Monday 12 February 2018

The Hollies Essay: What Exactly Was The 'Hollies Style'?/Updates

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 were my first band. I was five, going on fifty, growing up in a musical family and desperate for an identity of my own – a band to worship, adore and cherish the way the rest of my family raved about The Beatles or Ratpack crooners or jazz specialists or opera singers. I’d had a few flirtations with ‘other’ bands who were just enough like The Beatles to pique my interest but clearly were never going to be anywhere near as good (Peter and Gordon, Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Titch, even Lulu) and I was beginning to despairing already of ever finding a group that made my heart sour, my brain think and my soul dance the way The Fab Four did. But everybody knew about The Beatles – even my teacher who was clueless about music, as I discovered to my horror after assuming everybody else had grown up in a home like mine where sometimes all you needed was the air that you could breathe and a record collection. Then, on one lucky day, I discovered a battered second-hand cassette of ‘Hollies’ 20 Golden Greats’ in a motorway service station and discovered that, at last, I’d found a band not just as good (or ever so nearly as good) as The Beatles but one that was arguably as ‘big’. Yeah, sure, most people knew what I was talking about when I mentioned them (even the kids when the re-issue of ‘He Ain’t Heavy’ became a surprise hit in 1988 thanks to a beer commercial) but nobody knew The Hollies the way I did because I learnt very quickly that there was an awful lot to know. I mean, The Beatles had split up after eight years, but The Hollies were still going when I was little and were still great – I knew because I’d badgered my long-suffering family into taking me a to a concert to see for myself. My life has never been quite the same since. That fateful decision to pick up that old cassette has shaped my record-collecting instincts, led directly to the writing of these books across an intense ten year writing period and destroyed a good part of my hearing and eyesight. But oh how it was worth it. 
Now I don’t mean The Hollies were ‘big’ in the record sales sense. Though The Hollies outsold the likes of The Kinks, The Who and even The Rolling Stones single-for-single in the 1960s, time has not been kind to their legacy since and The Hollies are now a peg or two below their counterparts (despite my lifelong crusade to make people realise just what geniuses The Hollies were in all their incarnations – or most of them, anyway). Their catalogue was ‘big’ in a much more important way: it seemed to contain a little bit of everything, with more variety than any other record catalogue I’ve yet heard. Even that one cassette, with it’s ugly concrete power stations on the front cover, was actually a sea of colour and riches, where most songs didn’t sound like the others next to it. I learnt quickly that there wasn’t just one Hollies style, but several: the frenetic oh so exciting Mancunian-beat early years when the band played at a rate of knots and The Hollies seriously rocked, performing R and B covers at twice the speed of The Stones and The Beatles, proto punks who performed with a sea of throbbing cymbals, stinging guitar lines and just enough vocal sweetness to still make the whole sound appealing. Other bands rocked out as well, but none with the breathless enthusiasm of The Hollies who were ear-catchingly good at exuberance and joy. Other people may have their favourites from other bands, but for me The Hollies arrangement of [23] ‘Nitty Gritty/Something’s Got A Hold On Me’ is the ultimate early 1960s British beat cover: it’s pure joy, glory and excitement, a nonsense song performed as if it’s the single best thing that ever happened to mankind. Even in my older, m.e.-weakened state I can’t help but dance to this song – and promptly fall over – and there are so many more like it in The Hollies’ early days. If you were a record buyer in 1963 or 1964 then you knew what you were getting from a Hollies record: energy with harmonies.
Then their sound changed, as so many 1960s bands did, as The Hollies embraced a few things just coming into vogue at the time. Oddly all of these were in sharp contrast to their early beginnings as the sound calmed down, the tempos got slower and the harmonies grew lusher. One of the directions the band went in was folk-rock: a fairly obvious choice in 1965 as The Byrds and Simon and Garfunkel grew big (The Hollies were even one of the first bands ever to recognise the importance of the latter and cover one of their songs,  [75] ‘I Am A Rock’). But just as The Hollies out-roared any R and B band around, so they did things ‘their’ way. They didn’t just add a topping of folk-rock to their sound, they re-invented it from the ground up, writing some of the saddest, slowest, loneliest folk-rock masterpieces out there (just check out the revved up cover of the soft and gentle folk-rock classic [44] ‘Very Last Day’, the weepie about over-population that is [49] ‘Too Many People’ or the civil war army marching solemnly to [91] ‘Crusader’). Plus Tony Hicks was perhaps the greatest banjo player of the 1960s, treating his instrument like a guitar. Before this The Hollies had been about excitement and pure joy – suddenly they’re the saddest band in the saddest genre, all hope extinguished. The Hollies were suddenly the most folk-rock group out there, singing Peter Paul and Mary tunes without batting an eyelid (plus later a whole album of Dylan covers when folk was dead or dying). The average Hollies collector of 1965-1966 knew what he was getting then and it wasn’t what the band had been doing in 1963-1964.
