles from 1963 (when they weren't yet scoring top ten hits), the 'If I Needed Someone' single from 1966 which hadn't done too well and was skipped on the first volume, hits too recent for the first volume ('Listen To Me' 'Sorry Suzanne' 'He Ain't Heavy' 'I Can't Tell The Bottom' 'Gasoline Alley Bred' 'Hey Willy' and 'Long Cool Woman')  and three album favourites which had all been hits in different countries though not the UK or US ('Dear Eloise' 'Blowin' In The Wind' and 'Yoo Young To Be Married'). There's a nice rare shot of the band on the front though (circa 1971 judging by the length of Clarkey's hair and the recedingness of Bernie's!) and like the first set this was a welcome chance for fans who'd worn out their old singles to buy them all again on the  harder-wearing album format. However the fact that this album not only failed to match the #1 hit status of the first volume but missed the charts entirely on both asides of the Atlantic tells you everything you need to know about how unpopular The Hollies had now become in 1972 and how much EMI cared about this compilation in the first place. Like the first volume, it';s never been re-issued on CD having being superceded by a whole range of compilation CDS down the years.

Allan Clarke "My Real Name Is 'Arold"
(Epic, '1972')
Ruby/Mary Skeffington/Baby It's Alright With Me/Moonshine Whiskey/It's Just Nature's Way Of Saying Goodbye//You're Losing Me/Let Us Prey (St Francis Of Assisi)/Patchwork Quilt/Walpurgis Night/Bring On Your Smiles
"Whose gonna be the one breaking my fall? I can't really go down much lower at all, but baby it's alright - baby it's alright with me"
With Tony's words in 'Long Dark Road' still hanging in the air ('it's over, well over, in my mind and in my soul') Allan Clarke made good on his threat to leave The Hollies and go his own way, leaving the band in a crisis that in the end proved to be a disaster (commercially at least) for both halves of the band. With The Hollies stalling a little when it came to hits across 1970 (Clarke wasn't to know about the success of 1971's 'Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress' just yet!) Allan was worried about losing out on his career. After all, 1971 was the year that his boyhood friend Graham Nash had landed on his feet not just with CSN but with a solo deal - as the harmoniser to Clarke's lead singer, you can hear why Allan should have felt he wanted a piece of that. There were other reasons too, not least the fact that the band were less convinced by his latest crop of material - partly with good reason, although there's a few classic amongst this album's track selection too.  While there was still more love between the 1971 Hollies than there was between most other bands (including most AAA band celebrating their eighth year it has to be said) they didn't always agree on everything and the band were beginning to write more and more apart. This had been particularly good for Tony Hicks, who'd struck up a prolific writing partnership with his next door neighbour Kenny Lynch, but Clarke too was stock-piling songs that he felt were either unsuitable for the band or that he simply wanted to keep for himself. At first he hadn't wanted to leave the band entirely - his initial approach to the others was to talk about doing a solo album during their 'down time' from their latest tour and stay as their lead singer. However the others argued that it would put them as a disadvantage if Clarke's solo career took off as they expected it would, with them effectively becoming his back-up band as was then happening to 'Rod Stewart and The Faces' (and perhaps remembering the look in Graham Nash's eyes the day he came back from that 1966 party in America and they lost him, seemingly forever). Clarkey didn't want to leave and the band didn't want him to go, perhaps trying to call his bluff, but Allan's mind was made up - he had to make at least the first of his solo records at any cost.
The split resulted in the unfortunate development where, when 'Long Cool Woman' became the unexpected hit The Hollies had for so long been looking for, the rest of the band were forced to promote it without the writer and lead singer and with a substitute who though equally talented was hardly likely to outdo Clarke when it came to singing rockers. Allan, meanwhile, resented the fact that the spotlight was being thrown on his old band for something he'd achieved and yet nobody wanted to know him as a solo act. Alas, for all the promise and worth in this record and the many dotted highlights, that cost ultimately proved to be too high, starting a crack in The Hollies that the band took some years to recover from and one that nobody came from looking particularly strong. However, just as we've argued on our site that the two albums without Clarke - 'Romany' and 'Out On The Road' - are amongst their most overlooked and quietly perfect in The Hollies catalogue, so too the same came be made for Clarke's early solo career, with several excellent songs on this first album and particularly on the stunningly consistent second album 'Headroom' (so good we reviewed it as one of our original 'core' 101 albums in fact). Both are severely under-appreciated and deserve a re-issue, especially 'Arold' which as Clarke's lone album to be released on Epic (the American branch that released EMI records in the US in the 1970s) has barely been seen since the day of its release with even a 2009 CD re-release disappearing before I ever had a chance to get hold of it.
