Saturday 29 September 2012

News, Views and Music Issue 164 (Intro)

October 10th:
Dear all, I recently came across a statistic that said that ‘MacBeth’ was only a piddly 18,000 words long. I thus realised to my horror that I complete at least half a ‘MacBeth’ in these newsletters every week and expect yopu to read it all, so I shall try and keep it short this week (frankly it seemed one hell of a lot longer when I had to study the flipping thing). Incidentally I write about a third of a ‘hamlet’ every week too (approx 32,000 words) although I have a bit to go before I approach Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ (561,000 words – the equivalent of around 37 newsletters; although to be fair I bet Tolstoy didn’t write all of his work in a 9 month period like I have!)
Website statistics this month include 23,700 visitors to our ‘Moonfruit’ site and 3,200 to our ‘Blogspot’ site so we’ve more or less hit the 27,000 mark in total. Not bad going for a business with no real budget and only poorly me to look after it! We’ve not had any responses to our change in news sections yet (thanks to we now have a link to a newspaper style column filled in by official sources of 25 of our AAA artists and so don’t have to write them ourselves anymore), but have picked up some traffic from it so we’ll continue to use it unless you say otherwise, dear reader. The link is here:
♫ Beach Boys News: Just one item to add; well that was quite a week for us Beach Boys fans in the UK wasn’t it?! First up, Monday’s ‘Beach Boys at 50’ doc told the usual story of the band’s journey from surfing boys to Pet Sounds adults in break-neck speed (the second part is this coming Monday, radio 2, at 9pm). New interviews were taken with the surviving members but not much new was really added to the story for long-term collectors. The closest we got to rarities were the backing tracks from the ‘Pet Sounds Sessions’ box set but, still, if you were a newcomer to this band you’d have been well served as all the important developments were here. More interesting still was the ‘Beach Boys In Concert’ 90 minute set (which was in truth more like 60 minutes once the chat was taken out) where the band sounded much better than expected to be honest. Most of the expected songs were there – up to 1967 anyway, with ‘Heroes and Villains’ the most recent song barring the news stuff – although some gems from the early period not heard since 1964/65 were a very welcome addition to the set (the glorious ‘Catch A Wave’ and a cover of Frankie Lymon’s ‘Why Do Fools Fall In Love?’) There was nothing from ‘Smile’ except ‘Villains’ I noted and nothing from Pet Sounds bar ‘God Only Knows’ and the excruciating ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice?’, but its still nice to hear some songs out of the usual.
The final Beach Boys appearance was on Jools Holland this Tuesday (with an extended edition due Friday as I write) where the boys played two so-so songs from their new album ‘That’s Why God Made The Radio’ and a seemingly improvised ‘Barbara Ann’. What’s interesting to note is how mutes Mike Love was, how edgy Brian Wilson still seemed (despite having his excellent backing band The Wondermints on hand to help) but how confident part-time Beach Boys Bruce Johnstone and David Marks (out of the band since 1964!) were. A delight to have the band around at all, although I can’t say I’ve taken to their new album very much, which is just an average Brian Wilson solo album with a couple of guest spots (and a long way down from even Brian’s ‘That Lucky Old Sun’ set of 2008). Incidentally the Radio Times for this last week listed a Radio 2 repeat of the Beach Boys’ ‘Producers’ documentary I missed a few years ago, but – typical – it got replaced by a documentary on Gene Kelly instead, seemingly at the last minute. Was this yet another late decision by one of the band in true Beach Boys style?!

ANNIVERSARIES: Birthdays have come around again for this week’s AAA members (born between October 3rd and 9th): Kevin Godley (drummer with 10cc 1972-76) who turns 67 on October 7th and two very different and much missed ‘John’s: Lennon and Entwistle (Bassist with The Who 1965-82) who would have been 72 and 68 respectively on October 9th. Anniversaries of events include: The release of the fab four’s first ‘proper’ single ‘Love Me Do’ (October 5th 1962); Jefferson Airplane add a new member, making his debut with a band after time as a solo performer – step forward Papa John Creach, a violinist in his 50s! (October 5th 1970); Art Garfunkel releases his first solo single, the moody ballad ‘All I Know’ (October 6th 1973); the same day Ringo scores his first #1 with the George co-write ‘Photograph’ (October 6th 1973); The Rolling Stones are in trouble again when the Rev Jesse Jackson (close supporter of the late, great Martin Luther King, the most important figure of the 20th century that wasn’t a musician) takes umbridge at lines in the Stones song ‘Some Girls’ (which, to be fair, pick on everybody!) (October 6th 1978); John Lennon wins his ‘green card’ (which, ironically enough, is blue) just in time for his 35th birthday, allowing him to stay in America despite his 1968 drugs bust (October 7th 1975); John and Yoko meet for the first time at the latter’s exhibition at London’s Indica Gallery on John’s 26th birthday (October 9th 1966) and finally, Sean Lennon, John and Yoko’s son, is also born on this date in 1975 – John’s 35th birthday! Bet October 9th was a busy day in that household!

The Hollies "Sing Hollies" (1969) (With New Added Paragraph 2015!)

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

The Hollies “Sing Hollies” (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//Do You Believe In Love?/Soldier’s Dilemma/Marigold-Gloria Swansong/You Love ‘Cos You Like It/Reflections Of A Long Time Past/Goodbye Tomorrow

The story of how Graham Nash came to leave The Hollies is an oft-told tale, full of betrayal and new horizons, summing up the change in philosophy between the 60s and 70s better than any other. We’ve studied it in details ourselves in our reviews of the early CSN/Y and Nash solo albums because it makes for a fascinating story, the change in Nash from a cheesy-grinned pop star teenager to a politically and spiritually aware young adult summing up in one nifty image the changes in our culture between 1963 and 69. After all, Nash was leaving certain economic and commercial success for an uncertain future with another sacked musician (Crosby) and the leader of a band that had barely lasted 18 months (Stills), abandoning his band, his wife, his home country and – as we’ll be revealing – his childhood friend. It really wasn’t an easy break to make and you can hear the uncertainty and doubt throughout at least the next three years of Nash’s work.

What’s less covered, however, is the equally fascinating story of what the Hollies went on to do next. A troubled 1968 sees the band’s final days with Nash where they muck around with an intended follow-up to ‘Butterfly’ that never quite happens (it would undoubtedly have been a classic however, what with ‘Wings’ ‘Like Everytime Before’ ‘Open Up Your Eyes’ ‘Relax’‘Tomorrow When It Comes’ and possibly ‘Horses Through A Rainstorm’ all vying for space on it). The big question mark comes when Crosby and Stills appear as ‘guests’ on the Hollies’ 1968 European tour, with Nash hanging out in their dressing rooms instead of the band’s and given the stark choice between a new life in America or recording an album of Dylan covers (the other four’s choice of career path after a troubled 1967 full of sitars and controversial songs about God and love and ego and drugs, mainly written by Nash). By and large the Dylan album as done by The Hollies is a mess (the only outright mess in The Hollies’ canon until the 1980s) and Nash was right not to do it: after years stuck singing Dylan songs with The Byrds Crosby was particularly adamant that artists should stick to their own material and in the far-looking rock world of 1969 its release didn’t help the Hollies look ‘hip’. Worse still would have been their next planned release: ‘Hollies Sing Country’, a planned album of Buck Owen covers and pedal steel guitars not dissimilar to Ringo Starr’s second album ‘Beaucoups Of Blues’ in 1970. ‘Louisiana Man’ made it to the studio (you can hear it on ‘Hollies Rarities’ – now sadly a rarity itself – or the ‘Long Road Home’ box set), covers of ‘Dang Me’ ‘Help Me Brother’ and ‘Kentucky Women’ made it to concert. None of them sound that great to be honest and sound like a band searching for a new identity. Curiously, I’ve just had a look in the Hollies sessionography printed in Record Collector magazine and surprisingly the ‘Country’ and ‘Sing Hollies’ albums seem to have been made side by side – were the band less than confident about their own material or were they simply hedging their bets?