Or did they? For The Hollies also loved soul. There are a number of songs on albums three and four where Allan Clarke makes for a pretty convincing Motown soundalike, singing rare obscure songs by the likes of Otis Redding and Allen Touissant that suggest that the band really did love this style (and could have played it for a living too), that they owned the ‘obscure’ records not just the famous ones like so many of their peers. The Hollies, who’d started as pure adrenalin, became masters of dynamics, learning to play cat-and-mouse with their audience.
The Hollies also explored at least two more avenues in this period that no other band of their vintage even though to touch. ‘Bossa Nova’ isn’t an obvious 1960s sound but it’s clearly a key one for The Hollies, cropping up most famously on their first group-written single [39] ‘We’re Through’ but also early songs like [84] ‘Tell Me To My Face’. It makes sense: it’s a more thoughtful, slower reduction of what they were doing in their Merseybeat years anyway, dancing but with a slower, sinister shuffle. It’s a sound that no other band of their vintage could offer. Pretty much unique to The Hollies too is the ‘big band’ of so much of their fifth album ‘For Certain, Because...’, where on the tracks [88] ‘High Classed’ and [90] ‘What Went Wrong?’ The Hollies don’t even play their usual instruments, having been substituted by an epic orchestra. Whilst The Hollies started their career, as so many bands did, all playing live in the studio, they really took to using orchestras on their works and between 1965 and 1970 no other band, not even The Beatles, were doing quite what they were doing, adding extra-dense textures to albums like ‘Evolution’ and ‘Butterfly’. One of the more sensible Hollies compilations out there, in amongst a sea of literally hundreds, is ‘Orchestral Heaven’, a full CD set dedicated to the idea of The Hollies’ classical arrangements. Rich and deep, except when the big band stuff is trying to be sly and funny, it’s another colossal sea-change, perhaps best summed up by the slow ballad [160] ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’, a song that’s the antithesis of songs like [37] ‘Here I Go Again’ and [15] ‘Stay’ which was the ‘real’ Hollies style of the early days.
Then there’s psychedelia. Most casual music fans don’t even know that The Hollies spent a year making two of the most deeply psychedelic eccentric records of 1967 and fewer still bother to listen to them, assuming that a beat band couldn’t possibly play in the style. But oh they could and how! I put it to you, dear reader, that far from being the usual quirky forgettable cosy style of British psychedelia they’re so written off as being both ‘Evolution’ and ‘Butterfly’ are closer to Pink Floyd’s style of scary childhood weirdness. Graham Nash in particular wasn’t just dabbling in this style but living it and The Hollies overhaul their sound again: in are sitars, wobbly sound effects, scary acid rock ‘freakbeat’ solos, songs about flying horses, revelations whilst on drugs and conversations with God. Other psychedelic albums can give you some of those things, but no two albums can give you all. The Hollies weren’t just an occasional psychedelic band – for me they were maybe the psychedelic band of them all, full of backwards glances to childhood and forward glances to a possible world future of mass hippiedom. To a Hollies collector in 1967 ‘weirdness’ was the Hollies style and it looked as if the band would stay that way forever.
But then Graham Nash left, the band regrouped and the band began to suffer from schizophrenia, trying to cover their early ground as pure pop merchants but also stretching out across 1969 and 1970 into a whole new area of ‘protest rock’. When Graham Nash left to form Crosby, Stills and Nash the single biggest difference was that his songs went from being imaginary or occasionally personal and autobiographical to being political and about the world. The Hollies followed suit and became, of course, one of the most outspoken political bands of their day, but again in their own unique way. Was there ever a more damning indictment of the British social climate than [179] ‘Gasoline Alley Bred’? Or the hardships of youth than [174 ] ‘Too Young To Be Married?’ And I’m still amazed the band weren’t locked up after the anti-Vietnam protests of [153] ‘Soldier’s Dilemma’ or [188] ‘You Know The Score’. Other bands dropped the odd song like this into their set because they felt they had to – but The Hollies lived and breathed it. At least until changing their sound again when the swampy Credence Clearwater Revival style sparse and gritty [187] ‘Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress’ became a hit and inspired a few soundalikes – interrupted by a few years when Allan Clarke quit the band and Mikael Rickfors came in and The Hollies realised that, actually, deep simmering orchestral ballads were what their singer could do really really well. And then when Clarkey came back The Hollies went full circle and briefly became a pure pop band. Before changing their style again when [230] ‘The Air That I Breathe’ became a hit to go back to becoming pioneers of the lush orchestral ballad. For a time The Hollies were simultaneously the most prog and the most punk of 1960s bands still going in the second half of the 1970s, down with the kids on songs like [265] ’48 Hour Parole’ and turning into starstruck dads on [254] ‘Love Is The Thing’. And then they went back again to pop, with synthesisers this time, in the 1980s and again when Allan Clarke left for good in the late 1990s. Ask the average Hollies fan of the 1970s what the Hollies style was and they’d probably have had a nervous breakdown, developing a nasty twitch while they shoved copies of [192] ‘Hey Willy’ and [236] ‘Son Of A Rotten Gambler’ into your hand and sobbed ‘I really don’t know anymore!’
