Monday 8 December 2014

The Hollies "Stay With The Hollies" (1964)

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"The Hollies "Stay With The Hollies"

Talkin' Bout You/ Mr Moonlight/You Better Move On/Lucille/Baby Don't Cry/Memphis (Tennessee)/Stay//Rockin' Robin/What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?/Do You Love Me?/It's Only Make Believe/What Kind Of Girl Are You?/Little Lover/Candyman

Before rock and roll got pompous, before it became de rigueur to reach for the stars via mellotrons and epic song-suites, rock and roll was fun. Once every generation for decades now we seem to go through this cycle: bands discover how much fun rock and roll is to play before becoming more and more aware over their time of their need to improve, to knock off the raw edges and to think deeply - and by the time those bands discover just how to perfect that, another younger hungrier band is in the wings wanting to start the whole cycle off again. Not many musical historians seem to rate The Hollies, who were always on the fringes of success - always doomed to be on the edge of the spotlight that fell fully on other famous 60s bands without gaining the reputation of lurking in the shadows like some others. But I put it to you, dear readers, that of all the many reinventions of the wheel and 'rock music is fun' cycles there have been down the years (the 50s, Merseybeat, punk, 90s rock, 00s rock) no band has ever had as much fun in a recording studio as the early Hollies. Their debut record 'Stay With The Hollies' might not be their finest moment - heck, it's not even in the same league as comparatively polished debut albums from other groups later in the decade, from 'The Who Sing My Generation' to 'The Rolling Stones'. However 'Stay With The Hollies' is perhaps the best conversion of a band's pre-fame setlist into the studio, with EMI bravely resisting the idea of 'nonsense' novelty songs (alas the Hollies weren't so lucky in their choice of singles!) or the need to 'dampen down' the enthusiasm and adrenalin of the performances. 'Stay With The Hollies' is - even more than period albums like 'Please Please Me' and 'Meet The Searchers' - high octane energy and enthusiasm, delivered by a band with such power they could be performing for the stage instead of a bunch of bored white-coated engineers (why did Abbey Road engineers wear white coats anyway?...) and with such gusto you'd be hard pressed to realise that their first time inside a studio had been as recently as April 1963. The Searchers and the Stones and even the very earliest Beatles records find the respective groups sound slightly edgy in their early performances, slightly inhibited by the austere settings and the clock-watching going on. The Hollies, too, struggle to make the nursery rhyme first single 'Ain't That Just Like Me' or the slightly twee Coasters cover 'Searchin' work for them. On this first album, however, all that timidity and doubt is forgotten: The Hollies sound born for this, charismatic and ready to give their all.

The biggest thing you take away from this album is how well the band clearly know each other: the rhythm section drive the songs on, Tony Hick's guitar beefs up the sound and the Clarke and Nash vocals sit on the top like a gloriously thick layer of icing on a multi-layered cake. That makes sense given that singers Allan and Graham had known each other virtually as long as they can remember - ever since a day somewhere towards the first term at primary school where Clarke's family moved to Manchester and he enrolled at the local Ordsell Primary School. Luckily for musical history the only spare seat was next to Nash and the pair will be getting each other in and out of trouble for most of the rest of their lives (despite a for-most-people friendship-ending break at the age of 11 when the pair went to different secondary schools). Their telepathy is a key factor of these early Hollies albums and especially this first one, where the pair egg each other on with whoops, yells and hollers, looking out for each other and covering any missed notes with delightful harmonies the way singing best  (and Clarke's thrilling signature cry of 'wooooooooooah shhhhhhhhhake!')  should. For a time the pair toured as a 'brothers' act, 'Ricky and Dane' - and while the  scrawny artistic and tough-jawed Clarke couldn't have looked less like each other even back then, so close were they that many people did believe they were secretly brothers (certainly more people than ever believed the Walker Brothers were related to each other!) istory records that the pair started what became The Hollies - but as so often happens, history is wrong; technically speaking, while Clarke and Nash toured clubs as a vocals-only Everly Brothers-style act usually known as The Two Tones and - after they bought matching guitars of the same name - The Guy Tones, it was Eric Haydock that formed the band that became The Hollies. Known for years as The Deltas, a whole host of leading Manchester named who never quite made it passed through the ranks and the group was already the most prestigious in Manchester by the time Clarke and Nash joined. Silent, sullen Haydock is the band's dark horse, dismissed by many and indeed dismissed by the band as 'unnecessary' after one too many sick days across 1965, but his tough driving power and strength gives their early recordings a weight they need; while Bobby is rightly seen today as one of the decade's best drummers I'd claim the same goes for Eric, whose usually right on the money and - thanks to Abbey Road's more rock-orientated studios compared to Decca and Pye - sounds better than almost every other bass player of his day.

What's stunning about debut album 'Stay With The Hollies' in retrospect is that, while these core three knew each other well after years of gigging together, actually the quintet that walked into Abbey Road in May 1963 to start recording this album had been together barely weeks, with Bobby Elliott replacing original drummer Don Rathbone for the band's third single 'Stay'. Rathbone was an under-rated drummer, far too hard on himself when he decided he was getting in the band's way and decided to make way so they could find stardom (the first two singles had many faults, but the drumming wasn't one of them). However Bobby is clearly the 'right' drummer for this band in a way the more gentlemanly Rathbone could never be: the big powerful punchy sound at the heart of the band, his jazz infused playing is what gives The Hollies the launching pad to fly through the air on this album and every album to come (for Bobby is still with the band now, after 50 years and counting). His years with Shane Fentone and the Fentones gave him a really tough sound the more vocally orientated Two Tones and Deltas never had to learn and The Hollies wouldn't sounds right without him (indeed they don't on parts of the 'Evolution' LP when Bobby - suffering from appendicitis - is too ill to play and gets replaced by Clem Cattini). Even guitarist Tony Hicks, the other member from the 'classic line up' still with the band, only joined the year before on the eve of the band's signing to EMI (when their original guitarist Victor Sylvester considered faced that very difficult early 60s choice between a reliable but boring career and a short term one in music and plumped for the former). Hicks, hired from Manchester's 'other' on-the-fringes-of-fame group The Dolphins, is another major player on this album, his guitar the natural resting place for many of the melodies and - although he wasn't often a singer with The Dolphins - the band discovered to their delight that his voice complemented their perfectly. The hands of the Gods often smiles on young bands, which is why you see so many older ones scratching their heads about where all that luck and fortitude end up (fellow Mancunians Oasis are the perfect example, with everything surpassing expectations pre-1997 and thereafter never living up to them, no matter how much or how little the band try). Fate definitely smiled on The Hollies: how did that many people from four different bands end up in the same room together? How did that blend of Everly Brothers harmonic folk, tough guy rock and jazz end up working together as well as it did? How did these five men - who were, with the exception of Clarke and Nash, rivals rather than friends for most of their professional lives up this album - get on so well together? (Yes The Hollies had their rows - and big, career changing ones too - but there was none of the harsh sniping that beset The Stones or outward hostility as shown by The Kinks and The Who). Even the name seems fortuitous: picked out at desperation by a band who'd agreed to use a different name than The Deltas seeing as one of their members were left, an unknown member of the band claim to have chosen it after going on stage near Christmas and spying 'holly' hanging over the stage door (a pun on the name of key influence 'Buddy Holly' akin to the 'beat' one in 'The Beatles', it's very clever and very in keeping with the times).

However fortune isn't quite on the band's side just yet. The Beatles had two of the greatest songwriters the world has ever known (three once the 60s gets going), a manager who believed in them to the point of giving up a cosy job with the family firm and a producer who, while at first slightly sceptical, soon warms to the band placed in his charge. The Hollies didn't really have any of that, although Ron Richards - George Martin's assistant and the man responsible for getting his boss down from the canteen the day The Beatles auditioned because he recognised their talent in seconds - tries hard to cover the last two roles and make up for the first by encouraging the band to trust their 'ears' (the band were encouraged to look for new and inventive records they could re-do and Tony Hicks, especially, picked up a real ear for hearing hits at the end of submitted reels of songs or desperate lists sent in by wannabe songwriters). Richards is as integral to The Hollies' sound as George Martin was to The Beatles and perhaps deserves even more praise given that his band were generally knocking out hits quicker, locked in the smaller studio number three where The Beatles claimed the bigger studio two at their beck and call day and night after the first few months. Indeed, The Beatles is where The Hollies' luck runs out: before meeting Epstein The Beatles were clearly far less respected in Liverpool than The Hollies were in Manchester and the Mancunians were far more likely to be 'signed'. While The Beatles' success paved the way for their own signing with EMI (where they lucked out in terms of the facilities and the 'sound' of their records, more polished than Pye and less murky than Decca) and Epstein himself expressed an interest in signing the band (vetoed, probably rightly, because the Beatles took up too much of his time), The Hollies were doomed to stay in the fab four's shadows from the minute the ink dried on their contracts. From here on in The Beatles are groomed as EMI's biggest pay packet, their most adventurous and exploitable export - The Hollies are by contrast doomed to be the 1960's Mr Consistents, actually scoring even more top twenty hits in the 1960s than The Beatles did, although with just one number one that decade to their credit compared to the fab's 18 or 19 depending which chart you use (this wasn't by lack of talent either - The Hollies' releases were usually strategically released whenever The Stones had a single out, so that The Beatles were never in direct competition with their biggest rivals for top of the charts). In a world without The Beatles, The Hollies would still have been big - with that much talent and that much interest in them, even before the 'Northern boom', that much is inevitable - perhaps a lot bigger than they ever had a chance to become.

