Monday, 3 October 2016

The Hollies "What Goes Around..." (1983)




The Hollies "What Goes Around..." (1983)

Casualty/Take My Love and Run/Say You'll Be Mine/Something Ain't Right/If The Lights Go Out//Stop! In The Name Of Love/I Got What I Want/Just One Look/Someone Else's Eyes/Having A Good Time

'I can't guarantee a happy ending while the story is always unwinding, but in the here and now it doesn't matter, 'cause I'm having a good time!'

Graham Nash once called The Hollies his musical 'school' before he went out into the big wide world with CSN. Well, 'What Goes Around...' is his school reunion, with all sides doing what people always do at school reunions: pretend to be something they're not. The Hollies haven't really been a 'pop' band in years (their last hit single was 'The Air That I Breathe' in 1974 and a song with such depth and poignancy is hardly typical teenybopper material), since around when Graham left the band in fact. For his part Graham has spent the past fifteen years being teased by his new bandmates in Crosby, Stills and Nash for his popstar leanings and trying to pretend that The Hollies were an aberration and he was always a writer of deep political songs. As it happens there's very little divide between who The Hollies and the ex-Hollie were in 1983; but by the same token there's a huge gulf between who both halves were at the time with who they'd been when they started. And yet turning the clock back to where things started is the whole point of this unusual reunion album, which doesn't so much pick up where the band last left off together as pretend that none of the intervening years since 1983 have taken place at all. 'What goes around' comes around as they say - and you can tell, just by hearing this album, that's it's a meeting between old friends on holiday, rather than a determined effort to extend The Hollies' career with Nash as a full member. The saga will end the way that most school reunions do, at least in trashy romance novels: Nash gets frustrated, mouths off to everyone that the experience 'reminded him why I stopped being a Hollie in the first place' and he ends up running with the band's new 'partner', young writer Paul Bliss who is the real hero of this album (and who Nash pinches from under his exes' nose with promises of running away together in America, though in the end Graham's next solo album 'Innocent Eyes' isn't exactly the fame and glory he promised and their union doesn't last much longer before Paul Bliss joins The Moody Blues instead, wasting his writing talents as second keyboard player). What do you mean this didn't happen at your school reunion?!

To be fair, most of this move backwards is deliberate. By 1983 The Hollies have had a rough few years commercially and have been quietly persuaded by EMI not to release any more record for the moment (Nash helped get this album released as part of a one-off album deal with WEA). But then so has Graham: while The Hollies have been slogging away making an album most years since the parting of the ways in 1968 (thirteen studio albums in fourteen years), his next band CSN have split up no less than four times and counting with Crosby so poorly from his drug addiction that Nash was, at the time, adamant that the trio would never ever play together again (Crosby is, indeed, merely months away from a prison sentence). Neither side are big news in music terms - but nostalgia is. It's been twenty years since 'She Loves You yeah yeah yeah', the world is gearing up for a blitz of nostalgia involving every Beatles single being re-released on vinyl on the actual anniversary date and suddenly people are talking about the 1960s as a commodity to be reminded of rather than as the root of current music trends. The Hollies were still, rightly or wrongly, seen by the public as a pop singles act who covered trendy music by current fashionable writers. That's exactly what the record company wanted and - after three years without a record and nine without a hit - The Hollies were willing to give it a try. 'What Goes Around' is therefore the inevitable result - a pop album from a band who were always best at meaningful rock, made up entirely of covers despite the fact that the band featured three of the greatest writers to have ever graced the planet and with a production that's as earnestly 1980s as The Hollies had always been gloriously 1960s. It's  frankly a waste of their time and yours, with almost nothing of what had made The Hollies stand out in popular music: the harmonies, the guitarwork (there are actually more Tony Hicks solos than I remember now I've heard this album again, but all of them are short and a lot of them are dull), even the bouncy optimism and energy of their younger days. Instead The Hollies sound like every other 1980s pop band, albeit one that could still actually sing and knew a great tune when they heard it, with their usual strong ears for cover material. In many ways it's a huge improvement on what the band were doing last time around, which was covering Buddy Holly songs on, erm, 'Buddy Holly' and the band's brief work with Mike Batt (which resulted in the classic half-hit single 'Soldier's Song', their 1980s masterpiece, but also a whole pile of generic pop songs The Hollies should never have gone anywhere near). But it also falls far short of what it could have been, had the Clarke-Hicks-Nash songwriting team gone back to writing songs together from their new shared older, maturer perspective or had they been determined to completely grab hold of the 1960s nostalgia and sound the way they always did, without any sop to period trappings.