The title and cover of 'My Real Name Is 'Arold' were designed by the singer to 'strip' himself from all the baggage that came with the past and were designed by Hipgnosis, the 'hip' company best known from their Pink Floyd sleeves who's been hired to draw the cover for 'A Distant Light' the year before 9and will go on to do 'Romany'). On the front we see Clarke taking off two layers of clothing (he must still be in Britain then to need that much insulation from the cold) to reveal a T-shirt underneath featuring another picture of Clarke rising up out of the sea (well, cold looking lake - yep, definitely Britain!) as if he's just been baptised. The album title, meanwhile, revealed for the first time that 'Allan' was just a stage name ('Harold' was a name that Allan never liked, so he went by his middle name instead) and the nicely low-key jokey title (including the apostrophe around the 'H') managed to be both serious and fun. On hearing about this album and perhaps seeing the cover printed in magazine and newspaper adverts (back in the days when bands used to do this sort of thing instead of concocting mind-numbing videos on Youtube and downloading music free with every other purchase) along with interviews where Clarke talked about his clean break from the band, Hollies fans must have been expecting a confessional, autobiographical record heavy on personal opinion, perhaps a sunnier version of the 'Lennon/Plastic Ono Band' LP.
Instead Clarke seems to have modelled this album 'loosely' on his old partner's 'Songs For Beginners' album: it's personal in the sense that it involves the writer's favoured themes and genres rather than because it says a great deal about their life. However at least 'Beginners' was fuelled by a doomed love affair with Joni Mitchell and Nash's half-doubts about whether he was right to pack up and leave all his friends in England behind now he'd split up from both band and girlfriend - Clarke's marriage was as happy and stable as it ever was and could trace his path back to his Manchester childhood through miles, not continents. Unlike 'Beginners' - or indeed any Hollies album since 'Hollies Sing Dylan' in 1969 (a special case) or 'Would You Believe?' in 1966 - Clarke doesn't even write all the songs himself, with two cover songs and a sea of collaborators. As a result 'Arold' doesn't quite have the gravitas it ought to and doesn't teach you anything about Clarke you couldn't have learnt from within The Hollies anyway, losing out on their special brush of harmony magic and one of the world's greatest guitar-bass-drums combos for a rather anonymous sea of session musicians and a distinct lack of harmonies that prevent a lot of these songs reaching the very top level. Despite the title and cover and the fact that Clarke was so adamant that he had to make this album at the possible cost of his career, 'Arold' is also a rather timid and unsure record, one that despite all the talk of identity isn't actually that sure who Allan Clarke is without the other Hollies.
However there's still much to enjoy. Hearing Clarke's lead intact without any distractions reveals just what a great singer he is and unlike his future solo albums - which tended to concentrate too much on making his vocals pop-glossy or losing them in echo - his voice is up proud and loud across the entire album. Occasionally, too, Clarke throws in a curveball that, while they might not tell us much about 'im, do at least go for subject matters The Hollies as a whole would never have dared touch: Walpurgis Night, the 'opposite' end to Halloween on April 30th when witches and demons come out to play and 'lucifer hails, yeah'; 'Moonshine Whiskey', the first (of many) Clarke songs where the narrator seems to have a drinking problem; the half-praising half-sarcastic 'St Francis Of Assisi' which fits neatly halfway into Clarke's struggles with his Christian faith that veers from powerful belief ('Very Last Day' and 'Why Didn't You Believe?') to sneering discontent ('People Of That Kind' from next album 'Headroom'). If songs like the rocking 'Ruby' and beautiful ballads 'Mary Skeffington' and 'Patchwork Quilts' offer nothing The Hollies couldn't have done better, some of these tracks show off just what a good idea Clarke had for strong arrangements: 'Nature's Way Of saying Goodbye' is the 'one that got away' for that mythical Hollies album of 1972 that should have been (imagine that song alongside the best from 'Romany' and, well, what an album that was; if my ears were any nearer my mouth they'd be salivating right now).
 Yes songs like 'Baby It's Alright With Me' 'Moonshine Whiskey' and most disappointingly of all the insanely bouncy finale 'Bring On Your Smiles' - co-written with an already legendary Herbie Flowers, bassist for several ex-Beatles and once a member of both T Rex and Sky - are pretty awful, but even 'Songs For Beginners' wasn't perfect all the way through. Considering that Clarke was truly going it alone - recording in a new studios (George Martin's AIR rather than Abbey Road), with no 'visiting friends' dropping in as on Nash's LP and that Clarke had to hire the studio musicians, the engineers and the promotion himself, 'Arold' is a far better album in many ways than it has a right to be, daring different from The Hollies without destroying the old formulas entirely (for instance note how many girl's names crop up across this album, perhaps recalling the days of 'Carrie Anne' and 'Jennifer Eccles'). Only on that last count, the promotion, did Clarke truly fail, with this album limping into the bottom end of the charts even on the back of 'Long Cool Woman' and disappearing in the States where Clarke was sure a golden career was waiting for him too. He deserved it too, if not necessarily for this album then for his next release, which takes most of this album's positive points and improves on them...