However they would probably never have been as big as The Beatles. I say that not out of any disrespect for the talents - in fact given a choice between rescuing all my Hollies LPs or my Beatles LPs from some incoming catastrophe, it would be The Hollies every time (after the nervous breakdown and decades of counselling from something so ghastly happening, of course - and I mean about losing my records here, obviously, not whatever's in store for planet Earth, that I can cope with as long as I have music as my soundtrack to coping). I say that simply because there's one vital lacking ingredient from 'Stay With The Hollies' which is where The Beatles, for once, win out. The Hollies were not a natural writing band - not yet anyway (though goodness knows that changes, some of the Clarke-Hicks-Nash and indeed Clarke-Sylvester-Hicks compositions are the greatest in my collection). Indeed they probably wouldn't have bothered at all if it wasn't for The Beatles gaining such a reputation as, like their rivals initially, they formed purely out of love for 1950s American music and a desire to pass that on to the masses. Had The Hollies been the first big success of the 1960s then the movement may have died out when Merseybeat did, with the band lacking the direction to channel the past decade and the current one into their own material. Clarke and Nash (who haven't yet teamed up with Hicks) are game for anything in this period and duly turn out their second ever original 'Little Lover' for this album. The results aren't great: while a fun song, it's clearly not in the same league as 'I Saw Her Standing There' or 'Please Please Me'. Things will change and change quickly (second album 'In The Hollies Style' features half a dozen original songs, each as good as anything The Beatles had to offer in 1964), but for now The Hollies are lagging ever so slightly behind and sadly are never quite allowed to catch up (although I'll still take most of what they made in their annabilus mirabilis of 1967 over what The Beatles did that year).

Modern record collectors are spoilt; all those great sounds of the early 1960s and so little time to hear them all and all that, so naturally they tend to go for original songs they can't hear anywhere else rather than R and B stuff covered by everyone from The Stones to Herman's Hermits. As a result The Hollies and especially this debut record tend to get short shrift: 'Do You Love Me?' (a hit for Brian Poole and the Tremeloes), 'Rockin' Robin' (not yet recorded by - half of them aren't born yet - but forever associated with The Jackson Five and with an unfortunate association with cheesy karaoke sessions), 'Mr Moonlight' (later covered By The Beatles), 'It's Only Make Believe' (one of Conway Twitty's biggest hits), 'You Better Move On' (even now being recorded by The Rolling Stones), 'Talkin' Bout You' (very soon to be recorded by The Rolling Stones), the much-covered 'Memphis Tennessee' and 'Lucille' times 'Stay With The Hollies' feels like a 'whose who?' of early 1960s rock and roll repertoires. While The Beatles have showstoppers like 'Twist and Shout' and 'Money' in their act (heralded as classics by core fans long before they were famous, along with 'Some Other Guy' - oddly only ever recorded at a BBC session), The Stones had 'Everybody Needs Somebody To Love' and even The Searchers had 'pinched' the Hollies song 'Ain't That Just Like Me?' and turned into a thrilling five minute showstopper, The Hollies had no such identity. Their stage act consists of anything, sometimes everything that was popular, all learnt from the singles that their fans most likely had at home anyway - hits by Chuck Berry, Arthur Alexander, Little Richard et al. Unlike The Beatles, The Hollies seem content to go for known 'A' sides rather than obscure 'B' sides (or perhaps EMI weren't as keen on taking risks with their 'second' group?), at least not until album number two: as a result there's little on this first record that isn't done better somewhere by somebody (and usually, the original is best).

That's the downside of this record; the upside is that you've never heard these songs done like this. Even the comparatively energetic Beatles never tore the house down and set alight to it with quite the same vigour and excitement The Hollies use here. None of these songs are 'played' - instead all are 'lived', to the maximum, with fully live no-overdubs band performances that feature all five men pushing to the limits. 'Do You Love Me?' might not be as sophisticated or as listenable as Brian Poole's but it's a lot more fun, pushed at a hundred miles an hour to a thrilling climax. 'Mr Moonlight', while still a terrible song (and an odd choice for two of the 1960's finest bands) is far less gauche and irritating than The Beatles' better known version. 'Memphis' tears along with the subtlety of a steam train - actually quite an accurate reflection of a song about a father figure being 'torn apart' by a postal code's worth of difference. 'Lucille' is so dementedly bursting with energy it makes even creator Little Richard sound like a nicely behaved young man. 'You Better Move On' loses out on the smoky danger of Mick Jagger's version, but it's tighter and more polished than the Stones' rather sloppy backing. 'It's Only Make Believe' may be raw to a fault, but it's a lot more emotionally powerful than Conway Twitty's bordering-on-twee country original. Ray Charles' 'What Kind Of Girl Are You?' rather misses the point of the original. Even 'Rockin' Robin' sounds like a 'proper' rock song rather than a throwaway novelty about singing birds, a sort of ADHD version of Michael Jackson but without that annoying smugness. And as for third single and de facto title track 'Stay' - a number one hit for The Zodiacs  in 1960, incidentally the shortest single ever to top the US charts at just 1:50 - it's the difference between night and day. Or at least, it's the difference between the 'old' and the 'new guard, because whilst the material on 'Stay With The Hollies' is decidedly 1950s (much more so than most of their competitors) this one (and follow-up 'Style') may well be the definitive 'Merseybeat' albums (ok, the band didn't come from anywhere near The Mersey but still...): loud, proud and enthusiastic, ready to take away the gloom and the austerity of the 1950s with a crash of the cymbals, a twirling guitar lick and a sudden rush of harmonies. Are these songs as sophisticated as some of the other covers around or even the originals? Heck no - but thanks to some of the liveliest rawest performances ever recorded I'd still take The Hollies' versions over almost all of their competitors almost every time. Wooooooooahhhhh Shhhhhaaaaake!

Of course this album isn't perfect: a lot of the song choices are daft ('What Kind Of Girl?' pushed the Hollies harmonies to their limits, 'What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?' is dreary, 'Baby Don't Cry' is silly, the 'new' song 'Little Lover' is the most derivative song The Hollies ever wrote and even The Hollies can't make a rotten song like 'Mr Moonlight' sound good). Compared to every other Hollies album, from the nicely sophisticated sequel 'In The Hollies Style' upwards, this album is often a sloppy mess, with parts coming and going in a sea of noise and confusion. Even the album cover - the band sitting round a chair against a papier mache background in hideous 1950s jumpers - is their worst, giving off a quite different vibe of 'gormless' and 'traditional' quite at odds with the record (the band should really have shot their art department, who don't start capturing the band's image properly until the 1970s, but even by later standards this one is a shocker; however it is one of the few photographs known to exist of drummer Bobby Elliott with hair instead of his usual cap or wig!) If its sophistication you want then there are thousands of other 1960s albums out there that can do the job better. However if it's fun you're after, shallow but really enjoyable, lose-yourself-in-the-moment life-has-never-been-this-exciting wooooooahhhhh-shhhhaaaake! fun you're after, then you need to stay with The Hollies, through this record and every other one. As David Block's surprisingly on-the-money (for a debut record) sleevenotes have it, this isn't 'background music', with a 'get up and dance' impact. Usually I hate music made to dance rather than listen to, but these performances are so good - the harmonies so thrilling, the bass so powerful, the drumming so aggressive, the guitar so melodic - that just for once I'm willing to make an exception: this record should really have been titled 'Impossible To Stay Still With The Hollies...'

Chuck Berry's 'Talkin' Bout You' is an explosive start to any album, especially the way The Hollies do it: high octane energy take-no-prisoners rock and roll. Chuck's original is sleepy, content to murmur to himself about the new love he's found and whilst almost all of the cover versions speeds things up (The Stones' version sounds like the narrator's having a nervous breakdown he's that frisky) The Hollies pack the heaviest and hardest punch of the lot. Clarke barks the song out with a real power (never has the word 'Hollywood' been sung with more earthy grit), Hicks' guitar solo is both fussier and more streamlined than Chuck's original and the rhythm section proud and poke at the song throughout. This isn't romantic love, it's pure infatuation and in The Hollies version the narrator is hypnotised, under her spell and eager to rush headfirst into things. One of the better early Hollies covers, this song dispenses with all the arch nodding winks of the original and becomes something more straightforward and exciting, with even Clarke's unusual falsetto 'oohs' and 'wooooaaaah shhhhhaaaakes!' ringing true here. Like much of the rest of the album, The Hollies are a real team here and all play their part and while there may be more sophisticated and polished performances of others' material to come, few songs match this one for pure energy and excitement. By the way, the original sleevenotes (recklessly reproduced without changing on CD) are 'wrong': this isn't a Ray Charles song but a Chuck Berry one; equally 'What Kind Of Girl Are You?' really is a Ray Charles song, however it's been credited here.