In this context it’s a relief that The Hollies decided to go back to basics and write their own pop-rock material, although to be honest ‘Hollies Sing Hollies’ is also a little confused in terms of direction. Rather than being ‘about’ Dylan or country this album proudly declaims ‘Hollies Sing Hollies’, emphasising the fact that, yes, this is indeed the band you’ve known and loved for all those years even if one of the members is different without wiping out the heritage of the Nash years. In retrospect, it was the only sensible choice if The Hollies wanted to continue making music, although it’s a surprise that there aren’t any cover songs here at all after all that work (there’s one outtake from this album, ‘She Looked My Way’ – another Hollies Rarities refugee and the box set – that’s superior to almost all of the recordings here, with even more startling Hollies harmonies to enjoy. The track was recorded the same day as ‘My Life Is Over With You’ and would have made for a far more consistent LP, especially if rumours that Hollies classic ‘Too Young To Be Married’ really was held over from this album to the next. If so then we’d be talking about quite possibly my favourite Hollies album – along with ‘Romany’ and ‘Butterfly’ – rather than a curate’s egg that’s excellent only in parts).

Strangely enough, one of the first things The Hollies do when Nash disappears is correct what he saw as the instability of the writing credits.  As every Holies fan knows, in their early days the band were credited under the pseudonyms 'Chester Mann' and the more illogical 'L Ransford' (the name of Nash's grandfather - nobody seems to know his first name!) At the time many fans assumed the band had copied their Everly heroes and used their own 'in house writing team - a Mancunian equivalent of the prolific Bryant brothers Felice and Boudleaux who wrote everything from 'Bye Bye Love' to 'Wake Up Little Susie' to 'Claudette' for the duo. The official line from EMI was that 'you can't fit more than two words on a record label or the print will be too small too read' - clearly nonsense and in retrospect sounding more like EMI wangling to make their logo look bigger. Amazingly it wasn't until 1966 and the 'For Certain Because...' album that The Hollies were even credited by their own names, the 'Clarke-Hicks-Nash' credit becoming common for the first time, long after the time when it became seen as integral for bands to write their own material. At first every song really was written by the trio (with the famous divisions of Nash writing the verses, Hicks the choruses and Clarke the middle eights, although in truth only 'Carrie Anne' seems to have been written 100% in this way) and as they wrote the material more or less equally it made sense to credit them as such, an unspoken rule between them and their publishing company 'Gralto' ('Graham Allan Tony') being that all three would always get the credit in line with Lennon and McCartney. But one of the main reasons Nash got cross was that he felt he was doing all the work, his twin discoveries of the natural pairing of drugs and psychedelia fuelling his creativity like never before. Even socially the three were beginning to split with Nash staying up late and never around when Clarke and Hicks were writing their songs. Nash fought tooth and nail to have this decision changed - and it was, just missing his decision to leave by a matter of months and a Dylan's covers record. For me, though, what's fascinating about the 'new' divisive credits on 'Hollies Sing Hollies' is whose working with whom (new boy Terry Sylvester largely providing the musical know how for Clarke's lyrical ideas while Hicks, having warmed up with his first song 'Pegasus' on 'Butterfly', is keen to work solo). Given that this sounds like the most unified Hollies album in nearly five years, it's surprising that the band write as apart as they do. Even bassist Bernie Calvert gets his one and only writing credit on a Hollies LP! (oh and in case you were wondering The Hollies' publishing company Gralto is briefly reformed as the nicely musical 'Alto' for two songs that are presumably the first written for the album ('Don't Give Up Easily' and 'Do You Believe In Love?') before winding the company down and signing with Copyright Control. 
As we’ve seen often across this website, when a band suffers a split they can do one of four things: they can keep on going the same as before as if no change has taken place, they can do the same as before with a more modern, contemporary sound, they can stretch their wings in a completely new direction, one they’ve never dared to try before, or they can write songs about that very act of betrayal and loss. ‘Hollies Sing Hollies’ must be unique in the annals of music because it tries to do all four things at once. If ever an album was schizophrenic it’s this one: for every inane attempt at empty pop like ‘Do You Believe In Love?’ that sounds like a 1950s b-side gone wrong, there’s a marvellously daring piece of 1970s social commentary like ‘Soldier’s Dilemma’; There are songs that are light and fluffy (‘Look At Life’), deep and meaningful (‘Marigold’) and downright controversial (the atheist baiting ‘Why Didn’t You Believe?’) Along the way The Hollies mourn the loss of Nash with two of their most heartfelt nostalgic songs (‘My Life Is Over With You’ and ‘Goodbye Tomorrow’) yet on the other hand try to ignore his loss altogether and carry on much as before (‘Please Let Me Please’ is the perfect bridge between the Hollies of the 60s and 70s). There’s even the Hollies’ one and only attempt at an orchestral instrumental (as a group) which features the only writing credit that bassist Bernie Calvert, plus only the second Hollies song to feature guitarist Tony Hicks as lead vocalist (‘Look At Life’). ‘Hollies Sing Hollies’ plays it safe one minute and then rattles on to distant horizons the next, on a journey that’s hard to keep pace with. Like many albums released in 1969 it’s searching for a new sound while giving a last hurrah to the old one and that makes for thrilling, compelling, often wonderful occasionally infuriating listening.

Key to the band’s new sound for this album is the addition of Terry Sylvester, who despite being a scouser to four Mancunians fits in remarkably well, so much so that unless Nash was your one and only love (not that unusual, it has to be said) you’d be unlikely to spot the difference. Terry is too often forgotten nowadays (I’m shocked at how few twitter followers this genuine rock legend has) but is a real talent, his stints with the under-rated Escorts and the last gasp line-up of the classic Swinging Blue Jeans good preparation for life as a Hollie. By his own admission his youthful energy and enthusiasm brought new life into the Hollies’ songwriting team (who, ironically, decided to dispense with the joint writing credits that Nash had so hated, just at the point when they began to work as a ‘team’ again for the first time since about 1965). Let’s not forget, Nash had been the dominant force for two albums by now (the classic ‘Evolution’ and masterpiece in miniature ‘Butterfly’) and both Allan Clarke and Tony Hicks had only just begun writing individually. Having Sylvester on board gives the duo a new, sympathetic voice to bounce ideas off and its interesting that its Terry who at least co-writes the most traditionally Hollies sounding material here (‘You Love ‘Cos You Like It’, ‘Do You Believe In Love?’ and Terry’s first lead vocal ‘Look At Life’). Best of all, that familiar Hollies harmony sound (ironically matched only by prime CSN in terms of perfection) manages to come through unscathed, against all the odds (Sylvester has a quite different accent and didn’t perfect that illustrious harmony after years on the road like Clarke-Hicks-Nash did). Best of all the band use it as the ‘hook’ to let new fans know that this is still very much The Hollies: I admit I haven’t gone through all of their records in my collection to add it up, but I’m willing to bet there’s more songs on this album sung in full three-part harmony throughout than any other.