Or, indeed, had they actually all started work at the same time for the history of how this album came about is quite a complex and convoluted one. Back in 1980, when The Hollies still had a regular record contract and were still hoping for sales in their own right, Graham Nash was the last person you'd have pout money on to join the band; indeed you'd have probably got better odds over David Bowie becoming a Bowhollie or Holly Johnson leaving Frannkie Goes To Hollywood to be a Hollie (both bands recorded songs titled 'Relax' after all). But in 1981 The Hollies have split, painfully. The Mike Batt sessions were hard going, The Hollies feeling as if they were being patronised by a man several years their junior (and whose biggest hits till now had been via the rabbits of 'Watership Down' or men dressed up as Wombles. Hopefully in some alternate universe somewhere the band took off his biggest hit and replied in earnest 'Remember we're The Hollies' every time the producer threatened to replace them). Mike Batt particularly didn't like Bernie Calvert's bass playing and rubbished him at every opportunity, replacing him with session players (despite the fact that he remains one of the best bass players to come out of the 1960s). Bernie was distraught and Terry Sylvester spoke up on his behalf, arguing that the material was 'stupid' and a band with a following like The Hollies (with more top twenty hits than The Beatles don'tchaknow) deserved to at least have a say in the music they made. But The Hollies needed this last gasp chance too badly to agree, splitting down the middle with Bernie retiring to Runcorn and Terry splitting to form James Griffin-Terry Sylvester to earn his 'bread' and butter. The Hollies are almost split in half and though the band quickly find a harmony singer/rhythm guitarist replacement in Alan Coates (the star of many a late 1980s live show) and though they have recording sessions lined up for 1981-1982 (paid for out of their own money, with the hope they could get a record deal at the end of it all), they're happy to take any olive branch offered them, including Graham. From his point of view Graham's career is in freefall too and with CSN gone forever (or so it seems) a Hollies record actually seems like a good career move.

The first meeting comes most unexpectedly when some bright spark at EMI noticed how well the recent 'Stars On 45' tribute To The Beatles has gone down and figures 'we could do another one of those!', stringing together two medleys of Hollie hits remixed and re-edited to a new backing track of ugly 1980s drums. 'Holliedaze' and it's B-side 'Holliepops' do surprisingly well in the chart despite the fact that The Hollies aren't actively promoting them and the single becomes the band's biggest seller since 'Breathe'. The Hollies get an invite to appear on Top Of The Pops, the music show about to celebrate its own 20th anniversary soon after the band's own and - as per the usual rules - the people who actually appeared on the record got the invitation. People were most surprised when Graham said 'yes' from his beach-house in Hawaii to return to rainy Manchester but the timing just happened to be fortunate with the singer between projects; original bass player Eric Haydock turned up too, but sadly didn't hang around for any longer (the others were still involved in a court case where he presented his own band as variations on 'The Hollies'). Graham asked the band what they were up to, they told him they had a bunch of songs ready to go and even had a few backing tracks down despite losing their contract with EMI. Somebody (probably Tony) invited Graham to hang out and add a few harmony vocals; a few weeks later he'd sung on the whole album (and nicked the band's keyboardist/chief writer in the process!) In the end Graham gets a grand total of two lines to himself across the whole record (the not exactly taxing 'Oh baby what you do to me!' on 'Say You'll Be Mine' plus the one he always sang on 'Just One Look') and stays in the background throughout, unusual and uncharacteristic as that may be (after all, remember Nash wrote 10/12ths of his last album as a Hollie, 'Butterfly'). But then also in the background are Tony Hicks (whose own harmony vocals, once such a vital part of the Hollie sound, are heard even less often than that) and Bobby Elliott (with perhaps the single greatest rock drummer of the 1960s largely replaced by a drum machine), while even lead singer Allan Clarke isn't exactly pushed to his limits. There's not one Hollie original at all on this record remember not one!