'Mr Moonlight' is an old Dr Feelgood song, actually only the B-side of a song actually called 'Dr Feelgood' released in 1962. At the time this would have been the most obscure cover song on this album seeing as neither side of the single was a hit. Nowadays of course people know it best from the rather ropey version filling up two and a half minutes of 'Beatles For Sale', but for some reason lots of Northern bands covered this one and The Hollies beat both The Beatles and a Merseybeats version to record by the best part of a year. Whgich is odd because it's not a natural fit for The Hollies: while they add their typical pounding rhythm section there's less for them to do and swapping the vocals between Clarke and Nash (in what was effectively his first lead vocal for the band) doesn't work as well as elsewhere. Tony clearly doesn't know the song that well (it must have been in the Deltas set rather than the Dolphins ones) and he uncharacteristically messes up his guitar solo very badly. Only Eric shines on this one, with a major role given over to the bass part which parps like a demented frog throughout. There's also a horribly cheesy ending pasted on (one of those 'everything will be alright now' I IV V chord progressions that virtually comes with a 'ta-dah!') which the original never had. To be fair though at least The Hollies dispense with the awful organ sound of the original, something that The Beatles kept for some reason and at least their version gets moving: neither version ranks amongst the respective bands' better moments but The Hollies easily win this mini-war.

Regular readers will know that I adore Arthur Alexander, the finest writer of the 1950s whose handful of songs were almost all recorded by the early 1960s bands. Sadly 'You Better Move On' is the only song of his The Hollies ever tackled and while one of his most famous isn't one of his best and certainly not one of his most suitably Hollie-like, with his typical drawn out emotion pushed a little past all believability (a Clarke-filled version of 'Soldiers Of Love' or 'Anna' though would have been sensational...) The Hollies sound like they've stretched the elastic a little too far with the emotion here: Clarke's voice cracks under the strain and Nash's chirper supporting harmony sounds strangely miscast (his additional 'well let me tell you know that' a very 60s idea stapled onto what was already seen as an untouchable 50s classic). The Hollies always were and always will be a great ballads band, able to convince on slow songs, but this ballad is still being treated as if its just a slow rock song and is played with the same heavy-handed attack which makes it not one thing or another. Few Hollies song drag, especially early Hollies songs, but the full 2:48 of this song seems like a lot longer somehow by the time the band navigate the song's tricky chord structures in slow motion, the song only really coming alive for the yearning middle eight ('I can't blame you for loving her...') where at last Clarke and Nash's vocal acrobatics make sense. Erm, we'd better move on...

'Lucille' sounds mighty good in the hands of lots of people, but particularly The Hollies'. A straight ahead no frills version, this Lucille is dark and hypnotic without the cheeky charm of Little Richard's original (the closing track on his self-titled' 'Little Richard' album in 1958). Most 'Lucilles' sound exotic - to British listeners at least - a 'hip' variation of our 'Lucy'  and her playful games at 'hiding' from the narrator sound like the sort of thing an exotically named playful girl would do. The Hollies' version, though, is a howl of pain and desperation, pleading with her to come home with extended vocals that sounds like sobbing (instead of 'Lu-seey-al!' with a little hiccup at the end, her name here is pronounced by The Hollies as a much sadder sounding Looooo-seeeeee-ille'). Chances are the band learnt this song from The Everly Brothers' arrangement (from 'A Date With The Everly Brothers' 1960) or at least the vocals, although even these sound quite different - perhaps because the intensity of Little Richard's original is maintained in the backing too. Hicks somehow manages to make this much-repeated guitar riff work for him, adding his characteristic 'clear' tones, while his manic guitar solo is far trickier than the original, pointing the way forward to the little bursts of energy The Kinks will go on to record. Bobby meanwhile treats this song as a jazz number, with lots of exotic cymbal bashing unusual for rock and roll this early. Over the top of this soars one of the greatest Clarke-Nash-Hicks three way harmonies of them all - one of the very earliest to feature Tony in fact and all three sound remarkably good, doing different things but in perfect synchronisation. The song then climaxes with an unexpected 'wooooah' pause before a short drum break, thrilling stuff that no other cover I've heard has ever quite matched. 'Lucille' is a winner for The Hollies, proof that they can rock with the best of bands around in 1964 (once again their version puts even The Beatles' version - admittedly only ever sung on a BBC session - to shame) and nicely inventive rather than simply being another poor copy of the original.

'Baby Don't Cry' is another obscure song - so obscure that the only mentions of it on the internet all refer solely to The Hollies' version (is this an early version of them picking out a song from an unknown writer?) Sadly it's not that suitable for them, putting The Hollies (who despite the suits and the angelic vocals are amongst the toughest sounding of bands around in 1964) firmly in the 'Freddie and the Dreamers/Herman's Hermits' 'cute' bracket. The narrator's girl wants to cry '24 hours of everyday', while he's a happy go lucky charmer who wants her to dance. Clearly this couple have a lot of therapy and understanding of each other to be getting on with and the narrator's paranoid re-action to her tears recalls Ray Davies' similar 'Stop Your Sobbing' from later in the year (not as unlikely an inspiration as it sounds: The Kinks looked up to The Hollies after a 1963 bill where the Mancunians were the stars and the Muswell Hillbillies were bottom of the bill; The Davies brothers never forgot Nash's kind intervention to tell their management to 'shut up and leave them alone' because they were 'doing fine'). While the band try to do their usual 'tough guy' strut it doesn't quite work here: Eric's 'ba-da-dah!' bass lines are just daft and Bobby's repeated drum lick silly and a cheesy '1-2-3!' ending suggests that even the band are aware that they have to do something to brighten this song up. The sort of thing other bands were hiding away on B-sides, you wonder why this song made the album when so many fine songs such as 'When I'm Not There' 'What Kind Of Love' and 'Poison Ivy' (all recorded by this point) either ended u[p on the cutting room floor or edged out onto EPs.

'Memphis Tennessee' (here shortened simply to 'Memphis') is a second Chuck Berry classic (Who'd have thought it? A Hollies debut with more Chuck Berry songs on it as The Rolling Stones' first record!) One ofv the finest records of the 1950s, this features one of the mothers of all guitar riffs, one which the Hollies cleverly alter so that they play it between two guitars and bass, the three overlapping at times to give even more feeling of 'movement' and 'tension'. It's the lyrics though that are great on this song: throughout this 'divorce' song seems to be about a boy and a girl going their separate ways and living in separate postcodes with the 'Memphis Tennessee' postal address sounding like a shining beacon of salvation. The last verse reveals that the narrator couldn't care less about the girlfriend - it's the six year old daughter 'Marie' he longs to stay in contact with, a revelation which adds extra poignancy to the song. The Hollies seem to be oblivious to this 'twist', though, chugging along throughout the track as if this is simply an 'obvious' part of the song, although I'll forgive them anything for turning that slinky backbeat of Chuck's original into a powerhouse of a rock song the way they do. The pause at the end of every vocal  line for the guitar part (angrily nagging away and saying everything the narrators can't, perhaps) is a particular masterstroke. With the best 'wooooaaaahhhh shhhhaaaake!' of the entire record and a marvellously exciting instrumental 'breakout' in the middle, this is another of The Hollies' all-time best cover songs, an expert song expertly played.

'Stay' is The Hollies' breakthrough hit. The song may only have made #8 in the charts and they may have had two top twenty hits already, but it's where their high energy-with-smiles sound starts. Maurice Williams' 'Zodiacs' original is both quieter and more reserved than The Hollies' version: it's a polite invitation to a girl not to leave because they're having an enjoyable time; The Hollies' version is a swinging party this girl wouldn't want to miss if her life depended on it. The perfect vehicle for The Hollies' tigger style bounce, this song is cleverly rewritten to their strengths. Bobby's first recording session alters the band's sound considerably with some excellent hard-hitting Keith Moon style drumming that somehow never gets in the way and which gives Eric plenty of space to have fun rather than simply nail the bass root notes down. Tony's cheeky wink of a guitar is clever too. However it's the vocals that make this song, with all three singers given key roles (Instead o having Tony quietly doubling Nash an octave below, as normal). The result might not be that deep, but it's very catchy and infectious fun, with so much going on your ear barely knows where to turn next. Legend has it that Williams didn't think much of this song when he wrote ut, but kept it in the act when a ten-year-old in the audience the first night he played it said it was her favouritest song ever and he had to keep it - or else. You wonder if the same girl heard The Hollies' version, which without the polite restraints of the 1950s  is even more infectious and a whole lot easier to love. At last, after two nearlies, The Hollies 'style' has arrived.