If Sylvester brings in the bounce and energy that’s traditional on Hollies albums, then Clarke especially is in very contemplative mood. Having known Nash since the age of five in a reception class at Manchester (when Clarke had, on a whim, offered his hand when a teacher showed new boy Nash into the class and asked for a volunteer to sit next to him) and being in a band with him for some 10 years before the first line-up of The Hollies, the loss hit him particularly hard. Interviewers have, inevitably, asked Clarke repeatedly what he felt about Nash leaving the Hollies behind and every time Clarke gives a different answer, all of them true: it was a devastating blow, a shocking betrayal, a chance to step out behind his partner’s shadow and become more of a ‘leader’, a chance to bring variety to the Hollies sound, a return to the ‘old’ Hollies sound before psychedelia and kaftans. Clarke’s ‘My Life Is Over With You’ somehow manages to filter all of these thoughts by depicting Nash as some longterm lover who gave no warning for her betrayal: bitterly upset at the loss, Clarke’s narrator vows never to speak to her again before announcing that he’s ‘found a new part to play in life’. It’s probably the best song ever written about the loss of a key member of the band, poignant to those who know the story and accessibly to those who don’t and beats other AAA attempts hands down (The Rolling Stones ‘I’ve Had It With You’, George Harrison’s ‘Wah-Wah’, even Paul Simon’s ‘The Only Living Boy In New York’). If anything ‘Goodbye Tomorrow’ is even sadder, a melancholic reflection on how life will never be the same again after a major life crisis and (ironically) this Nash kiss-off song is exactly the kind of deep, meaningful material he wanted to record with the band. I’d love to know whether Nash heard this pair of songs about him by his old colleague and what he thought about them (the closest Nash comes to writing about his Hollies past is ‘I Used To Be A King’, a sequel to Hollies single ‘King Midas In Reverse’, which sheepishly admits he might not have been right to leave).
Ironically, too, the Hollies’ own work is getting deeper just at the point when Nash left them behind because his work was being rejected for those reasons. The highlights of the album – ‘Marigold/Gloria Swanson’ and ‘Soldier’s Dilemma’ – are way more controversial than Nash’s rejected songs (‘Marrakesh Express’ ‘Lady Of The Island’, erm perhaps not ‘Sleep Song’ just yet) and show The Hollies being very much influenced by the first CSN album (released five months before this one) and among my all time favourite Hollies songs. ‘Soldier’s Dilemma’ condemns the Vietnam war much more directly than CSN ever did and its mix of Hollies innocence and energy and big themes is actually probably more effective than a more ‘adult’ protest version could have been. ‘Marigold’, meanwhile, is a show-stopper, a two-part epic that takes in lost innocence, old age and fading film stars wrapped up in vintage Hollies harmonies and a powerful riff that doesn’t dilute the very adultness of the theme. Frankly, I wish there’d been more of this on the albums The Hollies will make in the 1970s – but the good news is that, for a couple more albums at least, this is the direction the band goes in (our classic AAA album ‘Confessions Of The Mind’ is next in the Hollies discography and contains many a song like this one).

Then again CSN would never have dared try anything so ‘pop’ as the trio of pure carat gold Hollies tracks that sit alongside the deeper, darker material. With psychedelia now all but dead by 1969 and Nash – the band’s most prolific writer between 1966 and 67 – now gone, it must have been hard working out what to do next. ‘Please Sign Your Letters’ is a pretty failed attempt at trying to sound commercial, but ‘You Love Cos’ You Like It’ has much of the Hollies charm and ‘Please Let Me Please’ harks back to the Hollies’ golden era of 1965 in style but adds a crystal clear shimmering guitar sound that’s very 1969. I’m surprised that none of these three tracks were considered as a single (closer ‘Goodbye Tomorrow’ was a single in parts of Europe; opener ‘Why Didn’t You Believe?’ the radio airplay hit, still heard today occasionally on radio two) as they contain much of the essence of the old Hollies sound.

If there is a mistake on this album its that awful cover: flowery shirts and beige trousers were never a good look but in 1969 particularly seemed like a relic from a different age. Throughout the album’s contents the band have been covering up the change in sound (pretty well it has to be said) and yet – for the first time in three album covers – have the band proudly facing the camera (that’s Terry on the far left), actually flaunting the fact Nash isn’t in the band. This picture is a microcosm of everything Nash wanted to escape from: the idea of a ‘band’ uniform, the uncomfortable pose for the camera and the tired gimmicky ‘prism’ effect (new in 1967 but tired by 1969) and large band name (Hicks looks especially uncomfortable given where Clarke has put his hand...) The CSN cover, one so ramshackle it doesn’t even feature the trio in the right order, does much to sum up the three men’s individuality (never have three men with such different dress sense been part of the same band) and features each name in big bold lettering as if separating themselves from each other. This Hollies album cover, by contrast, is a step backwards and probably did more harm than anything else the Hollies did in the post-Nash years at hurting their credibility with the general music buyer, with the quintet looking like some renegades from cabaret than a bona fide rock band with this album’s intelligence and panache. A shame because, as you should all know by now, you really can’t judge a record by it’s cover.

‘Hollies Sing Hollies’ doesn’t always get it right, then, but like last weeks’ Byrds album ‘Easy Rider’ from the same vintage it’s a fine stepping stone to greater things and a good example of what a band in disarray does to overcome the loss of a key member (that said, the Byrds shed Crosby a full year before The Hollies lost Nash). Sometimes looking backwards, sometimes forwards, occasionally sideways, its a typically eccentric Hollies mix of the delightful and the deep, the foot-tappers and the thought-provokers. Some tracks are truly abysmal, some are career highlights – its that kind of an album, as the band struggle to make sense of their place in the world of rock and roll without their most prominent member.

'Why Didn't TYou Believe?' is a surprise, being probably the most pro-Christian song in the AAA canon. Following on from the horror of the Hollies’ cover of Armageddon song ‘The Very Last Day’ in 1965, this Allan Clarke original does nothing less than condemn the disbelieving Romans of 0BC when they crucified Jesus. The song could easily have got very silly, what with the mock gospel chanting in the middle (‘You gotta believe!’) and a backing track that moves slowly from a peaceful crawl to turbulent angst, like a record playing at the wrong speed. But it doesn’t because of the sumptuous melody (one of Clarke-Sylvester’s best efforts of the period) and Clarke’s breathtaking performance on the vocal. Frankly I’m half a believer after hearing the commitment from the whole band on this song, which would have fitted in nicely into the Godspell musical (still the best musical ever made on musical terms, whether the listener is an atheist or a believer). Deeply unfashionable by 1969 standards, its also probably braver to release a song like this to the Woodtsock-era record buying public than it would do to go all Ozzy Osbourne and worship a musical Satan. What’s interesting, however, is how quickly Clarke will renounce the ideas on this song: the Hollies track ‘YouKnow The Score’ in two albums time will basically say ‘there can’t be a God if the Vietnam war hasn’t been stopped yet’, while his first two solo albums ‘My Name Is ‘Arold’ and ‘headroom’, respectively, feature ‘St Francis of Assisi (Let Us Prey)’ in which no deity comes to save a village on the brink of collapse and ‘People Of That Kind’ which damns a God ‘whose changing his mind all of the time’. Did something happen circa 1970-71 to convince Clarke that his childhood beliefs weren’t co certain after all? And why in that case did he wait till the Hollies’ sixth year to put pen to paper on the subject for the first time?

Well one possible answer is that there’s another half-story going on here. Nash’s defection crops up a few times on this album and I’m willing to bet that this song’s central painful howl of ‘why didn’t you believe?’ is addressed every bit as much to Clarke’s childhood friend as it is to the Romans (Clarke may have changed it as a bit self-indulgent or because he didn’t want Nash to hear his real feelings perhaps?), with The Hollies ‘crucified’ for Nash’s journey in the States. Whatever the source of the story, whatever your feelings about the words, ignore them if you like because ‘Why Didn’t You Believe?’ is still a tremendous track, perfectly judged with a female chorus that really adds to the ‘gospel’ feel and pristine Hollies harmonies in the background (slightly sped-up). Rather than simply move from slow to fast in a direct line (hard to bring off even with a band of the Hollies’ calibre), the song is punctuated by several sudden rushes of adrenalin as Clarke’s fury kicks in from time to time, with the band picking up the pace slightly every time they return to the song’s verses. Hicks’ guitar shines here (seemingly channelling Robert Johnson, the blues player who met with the devil at the crossroads in mock-protest), Bernie Calvert has plenty of space for a wonderful fat bass sound and Bobby Elliott drums his heart out. Also someone (possibly Calvert again) plays a pulsing church organ dubbed low in the mix which really adds to the religious aura of the song. The result is a real ear-catching song that shows the Hollies at their best, especially Clarke’s passionate intense vocal which ranges from anger to joy to guilt in the space of a line. The song, so out of touch with the 1969 market, has deservedly become something of a retrospective hit for the band, often appearing on the radio (especially Wogan’s old breakfast show of 10 years ago, where it cropped up about once a month).