There is a sort of album theme by the way. While the cover and title seem to concern themselves more with identity, the songs are really more about the 'masks' that people wear. The record starts with a girl who acts differently depending who she's with, goes through several melancholy narrators in denial (some of them hitting the booze to forget, others simply pretending they're not hurt) and ending with a plea for everyone to bring their 'smiley' masks with them instead of all this upset and hurt. The narrators in these songs seem to do a lot of 'convincing' themselves that 'something didn't happen to me', their sadness 'hidden with a shroud'. However we never find out quite what that sadness is: it could be that Clarke is missing the success his old band used to have - or perhaps missing his old school-friend Graham more directly. 'Headroom' will explore this theme  of fear of failure more, but even here hidden amongst the bushes 'Arold' isn't quite the happy and upbeat LP many of the melodies hint its going to be, the sadness of much of 'A Distant Light' still hanging heavy over Clarke's head.
'Ruby' is a fierce rocker, interestingly the closest to 'Long Cool Woman' on the album with Clarke himself double-tracking the funky riff, although on an emotional level this passionate beauty couldn't be less like the cold beast then riding high in the charts. This girl is out for a good time, the narrator being left behind and unable to keep up, complaining to us 'how it's a shame you don't live up to the real thing!' Clarke struts like never before on a gusty lead vocal and there's a terrific horn part that really grooves, but like a lot of the album something seems to missing from this noisy explosion to tie everything together. Great riff though.
Gerry Rafferty's 'Mary Skeffington' is a very different sort of girl. Sweet and fragile, 'afraid to face another day', the aged narrator urges her to remember the happy times when the pair honeymooned 'on a bed of eiderdown' and asks her to 'make believe that you are just a girl again'. Small details in the song make it clear that Mary has been poorly for a while; though the song is too subtle to come right out and say it, my take on this sweet ballad is that the narrator is aware she's dying and wants her to die with a smile on her lips, remembering the good times they shared together not the painful recent years (Clarke-Hicks-Sylvester will try a similar trick with the slightly less subtle sob story 'Lucy' - note the use of a girl's name again - on the 'Another Night' album). Again the recording is very good indeed, but still missing something, with Clarke's usually spot on acting perhaps a tad too harsh for such an ethereal song.
'Baby, It's Alright With Me' sounds like a staggering drunk trying to walk home from one bar too many. The irregular time metre is unusual and ear-catching, but oddly Clarke's lyrics don't follow suit (he's credited with both music and words for this one): instead this sounds like a song about his feelings over The Hollies playing second fiddle to lesser bands down the years and dripping with irony throughout (he means 'baby it's alright with me' about as much as 10cc are 'not in love'). The narrator is forever 'at the back of the queue', a second verse turning the song into a romance gone wrong as Clarke 'sleeps with a pillow' and pretends its his beloved, all the way putting on a brave face and all but snapping that he's alright, really, honest, oh yes he is. Clarke will extend this theme on much of 'Headroom' but sadly never really returns to this sort of clod-hopping blues feel again. The performance on this one really is rather good, with some lovely guitar-work and some excellent harmonica playing.
The jolly 'Moonshine Whiskey' should have come before - this is the drunk as the life and soul of the party, brewing his own booze while a hootenany takes place in his garden. Though it's nice to hear Clarke exploring his folk roots for a change (you can imagine the Everly Brothers doing this one) and the hint that the narrator is only drinking 'to remember better days', this song is one of the weaker tracks on the album with a chorus that just keeps going round and round and won't let go. Other songs have said the same sort of thing better.
However few songs have waved farewell quite as beautifully as 'Nature's Way Of Saying Goodbye', the album's true highlight. Clarke has been 'hiding' his true self for so long and has come to the point where he knows in his heart of hearts he has to 'leave' something or something very dear to him behind. Asking 'how can I stop myself from lying when everything inside me's dying?', he suddenly realises that rather than being alone all of nature is in agreement with him, with Winter appearing and things fading away all around him 'in sympathy' (perhaps he's seen the rushed for the Wintry 'Romany' cover? Or perhaps he's repeating Nash's twin B-side in 1967 that nature is made up of 'signs that will never change' and that 'Everything Is Sunshine' only when the one you love is by your side). Clarke's voice is gorgeous on this one, with the sound of Clarke effectively waving goodbye to himself over a classy wah-wah guitar and string part that duck and dive throughout the mix one of the most affecting moments in this book.
'You're Losing Me' would have sounded new at the time - an orchestral ballad that comes with a more 'traditional', claustrophobic feel than 'Bottom From The Top' or 'He Ain't Heavy' but which is the closest thing on this record to a template for The Hollies' sound across the rest of the 1970s. The song is certainly better than a lot of Clarke's contemporaries' weepy MOR break-up songs, but there's not much character to this song and the slow tempo and repetitive chorus get annoying quickly.