So who does do anything on this curious record? Well, in many ways it's a Paul Bliss solo album that just happens to feature some guest mates, despite the fact that nobody outside the band has ever heard of him (Paul's band had made two records in the late 1970s, but good luck finding those - even Allan's and Terry's solo albums are easier to track down!) His keyboard is the lynchpin of this record in a way that the guitars, bass and drums just aren't and practically every song on this album is either keyboard or piano based. Given that we're talking the mid-1980s here, that's a shame, despite his occasionally excellent playing (such as 'Someone Else's Eyes'): 'What Goes Around...' is as much a product of its era as 'Bus Stop' and 'On A Carousel' were, only of course the era is far far worse to modern ears. Bliss also writes half of the album's songs, which is a bit like The Rolling Stones getting back together again and 'sacking' Jagger/Richards in favour of some new kid they met in the canteen (or, better yet, someone with limited success such as Bill Wyman). However, Paul is undoubtedly the album's hero too: not all his songs are great but they are the highlights, with the throbbing pop of 'Casualty', the spooky harmonies of 'Say You'll Be Mine', the Motown stomp of 'I Got What I Want', the sarcastic forced smile of 'Having A Good Time' and especially the dreamy romance of 'Someone Else's Eyes' by far the album's most Holliesy moments. You can imagine the 1960s Hollies recording all of these songs, just not in this way with digital drums and squeaky keyboards largely covering up those golden harmonies. Bliss is a talented writer, it's a shame to see him relegated to pretty colours behind Justin Hayward and John Lodge these days (although he did leave a few years back to become a TV theme writer I'm pleased to say). No Clarke-Hicks-Nash admittedly, so it's a bit silly having anyone else when those three are still in the band, but a good writer all the same.

There's an intriguing theme running through Bliss' songs and a handful of the other cover song choices here too which makes even more sense of the 1980s-is-just-like-the-1960s vibe: the threat of nuclear annihilation. Now CSN in general and Nash in particular had always been outspoken about nuclear arms in public (Graham had even organised the 'No Nukes!' concerts in 1979) but till now his feelings on the matter had resulted in just one song, 'Barrel Of Pain' from his third solo record 'Earth and Sky'. It seems unlikely to be a subject of conversation between band members who'd never really shared their old partner's liberal views before (though there's a nice bunch of anti-war songs from the 1969-1971 period just after Nash had left the band and The Hollies were as influenced by CSN as everyone else was). And yet here it is: 'Casualty' has the narrator a victim of 'circumstance' - love as it happens, but suffering from some unseen disaster all the same with several lines that could be taken both ways ('I never saw the warning signs until it was too late!') 'Take My Love and Run' is about hiding and escaping from some off-screen destruction. 'Something Ain't Right' may reply with the very Hollies rejoinder '...But that ain't gonna let me stop without a fight', but still something here feels 'wrong' with the world as it is. 'If The Lights Go Out' was written by Mike Batt during the union disputes of the late 1970s which led to copious power cuts and yet it's about something wider than that: if the lights go out in the whole world it won't matter because we die in each other's arms. 'Stop! In The Name Of Love', the Supremes cover, is clearly about love and only love - at least until Nash finally got involved in something (the music video) and turned it into an anti-nuclear crusade (goodness only knows what messers Clarke, Hicks and Elliott made of that!) Finally, after a bit of a gap for love songs (including an updated version of Hollie breakthrough hit 'Just One Look', which is as pure 1983 as the original was pure 1963) we end with 'Having A Good Time' which opens with the line 'They say the world must end somehow...' This is kind of the album theme though: rather than weep about the imminent destruction of the Earth by two superpowers, or protest the fact that two idiots we should never have trusted ended up with that power as CSN would have done in days of old, The Hollies get ready to party. Because if we're going to go then at least we should all go happy, embracing life as it used to be. That bit of 'What Goes Around...' is very Hollies (particularly the early Nash era Hollies, something that had been left behind as the band got sadder in the 1970s) and the part of this album that works best; but alas the material isn't always as strong as the concept and much of side two doesn't fit that concept anyway.