‘Don’t Give Up Easily’ is a fascinating Tony Hicks song that, like many the guitarist will go onto write in the next couple of years, features a throbbing bass line and sudden violent switches from verse to chorus. By and large Hicks prefers to write the music to a collaborator’s lyrics (his Surrey neighbour Kenny Lynch is a favourite on the next two albums), but unusually Hicks writes alone – and his lyrics are the best thing about this sensitive song. Announcing himself as a ‘foolish fool’, the narrator sings humbly that even blind old him can tell that his loved one’s unhappy and calmly tries to figure out what to do. Realising that ‘lovers have always had this problem’, he suddenly dispenses with his timidity and starts urging nosily ‘don’t give up easily!’, asking her to hang on. This is an impressively mature song for a writer aged not quite 26 at the album’s release (Hicks won’t actually marry until 1974 so chances are this is all imagination rather than life) and The Hollies cope with it well, using their harmonies to get across tranquillity and desperation in separate sections. There’s a neat use of a synthesiser too on the solo, which is unusual for this period of Hollies History (the band use them more and more as the 70s progress though) – and full credit to Hicks for not just sticking in another guitar solo in there for himself. Only a weak and stupidly childish middle eight (‘I know you’re feeling bad, sometimes I make you sad...’) stops this song from being another first-class entry on this album.

Alas if the last two tracks emphasise everything great about The Hollies (first-class harmonies, top notch playing, intriguing songwriting), then ‘Look At Life’ features all their worst aspects (a rather nursery rhyme melody and a slight gaucheness about the lyrics and performance). There’s a sweet song in here somewhere that tries hard to come out: the melody itself is pretty, if pretty simple and the theme of the song (‘isn’t life wonderful?’) original, is still hard to dislike. Despite being a Clarke-Sylvester song Hicks sings the song (most sources assume its Terry, but if so it doesn’t sound like any other vocal he ever gave) and while not a bad vocal Tony isn’t comfortable enough to get away with such occasionally awkward lyrics. For once the rest of the band judge the song badly too: Bernie’s usually sympathetic bass simply gets in the way of a lovely guitar part, while Johnny Scott’s orchestration rather overpowers the song and turns a sweet little song into something rather sickly. Interestingly neither Clarke nor Elliott appear (even though the former co-wrote the song), making this threeway effort by Hicks, Sylvester and Calvert something of a unique entry into the Hollies’ back catalogue. Some nice ideas, but the whole thing is simply too awkward to come off.

‘Please Sign Your Letters’ is even worse, a retro 1950s doo wop song that must have sounded hideously dated at the time (and further proof that Nash was right to leave the band). The slow oompah-oompah backing must be one of the most tedious the band ever made and the simplistic nature of the song (repeating a two-chord chorus every four lines or so) makes it extremely irritating to even the most hardened fan. What the band perhaps should have done is turn the fiery middle eight into the full song (‘Your letter said we’d met some time ago...’), where Clarke finally gets the chance to show off his power and control, yanking the song upstream against the current in a passionate rise upwards that’s then walloped on the head by a stunning swirl of a capella harmonies. Unfortunately that moment is all too brief and, far too soon, we’re back into the same steady plod of the opening section, together with an added Hicks guitar growl so deep it sounds like a frog. The lyrics in this song talk of ‘reading between the lines’ – ironically the one thing this song doesn’t have is the subtlety to help the listener hear it on more than one level. Not one of the band’s better ideas.

Across this album The Hollies are at their best when dealing with their own feelings and thoughts, rather than trying to invent empty songs. ‘My Life Is Over With You’ is one of their all-time best efforts, a passionate heartfelt song of goodbye written by Clarke that absolutely definitely is about the loss of Nash, even if Clarkey twists the metaphor to make it a departing lover. Clarke starts the song like a huffy teenager, telling us ‘You want to explain, that’s why you called – save your breath it doesn’t matter at all’. He then goes on to say that their friendship won;’ matter to him anymore because ‘I’ve found a new part to play in life, with different actors on my stage’. On paper this song sounds bitter and callous, but this recording is a fine example of how music can change our feelings about a song because this song’s achingly lovely melody is beautiful and makes it clear how deeply the narrator is hurting, how ever much he tries to deny it. ‘I don’t want to hear the things that you say, ‘cause my life is over with you’ runs the chorus – but it’s because the narrator’s heart is already breaking and he can’t take it, not because he won’t give his partner a chance. There’s even a final croaked ‘goodbye my love’ at the end of the song just to get the point across. The bad blood between the former childhood friends didn’t last that long, I’m pleased to say and the Hollies work with Nash again in the early 1980s, even if that partnership too ends in rather bitter circumstances. The last verse (‘Maybe we’ll meet some other time’) thus sounds like a bit of accurate soothsaying and opens the way to a conciliation that’s a brave olive branch to offer given the circumstances. If Nash wasn’t moved, or didn’t feel a little bit regretful over leaving his teenage band and childhood friend behind then he should have done – ‘My Life Is Over With You’ is The Hollies at their best and Clarke’s vocals have never been better. If you aren’t moved by this song then, my friend, you’ve been exterminated by a Dalek and ought to get to the doctor quick!

‘Please Let Me Please’ is the other side of the Hollies at their best; its nothing like as deep or as poignant as the last track but in its own way its every bit as successful despite being ‘empty’ pop music. The character Eloise crops up on many a Hollies song (‘Dear Eloise’ and lots of songs on ‘Russian Roulette’ come to mind), mainly because her name rhymes with ‘please’, and this urgent song about a narrator desperate to win over his sweetheart is based around a classy relentless guitar riff and some of the best production on the album (Hicks’ double-tracked guitars on the left and right channels, playing a few split seconds apart and drenched in echo, sound tremendously exciting). The whole song is gloriously exciting even though it chronicles only a minor lover’s tiff and for once on this album Johnny Scott’s orchestration is subtle and suitable. Clarke has great fun shifting his narrator slowly through the stages of denial too: the first verse shows hurt, the second confrontation, the third joy and the fourth anger. The title, of course, comes from The Beatles’ ‘Please Please Me’ via the song they nicked it from (Bing Crosby’s ‘Please’ – as in ‘Please lend an ear to my pleas’). Why this wasn’t released as a single I’ll never know.

Side two of the album starts off with ‘Do You Believe In Love?’ thus starting both side of the vinyl LP with songs that have ‘Believe’ in the title. This time the faith is not in religion but in love, but the Hollies themselves sound less than convinced either in the song or in ‘love’. A curious mix seems to bring a heavy fog around the band, with only Elliott’s unusually simplistic drumming cutting through. Not that you’re missing much in terms of lyrics as its another of the band’s less than inspired numbers, harking back to the 1950s in style and content. The song sounds almost accusatory in places (‘Do YOU believe in love?’), but for the most part is simply yet another song about how everyone in the world seems to be in love with somebody (hmm, The Hollies never have been round my way in Ormskirk then). There’s a slightly exciting section when Clarke-Sylvester-Hicks suddenly start gabbling really fast and spill out the words in double quick time, but to be honest even that isn’t as exciting as it should be because you can’t hear the words properly. Another sad waste of a song that’s little better than filler and another song Nash must have been pleased he didn’t have to do.