'Let Us Prey (St Francis Of Assisi)' meanwhile sounds like something no one else has ever written. A merry jig for twin acoustic guitars, a bouncy bass line and bucket-loads of percussion, it seems to deal once more with Clarke's growing inner debate over whether the Christian religion he was brought up in was 'right' or not. While there's no real factually detailed link between this character and St Francis, you can read where Clarke was going in the lyrics and see the parallels with his own career by this point. St Francis had been born wealthy, was something of a rogue in his youth (modern society would class him as a 'Bullingdon Boy') and had a career in the army before a 'vision' showed him the error of his ways and he dedicated himself to the Church. Eventually, after much to-ing and fro-ing he gave up his wealth and riches to live in poverty and be 'closer' to God, renouncing his violent ways in the past and campaigning - at the risk of life and limb - to bring a halt to The Crusades (a sort of Medieval 9/11 but from the 'other' perspective). Clarke, once so devout in his songwriting at least, has reached the 'middle' of that story: he's enjoyed the fame and is sad to not have more of it, yet something deeper seems to be nagging him that life should be deeper. With the other Hollies he's recently taken the Vietnam War to task (the 1970s equivalent to the Crusades, though it was less about religion this time than economics and politics) ordering people to 'beware of guns' and seems to be approaching or at least fearing that he's approaching years of silence where no one buys his records or hears 'what I have to sa-e-ay'. St Francis' life-story is spoken about using metaphors throughout, an old trick for blurring the lines between creator and storyteller's character, speaking about the character being 'locked in a cage' where 'they've thrown away the key', doomed to be someone else before he's quite ready. Clarke may be thinking about the other Hollies kicking him out of the band here, perhaps calling on his faith to see he's doing the 'right' thing and looking for answers over whether to go solo or not. However this song's uncomfortable feel - the chorus 'rise people' seems to be more about the war than joining the church and the narrator seems more persecuted by his visions than relieved by them - means that this fascinatingly complex track is far from straightforward, full of scary long held notes and a rhythm track that hurls the listener about this way and that like a stormy sea. Clarke won't get his 'answer' until 'Headroom' by the way and it isn't good.
After such intensity the subdued ballad 'Patchwork Quilts' sounds like an anti-climax, although it's sweet enough with a lovely melody and gives Clarke another chance to show off why he might be well be the world's greatest ballad interpreter, more powerful than other singers would dare be without losing his delicate touch. However this song's lyrics are all over the place - one minute a couple are happily cosying up to each other, the next they're just 'two lovers playing' who aren't 'of the same mind' at all. 
'Walpurgis Night' is another excellent song, this time by Joe Egan although oddly enough the author's band Stealer's Wheel doesn't seem to have recorded this track (or at least the internet keeps listing Clarke's version over and over - which given how obscure this album is makes it unlikely there'd be another version out there). Clarke's evil performance is just the right side of pantomime on a rather scary track about the 'real' night of the occult of April 20th when demons and devils roam the night (its allegedly the day that the 'Church of Satan' was founded by a coven of German witches; Halloween is a more modern thing). Several production effects lead to a few surprises along the way, although the star of the recording is the drumming who twists and turns every which way throughout the track, as if running in terror. How very Clarke - we've gone from Christianity to pure paganism in two tracks!
Alas 'Arold' waves 'goodbye' with one of the weakest tracks 'Bring On Your Smiles', which is all too obviously an attempt to write a catchy single for the album (although in the end 'Ruby' and 'You're Losing Me' were released instead). The song's structure is a bit of a mess to be frank: one minute we're being urged to smile just for the sake of it 'because there's too many people who ain't smiling' even though this flies in the face of the evidence of most of the record and the next there's an angry outburst that recalls 'I've Got A Way Of MY Own' ('I say I've got my way, I know about your way - well what about mine?') Is this one last dig at Nash and his control of The Hollies? Or simply a nonsense part written to gee the song up a bit because goodness knows it needs it, with the two halves simply repeated over again without any comment or link. An odd way to end, despite featuring another great riff.
Overall though there's plenty of reason to smile: 'Arold' isn't perfect but it gets more right than it gets wrong and offered good reason to believe that a starring solo career would be soon approaching (certainly lesser artists have had bigger hits with less). Alas this record's failure will hit Clarke hard, leaving him to re-trace his footsteps one more time (with less confidence) before re-joining The Hollies cap in hand. Clarke's most eclectic album is far from his best and perhaps even his least consistent, but it breaks a nice lot of new ground without forgetting where it's been and on that score alone can be considered quite the achievement.
Note: The sessions also resulted in a song that has yet to appear on CD, the B-side 'Coward By Name' originally the B-side to 'Losing Me' (an odd choice for a single). It's more like the confessional weight of 'Headroom' in feel if not quite up to that album standard.