The biggest shift, though, isn’t musical at all but feeling. This is a very rough generalisation and The Hollies switched their sound up all the time from song to song, but as a general rule when The Hollies started in 1963 they were the happiest band in pop. Somewhere around the psychedelic era and the Terry Sylvester era they became the saddest. There’s a world of difference between their first single, the nursery-rhyme crush-filled [1] ‘Ain’t That Just Like Me’ and a song like, say, [298] ‘Soldier’s Song’ , the anti-war orchestral ballad full of death with which the ‘Terry’ years came to a close in 1980. It would be easy to say The Hollies changed their sound and style with their line-up but that’s not true: was there ever a more melancholy song from the summer of love than [128] ‘King Midas In Reverse’?! And was there ever a dafter sillier pop song than [231] ‘Rubber Lucy’ released right in the middle of the Sylvester years in 1974? It would be easy to call this progression – except that it isn’t: more often than not The Hollies were out of step with what everyone else was doing (another reason why I loved them), ending up on the disco bandwagon far too late, skipping the ‘glam rock’ era that should have been ‘perfect’ for their image altogether and pretty much dropping all their punkish sounding songs from the set the minute the punks came along for real. I often listen to my favourite songs on my mp3 player’s shuffle player and the biggest difference between bands always comes when I listen to The Hollies: the wild exuberance of their early days and the sheer sobbing melancholy of their later years, plus a sort of half-hearted return to sobbing pop in the later years.
The best Hollies songs are the ones that combine both traits. The ‘template’ we mention a lot in this book is the overlooked single [58] ‘I’m Alive’. It seems odd to say that The Hollies’ only #1 single of the 1960s should be overlooked, but it is, overshadowed by the ‘pure’ joy of [126 ] ‘Carrie Anne’ and the ‘pure’ sad wistfulness of [160] ‘He Ain’t Heavy’. It’s a fabulous song, not just for what it says (I used to be alone and miserable, then I met you and became happy as a pair) but in the way that it says it. Allan Clarke starts the song afraid, defensive, angry and bitter, another jilted lover whose never ever ever going to give his heart to anyone again. But then the song descends the keys bit by bit, slowly building to a powerful chorus that’s so full of life and love and happiness. Many of the other best Hollies songs do the same: forgotten EP track [62] ‘Honey and Wine’ pulls off virtually the same trick virtually as successfully, B-side [125] ‘All The World Is Love’ goes from lonely solitary drug trip to fully understanding the entire world, [112] ‘Dear Eloise’ offers comfort in a ‘friend’s inner sadness before exploding into joy that they might actually have a chance at being more than friends, a song divided into two [119] ‘Charlie and Fred’ turns loneliness and desperation and monochrome poverty into a colourful tale of hope and togetherness, even if Charlie’s companion is actually a horse,  [159] ‘Not That Way At All’ is a gleefully silly childlike song about being forced to grow up that yells with joy on the verses and yells with pain on the choruses and [154] ‘Marigold/Gloria Swansong’ both feels the pain of a fellow lost soul and dreams of a time when they’ll both have escaped it.