With ‘Soldier’s Dilemma’, however, things instantly improve, with The Hollies back to their daring best. Even CSN weren’t writing protest songs as blatant as this in 1969 (though 1970’s ‘Ohio’ single probably counts), with Clarke’s song about the Vietnam War wrapping up in slightly less than three minutes all hippie arguments about what a pointless, unwinnable war it was. Sung to a strict tempo march, this song pokes fun at military institutions with every line, with quick witted rhymes about the absurdity of going to war ‘fighting for peace’, how ‘the trouble we’re in I didn’t begin’ and how ‘it’s just a lie so why should I die?’ – brave lines for this early period of Nixon’s reign. The song even makes fun of military advertising campaigns, telling the army bosses they can ‘keep your kitchen suite’ they give to soldiers when they sign up (as its no substitute for taking life).Throughout some superb oompah-ing drums from Bobby Elliott make the whole thing sound like a joke, but things get sombre in the penultimate verse when ‘it seems I don’t have any choice’ and the reluctant soldier is carted off to war by soldiers who, themselves, have never seen battle. Throughout the Hollies three-part harmonies sound terrific, loud and proud and standing together in some form of solidarity that must have been a joy to sing. Another song Nash must have been sorry he missed out on, ‘Soldier’s Dilemma’ rivals even the band’s own later ‘Soldier’s Song’ as the best recording ever made about the stupidity of war, hilarious and serious all at the same time. If only The Hollies had been seen as ‘hip’ by more record-buyers back in 1969 this song would undoubtedly have become a standard, sung at all the anti-Vietnam rallies and Nixon bashing demonstrations . It’s not The Hollies’ fault that no one noticed how brave they were and its high time that this song got the respect it deserves. Easily one of the highlights of the album.
Another is ‘Marigold/Gloria Swansong’ which has claims to being my favourite ever Hollies track. Another song mainly written by Clarke it starts off as deliciously epic and halfway through twists and turns into an epic about fading fortunes and film star actresses, a sort of technicolour ‘Sunset Boulevard’. Clarke’s narrator, lost and alone, stumbles across a book with a message from a mysterious stranger and a single marigold ‘pressed between leaves’ and ‘just had to write to you because I felt the same’. Comparing the letter writer to the flower (‘the beauty was there to be found, but fading away’) the narrator finds himself wondering about her circumstances in the present day (‘Its been such a long long time since the flower was born’) before, surprisingly, deciding not to write to her after all as she must be long dead. Sung to a single acoustic guitar, Clarke’s slightly echo-drenched vocals are superb, soaring across his own lovely melody-line on a song that sounds like a standard. Interestingly the song uses the ‘write right away’ pun 17 years before Paul McCartney builds a whole song round it (a coincidence, or did the old Beatles-Hollies Northern rivalry still exist come the mid-80s?)

The sudden to orchestral pop in the second half is less successful (Johnnie Scott isn’t up to the band’s usual arranger Mike Vickers, of Manfredd Mann) but still compelling, as the mysterious ‘Marigold’ turns into silent movies actress Gloria Swanson, looking back on her past. There’s a pun about a ‘swan’ in there somewhere (‘Swansong’, get it?!), which shouldn’t work but does, but the take on the whole ‘fading glories’ theme is surprisingly upbeat (‘Winter did not mean despair’). Clarke’s vocal heard against just the orchestra is enticing (like the best parts of ‘Butterfly’ the orchestral part turns the song into something bigger and more sinister) and its rather a shame when the rest of the band kick in with a more traditional Hollies sound, but the rollercoaster of emotions is far from over and the last verse (‘Someday I know you’ll see something...’) is truly beautiful and uplifting. If ever there was a band that brought optimism to music it was The Hollies and rarely did they follow-through on their joy de vivre better than here. Moving from despair to joy in a little over five minutes this Marigold’ suite is simply staggering in its range and beauty, making the stories of ordinary people sound epic and huge. The Hollies were clearly struggling for direction in 1969 if this schizophrenic album is anything to go by; thanks to building on their older sound and making it bigger and more sophisticated without losing the joy and energy, this track is a clear pointer to the way forward and thankfully the band milk it (for another album at least) on the similar songs that make up ‘Confessions Of the Mind’. If Nash wasn’t jealous of the group he’d just left behind, he should have been.

We fall to earth with a bump, though, with ‘You Love ‘Cos You Like It’ more sign that inspiration is fading fast. There’s something rather charmless and false about this song, even though the band try hard with it. The chirpy flute parts are cheesy, Hick’s plucked guitar is irritatingly trite rather than cute, Calvert’s having a bad day on the bass again and even the Hollies harmonies sound contrived and out of sorts. Only Clarke’s lead vocal stamps authority on this Sylvester-Clarke song, with a stirring pair of middle eights that, though quite different, both do a good job at linking the rather similar plodding verses and choruses together. The first (‘When we first met some time ago...’) quickens the tempo and sounds to all intents and purposes as if the narrator is whispering confidentially to us about his hopes and fears and the second (‘It came so easily, now I don’t want to be free’) is pretty and extremely Beatlesy in the way Clarke holds the last note of ‘you-u-u-u-u-u’ (Mancunian they may have been, but there’s several hints at Merseybeat across the band’s first five or so albums; Elliott hitting a cowbell at the end of the track is another nod towards The Beatles). Alas these highlights of the song are only passing moments that interrupt the rather plodding basic song that isn’t really up to standard and appears to last one hell of a lot longer than its 2:53 running time.

‘Reflections Of A Long Time Past’ is a fascinating attempt at doing something different by bassist Bernie Calvert; it’s the only writing credit he ever got. A fully orchestral instrumental, centred around Bernie’s piano playing, you’d be hard pressed to tell it was The Hollies and the band might have been better off releasing it as a b-side or something. That said, with words this would be a lovely song and even without it there’s a pretty tune and a neat middle where the song appears to have ground to a halt, only for the orchestra to divide in half, some strings sounding ethereal and high-pitched, the rest sounding ominous and deep. It’s a clever trick (close to what Peter Knight does on the Moody Blues’ ‘Days Of Future Passed’ album), but whether that’s enough to sustain a precious 2:30 of a Hollies album is another matter. Incidentally Calvert had been trying to record the song for some time and there’s another earlier, rougher version of this song doing the rounds on Youtube (where its re-christened ‘Snow On The Heather Moor’) that’s even prettier. Clarkey, for one, seems to have loved the idea as there’s an orchestral ‘medley’ of all the songs on his fourth solo album ‘I’ve Got Time’ that’s not too dissimilar to the song we have here. If nothing else we should give full marks to Bernie for having a go and writing such a lovely title for the song – one that those of you who’ve read about my own compositions (see the ‘links’ page of our blogspot site or the ‘Alan’s songs’ page of our moonfruit site) will recognise.

At first ‘Goodbye Tomorrow’ sounds like a relief, returning to that classic Hollies pop-rock sound, but on closer inspection even this song sounds ‘wrong’. Another song by Clarke that’s almost definitely about the loss of Nash it’s as sad and melancholy as the band ever have been in their 50-odd years together and even a souped up production and fabulously noisy staccato drumming from Bobby Elliott can’t disguise it. In fact, if you read this song rather than hear it it’s basically a suicide note (‘Goodbye tomorrow, I’m leaving you today, don’t you be grieving because I’m leaving, it won’t matter to you anyway’). Clarke sounds on the verge of tears throughout too, and while less obviously heartfelt and subtle than his vocal on ‘My Life..’ it’s still moving, especially when drenched in Terry Sylvester’s superb harmonies. Clarke seems to be more depressed than ever over losing his childhood friend (‘Now it’s over what am I to do, will I find another you?’) and I would hazard a guess that this song dates from soon after Nash’s departure, perhaps around late 1968 when for all they knew The Hollies might have been over too. There’s a wonderful tune too, which spirals down in every verse only to plunge straight back again in another poppy chorus which, despite the sad words, sends us musically back on familiar ground and sounds much more upbeat than the rest of the words. Alas, though, this song isn’t quite as inspired as the similar ‘My Life...’ and rather gives up at the end, Clarke choosing to repeat the final verse another time rather than write a new one. It also makes for an uncomfortably downbeat end to the album – the only time this ever happens in the Hollies’ canon bar ‘Another Night’ and the cancer tragedy of ‘Lucy’ – in place of the long standing Hollies tradition of ending their LPs on a jolly or at least an energetic note.