Side two starts with a surprisingly tough version of 'Rockin' Robin', a single originally by Bobby Day (using his pseudonym Jimmie Thomas) and a number two US hit single in 1958 some 14 years before Michael Jackson's version. Both of those other versions sound like a comedy novelty record that could have been a Disney cartoon, with a tweeting bird and his groove the talk of the town. The Hollies' hard hitting version dispenses with all that schmaltz to turn this song into an epic rocker, with Tony and Graham yelling 'twee! Twiddly dee!' at the tops of their voices as if this is all of the greatest importance. Clarke's smoky lead is fantastic, completely ignoring the banality of the lyric (for instance the line 'A-hopping and a bopping and a singing his song' is sung with a Roger Daltrey style snarl, not that the world at ;large has any idea who Roger Daltrey is for another year). Eric and Bobby are again on terrific form,. the song nailed to the floor by a loud 'hmm' from Haydock's bass, while the expressive fun of the song is expressed by a fiery drum rattle that sounds more like a bunch of very fat and scary pigeons than a humble robin. Yes The Hollies should have put all that fire and energy into a better song, but the result is a lot better than anyone might have been expecting: a comedy song done as a serious one and with a real groove behind it.

Alas Doris Payne's 'What'cha Gonna Do 'Bout It?' is the wrong song for the wrong band. This song is a 'grower' that needs to build stage by stage, sung in a subtle and sexy way by a Mick Jagger rather than smashed to smithereens by an Eric Burdon. Sadly that's the approach The Hollies take, starting hard and aggressive ('Ou-u-u-u-u-u-u-r love yeah-yeah-yeah') and getting heavier and heavier throughout the song to the point where these flimsy lyrics sink under all that weight. The lyrics deserve better actually, slowly sinking into defeat as the narrator gets madder and madder as he tries to find a way out for a relationship but snaps to his girl that she's not taking this seriously, that 'you just won't comprehend'. There's a line in the second verse I could never get but which the online lyric websites all seem to agree is 'sugar-pie' - it doesn't sound like that to me ('Sugar puff' perhaps but not 'sugar-pie'!) and that in itself is a sign of how 'wrong' this song is: usually The Hollies' diction is the best in the business (I bet they wouldn't even have murmured the words to 'Louie Louie'!) The result is odd - on its own this is a fine song that deserves to be better known and on face value the band's performance here is as committed and cleverly made as any other. But the two don't fit: it's like an abstract rendering of the Mona Lisa, or a punk version of 'My Way' (which as Sid Vicious proved, isn't as fun as it sounds).

'Do You Love Me?' has a long and complex history. Berry Gordy wrote the song and tried to sell it to The Temptations - but despite his prestigious name they passed, claiming it was daft. The song was a hit for Motown band The Contours in 1962 though, a novelty song written solely to cash in on the names of two current hit 'dances' ('the twist' and 'the mashed potato' - which incidentally sounds like a pretty accurate representation of my dancing). Legend has it that The Contours - about to be dropped by the label after a run of flop singles - so recognised the song's potential that they gave Gordy a 'bear hug' right then and there, which nearly saw him take the song off them again! The song peaked at number three and was covered by oodles of Merseybeat acts: Faron's Flamingos were the first, then the Dave Clark Five, then Brian Poole and the Tremeloes (who had the biggest hit with it in the UK). Their version became even bigger after aptly appearing in 1987 blockbuster 'Dirty Dancing'. So why did The Hollies try to compete with all that competition on a song that really doesn't sound like them? The band completely mis-read the opening spoken word section (one of the most embarrassing moments in their canon) and while Clarke's guttural cries on the song proper and Nash and Hicks' falsetto replies are fun neither are exactly classic Hollie moments. The narrator pleads for a second chance with a girl whose dumped him because he was a poor dancer and he's been up all night practising. Only in the 1950s (perhaps the 1980s) could this have happened: any other era would have had the boy telling her to get lost (the 70s), inventing his own dance and wowing everybody his own way (90s) or painting out how groovy the world is if people could just stay still (the 60s). Or, quite possibly, having the girl in a jungle landscape proving that she can dance better than he can however hard he tries (the 00s). This song just sounds 'wrong' for 1964 somehow: love shouldn't rest on mere dancing alone and however gritty Clarke's vocal is (a world away from The Tremeloes' gentlemanly performance) he can't make up for the fact that this is a silly song about a silly art form. The song sags long before we hit the 2:13 mark and even an inventive 'bom bom bom bom bom' section can't add the Hollie stamp to this mess. If I was one of the Contours and Berry Gordy (writer of such fine songs as 'Reet Petite' 'I Want You Back' and especially 'Money (That's What I Want)' had offered me this silly song I'd have throttled him, not hugged him. The fact that I can't dance is not, repeat not, the reason I'm feeling bitter here by the way, no sirree...

The next album highlight is Conway Twitty's 'It's Only Make Believe', a song that really is perfect for The Hollies and which few other 60s bands could have covered so well. Twitty's annoyingly faux-country original is insincere and insipid, but The Hollies sing from the heart on a song about falling in love when it's unreciprocated. The band finally master the art of dynamics, starting off low and slow and building note by note to being high and fast (in a manner of speaking). This lovely song is so fragile it might break, so the band are careful to wrap it up in lots of Hollie cotton wool, with a delightful harmonic blend from Clarke and Nash (Hicks doesn't sing on this one) and a gentle backing, where even Hicks' slightly crackled entrance of guitar sounds dangerous and daring. The Hollies often sang about infatuation and this song is one of their best examples of this, an early attenpt at the 'sudden switch of gears' technique they'll pull of spectacularly in songs like 'I'm Alive' and close cousin 'Honey and Wine'. This time there's less contrast going on - the song dampens down thanks to a brilliant lengthy Hicks guitar solo rather than a minor key verse - but the effect is the same: this song is a 'journey' for the narrator and a song on which everyone (listener included) feels like they've learnt something by the end of the song. Thankfully future Hollies albums will feature more songs like this and less like 'Do You Love Me?' - 1950s minor hits that never quite fulfilled their potential, given the uptempo 100% Hollies commitment and transformed into gems of the highest order.

By contrast 'What Kind Of Girl Are You?' is unusually scrappy. Unusually for a 1960s band, there aren't that many alternate mixes of Hollies songs doing the rounds (compared to The Small Faces, say, where each song has been dissected at least half a dozen times). However In own one terrible remix of this song for some cheap compilation album that puts the emphasise firmly on the vocals and ducks the instruments in the mix and which shows up just what a mess this recording is. Clarke and Nash are off key and both sound like they've got heavy colds (although given that this song was recorded along with four others that made this album during the first session for it on December 11th 1963 that seems unlikely), straining and gurning for each note. The backing is stronger, with a sweet doo-ba-ba-ba dee-ba-ba-ba-dum drum lick from Bobby that finishes off each verse in style and perhaps the greatest Hicks guitar solo of the record: aggressive, loud and raucous but still delightfully tuneful. But the song is taken too slowly for full impact and  even another thrilling 'wooooaaaah shhhhaaaake!' can't get the band out of this one! Interestingly the band will go on to record songs titled 'What Kind Of Boy?' and 'What Kind Of Love?' suggesting that this sort of rhetorical questioning song was seen as a sort of template to follow rather than a song to avoid. Bizarrely, this Ray Charles song - which again The Hollies probably learnt from an Everly Brothers cover on 1960 LP 'It's Everly Time' - is credited to 'Capehart and Campbell' on the album sleeve, suggesting that someone at EMI heard a Glenn Campbell version and assumed they'd written the original (Jerry Capehart is Glenn's usual writing partner across the 1960s).

'Little Lover' is another scrappy performance where - perhaps uniquely for a published performance rather than an outtake - the band get the words wrong (on the second verse: 'Trying to forget you' sings Clarke; goodness knows what Nash is singing but it clearly isn't that!) This reveals just how hurried the performance was and perhaps how new the song was, being one of the earliest Hollies originals (although not the first; 'Whole World Over' had already appeared as the B-side to first single 'Ain't That Just Like Me?') While not up to the Chuck Berry and Arthur Alexander classics on the album, The Hollies are already about best of the rest, with a fun song that manages to rhyme ''love and discover' in a cute catchy chorus and features a driving 50s pastiche rocker style on the verses. The band are having a ball (so no wonder Ron Richards let that mistake pass!) with Tony and Graham answering Clarke's terrifically razor-sharp vocal. Indeed, like 'Rockin' Robin', you wouldn't believe from just the 'sound' and energy of this song that this song was about anything less important than the end of the world and the result is a killer performance that's one of the best on the album, with all the band delivering where they need to. The Hollies songs will get better, and quickly, but as a band they're already right on the money.