So is 'What Goes Around...' any good? Well bits so it are. 'Casualty' has a killer pop chorus and a likeable, hapless narrator who probably stood outside A&R chatting up girls at a bus stop with his umbrella. The doom-laden stuttering cover of 'Take My Love and Run' (first tried out Nash-less as a flop single at the Batt sessions and actually slightly ruined here by being cut down in length, but they don't change it enough here to ruin it so no matter) is powerful in a way the rest of the album isn't but most of the past Hollies catalogue is; brave and ominous underneath it's catchiness. 'Stop! In The Name Of Love' takes a song everyone knows backwards and gives it a kick up the backside - admittedly a 1980s kick, so it's not what it could have been, but this new arrangement combined with a Clarkey vocal makes for a better idea on record than it could ever have seemed on paper. The re-make of 'Just One Look' is an interesting before and after shot that shows up how good the original song was. And 'Someone Else's Eyes' is pure bliss (in both meanings of the word), soaring away on lyrics of guilt and worry combined with music of regret and longing and gorgeous Hollies harmonies that, here at least, sound every bit as great as they ever did in 1968. For those reasons alone 'What Goes Around...' should come around to your Hollie collection one day, assuming you can find it (thankfully that's easier than it used to be thanks to this set's first ever CD release which came as late as 2006 with B-side 'Musical Pictures' as a pretty B-side, though even this disc isn't exactly common). However there's no avoiding the Sandy-coloured, lace-shirt wearing, long cool elephant in a black dress sitting in the corner: this really doesn't sound much like The Hollies, good or bad. It really doesn't sound anywhere near as strong or as meaningful as a reunion album with Graham Nash should sound like. 'What Goes Around...' picked the wrong era to come round to, turning back the clock to 1963 when The Hollies were a cute covers pop band instead of 1968 when they were as great and original a writing act as anybody else around in their era. 'What Goes Around...' isn't bad by any means and is a big improvement on the pointless task of 'Buddy Hully' covers and a majority of the Mike Batt recordings (though I'd sit through anything to get my hands on 'Soldier's Song', admittedly). But if you're not missing it - and it sold so poorly, then and now, that you almost certainly are - then you're not missing out on all that much, really. Sometimes school reunions just promise too much and teach you that you really can't turn back the clock.

It's a brave band that begins their new make-or-break album, released three albums after the last, with lines like 'a victim of my own circumstance, a helpless case that never stood a chance...' Though actually 'Casualty' is one of the better attempts here at updating the old Hollie sound with an impressive array of keyboards and sound effects that almost makes you nostalgic for the 1980s (believe me, this isn't a feeling that happens often). The Hollies enter the picture little by little, with Clarke taking the first half of the first verse, Nash joining in alongside for the second half and Hicks for the chorus, which is actually a new technique for The Hollies (where they either all sing or go solo). It's quite an effective one too, although like much of the album to come it's a shame that The Hollies are in the background of their own album, with keyboards, a synth-bass and a so-not-Bobby-Elliott-it-hurts drum part taking centre stage. In terms of songwriting 'Casualty' isn't anything of the sort and is one of Paul Bliss' better and more Holliesy efforts that returns to the many songs about cheating and suspicion that fills up their 1970s work. The narrator was driving home when he thinks he saw his wife with another man, causing him to crash the car. The fact that he wakes up in traction at the local hospital says much about the condition of his marriage too with some clever lines that fit both strands of the story ('I must have lost direction, a simple hit and run', 'Out of control on one-way street'). Though most of this song is pure pop and very much in the breathless-enthusiasm style of the very early period Hollies the middle eight adds some much needed emotion as we switch to a minor key and Clarkey wakes up and realises that he's been taken for a 'ride' and that he has a broken heart to nurse along with his broken bones. A strong, solid opener that might have been a masterpiece had it had more Hollies involvement in it; believe it or not this is about as much Clarke-Nash interaction as you're going to hear for the full record and even that is rather thin on the ground here. Shouldabeen the single.

'What Goes Around...' is one of those middle-aged-reunion albums that sag a little in the middle, putting the best at the beginning and at the end. 'Take My Love and Run' was first released as a single in 1981 which was one of the band's poorest sellers despote being one of their better 1981 releases (it didn't chart anywhere - and remember even the shameful 'Wiggle That Wotsit' was a top twenty hit in New Zealand). Rather than re-record it, the band simply edit out a few of the things they felt didn't work (the false ending, the sad 'take my take my' that follows and the final verse of wo-a-woa-a-o-ahs), which was a shame because actually they did. Nash also added a subtle harmony part alongside new-boy Alan Coates' part on the record too (Coates' only part on the record, sadly). So what makes this single stand out? Well, it's still recognisably Hollies (with more harmonies than most of this record) but it's Hollies as we've never heard them before - vaguely threatening and creepy until everything suddenly gets turned on its head during a typically bright and breezy chorus. Like many a 1970s Hollies fan it's about break-up and divorce, the narrator finally giving up on a relationship that's lasted way too long. Vowing 'you won't do this to me again!', the narrator is still in love to tell his lover to take his love and remember him but to get out before they both get hurt beyond repair. This is how 1980s pop songs should always have sounded, using the old 'Human League' trick of taking the most raw emotional warm feelings in the music and treating them to ice-cold alienation with the performance on the bank of unfeeling, uncaring synths. There's something slightly 'off' about the keyboards that works well in the confines in the track too (has the original backing track been slowed down to give it a more fragile, bitter feeling?) which I used to assume was because of my scratchy 45 single (the instrumental B-side 'Driver' suffered from the same problem) but sounds just as bad if not worse on CD. Though it's a shame there's so little for anyone else to do on this track, Clarkey is brilliant excelling as he does with kitchen sink dramas he can get his teeth into. Listen out too for the final repeat of the line 'get out before the morning sun' when all three singing Hollies reach up instead of down, an old Hollie trick they hadn't made with Nash in fifteen years.