"Terry Sylvester" aka "I Believe"

(Epic, '1974')

'Terry Sylvester' (1974): Pick Up The Pieces Again/It's Better Off This Way/End Of The Line/Goin' Back/For The Peace Of All Mankind//Make My Day/If You Change Your Mind/Mary Anne/The Trees The Flowers And The Shame/Indian Girl
'I Believe' (1976): Pick Up The Pieces Again/I Believe (When I Fall In Love)/Atlantis/It's Better Off This Way/In Motion/Make My Day//Cable Car/End Of The Line/Travellin' Boy/It's Too Late/Indian Girl/For The Peace Of All Mankind

"Well known faces in a crowded town, I don't see them for I'm not around!"

While Allan Clarke was trying to throw off his Hollies 'nice guy' shackles, Terry Sylvester was cosying up to exactly that image. 'Terry Sylvester', released in parallel with Clarke's third album, is an unusual beast in the Hollie's canon: in many ways it's the most easy 'easy listening' LP in the band's discography, complete with lush orchestras, choirs and credits for such middle of the road acts as The King's Singers (who are by far the most palatable at this sort of thing and at least know their rock and roll - their cameo on 'The Trees The Flowers and The Shame' is by far the highlight of the record). If Barry Manilow had less of a nasal voice and could sing two octaves higher, his records would sound like this (similarly if Leo Sayer had a less nasal voice and could sing an octave lower it would sound something along these lines). Like Clarke's albums this is also largely speaking a 'covers' album, but made up of relatively famous songs from the canons from the staples of older established singer-songwriters like Goffin and King and Albert Hammond(with 'For The Peace Of All Mankind' the only 'other' song any of The Hollies will record from one of the writers who came up with 'The Air That I Breathe', although it's nowhere near that league). If ever you needed a study in why Graham and Terry were such different characters despite their similar voices you only need to compare this laidback record with the confessional of 'Songs For Beginners'. Terry is clearly going for the mums and dads and even the grandparents, playing up to the band's cosy image - the generation Graham has spent the last few years (including the last few Hollies years) affectionately laughing at.

Clearly 'Terry Sylvester' is not the most inventive album ever released and yet it's a far more interesting record than it's ever given credit for. Terry's voice is well suited to both the material and the elaborate arrangements and you somehow miss the other Hollies less on this album than on Clarke's solo work simply because there are so many people filling in for them - established session musicians playing dense backing tracks and seas of voices (largely female) where the band's harmonies would normally be. Also while this album doesn't bare it's teeth very often, when it does the results have all the more impact for being so unexpected: as mentioned 'The Trees The Flowers and The Shame' is a first-class song, Terry sensitively acting the part out of a teenager who gets his young girlfriend pregnant and being kicked out of the family home, torn between guilt and sadness at 'making up the room for the very last time' and the fact that he really does love his girl and wants to be with her come what may. Terry's handful of original songs have real clout too: 'It's Better Off This Way' tries hard to come up with a logical reason for leaving a partner even though it's clear from the words that it's an emotional decision not a rational one, whilst 'End Of The Line' isn't half as bouncy in terms of words as it sounds from the gorgeous singalong melody. 'Make My Day' is about the best of Terry's songs here though and one without any hidden agenda - it's simply a delightful sunny joyous pop song that in another world could easily have been a Hollies hit single.