The song then ends with perhaps the single best performance of the whole of this first LP, with Clarke especially at his best on a hard-nosed cover of Reverend Gary Davis' (yes he really was both a vicar and a blues singer!) 'Candyman'. Allan's vocals purr and tear away at the fabric of the song, as the band rock up the slow slinky original where a man promises all sorts of sweet goodies (clearly a euphemism for something - though the jury's still out on exactly what; sex or drugs or both?), making a rock song out of a blues one. This is prime Yardbirds territory, actually, more than Hollies but the band are rarely better, with Clarke belying his mere 22 years of age to sound like a wizened, hardened adult and his overdubbed harmonica playing is excellent too (especially on the mono version, where it's better mixed than the stereo for some reason, leaving a few half-hearted puffs in that are clearly 'mistakes'). The rest of the band are tight, too, as evidenced by the stop-start section just before the finale (The Beatles messed up horribly when they tried a similar trick later in the year on 'Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby'). This will start a tradition of Hollies albums ending on updated blues songs and while 'Candy Man' isn't quite the best, it's still very good and brings this first patchy album to a thrilling conclusion.

Overall, then, 'Stay With The Hollies' is a curious debut record. It doesn't quite have the breadth of vision of 'My Generation' or the sheer adventurousness of 'Please Please Me' or 'Rolling Stones'. But when The Hollies are on form a lot of their performances are better than all three, making even the most unlikely candidates rock and roll with the best of them. If only the band had had more faith in their own material and been more keen on digging around for obscurer songs no one else was doing then 'Stay With The Hollies' could have been a masterpiece. As it is, though, its still a very overlooked debut and as an eclectic album as any released in 1964, featuring not just high octane rock and roll but a bit of blues and country and Motown too. The Hollies are clearly staying around for a long long time to come and even though this start isn't bad by any means things are going to get a lot better very soon - with a superior sequel out before the end of the year...Wooooooaaaah Shhhhhaaaake!


'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

Beatle Bonuses: Songs Given Away/Ringo's Beatle Written Songs

The Alan's Album Guide To The Beatles Is Available To Buy Now By Clicking Here

We wrap up our Beatles entries for the moment with two 'mini-articles' taken from our forthcoming Beatles ebook 'Every Little Thing' (stick the date in your five year diary, it;'ll be with you in 2017!) These are both revised and expanded from earlier articles on the songs The Beatles gave away to other artists and the songs John, Paul and George gave away to Ringo! 