Alas this is where the record starts going downhill slightly. 'Say You'll Be Mine' should, on paper, be vintage paper. There are harmonies nearly all the way through, it's an energetic pop song based on real emotion and feeling (love basically) and this is the one track on the album with Tony Hicks guitar and Bobby Elliott drums. The problem is it's unmemorable in a way few Hollies tracks have ever been before, with only the unexpected minor key change before the choruses ('Why don't you say the words I want to hear?') catching the ear. Paul Bliss' second song on the album isn't as original as his others, with a dragging chorus that's too slow and dreary that's repeated way too many times. Lyrically, too, this song of devotion sounds like so many others, with the narrator trying to open his heart and longing for his lover to match him with every compliment he makes. There are, though some nice lines that makes this song sound as if it was 'real' at some stage: 'You don't have to tell the truth' admits Clarke's love-struck narrator, 'But I want you to!' At least Tony and Bobby are clearly on here too, with very characteristic flourishes from both men and there are full harmonies too, but typically for this album both are lower in the mix than the bank of keyboards and the busy synth-bass which is about as far removed from Eric's soul and Bernie's melodicism as it's possible to get. For a new 1980s band this would still sound pretty good - but this is The Hollies, why settle for a recording that sounds like everybody else?

'Something Ain't Right' - you could say that again. The Hollies are way in the distance on track four, with Clarkey sounding as if he's singing lead from down the end of a wind tunnel while the others are out in the car park (maybe they were re-shooting the promo for 'Dear Eloise' somewhere in Europe and avoiding all the parked cars?) There's a nice song here, this time from the pen of songwriting team Allen and Byrne, but it's been lost in translation somewhere and never really connects with the listener. Lyrically it's another one of those songs about a relationship turning sour, with a tale of 'unequal love' that Nash will write the definitive song about for CSN in 1994. The narrator has put everything into his relationship but it's not been matched and it keeps playing on his mind - should he go all out and declare his love or back off and accept that it's over? The last verse seems to find redemption (she makes the first move and rings him up!) but it's all so non-committal and leaves him 'holding on to nothing at all'. The Hollies are good at melancholy and this song is definitely melancholy, but the arrangement given here makes it sound more like one of those up-tempo happy pop numbers like 'Bus Stop' et al. You half expect the band to have a party at the end as the driving riffs keep playing (this is about the only song on the album based around guitar not keyboards, though it's more a weak-kneed Eagles riff than a knock-out 'Long Cool Woman' style hook), but in the end the narrator has done nothing about his situation and feels as disconnected at the end as he did at the beginning. Another worryingly unmemorable performance from a group who are usually the most memorable of bands.