It wasn’t just the musical styles that changed either but the image, something The Hollies weren’t quite as successful at changing, stuck with the ‘pop cuties’ tag long after the point where they deserved to lose it and yet this too worked as part of The Hollies gameplan, allowing them to get away with things scarier bands got into trouble for endlessly. When they started The Hollies were the cute boys next door, complete with the best toothy grins in rock and pop before The Bee Gees. Look at those early album covers that look like a youth club on happy pills: if ‘The Rolling Stones’ were being groomed to be the ‘anti’ Beatles then The Hollies were for the teenage girls who thought even The Beatles were a bit ‘heavy’. But were The Hollies really like that? Many things suggest not: Graham Nash, counterculture king, wouldn’t have stuck even the five years he did with the band had they been complete goody-two-shoes and there are endless throwaway references in text books that relate to affairs (Allan Clarke and Marianne Faithful), ‘incest’ (Bobby is still to this day married to Tony’s sister Maureen) and orgies with groupies (Pamela Du Barr has a whole story about giving the 1970s line-up a bath). Some fans just want to think about The Hollies as cute do-gooders, but for me there’s...something lurking underneath their records that means they’re more than just every other 1960s ‘boy band’ like The Herman’s Hermits or The Dave Clark Five, a cheekiness lurking beneath the surface that suggests they’ll be gentlemen in company but offer you a quick snog the minute you’re on your own. Just check out [111] ‘The Games We Play’, one of the ‘naughtiest’ songs of the entire 1960s, that winks at the audience that once the adult parents are out the room they and their girl can get up to literally anything and no one will suspect a thing. Then there’s [122] ‘Step Inside’, where ‘if it gets too late I have a bed that you can use’, a line sung with such suggestiveness that it’s way more sexual than period Stones song  ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’ (which doesn’t even mention a bed!) Graham Gouldmann cover [132] ‘Schoolgirl’ goes even further out on a limb than that, a tale of sex in a library with a cautionary morale at the end The Hollies clearly don’t believe at all (no wonder they left this song in the vaults for so long!)
Other songs promise that the band are on the run from prison ([ 265] ’48 Hour Parole’), are getting jiggy on the back seat at a drive-in movie ([273] ‘Daddy Don’t Mind’) or are full of pure filth and innuendo (what on earth is going on on [264] ‘Wiggle That Wotsit’ for crying out loud?!) Not to mention the drug references on [121] ‘Elevated Observations’, the band ‘so high that they touch the sky’ in more ways than just living on a mountain-top or [120] ‘Try It’, a song that never comes out and says it but clearly isn’t about sharing sweets. Some of my favourite Hollie songs also deal with the ‘clown’ theme, the [perfect metaphor for a band who were dismissed as pure escapist entertainers who will filled with such raw pain and sorrow not that far underneath the surface. Graham Nash ‘invented’ the idea back in 1966 when [85] ‘Clown’ had a circus performer literally putting his makeup on upside down in the mirror, sobbing his heart out at his reflection. Terry Sylvester picks up on this on [216] ‘Mr Heartbreaker’ as he too stares at the mirror and his troubled, weary eyes and tries to gee himself to go out and perform. And then there’s Gary Brooker cover song [290] ‘Harlequin’ which could pretty much be The Hollies’ story: counted out, abandoned, ignored, poor Harlequin seems destined to be forgotten forever before staying true to himself for so many years and a slow return back to fashion makes him the kingpin again. Hollies, we knew you’d do it! Anyway, I was allowed to listen to The Hollies from the age of five because they were a ‘good influence’. I continued to listen to them after that age because I knew in my heart of hearts that deep down they weren’t.
For some fans that’s too much. I’m willing to bet my collection of 1980s Hollies tour programmes that some of you will only ever read half of this book (maybe the Nash years, maybe the Sylvester years, maybe the crossover part in the middle) and they’ll ignore the rest. Even on hearing a single disc Hollies best-of friends and family have been known to say ‘I like this one – but I really don’t like this one’ (and weirdly it won’t be the same songs they like or don’t like). Personally I love that. I adore the fact that there is no one ‘Hollies Style’ and that even as early as the band’s second album they were laughing at us, defying us to pick up on a style when they’d already moved so far on from their debut album ‘Stay With The Hollies’. This band was the perfect discovery ground to me, allowing me to dip my toes into the water of all these different genres and fall in love with them all, with this band opening up more musical doors for me than perhaps any other out there in one go. You could never complain of The Hollies, the way people did of so many other 1960s pop bands, that they stayed still or released the same record all the time. Indeed, none of their singles (with the deliberate exception of [126] ‘Carrie Anne’ soundalike [135] ‘Jennifer Eccles’) ever sounded the same as anything that had come before. The Hollies ‘style’ was really to expect the unexpected.