Brian Epstein used to enjoy telling reporters in 1963 that Lennon and McCartney had written 'hundreds of songs' even before he'd met them and they could keep the band going up to 1970 alone; we know now that this was something of an exaggeration and the composers would end up so stuck for material that they were still resorting to cover songs as late as 1965. However, we do know of a good 20 songs the Beatles 'gave away' over the course of their career (many of them never recorded by the fab four themselves) and us Beatles fans can only look on in horror at reports that there were at least a dozen more scribbled in a notebook that Jane Asher threw away during some 'spring cleaning' one year. While only a few of these songs can be labelled 'classics' on the same level as the Beatles' better known songs some of them are well worth seeking out and both John and Paul seriously thought about a career as 'songwriters to the stars' when the hits started drying up (50 years on and we're still waiting...) Hopefully one day someone official will cobble these recordings all together on one CD (perhaps when the publishing rights to the discs die out). Till then I'm afraid we're left with doing an awful lot of digging through obscure various artist compilations or scouring Youtube:
1) "One and One Is Two" (Mike Shannon and The Strangers, 1963)
We start with one of John and Paul's earliest collaborations, pre-dating 'Love Me Do' according to most reports. Paul was still sufficiently embarrassed by this song to busk it as an example of how 'bad' the pair were in their early days and granted this is fairly standard Merseybeat fare without the originality of Lennon and McCartney's later songs. However, considering that this song must date back to the late 1950s or at latest 1960 it sounds remarkably 'modern', treated in the only recorded version with a heavy drum beat and rattling fast-paced heavy rock sound. Would have made an interesting early Beatle b-side.
2) "Love of the Loved" (Cilla Black, 1963)
Another of the better songs on this list, 'Love of the Loved was a moody dramatic McCartney ballad that The Beatles had been singing since at least their Decca audition on January 1st 1962 (it's one of the highlights of that tape indeed). When Brian Epstein signed Cavern cloakroom girl Cilla White (as she was before she changed her name) he naturally asked John and Paul for any songs. Sensing that this song might sound good with a brassy glare, Paul and George Martin cooked up this rather over-zealous arrangement for the song which doesn't suit it or the singer. They should have stuck with the Beatles' quieter arrangement: Cilla is awful at controlling her shrill notes in this song (understandable given how nervous she must have been but an odd choice for a debut). Contrary to popular belief Cilla was not a big hit straight away - it peaked at #35 in the UK, far lower than 'Love Me Do' for example!
3) "I'm In Love" (Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, 1963/The Fourmost 1964)
Billy J Kramer was another of Brian Epstein's signings and, while Lennon ribbed his new friend mercilessly for the cutsie-pie songs he used to cover, became quite fond of him, producing a lot of these early songs. Is it just a coincidence that out of all the New York apartments John and Yoko he chose one with the same name as Billy J's backing group? 'I'm In Love' is an interesting song mainly written by John: it's more like something The Swinging Blue Jeans would write, matching a rather drippy lyric against a rocking heavy beat. A demo of Lennon recording it exists (looking for quiet to record, he ended up in Brian Epstein's loo and on some bootlegs pulls the chain after the end of the song - his comment on the state of it perhaps?), as well as session tapes of Lennon 'directing' the session which ended up on the 'Billy J Kramer at Abbey Road' CD in the 1990s. The Fourmost also covered the song and made it even more of a 'Merseybeat' cover, although their number isn't quite as sweet and didn't sell quite as well, peaking at UK #17 - the lowest any Lennon/McCartney song had reached so far.
4) "Bad To Me" (Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, 1963)
Most of this list is made up of McCartney songs; this one just sounds like it. Yes, its John Lennon again, asked to write a song for Brian Epstein's new find and a friend of the band in a hurry and figuring that Paul can get away with it so why not him? Lennon's song is every bit as bright and breezy as the others on this list and the simply awful rhyme of 'bad' and 'glad' is the sort of thing he'd tease Paul about years later. 'Bad To Me' is far from the best Lennon composition, then, but its also far from the worst - it's nice to hear John write a 'happy' song for once and both the cute guitar riff and the clever middle eight that gets three rhymes out of the same words not two is the hallmark of a writer giving this his best shot ('But I know you won't leave me...') The song would have sounded badly out of place on any Beatles album, especially 'A Hard Day's Night, and has yet to be officially released with Lennon singing, although a charming Lennon demo does do the rounds on bootleg (famously he couldn't find anywhere quiet to record a demo for Billy so he used the bathroom of Abbey Road and afterwards pulled the chain of the toilet he was sitting on - his comment on how much he thought of the song!)
5) "I'll Keep You Satisfied" (Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, 1963)
Billy J again on a song that's again credited to both John and Paul but must surely be a McCartney tune: the melody spans far more than Lennon' usual five or six notes and ties up all the sections together neatly. It's not one of McCartney's best with a rather nursery rhyme melody and some particularly gormless words, but there's a nice key change into the middle eight that's good practice for similar uses in the 'Beatles For Sale' period on. Other lesser bands would have released it no problem!
6) "I'll Be On My Way" (Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, 1964)
We've already dealt with this song in full in our 'BBC Recordings #2 1963' list: suffice to say Billy J's latest Beatles cover is pretty close to the Beatles original and arguably the best of the 'Beatles' songs he 'borrowed'. Perhaps John and Paul thought so too which is why they returned to it, despite the rhyming of 'Junelight' and 'moonlight' (something they swore they'd never do). Billy released it as the B-side of another Lennon/McCartney cover, already released by them on 'Please Please Me', 'Do You Want To Know A Secret?' 'Yes' seems to be the answer - this B-side is a well kept secret, a clever Buddy Holly-influences song that would have made a fine addition to the first two Beatle albums.
7) "From A Window" (Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, 1964)
Billy J's last Beatle cover seems an odd choice: Billy J had just proven that he didn't need Beatle songs to be popular - his own 'Little Children' had outsold any of their songs and is still his biggest hit today. This follow-up was recorded in a hurry, with both John and Paul present at the session (McCartney even adds a poignant harmony on the last line of the song!) A kind of early prototype for the 'unhappy rocker' style of 'No Reply', with a song that similarly shuffled from foot and a lyric about a girl at a window who pretends she isn't in, this is no match for the 'sequel' but is still amongst the best songs on this list, with a typically glorious McCartney melody line. The song deserved better than a chart peak of #10 - the lowest Billy J had had till then and the start of a sales decline that he sadly never recovered from.
8) "Tip Of My Tongue" (Tommy Quickly, 1964)
"Tongue" is arguably the least well known song here and easily the poorest selling - poor Tommy Quickly (real name Quigley) did everything he could to get a hit and nothing seemed to work; frankly if he couldn't get a hit with a Lennon-McCartney song at the height of Beatlemania in 1964 he had no chance with anything else. That said, the only L-M song not to make the charts at all doesn't sound much like their work - it's more like the lighter end of the Searchers or Gerry and the Pacemakers' repertoire. The song is more Paul than John and features some very Macca rhymes ('After all is said and done, I'd marry you and we'd live as one, no more words on the tip of my tongue') and wouldn't have sounded out of place in some Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about stammerers ('OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOklahoma...'. That said, it's still worth looking out for and could have been really something sung in a Beatles version with Macca doing his gritty 'Little Richard' voice. In actual fact the Beatles did record this, at one of their earliest sessions in November 1962, but George Martin wasn't too impressed with the song (amazingly this is one of the few fab four recordings never to come out on bootleg to date!) That's the Remo Four backing Tommy, by the way, who go on to be big friends of George Harrison and play on the 'Western' side of his 'Wonderwall Music' soundtrack.
9) "Like Dreamers Do" (The Applejacks, 1964)
One of Paul's earliest songs, you can imagine how well this song would have gone down on the Hamburg stage, with its slightly proper before-the-war gentleman feeling and a powerful basic beat that was tailor-made for Pete Best to play on. Similar in feel to Macca's favourite cover song of the era, 'Besame Mucho', this is a song that uses more chord changes than normal for the period (1961 is the earliest performance on record) and a build-up of steam that's really effective. Sadly the Applejacks don't quite do the song justice, singing more like Elvis than the 'crooner' image Paul had for his song and the backing is slightly perfunctory. The Beatles' Decca Audition though (again heard on 'Anthology One') is a minor gem and would have been one of the highlights on 'Please Please Me'.
10) "Hello Little Girl" (The Fourmost, 1964)
'Hello Little Girl' is a lovely Lennon song and one of his earliest (they have him writing it in his bedroom the day his mother Julia dies in the 'Nowhere Boy' film, which isn't quite right but near enough as dating goes. It's actually a very McCartneyesque song with its breezy melody although the quick-stepping puns are more Lennon (was he inspired to write this by McCartney's own similar 'I Lost My Little Girl?' A regular of the Beatles' Hamburg set and one of the songs played by the band at their Decca audition on New Year's Day 1962 (as heard on 'Anthology One'), it would have made a fine addition to 'Please Please Me' or as one of the band's earliest B-sides, even if its a bit white-shiny-teeth for the Beatles even this early on. Listen out for the narrator losing his 'mi-mi-mind', a writing trick Lennon will re-use many times over the years. The Fourmost ham their version of the song up for all it's worth; much better is a version by Gerry and the Pacemakers (unreleased till the 1990s) - the song suits them a lot better than their 'other' Beatle outtake 'How Do You Do It?' (a Mitch Murray song the Beatles scrapped in favour of 'Please Please Me'). Still, the song is a sweet one that deserved better recognition, with the 'Decca' version still the definitive one.
11) "World Without Love" (Peter and Gordon, 1964)
The only people who seem to remember Peter and Gordon nowadays are Beatle fans and followers of actress Jane Asher. Peter was her brother, you see, in the days before he became a businessman and helped run 'Apple' and for a time looked as if he was about to become Paul's brother-in-law. The duo had an almighty run of hits, though, coming close to outperfoming the Beatles in 1965! Many of the best ones were written by Paul, convinced that Peter and his schoolfriend Gordon Waller (whose the spitting image of The Byrds' Gene Clark incidentally). Legend has it that Paul felt threatened and never gave the band anything good, but actually McCartney was very giving with his time and often plugged the pair as his 'favourite band' whenever he was asked. The only one of P+G's songs recorded by the Beatles was the also-excellent 'I'll Be On My Way' (see 'Beatles at the BBC'), although they did try and record more including the best-by-a-nose 'World Without Love'. However, the Beatles had to abandon the song when Lennon couldn't stop giggling every time Paul sang the opening line 'Please...lock me away!' Other songs for the duo include the under-rated and surprisingly moody 'I Don't Want To See You Again' (written when Paul was hitting problems with Jane Asher - was this song a comment?) and the rather oddly written 'Woman', a song released not under the Lennon-McCartney name but under the psudeonym 'Bernard Webb' (Paul wanted to see if it was just his name selling everything and whether he'd be as successful if no one knew who he was - however this rather odd and unlikable track probably wasn't the best one to try with!)