Still, its nice to hear the band trying something new – and that really is the thing about ‘The Hollies Sing Hollies’; when the band try and reach out and try something different they generally succeed, yet when they try and go back to their old pop song formula the whole thing falls flat. There are a good four or five songs on this album that rank amongst the best things The Hollies ever did – and yet there are another four or so recordings that I would gladly never listen to again. This truly was a difficult time for the band and its easy to sympathise with this album’s faults given the circumstances; if the band hadn’t scored such big hits with their first post-Nash singles (the appalling ‘Sorry Suzanne’ and the majestic ‘He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother’) it might have been the end of their story. Instead newboy Terry Sylvester is the perfect replacement: he gives the band a new voice (literally and metaphorically), a new pair of ears to bounce ideas off and fresh enthusiasm for a world of endless tours and fame that the other four must have been growing slightly sick of. The absence of Nash also gives space to both Clarke and Hicks to come forward as songwriters in their own right after several team efforts with Nash down the years and occasional solo songs and, thanks to Terry’s blend, those songs sound barely different to the band’s old sound at all. It’s no wonder, with so many differences, that the band try out so many different avenues on this album; what’s surprising is the ones that work are the ones furthest away from the traditional Hollies sound whilst those that hark back to the glory days sound uninspired and tired. ‘Hollies Sing Hollies’ isn’t a classic then (it loses points for the shirts on the front cover alone) but if you’re a fan then there’s much to enjoy – and even if you’re a CSN fan checking out Nash’s old group there’s much in the CSN spirit to enjoy. The irony of it all is that never have The Hollies sounded less like the Hollies for a whole album – and yet that’s what they choose to call the album, right at the point when The Hollies meant many things to all men.


'Stay With The Hollies' (1964)

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

'For Certain, Because' (1966)

'Evolution' (1967)

'Butterfly' (1967)

‘Hollies Sing Hollies’ (1969)

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

'Romany' (1972)

'Out On The Road' (1973)

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

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

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

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

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

AAA Alcohilic-hic! Songs (Top 10 Newsd, Views and Music 164)

Hic! Everyone raise a glass to the rock stars of the past and to this week’s feature...songs about alcolholic beverages! Yes that’s right, everything from wine to ‘gin and tonix’ to general boozing. Despite being tee-totallers here at the AAA (Bring back prohibition we say! Alcohol causes more problems than it solves and really is just another form of tax and an excuse for acting silly in my book – and I don’t need any excuses for that!) it’s quite clear that great numbers of the AAA, erm, aren’t. Well, not if their songs are anything to go by anyway! So after great prompting by our resident boozy canine Bingo (star of our Youtube videos – and if you haven’t seen them yet why not?! Our link is on the site) we’ve decided to dedicate a top 10 to drinking songs , in order not of chronology or alphabet this time but by tipsiness, from slightly sizzled to stark raving bingod (as its known in my house). What’s interesting is how sizzled some artists appear to be, with repeat offenders such as Oasis, Lindisfarne and The Kinks (all pretty predictable) and The Moody Blues (erm, less so). Anyway here’s the full list:

1) The Moody Blues “Vintage Wine” (Sur La Mer, 1988)

A sweet little number to start, with Justin Hayward comparing the halcyon music of the 1960s to wine from the same time period (this song came out in 1988 remember – if you still have wine left over from 1968 its probably turned to vinegar by now!) ‘I’m proud of the things I believed in then – and if I had the chance I’d go back again’ sings Justin – and we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he was talking about the peace and love ethos, not how many bottles of booze he used to consume. Still, the reference to alcohol is limited to a single (repeated) line so not so tipsy just yet...

2) Oasis “Cigarettes and Alcohol” (Definitely Maybe, 1994)

You might be surprised this song isn’t higher on the list, but then again this classic (and third ever) Oasis single isn’t really about having a good time – its about the drudgery of modern life that causes you to turn to alcohol and the like in the first place. ‘Is it worth the aggravation to find yourself a job when there’s nothing worth working for?’ is one of Noel Gallagher’s best ever lines, even though he himself only ‘got’ what he meant sometime after (if the Oasis Time Flies DVD commentary is anything to go by!) ‘You could wait a lifetime to spend your day in the sun-shee-ine’ go the lyrics,but because there’s no one out there to help you you might as well get drunk out of your skull (ie waste the present because you have no future). A reluctant drinking song where alcohol is simply an escape from bodom...err boredom. I think. I can’t see straight any more...

3) The Kinks “When Work Is Over-Have Another Drink” (A Soap Opera, 1974)

Ray Davies’ marvellous spoof of concept albums ‘A Soap Opera’ is much discussed on these pages, turning from a funny album about wanting to be famous and the boredom of modern day living into a sad album about mental breakdowns and whether ‘stars’ are ‘special’. By the end of side one Ray Davies’ star-maker is fully into his role as the ‘normal’ human ‘Norman’ and is already tiring of the 9-5 shifts he’s putting in at Norman’s accountancy office. Cueue not one but two songs about how drinking ‘helps ease the strain of his boring occupation, dull conversation, living by the book and the rules and regulations’. Ray directly equates having a tipple to escaping depression, figuring like so many that, as he can’t fight the problems in his life, he may as well drink them away. Given Ray’s on stage antics (around this time he tried to balance a can of beer on his head, dropped it and fell over on the foam, breaking his leg) this may well be autobiographical – whatever it is, its depressing, especially by the end of the second song and hearing six whole minutes about the wonders of booze while they limit the character’s options and bring out the worst in his character makes for depressing, though compelling listening. I’mshtarting to get a little...hehehehehe

4) The Moody Blues “Send Me No Wine” (On The Threshold Of A Dream, 1969)

Another sweet song about wine (were the Moodies obsessed?!) from John Lodge, which basically says ‘you don’t need to do me favours or give me presents to gain my company – I’d come for nothing!’ The chorus runs ‘If only everybody found the answer in love’, but the rest of the song is less happy, and the narrator is portrayed as a withdrawn, rather reluctant talker, spending his life ‘in fascination’ instead of getting involved. Is that the alcohol talking one wonders? I’msutgonna pause there...for...erm....maybeonemore?hic!

5) The Kinks “Alcohol” (Muswell Hillbillies, 1971)

The first song on this list to deal with the curse of alcohol head on, this is another Kinks song and a live favourite, a ‘story about a sinner, who used to be a winner’ who got left ‘in the gutter’ all because of that ol’ demon alcohol. A ‘middle class executive’ turns to drink directly after pressures from the office and ‘his fanatical wife’s ambitions’ force him to work harder than ever with just a little prop to keep him going (that turns into a relentless demon when unleashed from his cage). He loses his job, beats up his wife and loses her too before ending up in the arms of a floozy spending his dole money for him, ‘lying on skid row’. As the chorus of the song goes ‘its very sad...’, although the fun the band have with it onstage (full of ad libs, OTT dramatics and sliding brass parts) is in stark contrast to the more sombre studio version and ends up not sounding that sad at all. I’ve forgotten how to type!

6) Lindisfarne “Juiced Up To Lose” (Happy Daze, 1974)

‘Why you looking at my best friend? You came here with me! I’m drunk and I don’t know how, what you doing to me?’ The first of two drinking songs from the same album suggest there’s a problem and certainly this song (from Mark II bassist Thomas Duffy) sounds like a car crash in slow motion, all angry pouting hurt and defiant bitterness. Yet again a bar is the scene of a fallout, life changing moment and the narrator is clearly out of control, leaving off his present problems to confess how ‘I can’t do anything right’. A difficult listen but all pulled together by way of a puffing harmonica part and the closest folk-rockers Lindisfarne ever came to heavy metal. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahic!