'If The Lights Go Out' is a Mike Batt song discussed at the 1980 sessions but seemingly not recorded till here (when it was released early as the B-side of 'Stop! In The Name Of Love' with a number of differences - most notably the phased/echoed vocals that didn't quite come off). It's no 'Soldier's Song', but it's better than 'Let Her Go Down' and the other treacly rubbish that should have been left with The Wombles. An ear-catching opening is particularly strong and sums up the yin and yang of Hollies styles: 'They say the world must end somehow...' sighs a mournful Clarke before the band bounce back in on a noisy upbeat chorus that runs '...I think they're wrong! Don't worry your life away!' The idea of a couple spending the last few hours on earth in each other's arms, still totally in love, is one that ended up in a lot of pop songs in this era (Roger Waters wrote a whole film score around the idea for 'Where The Wind Blows' this same year), the love and passion and warmth contrasting with the jealousy and ugliness and destruction of nuclear annihilation, juxtaposing the real feelings between real people everywhere with the callousness and heartlessness of politicians (something tells me Nash picked this song...) Unfortunately having opened the song with the promise of nuclear war, nothing happens for the rest of the track. After that ear-catching opening there's nothing else to say, with as many different ways of saying 'I want to be with you when the world burns' as you can imagine. Even a Hicks guitar solo sounds less 'real' and more window-dressing than it normally would, while - dare we say it - the Clarke-Hicks-Nash vocals sound slightly flat. Still, if the lights had to go out on The Hollies at all, most fans would rather we get a run of half-way decent tracks like this than the 'staying power' of the later line-up...

'Stop! In The Name Of Love' really shouldn't work at all. The Supremes' original was so famous that there have been very few covers of this song and though The Hollies had a go at covering The Four Tops' 'Reach Out I'll Be There' in concert, Motown was never really their style. And yet Hammond-Dozier-Holland's song gets new energy (and a whole new meaning if you've seen the video, with more Nash warnings against nuclear war). Clarke is superb as he pours his heart out in a far more 'real' way than the always-preening Diana Ross and there are some excellent touches scattered across this arrangement. Hicks' double-tracked guitar solo is spot-on, the faster pace really suits the urgency of the lyrics, the sudden cymbal crash to emphasis the word 'stop!' is so obvious you wonder why Berry Gordy didn't think of it fore the original and the moment of silence where the 'stop' should be after the final 'Tear it apart...in the name of love!' is very clever. Does it beat the original? Well, that's the difference between people copying and originating (and forget what you may have read elsewhere, The Hollies were creators once they hit their stride, not copycats). Back in 1965 no one had ever heard anything quite like this song, even in the Supremes' catalogue. This song doesn't play it cool (even though Diana sings it that way), it's desperate, carnal and deeply emotional and just happens to come along with a catchy chorus that keeps things in check. I would say it's the best Supremes song out there but that's kind of obvious - a good half of their singles catalogue are poor re-makes of this song anyway. In 1983 though we've heard lots of songs like that one, though as it happens none for a long time (the 1980s was closer in style to Motown cool than 1960s pop energy and emotion). Much as The Hollies tweak this track, change the theme, bring out the very real grief that's been hiding in the song all these years and replace the original Motown horns with keyboards, they're always going to come off second best simply because they don't have the shock factor anymore. Yes, even with a video where the world blows up (a brave move for the time actually - we're a year before Frankie's 'Two Tribes' here and this is a band who want a hit and a peaceful life; even CSN won't get this explicitly anti-war in video for a few more years yet and in fact haven't made many videos at all just yet).It's still the weakest of the three Hollies singles featuring the word 'Stop!', however.
 
'I Got What I Want' is kinda forgettable, which is odd because the central riff is also so nagging and insistent it's the first thing that runs through my head whenever I think of this record. In many ways Bliss and his pal Steve Kipner's song is just a re-write of 'I Take What I Want' (as covered by The Hollies on their 1966 'Would You Believe?' album) without anywhere near as much energy, twinned with 'I Can't Let Go' without the rock-solid bass line. Clarke sings double-tracked for the only time on the record and just about gets through the song in one piece (though it's a close call at times), but the lyrics he sings are confusing. Basically it's one long song about how the narrator's never ever going to fall out of love because it took him so long to get the girl of his dreams, inspiring one of the album's better Tony Hicks solos along the way. And that's about it - he wouldn't sell his girl for any amount of money (I should hope not!), nothing's going to change Clarkey's mind, it's all water off a duck's back, etc etc. All this thinking out loud is interrupted every so often, seemingly at random, by a chorus by a flat-sounding chorus that intones over and over 'I got what I want, nobody can take it away!' Admittedly things get better for a middle eight ('Always got what I wanted...'), but even that is over in the blink of an eye. Frustratingly this arguably weakest moment on the record seem to be the template The Hollies returned to most across the 1980s: long after Nash leaves the band (again!) the others will still be recording drippy keyboard-based songs like this that 'beep' ('Bam! Bam!') at key moments in the chorus. Thankfully most of the later Hollies songs (many of them originals) will be strong enough to absorb the inherent silliness of this, but 'I Got What I Want' has too much stuff in it that fans don't want at all.