Other songs will be more recognisable to Hollies fans - interesting that Terry should choose to re-record so many songs on his one solo album while Clarke never did this in seven records! 'Pick Up The Pieces' is a new recording to the one already featured on two Hollies albums ('Out On The Road' and 'The Hollies 1974'), which rather loses some of the inherent sadness within by speeding the song up, although a more upbeat 'Indian Girl' (a B-side from the Mikael Rickfors era) sounds much better without the band trying to fit the song into a 'Hollies' mould it just didn't fit. 'Mary Anne' also seems half-jokingly intended as a sequel to 'Carrie Anne', although it's another of those irritating Hollies calypso songs that don't quite come off. While none of the other Hollies appear, Terry introduces another key figure to his career, Bread's James Griffin, who'll end up working with Terry as a pair when he leaves The Hollies in another seven years' time.
Despite the fact that on release the album only sold about as well as Clarke's solo records (ie not much - and nowhere near as much as The Hollies) EMI subsidiary Epic clearly felt that the record had potential. The album was re-released with a few tweaks as 'I Believe' in 1976, repeating six of the album tracks and adding six more. Alan Parsons produced the record - most famous for his engineering work at Abbey Road including Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side Of The Moon' - and will later hire Terry for work on his 'Project' album 'Tales Of Mystery and Imagination' in 1975 where Terry sings the moody Floyd-ish 'To One In Paradise'. The new material is much more contemporary and generally better, highlights being 'Atlantis' an excellent half-rocker with orchestra not so much about the mythical land as the narrator's feeling that he's been born into the 'wrong' world and a re-working of another old Hollies song 'Cable Car' (which manages to sound much more epic than the original from 'A Distant Light', with a slower tempo, layers of guitar and large dollops of echo). EMI are clearly also modelling Terry's career on the recent success of the similarly high-pitched known-for-being-in-a-previous band career of Art Garfunkel who was at his solo commercial peak at the time, with covers of two songs he made famous: 'I Believe' and 'Travellin' Boy' (though sad to say Arty probably has the 'edge' on both of these recordings). Overall 'I Believe' is perhaps slightly the better record, less artificial and cloying, but sadly the 'wrong' half of the material seems to have been thrown out: I'd much rather hear 'The Trees' for instance than  the rather anonymous 'End Of The Line'.

As if that wasn't enough the album's contents were messed around with again when the album was re-issued on CD in 1994 by Maple Oak Records (sadly the only time this record has appeared on compact disc to date) under the name 'I Believe' once again. This time only four songs are used from the original record ('Mary Anne' 'Indian Girl' 'Pick Up The Pieces Again' and 'End Of The Line'), although all of the 'new' songs from 1976 are here alongside a whole load of other flotsam and jetsam from Terry's solo career: mainly singles from the end of the 1970s (the feisty 'Aruba Town' with James Griffin' and the sweet 'Julie' being about the best), plus a few Hollies re-recordings (the interesting quartet of 'Just One Look' 'Sandy' 'My Island' and 'I'm Down') although by far the most interesting are Terry re-discovering his inner rocker and covering a load of hits from his childhood ('C'mon Everbody' 'Save The Last Dance For Me' and the only time any of The Hollies ever record an Everly Brothers song - as opposed to writing songs for them - with 'Let It Be Me'). Overall it's a shame there aren't more recordings of Terry, who was amongst the best songwriters in The Hollies and whose gorgeous voice was under-used in terms of solo performances with the band. While 'I Believe' remains  Terry's last album, however, he also recorded all sorts of other singles and off projects across the next thirty years or so - you can join us for a discussion of them on 'The Complete Works' (released 2001) located nearer the end of this book. 