7) 10cc “The Anonymous Alcoholic” (Bloody Tourists!, 1978)

Like many a 10cc song, you can either take this at surface level as merely a ‘comedy’ song or dig under the surface for the serious ‘message’ the song is trying to tell us. A Gouldmann/Stewart collaboration, this offbeat track follows a hapless worker at an office party who used to be an alcoholic but has changed his ways, only to fall off the stool in spectacular fashion. With his friends egging him on and peer pressure he drinks more and more (‘you were the one left out in the cold’), despite hating the taste, before making a pass for the bosses’ wife. After collapsing he hears the voices in his head saying ‘everyone was having fun but you were the one left out in the cold’ after passing out on the floor. He’s aso been sacked for his erotic dances with mrs boss lady. What does our poor hapless narrator do in his misery? You guess it, he heads for the bar, having learnt nothing from his experience.

8) Lindisfarne “Gin and Tonix All Round” (Happy Daze, 1974)

The second ‘Happy Daze’ song about booze, this features another likeable-really narrator who admits ‘I didn’t mean to hurt you, but I was not really sure [what I was doing]’. The problems with alcohol addiction are perfectly summed up by Alan Hull’s clever lyrics, that ‘I realised that I’d had too much – so I called out for more!’ This thinking character then comes to his senses, thinks he’s realised where the world is going wrong – but when he tried to speak about it he realises ‘there was nothing left to say’. He then bids us a fond farewell and ends with the catch ‘I hope you don’t believe a single word I say!’, with the song getting as hazy and out of focus as the poor drunk narrator. Hhhhhhhhcvsahfo hf ousp fapif nwpf aogf apnifpnaiwpri npiwer pnapweir npawenr hic!

9) The Who “However Much I Booze” (The Who By Numbers, 1975)

The most despairing, desperate moment on a whole album that’s as bleak as any I’ve ever heard, this is self-admitting alcoholic Pete Townshend coming to terms with the fact that he’s been hiding his insecurities and fears behind brandy but that he’s now reached a crisis point where the drink makes things worse, not better. ‘No matter how much I booze there ain’t no way out!’ is the chorus, in between such dark verses as ‘The night comes down like a cell door closing...sitting alone with a bottle and my head a-floating, far away from the phone and the conscious that’s going on at me and on at me...’ He then asks for forgiveness from his fans, asking them to ‘glance very briefly at the songs I write’ to understand himself better telling them that he’s ‘a faker, a per clown’ but that ‘ the truth lies in my frustration’ and saying that, in the end, it doesn’t matter – there’s still no way out. Note that this song is one of only two vocals Pete takes on this very personal album, giving the other eight o Roger Daltrey to sing, which suggests what a personal song it is to him. An admirably brave and forceful song, as good as any Pete ever wrote for The Who. You’remybeshtestsreadersinthewholewidewworlddddhic!

10) Oasis “Those Swollen Hand Blues” (B-side of ‘Falling Down’ 2009)

I’ve never heard another track like this one, the final B-side on Oasis’ final single. It starts off muted, as if its being played under a giant cloth, before pulsating drums and a screaming vocal from Noel Gallagher punctuate the sound with particular might (its like a hangover, apparently).The song takes its cue from a Pink Floyd song (‘Nobody Home’ from ‘The Wall’) that alludes to drinking (though its at least partly Syd Barrett in the original). Noel often talks abou his ‘booze years’ between 1997 and 99 when he felt ‘out of control’ but this song dates from nearly a decade later. Is it a memory? Or a lapse? The poor narrator is trapped, he ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’ before his ego kicks in, declaiming ‘I’m the apple of my eyes’ before quietly admitting ‘If only I could keep myself sober I would understand why’. The second verse then adds ‘...for only one day’. Noel’s vocal is a perfect mimic of a drunk (perhaps he was when he recorded it?!) slurring all over the place and falling over frequently, moving at all only with great effort. Sombre, compelling and far superior to all but one of the tracks that graced the last, disappointing Oasis album ‘Dig Out Your Soul’. It also makes for a neat mirror image of ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’, the narrator-dabbler with booze turning into a fully fuelled alcoholic of this song. Zzzzz zzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzz hic!

A NOW COMPLETE List Of Top Five/Top Ten/TOP TWENTY  Entries 2008-2019
1) Chronic Fatigue songs

2) Songs For The Face Of Bo

3) Credit Crunch Songs

4) Songs For The Autumn

5) National Wombat Week

6) AAA Box Sets

7) Virus Songs

8) Worst AAA-Related DVDs

9) Self-Punctuating Superstar Classics

10) Ways To Know You Have Turned Into A Collector

11) Political Songs

12) Totally Bonkers Concept Albums

13) Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

14) Still Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

15) AAA Existential Questions

16) Releases Of The Year 2008

17) Top AAA Xmas Songs

18) Notable AAA Gigs

19) All things '20' related for our 20th issue

20) Romantic odes for Valentine's Day

21) Hollies B sides

22) 'Other' BBC Session Albums

23) Beach Boys Rarities Still Not Available On CD

24) Songs John, Paul and George wrote for Ringo's solo albums

25) 5 of the Best Rock 'n' Roll Tracks From The Pre-Beatles Era

26) AAA Autobiographies

27) Rolling Stones B-sides

28) Beatles B-Sides

29) The lllloooonnngggeesssttt AAA songs of all time

30) Kinks B-Sides

31) Abandoned CSNY projects 'wasted on the way'

32) Best AAA Rarities and Outtakes Sets

33) News We've Missed While We've Been Away

34) Birthday Songs for our 1st Anniversary

35) Brightest Album Covers

36) Biggest Recorded Arguments

37) Songs About Superheroes

38) AAA TV Networks That Should Exist

39) AAA Woodtsock Moments

40) Top Moments Of The Past Year As Voted For By Readers

41) Music Segues

42) AAA Foreign Language Songs

43) 'Other' Groups In Need Of Re-Mastering

44) The Kinks Preservation Rock Opera - Was It Really About The Forthcoming UK General Election?

45) Mono and Stereo Mixes - Biggest Differences

46) Weirdest Things To Do When A Band Member Leaves

47) Video Clips Exclusive To Youtube (#1)

48) Top AAA Releases Of 2009

49) Songs About Trains

50) Songs about Winter

51) Songs about astrology plus horoscopes for selected AAA members

52) The Worst Five Groups Ever!

53) The Most Over-Rated AAA Albums

54) Top AAA Rarities Exclusive To EPs

55) Random Recent Purchases (#1)

56) AAA Party Political Slogans

57) Songs To Celebrate 'Rock Sunday'

58) Strange But True (?) AAA Ghost Stories

59) AAA Artists In Song

60) Songs About Dogs

61) Sunshiney Songs

62) The AAA Staff Play Their Own Version Of Monoploy/Mornington Crescent!

63) What 'Other' British Invasion DVDs We'd Like To See

64) What We Want To Place In Our AAA Time Capsule

65) AAA Conspiracy Theroies

66) Weirdest Things To Do Before - And After - Becoming A Star

67) Songs To Tweet To

68) Greatest Ever AAA Solos

69) John Lennon Musical Tributes

70) Songs For Halloween

71) Earliest Examples Of Psychedelia

72) Purely Instrumental Albums

73) AAA Utopias

74) AAA Imaginary Bands

75) Unexpected AAA Cover Versions

76) Top Releases of 2010

77) Songs About Snow

78) Predictions For 2011

79) AAA Fugitives

80) AAA Home Towns

81) The Biggest Non-Musical Influences On The 1960s

82) AAA Groups Covering Other AAA Groups

83) Strange Censorship Decisions

84) AAA Albums Still Unreleased on CD

85) Random Recent Purchases (#2)

86) Top AAA Music Videos

87) 30 Day Facebook Music Challenge

88) AAA Documentaries

89) Unfinished and 'Lost' AAA Albums

90) Strangest AAA Album Covers

91) AAA Performers Live From Mars (!)