I'm not quite sure what I think about the new-look 'Just One Look', recorded twenty years after the last time around. Like 'Stop!' it's impressively, courageously different and works well slowed down from the hysterics and longing of teenager-dom to soft sighing reflective middle-age. The replacement of the old very 1963 guitar accompaniment with some very 1983 keyboards is also a sweet touch and the new riff Paul Bliss teases out of his keyboard is perhaps his best playing on the record. Throw in the unexpected coda that falls to a yearning minor key (where the original just faded) and you have yourself a re-recording that's better than most and not quite the travesty fans feared when they first heard that The Hollies were doing this. However, there is a sense here that the band have thrown the baby out with the bath-water. The whole point of the original was that the narrator was so utterly, totally, overwhelmingly in love that he was obsessed (a good hook for the Nash-ear Hollies, from 'I'm Alive' and 'I Can't Let Go' on down) and the band played it that way, This version is more like Doris Troy's original, sung with little passion and a curious kind of nonchalant shrug. That would make more sense if the backing was heading in that direction too, but it isn't - if anything the synth-bass is even more energetic and urgent than Eric Haydock's part on the original and the chirpy keyboard riff is more 'yippee' than 'yawn'. While Clarkey sounds strong, Nash and Hicks both sound a little flimsy and rushed, Nash's solo middle eight ('I thought I was dreaming but I was wrong, yeah yeah yeah!') not a patch on his aggressive first go twenty years earlier. Like 'Stop! In The Name Of Love' the result is a fairly impressive piece of recycling, that still feels slightly null and void and faintly pointless because, even if this re-recording had been note-perfect it could never have improved on the original. The track selection feels a little random too: while 'Just One Look' was the band's biggest hit up to that point in time, that was more because The Hollies got lucky and chose a week that didn't have Beatles and Stones singles out at the same time. Their 'real' breakthrough hit, when most people began to notice them, was 'Stay' - a similarly fast-paced obsessive song which actually would have worked really well slowed down to a more mature older feel (which would have worked well changed from a 'love me!' vibe to a 'stay with me!' one). A re-working of first single 'Ain't That Just Like Me' might have been fun too, though the band were too embarrassed by it even in 1963 to perform it live...

Thankfully the album still has an ace up its sleeve with 'Someone Else's Eyes', a Paul Bliss song that's tailor made for The Hollies. For the only time on the record we get a glimpse of what Nash might have sounded like had he hung around long enough for the band to mature into their natural 1970s state as slow pretty balladeers. The sparing use of harmonies works really well for once on this song about the narrator yearning for unity and Clarke shines once again on a lead vocal he can properly get his teeth into. The lyrics are gorgeous, a mixture of humble pleading for forgiveness and tough assertion that things have got to change, the narrator desperate to keep his lover with him because he knows if she leaves him for another they'll both be hurt - no one else's eyes can ever show her greater love than he has for her already, so why go 'searchin' (that's another old song The Hollies could have updated!) 'There never seemed to be a time for explanation' Clarke sighs, worried that things have moved so fast he's been taking his lover for granted and desperate not to let the one love of his life go. It's also the best place to hear the Clarke-Nash vocals fitting together (though Hicks is barely present the whole song). A typically album-strong middle eight is the icing on the cake as Clarke stops cooing and starts roaring: 'After all this time I thought you knew me better, never believed that I would ever see you go!' Admittedly this song isn't quite as note-perfect as similar Hollies bands of regret and longing ('Love Is The Thing' from 1976's 'Write On' is a good starting place), mainly thanks to the 1980s trappings: the synth solo is awkward and insincere, painfully adrift in the middle of this song (it seems odd that Bliss should misunderstand his own work in this way) and while there are less period trappings here than on the rest of the album there are still far too many once the songs gets up to speed. But that's nit-picking really: as the narrator tries to explain, why bother searching for total perfection when near-perfection is here before you and it feels oh so good? The highlight of the album and a candidate for the best Hollies song of the 1980s (though 'Soldier's Song' 'Purple Rain' 'Sine Silently' and 'Too Many Hearts Get Broken' all come close too).