"Allan Clarke"
(EMI, '1974')
Don't Let Me Down Again/Can't Get On/I'll Be Home/I Wanna Sail Right Into Your Life//Side Show/If I Was The Priest/New Americans/Love Love Love/Send Me Some Lovin'
"While I bide my time I'm back in pantomime"
With Allan Clarke now firmly a Hollie again and his first two records a flop, fans would have been forgiven for assuming that the singer's dreams of solo stardom were over. In fact he was only just starting with a further four albums across the next sixteen years, with one of the stipulations of Clarke's return the fact that he could release solo records alongside the group's releases as long as they were worked on during the band's 'off days' from touring or recording. As a result Clarke was a busy boy for the rest of the decade, effectively working double time across the next few years (with a Hollies and a solo record in nearly every year). Perhaps sensibly, Clarke kept most of his own songs for Hollies albums and won't start writing for his solo albums again till 1978 (when The Hollies are almost a covers act themselves), which means that this third solo album - now confidently titled 'Allan Clarke' in contrast to the doubts of 'My Real Name Is 'Arold' - couldn't sound less like its predecessor, the all-original 'Headroom'. There simply isn't enough quality material to go round for both, with Clarke's solo records inevitably getting the short straw.
Clarke is clearly relishing the chance to reboot his franchise and start again, treating these solo albums as a hobby to make at speed with the bonus that one day one of them might get lucky. He's also given up trying to catch the already-sailed sensitive  singer-songwriter craze and has clearly modelled this album after his new favourite writer-singer Bruce Springsteen whom Clarke oh so nearly got to show off to the world before they knew who he was (with the 1973 single 'Born To Run'). Though there's only one song written by 'The Boss' on this record (a rather tentative 'If I Were The Priest', which Bruce never recorded himself though he played it live and weirdly sounds less like a Springsteen song than most on the album - it was 'rescued' from a 1972 demo tape that Allan heard when setting up his solo career in 1972) most of this record sounds inspired by him: its Americana working class, full of drama and posing and no longer has the 'halfway house' of 'Headroom' - when this album rocks, it rocks and when it's a ballad it's sleepy. Allan even includes a 'thanks for inspiration' credit on the back of this LP which makes for interesting reading though not every influence is obvious in the record: pre-Fleetwood Mac spin-off Buckingham Nicks, Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, Little Richard even - note the absence of anyone from the Merseybeat years, any folk acts or anything to do with harmonies: all these singers are solo men. Oh and most of them are American. Clarke's been bringing Americanisms into his act and adding a slight New York Bronx lilt to his voice since 'Long Cool Woman' so it's not as big a shock as it might have been and Clarke was always one of the best interpretative singers in the business, able to coax hidden meaning out of any song. However at times this record sounds do desperate to sound modern, to impress, to exert a new identity (Actually why is it this album called 'Allan Clarke'? Thinking about it again there's less of the singer on here than any other record!) that there's a lot less to satisfy fans than the previous two records, with Clarke dispensing not just with the Hollies templates that have been holding him back but the things that made him so special as well. Reduced to singing a collection of songs about a country most of his predominantly European fanbase had probably never been to by a series different writers, this album's quality rests not so much with a vision and strength of mood and a sense of danger as per the last album but how well Clarke can handle so much similar material without it sounding the same. He's only half-successful.
Clarke is too good a singer to let the decent material get away, even while his usual talents for picking out decent and suitable cover songs have deserted him slightly. Most of the better material on the album is provided by his old writing partners Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway (who with Clarke co-wrote 'Long Cool Woman' and 'Hey Willy'), writers whom Clarke really seem to identify with given his passionate dramatic reading of 'I Wanna Sail Into Your Life' (an OTT song so easy to get wrong but well handled here, with great leaps between the slow moody verses and the crushing symphonic chorus) and the funky, witty 'Side Show' where comedy and tragedy lie side by side (the one track that sounds like it belongs on the aggrieved 'Headroom', with the narrator reduced in standing to a' late re-action' when his loved one's 'action gets too slow' after years in the spotlight). While simple and surface-level, rockers like Lindsey Buckinghman's opening 'Don't Let Me Down Again' (dating from before he joined the new-look Fleetwood Mac and apparently suggested by Ray Glynn: a charging electric song with a great riff) and the tongue-twisting 'Can't Get On' (by Roger Cook and another Clarke co-writer Herbie Flowers) at least sound good too without coming close to the depth of the past. Sometimes a song only sounds good because of Clarke's vocals: Roger Cook's sleepy ballad 'Love, Love Love' and the more wordy tale of two lover students 'graduating gradually' in 'New Americans' are all too obviously thrown away by the band, but Allan is right on the money (he even manages a convincing transatlantic accent, although it's hard to imagine his sixties self ever singing a song so blatantly American as this). However even a singer as good as Clarke can't invest emotion into a song that isn't there and there are far too many ordinary songs like Randy Newman's 'I'll Be Home' and Alan Price's 'Send Me Some Lovin', ugly songs that offer nothing much at all, especially here played at a crawling speed.
The production values of this album too are a bit of a step back from the near Spectorised echo of 'Headroom'. Everything is bright and cheerful and in your face even when it shouldn't be and the narrator is meant to be collapsing inside - a very 1974 sound in fact that for good reason didn't hang around in the public psyche as long as subtler sounds from earlier in the decade. While made up of the usual suspects who've already played on the previous pair of albums (bassist Herbie Flowers who was even more of a coup to hire as his career began to take off, drummer Tony Newman, pianist Peter Robinson and Clarke's former co-writer guitarist Ray Glynn, with Clarkey not playing anything - not even the harmonica this time around) this band simply doesn't sound like it gelled. The recordings are slapdash, too obviously made in a hurry, with only Clarke sounding like the songs mean anything to him. The decision to smother these ragged backing tracks in excess overdubs (gospel choirs - with one of the a ten strong choir including Stone The Crows vocalist Madeline Bell and  skiffle player Joe Brown's wife Vicki - plus occasional saxophones) is also a bad move. However there's one important figure guesting on this album who'll become very important to The Hollies across the rest of the decade - Tony Hymas, here a mellotron player, but the orchestral arranger on 'Another Night' in 1975 and co-writer of some of the band's better cover songs on 1978's '5317704'. The result is a little screechy, a lot bland and more than a bit off-putting, no matter how good the occasional song and most of the vocals, too blatantly desperate to aim for the big time that it left all the things that used to make Clarke so brilliant behind. There's nothing on this album close to what Clarke does best: the slinky drama of 'Long Cool Woman' or the passion of 'The Air That I Breathe' and no matter how many girl singers are on this record they've got no chance of competing with Hollie harmonies. The rest of The Hollies, looking on with worry in case their lead singer's solo career took off at last despite their grand reunion, must have breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