12) "Nobody I Know" (Peter and Gordon, 1964)
Another largely McCartney-based song, 'Nobody I Know' doesn't quite have the grace and beauty of 'World Without Love' and in truth is more a phrase than a song. It's unusual for Paul not to know where to go with a song once he came up with part of it - perhaps Lennon's ridicule put him off this song too much to finish it? The single still sold well as Peter and Gordons' second single, though, eventually peaking at a respectable UK chart high of #10.
13) "I Don't Want To See You Again" (Peter and Gordon, 1964)
Peter and Gordon single number three is another overtly cute McCartney reject, dressed up by lots of George Martin strings. With lines like 'why do I cry every night, could be wrong, could be right' this is easily the weakest of Peter and Gordon's singles (well, until they start doing weird one-offs like 'Lady Godiva' at the end of their career anyway). The single peaked at #16, but in the US this time where the duo had belatedly become big - it didn't do a thing in the UK as Merseybeat began to go out of fashion.
14) "It's For You" (Cilla Black, 1964)
Paul's second song for Cilla is much better than his first, if not quite up to his third. This time around Cilla has become a bit of a celebrity, thanks mainly to her #1 cover of 'Anyone Who Had A Heart' and has 'grown' into her voice, which is now a deep growl with a few pussycat overtones. 'It's For You' is tailor made for her and unlike a lot of the songs her was written deliberately as a 'cover' song from the first with the same sudden switch from ballad into rock number as that big hit. Oddly, despite the improvement in quality and the publicity of being a Lennon and McCartney song, this was a bit of a flop for Cilla and peaked at #7 in the UK.
15) "That Means A Lot" (P J Proby, 1965)
The Beatles' abandoned version of this song - originally intended for 'Help!' and since released on Anthology Two - has long been regarded as one of the few Beatles songs people laugh at. Most of this seems to come down to the very McCartneyesque chorus line 'Sometimes things are so fine - and at times they're not', which is indeed a rare slip of quality, undoing the emotion of the rest of the song. However, personally I've always been fond of this piece, which repeats the drama of 'Ticket To Ride' but in happier circumstances, and the band would have got it to work in most other eras had the marijuana they'd recently discovered caused them to giggle all day and go to 32 takes (most of them breakdowns, in more ways than one). One of the Motown acts would have done a great version of this song, which needs a smoky smouldering power the Beatles haven't quite learnt to play yet (Smokey Robinson could have repaid the compliment of the fab four covering 'You Really Got A Hold On Me' - the two are quite similar!), but P J Proby still has a good go. In fact his arrangement, which speeds up the 'can't you see?...' chorus is actually better than McCartneys, although you miss the group harmonies of John and George. The song would have made a fitting extra to 'Help!'
16) "Woman" (Peter and Gordon, 1966)
By now Peter and Gordon were starting to lose sales and, as Paul began to have more and more arguments with his in-laws he was less and less inclined to write songs for them. Around 1966 though, with the end of touring and the long second half of 1966 stretching out without any commitments for the first time in years (a relief to the others but anathema to the workaholic McCartney), he decided on a little 'test' about where his career might go 'next'. 'Woman' is 100% a McCartney song but, worried that his singles were selling just because they had the Beatles name on them, he gave it to Peter and Gordon on the condition that he be credited under a pseudonym. Most copies of the single list the writing credit 'Bernard Webb', others a more mysterious 'A Smith'. The trick didn't really work on either level - the single stalled at #28 in the UK and one reviewer of the day commented that 'Bernard Webb has such talent he could be another Paul McCartney - he certainly sounds like him!' suggesting people weren't fooled. It's a shame this song didn't do better because it's an interesting song, with Paul trying to go for a 'maturer' feel than usual for Peter and Gordon (she's a 'woman' not a 'girl' for start) but without moving too far away from the close and simple harmonies that was their trademark. It's not quite 'World Without Love' but it is a good song.
17) "Step Inside, Love" (Cilla Black, 1967)
The best of three Cilla songs Paul gave to his old friend and one-time Cavern cloakroom attendant (so says us anyway) 'Step Inside, Love' was - unusually for this list - written deliberately for Cilla on request. Cilla was starting a new TV show and wanted a theme that was 'inviting' and asked Paul to write one to different lengths. Pleased to be set the challenge of working to order for once, Paul took Cilla's notes to heart and wrote this song where Cilla appears to be inviting her tired husband in from work but could also be singing to all the audience at home. The melody is wonderfully Macca, fragile and delicate before breaking into storm and fire on the catchy chorus. The Beatles never considered this song themselves, but you can hear Paul 'improvising' a version of this song on 'Anthology Three' (he's actually bored slogging through 80-odd takes of 'I Will' for the Beatles White Album at the time) and an even better demo played for Cilla and George Martin at Abbey Road that's oft-bootlegged (perfectionist to the last, Macca even knows where the orchestra will go - and how the 'reprise' of the song can be edited for the end credits). The song would have made a nice addition to 'Magical Mystery Tour', though, had the band wanted it (you can just picture it actually: 'roll up roll up...and step inside!') The Hollies 'borrowed' the idea for their own superb song 'Step Inside' on 'Butterfly', which Cilla should have done as a follow-up! Cilla's 'other' two Beatles songs include a pre-Beatles Righteous Brothers-style ballad  'Love Of The Loved' which suits the Beatles (as can be heard on 'Anthology One' from another Decca audition tape) but never really suited Cilla and the similar, under-rated silky ballad 'It's For You', which has better dynamics but worse lyrics.
18) "Catcall" (Chris Barber, 1967)
'Catcall' 'Cat's Call' 'Catwalk' - Beatles bootleg fans know this instrumental by all sorts of names. A Shadows-style instrumental (not unlike 'Cry For A Shadow'), it was a regular in The Beatles' early act and is thought to be another of Paul's really early songs from when he was 14 or 15 (before he'd even met John). A clever, memorable melody that doesn't really quite know where to go after the first minute, it worked rather better on guitars than it does in this jazzier brass arrangement but it's nice to see this likeable song get some sort of an official release. Bizarrely Barber's band turns the song into a 'stripper' anthem, complete with catcalls and cheers, which rather gets in the way of the delightful naive strut of the tune. Was this their idea or Paul's (he was present at the session and this sounds suspiciously like the 'Thrillington' big band arrangements of his solo record 'Ram' in 1977!)
19) "Thingumybob" (The Black Dyke Mills Band, 1968)
Another brass band McCartney song, this was specially written for the colliery band as one of Apple's first four single releases - Paul hoping it would show off how eclectic the band could be (the others were Mary Hopkin's vaudeville 'Those Were The Days', Jackie Lomax's rocky 'Sour Milk Sea' and The Beatles' own 'Hey Jude'). Released as a single with a jolly cover of 'Yellow Submarine' on the flipside, it shows off just how good Paul's grasp of different styles is. Similar in feel and texture to his score for the film 'The Family Way', it's a happy little song with a trumpet 'waddle' and some oompah-ing backing that's rather effective.
20)  "Goodbye" (Mary Hopkin, 1968)
Mary Hopkin is, in effect, the female Paul McCartney and the sister he never had. Legend has it that Paul saw her singing on Oppurtunity Knocks and hired her straight away - actually it was Brian Epstein's assistant Alistair Taylor who spotted her first and got Macca to watch the repeat. However, the pair were close - briefly anyway - and Paul either wrote or 'suggested' all of her biggest hits. Frankly, most of them are awful, but Macca cared enough for her to give him one of the best songs he never used himself. Pretty, cute and full of that singalong McCartney magic that makes the song sound as if it's been around at least a century, 'Goodbye' might have been tossed out in five minutes but it shows just how effortlessly musical McCartney naturally is. Sadly Hopkins version loses the innocence and fluffyness of the original in favour of a rather irritating oompah-brass part, but the McCartney demo (now available on 'Anthology Three') is a thing of beauty and as great as any of his songs written for the 'White Album' that year, at one with the tranquillity of 'I Will' and 'Mother Nature's Son', even if it is in effect the happiest break-up song ever written.
21)  "Sour Milk Sea" (Jackie Lomax, 1968)
George Harrison wasn't the most prolific of writers until late-on in his Beatles career, so it's no real surprise he only ever 'gave' one song away (though Billy Preston was handed 'My Sweet Lord' until George realised it might become a hit and took it back again!) 'Sour Milk Sea' is an absolute classic 'Harrisong', first demoed during the Beatles' jaunt to Rishikesh with the Maharishi and a complete mix of the two sides of his 'other' songs from the period, containing the turbulence of 'Piggies' and 'Savoy Truffle' with the spiritualism of 'Long Long Long' and 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'. Kicking himself for frowning, George tells himself that all his problems are man-made and that the 'sour milk sea' is nothing to do with the real purpose of life which is spirituality ('You don't belong there!') Liverpudlian friend Jackie Lomax had a great voice and his first album (released on 'Apple') has intermittent sparks of genius; however Jackie's heavy voice is in danger of singing this song back into the sea: George's own fragile-but-tough vocals suit it much better but sadly his demo for this song still hasn't ever had an official release.
22) "Come and Get It" (Badfinger, 1969)
Most fans rate 'Come and Get It' as the 'number one hit that got away', possibly McCartney's best song of 1969 and indeed it was the biggest hit Badfinger ever had. However, I've never really warmed to this song which is like an evil twin of 'You Never Give Me Your Money', sarcastically taunting someone else (Lennon?) to come and get some money because 'it's going fast'. The song makes more sense when you realise it was written specifically for the 'Magic Christian' film which Ringo starred in alongside Peter Sellers whose basic premise was that you can make someone do anything if you pay him enough money. Paul should have done it himself though, instead of giving it to Badfinger - sadly this film categorised them for years as a hard-edged pop band when they were the most emotional and fragile band around. McCartney's demo version, released on Anthology Three, is far superior simply because he understand the song better and it suits him more, although even then there's alarmingly little going on in this song and the message of 'dog eat dog' only 18 months from the co-writer 'All You Need Is Love' seems devastating to me, even if it was written for someone else. If ever a song heralded in the death of the 1960s it was this one (alongside the Stones' 'Gimme Shelter' anyway). A sad way to end our little sideways journey into the songs The Beatles gave away!