So are we 'Having A Good Time?' Yes and no - the uneven-ness of this album doesn't quite allow you to wallow into a state of truly enjoying it and true to form the album rocks out on an uncomfortably messy and bland farewell. Bobby Elliott is back on drums again (for only the second time?) but he's overshadowed by noisy prancing keyboards and a Clarke vocal that's intended to be raw but simply shows up how badly he's beginning to lose his voice already without any studio trickery to cover it (Allan leaves the band for this reason in 1999, though thankfully he still has a few highlights to go yet). A tight, driving guitar riff deserves a better song to cling on to than this, with an uncomfortable chorus that see-saws between bland and silly and a chorus that sounds unfinished ('Are you having a good time?' reallt doesn't rhyme with 'the story is always unwinding' however much Bliss and Kipner want us to think that, while the chorus finale gets drawn out to 'Ti-i-i-i-i--i-i-i-i-i-ime' where the extra syllables should go, just to rub the point in). The Hollies struggle to conjure up the party feelings the track is aiming for and it's no surprise really - the chorus comes at the wrong point; it's the only part of this lyric that isn't morbid and dreading the worst. 'I can't see the future' runs the lyrics, 'So I don't know if this will last but, hey, it's worth a try!' Hmm that's not the most romantic thing The Hollies have ever said and the choruses cry that 'here and now it doesn't matter' is instantly undercut by verse after verse about trying to predict the future. It's also, like 'Casualty', a brave bordering on foolish 'farewell' note to leave us on: the world is about to blow up so who cares? The Hollies' history ever so nearly ended with this track (it took a lot of persuasion for EMI to take the band back and only the brilliance of 'Too Many Hearts Get Broken' convinces them, while WEA were so shocked that this album only making #90 in the States (which was still the band's best since the self-titled Clarke reunion album in 1974) and missing the charts completely in the UK that they quietly shredded the band's contract. It would have been a terrible way of saying goodbye.


Thankfully The Hollies will half-rescue their tattered reputation with a strong run of singles across the rest of the 1980s and into the 1990s (we'll ignore 'The Woman I Love' if you promise you will too) which, thanks to the fact they never appeared on album and only exist on CD on the end of compilations, will come as a shock to many of you. Sadly, though, they won't make another album until as late as 2006 and 'Staying Power' and 'Then, Now and Always' are about as close to The Hollies sound as The Spice Girls are to The Supremes. Nash leaves the band again pretty much as soon as he could, saying that once again he'd 'outgrown' The Hollies, even though he seemed genuinely enthusiastic before the album came out to lukewarm sales and reviews (though he fits in an American Hollie tour first, proudly showing his 'first band' off to his home audience - it was released on CD as 'Archive Alive!' in the late 1990s but good luck finding that, it's even harder to pin down than this album is). The patient Alan Coates finally gets a full-time gig replacing him and is about as good as any replacement for singers as talented as Nash and Terry Sylvester can be (he also rivals Tony as the band's song picker of choice, with the covers of Nils Lofgren's 'Sine Silently' and Prince's 'Purple Rain' both his ideas). Paul Bliss leaves with Nash and is replaced by Denis Haines, while The Hollies finally get round to adding a permanent bass player after three years without one by adding Steve Stroud in 1984. Clarkey finally leaves in 1999, retiring after a great though brief stint as a radio documentary presenter. And yet still Tony and Bobby soldiered on, adding first Move star Carl Wayne and later musicals singer Peter Howarth in the new millennium. As with 'What Goes Around...' it's all a brave attempt to sound contemporary that kind of half-works. However, much like this 1983 album, it is perhaps a change too far without the immediacy and originality of the days of old. But then few bands are ever lucky enough to last as long as The Hollies, who beat The Stones to the charts by a matter of months and thus can claim to be the second longest continually performing band from the 1960s (and they made way more albums than the first longest, The Searchers, to boot). 'What Goes Around...' isn't the best place to hear why the band have lasted that long and in many ways is the closest to a minor released the band ever made - at least in the 20th century and without the dreaded 'Hollies Sing Dylan' or 'Hollies Sing Holly' moniker on the cover. However, like all Hollies releases, it has its moments and for 'Someone Else's Eyes' 'Take My Love and Run' and - if you're feeling generous - 'Casualty' and 'Stop! In The Name Of Love' alone, it's an album well worth tracking down if you can, as a curio at least. 


Other Hollies-related articles from this website you might be interested in reading:


'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

‘Russian Roulette’ (1976) http://www.alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/the-hollies-russian-roulette-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

'Staying Power' (2006) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/the-hollies-staying-power-2006.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

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