 "The History Of The Hollies"
(EMI, November 1975)
 (Ain't That) Just Like Me?/Searchin'/Stay/Just One Look/Here I Go Again/We're Through/Yes I Will/I'm Alive/Look Through Any Window/If I Needed Someone/I Can't Let Go/Bus Stop/Stop! Stop! Stop!/On A Carousel/Carrie Anne/King Midas In Reverse/Jennifer Eccles/Listen To Me/Sorry Suzanne/He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother/I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top/Gasoline Alley Bred/Hey Willy/Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress
"I try and I try but I can't say...goodbye!"
EMI had another go at telling the story of The Hollies in line with some of the other double-album sets doing the rounds in the mid-1970s. Some of these 'History' sets, released to celebrate the longevity of all the old Merseybeaters who'd lasted a decade, can be rather good: the Stones set on Atlantic, for instance, is one of their best compilations to this day, full of choice album cuts and rare B-sides as well as the better known hits, The Hollies, though, again suffer through being so darned prolific and scoring too many hits. With EMI reluctant to pay for too many songs given the publishing costs (even though the total playing time is nearly half what it is on the Stones set) this set simply ends after 24 songs even though far from being a 'history' of the band its basically the two 'Greatest Hits' volumes stuck together with the more interesting track selections deleted! ('Dear Eloise' 'Blowin' In The Wind' and 'Too Young To Be Married'), Oddly, too, 'The Air That I Breathe' is absent, despite being one of the band's bigger hits and their most recent chart entry at the time this set came out. As a result it wasn't all that interesting even at the time, but is worth noting as being the first 'hits' album to include 'Long Cool Woman' as part of the track listing and for being the first 'double' set containing (nearly) all the band's hits in one handy package. The album cover is nice too, an unseen shot of the group circa 1974 looking much happier than they did on their studio record sleeve that year but with a horrid bright green border that's so 1970s it probably came with its own platform shoes and guacamole dips. 


A NOW COMPLETE LIST OF HOLLIES ARTICLES TO READ AT ALAN’S ALBUM ARCHIVES:

'Stay With The Hollies' (1964) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/the-hollies-stay-with-hollies-1964.html

'In The Hollies Style' (1964) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/the-hollies-in-hollies-style-1964-album.html
'Would You Believe?' (1966) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2016/06/the-hollies-would-you-believe-1966.html

'For Certain, Because' (1966) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/the-hollies-for-certain-because-1966.html

'Evolution' (1967)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-11-hollies-evolution-1967.html

'Butterfly' (1967)  
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-14-hollies-butterfly-1967.html

‘Hollies Sing Hollies’ (1969)  http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/the-hollies-sing-hollies-1969.html

'Confessions Of The Mind' (1970)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-39-hollies-confessions-of-mind.html
'A Distant Light' (1971) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-hollies-distant-light-1971-album.html

'Romany' (1972)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-52-hollies-romany-1972.html

'Out On The Road' (1973)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2010/06/news-views-and-music-issue-62-hollies.html

'Headroom' (Allan Clarke solo) (1973)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-57-allan-clarke-headroom-1973.html
'The Hollies' (1974) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/the-hollies-hollies-1974-album-review.html
'Another Night' (1975) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/the-hollies-another-night-1975.html

‘Write On’ (1976) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/the-hollies-write-on-1976.html
'A Crazy Steal' (1978) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/the-hollies-crazy-steal-1978.html

'5317704' (1979)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/news-views-and-music-issue-110-hollies.html
'What Goes Around..." (1983) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2016/10/the-hollies-what-goes-around-1983.html
‘Then, Now, Always’ (2009) https://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/the-hollies-then-now-always-2009.html

'Radio Fun' (BBC Sessions) (2012)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/news-views-and-music-issue-145-hollies.html
The Best Unreleased Hollies Recordings
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/the-hollies-rarities-ii-best-unreleased.html
Surviving TV Footage 1964-2010 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/the-hollies-surviving-tv-footage-1964.html
Non-Album Songs Part One: 1963-1970 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/the-hollies-non-album-songs-part-one.html
Non-Album Songs Part Two: 1971-2014 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/the-hollies-non-album-songs-part-two.html

Live/Solo/Compilation/US Editions/Covers Albums Part One 1964-1975 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/the-hollies-livesolocompilationouttakes.html
Live/Solo/Compilation/US Editions/Covers Albums Part Two 1976-2014 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/the-hollies-livesolocompilationouttakes_21.html