92) Songs Including The Number '100' for our 100th Issue

93) Most Songs Recorded In A Single Day

94) Most Revealing AAA Interviews

95) Top 10 Pre-Fame Recordings

96) The Shortest And Longest AAA Albums

97) The AAA Allstars Ultimate Band Line-Up

98) Top Songs About Sports

99) AAA Conversations With God

100) AAA Managers: The Good, The Bad and the Financially Ugly

101) Unexpected AAA Cameos

102) AAA Words You can Type Into A Caluclator

103) AAA Court Cases

104) Postmodern Songs About Songwriting

105) Biggest Stylistic Leaps Between Albums

106) 20 Reasons Why Cameron Should Go!

107) The AAA Pun-Filled Cookbook

108) Classic Debut Releases

109) Five Uses Of Bird Sound Effects

110) AAA Classic Youtube Clips Part #1

111) Part #2

112) Part #3

113) AAA Facts You Might Not Know

114) The 20 Rarest AAA Records

115) AAA Instrumental Songs

116) Musical Tarot

117) Christmas Carols

118) Top AAA Releases Of 2011

119) AAA Bands In The Beano/The Dandy

120) Top 20 Guitarists #1

121) #2

122) 'Shorty' Nomination Award Questionairre

123) Top Best-Selling AAA Albums

124) AAA Songs Featuring Bagpipes

125) A (Hopefully) Complete List Of AAA Musicians On Twitter

126) Beatles Albums That Might Have Been 1970-74 and 1980

127) DVD/Computer Games We've Just Invented

128) The AAA Albums With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

129) The AAA Singles With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

130) Lyric Competition (Questions)

131) Top Crooning Classics

132) Funeral Songs

133) AAA Songs For When Your Phone Is On Hold

134) Random Recent Purchases (#3)

135) Lyric Competition (Answers)

136) Bee Gees Songs/AAA Goes Disco!

137) The Best AAA Sleevenotes (And Worst)

138) A Short Precise Of The Years 1962-70

139) More Wacky AAA-Related Films And Their Soundtracks

140) AAA Appearances On Desert Island Discs

141) Songs Exclusive To Live Albums

142) More AAA Songs About Armageddon

What difference does a name make? Arguably not much if you’re already a collector of a certain group, for whom the names on the album sleeves just...

This week’s top ten honours the humble motor car. The death trap on wheels, the metaphor for freedom, the put-down of capitalism, a source of...

This week we’re going to have a look at the 10 AAA singles that spent the most weeks at number on the American chart ‘Billboard’ – and it makes for...

Following on from last issue’s study of the American Billboard charts, here’s a look at which AAA albums spent the most weeks on the chart. The...

There are many dying arts in our modern world: incorruptible politicians, faith that things are going to get better and the ability to make decent...

This week we’ve decided to dedicate our top ten to those unsung heroes of music, the session musicians, whose playing often brings AAA artists (and...

Naturally we hold our AAA bands in high esteem in these articles: after all, without their good taste, intelligence and humanity we’d have nothing to...

What do you do when you’ve left a multi-million selling band and yet you still feel the pull of the road and the tours and the playing to audiences...

‘The ATOS Song’ (You’re Not Fit To Live)’ (Mini-Review) Dear readers, we don’t often feature reviews of singles over albums or musicians who aren’t...

In honour of this week’s review of an album released to cash in on a movie soundtrack (only one of these songs actually appears in ‘Easy Rider’...and...

Hic! Everyone raise a glass to the rock stars of the past and to this week’s feature...songs about alcolholic beverages! Yes that’s right, everything...

154) The human singing voice carries with it a vast array of emotions, thoughts that cannot be expressed in any other way except opening the lungs and...

Everyone has a spiritual home, even if they don’t actually live there. Mine is in a windy, rainy city where the weather is always awful but the...

Having a family does funny things to some musicians, as we’ve already seen in this week’s review (surely the only AAA album actually written around...

Some artists just have no idea what their best work really is. One thing that amazes me as a collector is how consistently excellent many of the...

159) A (Not That) Short Guide To The 15 Best Non-AAA Bands

160) The Greatest AAA Drum Solos (Or Near Solos!)

161) AAA Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Acceptance Speeches

162) AAA Re-Recordings Of Past Songs

163) A Coalition Christmas (A Fairy Tale)

164) AAA Songs About Islands

165) The AAA Review Of The Year 2012

166) The Best AAA Concerts I Attended

167) Tributes To The 10 AAA Stars Who Died The Youngest

168) The First 10 AAA Songs Listed Alphabetically

171) The 10 Best Songs From The Psychedelia Box-Sets ‘Nuggets’ and ‘Nuggets Two’

172) The 20 Most Common Girl’s Names In AAA Song Titles (With Definitions) 

180) First Recordings By Future AAA Stars

185) A Tribute To Storm Thorgerson Via The Five AAA Bands He Worked With

188) Surprise! Celebrating 300 Album Reviews With The Biggest 'Surprises' Of The Past Five Years Of Alan's Album Archives!

190) Comparatively Obscure First Compositions By AAA Stars

193) Evolution Of A Band: Comparing First Lyric With Last Lyric:

200) The Monkees In Relation To Postmodernism (University Dissertation)

202) Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain': Was It About One Of The AAA Crew?

217) AAA 'Christmas Presents' we'd most like to have next year

221) Dr Who and the AAA (Five Musical Links)

222) Five Random Recent Purchases

223) AAA Grammy Nominees

224) Ten AAA songs that are better heard unedited and in full

225) The shortest gaps between AAA albums

226) The longest gaps between AAA albums

227) Top ten AAA drummers

228) Top Ten AAA Singles (In Terms of 'A' and 'B' Sides)

229) The Stories Behind Six AAA Logos

230) AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! The Best Ten AAA Screams

231) An AAA Pack Of Horses

232) AAA Granamas - Sorry, Anagrams!

233) AAA Surnames and Their Meanings

234) 20 Erroneous AAA Album Titles

235) The Best AAA Orchestral Arrangements

236) Top 30 Hilariously Misheard Album Titles/Lyrics

237) Ten controversial AAA sackings - and whether they were right

238) A Critique On Critiquing - In Response To Brian Wilson

239) The Ten MusicianS Who've Played On The Most AAA Albums

240) Thoughts on #CameronMustGo

241) Random Recent Purchases (Kinks/Grateful Dead/Nils Lofgren/Rolling Stones/Hollies) 

242) AAA Christmas Number Ones 

243) AAA Review Of The Year 2014 (Top Releases/Re-issues/Documentaries/DVDs/Books/Songs/ Articles  plus worst releases of the year)

244) Me/CFS Awareness Week 2015

245) Why The Tory 2015 Victory Seems A Little...Suspicious

246) A Plea For Peace and Tolerance After The Attacks on Paris - and Syria

247) AAA Review Of The Year 2015

248) The Fifty Most Read AAA Articles (as of December 31st 2015)

249) The Revised AAA Crossword!

251) Half-A-Dozen Berries Plus One (An AAA Tribute To Chuck Berry)

252) Guest Post: ‘The Skids – Joy’ (1981) by Kenny Brown

254) Guest Post: ‘Supertramp – Some Things Never Change’ by Kenny Brown

255) AAA Review Of The Year 2018

256) AAA Review Of The Year 2019 plus Review Of The Decade 2010-2019

257) Tiermaker

258) #Coronastock

259) #Coronadocstock