(Adapted from an article first published as part of 'News, Views and Music Issue #26' on March 3rd 2009)
We've given you an overview of Ringo's career, but the parts that every Beatles fan should know are the songs John, Paul and George gave to their old friend. Some of these were written especially for him ('I'm The Greatest'), some were leftovers that never got finished ('Pure Gold') and some were written in collaboration with him (the only two songs ever credited to George and Ringo: 'It Don't Come Easy' and 'Photograph', gems both). Originally this article looked at the 'five best songs' written for Ringo, but we've adapted it to look at all thirteen written between 1971 and 1981. Oh and this list only includes those songs written by either John, Paul or George, not songs which they produced or played and sang on!
1) 'It Don't Come Easy' (Harrison/Starr; released as a single 1971)
A terrific little song that was the first 'proper' recording (ie vaguely poppy) that Ringo made and one he tried hard to beat for the rest of his career. The song successfully manages to pit a typically mournful Ringo vocal against a quite bouncy song that seems to say 'grr' on the one hand and 'oh well' on the other. Bootlegs reveal that George had one heck of a lot to do with the song and may have intended it for 'All Things Must Pass', layering it with the Radna Krishna Temple singers and adding a 'Hare Krishna!' chorus part. This song fits in nicely as a 'Harrisong' rather than one of Ringo's, being a rumination on karma and 'paying your dues' before something good comes along. The drummer also memorably sang this as his 'party piece' at the all-starr Bangla Desh benefit where he forgets the words and has to sing the first verse twice! Perhaps the best song on this list, this was a deserved #2 hit and - for a short time before 'My Sweet Lord' came long - was the most successful solo Beatles solo single. That's Stephen Stills not George on the guitar solo, by the way, and it's a cracker channelling so much pent up rage and aggre4ssion and trying to find a better path forward.
2) 'I’m The Greatest' (Lennon; available on the ‘Ringo’ album, 1973)
Lennon wrote three songs for Ringo but the others are pretty dire - the nauseating boogie-woogie nonsense song ‘Goodnight Vienna’ sounds like Jools Holland or Jamie Callum (though on a particularly good day, admittedly) while last-song-published-before-his-house-husband-phase ‘Cookin’ In The Kitchen Of Love’ quite possibly is the worst song Lennon wrote in his life (thank goodness he didn’t record it himself). ‘Greatest’, however, is a treat – written by Lennon in an egotistical mood for his royal walrus-ness to sing, he sensibly decided in a stronger moment that it would be better for Ringo to sing. Ringo’s mix of humility and all-round niceness just about allows him to get away with this song (the lyrics tell us how great the narrator’s friends, family and fans thought he was in teenage days, adult days and stardom respectively) in a way that Lennon probably never could (though his harmony on Ringo’s version is superb). Lennon’s own version (a warm-up vocal at Ringo’s session to show the drummer what the vocals were supposed to sound like) was later released on the 4CD ‘Lennon Anthology’ (2000) and for all of the bum notes and poor production values sounds even better.  Listen out too for the heart-warming mention of ‘Billy Shears’ and adjacent applause in the song (Lennon’s tip of the hat/satire of McCartney’s for the song ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’).
3) 'Photograph' (Harrison/Starr, available on the ‘Ringo’ album, 1973)
The only song on this list that casual (not fellow monkeynuts Beatles collectors) might know is this #8 single. The only official George and Ringo collaboration ever (though the two unofficially co-wrote the Cream B-side ‘Badge’ with Eric Clapton, despite the lack of a credit for the drummer) is a memorable mix of both solo Beatles’ sounds circa 1973. Ringo provides the poppy complexity and clear production of his early solo singles the under-rated ‘It Don’t Come Easy’ and the over-rated ‘Back Off Boogaloo’ while George adds the choral feel and laidback melancholy heard on his concurrent solo albums ‘Dark Horse’ and ‘Extra Texture’. Neither Beatle ever said much about this song but I for one have always assumed the lyrics are about Pattie (George’s first wife who left him for Eric Clapton about this period), which were possibly too close to the bone for George to sing alone. Either way, its mix of upbeat power pop melody and yearning lyrics of loss make for one of the greatest Ringo Starr records to date. Ringo sang a memorable version of this song at the George Harrison memorial concert in 2002 and, what with the track’s images of loneliness after losing someone dear, brought the house down.  Macca’s ‘Six O’Clock’ comes a close 7th - curses! Is it too late to change my newsletter tradition and make this a top 10?!?)
4)  ‘Sail Away Raymond (Sunshine Life For Me)’ (Harrison; available on 'Ringo' 1973)
Another rather forgotten song, this is a Harrison piece about Apple's business problems (Raymond was the name of the lawyer pout in charge of dissolving The Beatles' partnership whom all four met up with - we can't wait till he writes a 'tell-all' book!) George probably considered this country-rock track more in keeping with his partner's work (although it's more upbeat than the similar sounding 'Beaucoups Of Blues' album). George adds a delightful harmony vocal which suggests how this song might have gone. A ind of anti-'Here Comes The Sun' this is a song where George can't bunk off and enjoy a sunny day in Eric Clapton's garden but has to suffer interminable business meetings when he'd rather be outside. A cute 'round' that keeps swapping line after line, its' a deeply neglected song.
5) "Six O'Clock" (McCartney; available on 'Ringo' 1973)
Another corker of a track, Paul's 'Six O' Clock' is a rare collaboration from Paul and Linda McCartney that would have made addition to Wings' 'Red Rose Speedway'. A lovely warm song that reveals much about the couple, it's one of Paul's better 'silly love songs'  and starts with the narrator wiping a tear from his eye as he watched his beloved sleeping, before a guilty middle eight admits that 'I don't treat you like I should'. CD re-issues of this album include a terrific 'extended' version of this song which feature Paul yelling 'hit it!' and the song's end and going back into the chorus again in full party atmosphere that's really effective. Another of the better songs on this list.
6) 'You And Me (Babe)' (Harrison/Mal Evans; available on the ‘Ringo’ album, 1973)
 One of the loveliest ways of saying goodbye on any record, this song By George and the Beatles’ ever-faithful Roadie Mal depicts Ringo as a nightclub crooner a la Mick Jagger on the Stones’ ‘Satanic Majesties’, albeit with less irony (it sounds more like a McCartney song in fact, with a lovely rounded melody and some sweet lyrics). Ringo fondly bids us farewell, telling both band and audience to go home (it’s a bit like Lennon’s Ringo-sung ‘Goodnight’ but far less treacly I’m pleased to add!) before ending the song with a bit of audience patter thanking, among others, ‘John Lennon MBE, Paul McCartney MBE and George Harrison MBE’ – the closest the four Beatles ever came to appearing on the same record until 1995’s hideous travesty ‘Free As A Bird’ (‘Real Love’ was a bit better, thankfully).
7) 'Goodnight Vienna' (Lennon; available on 'Goodnight Vienna' 1974)
A Liverpudlian expression for 'so long!', this lone song from the follow-up to 'Ringo' sounds like a Lennon in-joke to me. With a very Elvisy 1950s retro feel and lots of 'uh-huh-huhs' this one doesn't really suit Ringo and sounds much better in John's own hands (you can hear his demo version on the box set 'The Lennon Anthology'). There's actually two versions of this song on the record, with the second and lesser known version  a 'slight reprise' that enables Ringo to fade out the record with the sounds of a party. However session tapes reveal a rather intense meeting with Lennon in a bit of a grumpy mood and not much partying going on.
8) 'Pure Gold' (McCartney; available on 'Ringo's Rogotravure' 1976)
'Pure Gold' sounds rather like one of those cleverly constructed but rather empty songs Paul used to give away to Peter and Gordon. A rather lacklustre love song for Linda, it proves again how off the ball Macca suddenly was in 1976 (in 'Wings at the Speed of Sound' period) and doesn't do either men many favours. Ringo really struggles to nail this crooner song while Paul and Linda' harmonies aren't as good as on the wonderful 'Six O'Clock'. Arguably the weakest of the songs on this list.
9) 'Cookin' (In The Kitchen Of Love)' (Lennon; available on 'Ringo's Rogotravure' 1976)
You can usually count on Lennon for a bit of emotional honesty but his last song before retiring to bring up baby Sean (a six month old baby when this album was released) is a B-side at best. Lennon, apparently, doesn't even appear on the tradck which perhaps suggests how little he thought of it. Still there's a nice melody (very McCartney-esque in its roundedness) and lyrics that don't add much more than 'we're gonna have a party!' but do at least offer a nice metaphor of music being the food of love - very apt for a musician at the start of his 'baking bread' years!
10) I’ll Still Love You (Harrison; available on the ‘Ringo’s Rotogravure’ album, 1976)
This doesn’t sound like George or Ringo – this moody ballad full of flashy guitar spikes a la Eric Clapton and an orchestral choir sounds more like Meatloaf than the Beatles. But the chance to hear George’s uncharacteristic guitar work (for it is he) and Ringo’s uncharacteristically strong grasp of the deep and complex tone is a decided treat for curious Beatles fans. Well, it’s better than the ‘Spooky Weirdness’ track on the same LP anyway. This is what Ringo might have sounded like had he been given deep and intellectual songs to sing on the first few Beatles record instead of obscure Motown and Country and Western covers and McCartney-written novelties. 
12) Private Property (Paul and Linda McCartney; available on the ‘Stop And Smell The Roses’ album, 1981)
Cascading horns, a driving almost-reggae-ish beat – hey, this is ‘Got To get You Into My Life’ without the clever lyrics! Well, actually, that’s a bit unfair – this set of Macca lyrics is still very clever, rhyming ‘property’ monopoly’ and ‘run of with me’ in a way that only Macca can. The whole track is a lot of fun and the McCartney’s backing vocals add a touch of class to the whole thing. Ringo sounds right at home on foot-stompers like this one too – so which idiot kept suggesting he stick to mangling ballads for most of the 70s and 80s?!
13) Wrack My Brain (Harrison; available on 'Stop and Smell The Roses' 1981)
'Wrack My Brain' is a fun Harrisong that tries to repeat the trick of 'It Don't Come Easy', with a bouncy singalong melody and lyrics that refer to 'my head filled with pain' and being 'all dried up'. Like much of George's 'Somewhere In England' album from later the same year it's awfully 1980s and synthesised and lacks the depth of his best work, but he does turn in a fine harmony vocal and another great double-tracked guitar solo so all is forgiven. At #38 this was a minor UK hit single - it deserved to do rather better although there are greater songs still on the 'Roses' album.
14) Attention (McCartney; available on 'Stop and Smell The Roses' 1981)
A very Macca song that manages to rhyme 'mention' and 'attention' with a brass-bassed riff that sounds not unlike his recent film soundtrack song 'Did We Meet Somewhere Before?', this is another sweet little song with a poppy melody that points the way forward to Paul's more polished sound on 'Tug Of War'. Paul doesn't sing, unusually, but does play a terrific inventive bass line that's louder than anything else in the mix!
And that's where we end with The Beatles' music for the moment. Next up, get your reading glasses on - it's Beatle books!

A now complete list of Beatles links available at this website:
'Rubber Soul' (1965)

'Revolver' (1966)
'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band' (1967)

'Magical Mystery Tour' (1967)

'The Beatles' aka 'The White Album' (1968)
'Yellow Submarine' (1969)
The Best Unreleased Beatles Recordings

A Complete AAA Guide To The Beatles Cartoons
The Beatles: Surviving TV Appearances
A 'Bite' Of Beatles Label 'Apple'
The Beatles: Non-Album Songs Part One: 1958-63
 The Beatles: Non-Album Songs Part Two: 1964-67
The Beatles: Non-Album Songs Part Three: 1968-96
The Beatles: Compilations/Live Albums/Rarities Sets Part One: 1962-74
The Beatles: Compilations/Live Albums/Rarities Sets Part Two: 1976-2013
Beatles Bonuses: The Songs John and Paul Gave Away To The World/To Ringo!

Essay: The Ways In Which The Beatles Changed The World For The Better
Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Versions