Where did all this come from? I think it dates back to the early days. Clarke and Nash figured, back in the late 1950s when rock and roll was dying out, that they were going to make their fame and fortune by being an ‘Everly Brothers’ style singing duo. They joined Eric Haydock’s pure R and B group The Deltas because rock and roll was now a better chance of the two singers making a living and they were the premier rock and roll band in Manchester at the time. Add in a jazz-loving drummer, one of the best rock and roll guitars on the planet and in second bass player Bernie Calvert a classically-trained erudite musician and you have one hell of an eclectic band, who could do anything or go anywhere and who never lost their sheer love of music, their shared curiosity allowing them to at least try everything once. The Hollies spent their career, not with a gameplan (like every other 1960s band they expected it to be all over within a year) but by following their musical noses and heading to where instinct told them would be the next best place to go. It’s a long long road, this Hollies book, with many a winding turn. But somehow every single song in here, even the later Peter Howarth-sung material, has enough of a distinctive Hollie ‘something’ (the harmonies, the attitude, the cheekiness hidden beneath respectability) that enables everything here to be ‘The Hollies Style’. Unfortunately it also meant that, starting aged five and even now several hundred reviews later, whenever somebody asks me what The Hollies, one of my favourite groups, are actually like, I still struggle to tell them succinctly without boring them for hours on end (hey I struggle to do anything succinctly, as you’ve probably already noticed – I blame this on The Hollies too!) For there is not just one Hollies style but several, with those harmonies, that guitar sound, that musical curiosity and that sheer joy of being alive even when life is dark, depressing and overwhelming runs through all the musical styles, like letters through rock. In short, The Hollies were a perfect band to fall for first, offering up a bit of everything and they will be ‘my’ band to the day I die, in every style.

"Changin’ Times: The Complete Hollies January 1969-March 1973
(EMI, July 2015)
CD One: Sorry Suzanne/Not That Way At All/Blowin’ In The Wind/I Shall Be Released/Mighty Quinn/This Wheel’s On Fire/The Times They Are A-Changin’/Quit Your Low Down Ways/I Want You/Just Like A Woman/When The Ship Comes In/My Back Pages/I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight/All I Really Wanna Do/Do You Believe In Love?/Please Sign Your Letters/’Cos You Like To Love Me/Please Let Me Please/Goodbye Tomorrow/She Looked My Way/My Life Is Over With You
CD Two: He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother/Soldier’s Dilemma/Marigold/Gloria Swansong/You Love ‘Cos You Like It/Why Didn’t You Believe?/Look At Life/Louisiana Man/Don’t Give Up Easily/Reflections Of A Long Time Past/I Wanna Shout/Lady Please/Sign Of The Times/Separated/Little Girl/Eleanor’s Castle/Confessions Of A Mind/Mad Professor Blyth/I Can’t Tell The Bottom From The Top/Dandelion Wine
CD Three: Survival Of The Fittest/Perfect Lady Housewife/Isn’t It Nice?/Too Young To Be Married/Frightened Lady/Man Without A Heart/Gasoline Alley Bred/Hey Willy/Row The Boat Together/Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress/You Know The Score/Pull Down The Blind/Promised Land/What A Life I’ve Led/Cable Car/Hold On/To Do With Love/Look What We’ve Got
CD Four: Long Dark Road/A Little Thing Like Love/Oh Granny x 2/The Baby/Touch/ Romany/Papa Rain/Indian Girl/Blue In The Morning/Jesus Was A Crossmaker/Down River/Magic Woman Touch x2/Lizzie And The Rainman/Delaware Taggett and The Outlaw Boys/Words Don’t Come Easy/Courage Of Your Convictions
CD Five: Witchy Woman/Slow Down/Won’t You Feel Good That Morning?/If It Wasn’t For The Reason That I Love You/Don’t Leave The Child Alone/They Don’t Realise I’m Down/Transatlantic Westbound Jet/Nearer To You/Pick Up The Pieces/Slow Down – Go Down/The Last Wind/A Better Place/Me Heartbreaker/Out On The Road/I Was Born A Man/I Had A Dream
“Lady laughs a tear and saying all we really need today is the sun in our lives!”
This isn't quite the EMI-sanctioned official set we asked for to follow on from the superb 'Clarke-Hicks-Nash Years' set of a few years back. For a start the songs haven't been re-mastered, there are no unreleased recordings despite knowing from the sessionographies that a lot of songs from this era survive in the vaults and the set doesn't cover as many discs or as many years as its predecessor. But heck it's still plenty close enough, giving new comer fans a chance to find out just how brilliant The Hollies remained once Terry Sylvester came in as Graham Nash's replacement and contains some of the most brilliant things the band ever did (of course it also includes 'Hollies Sing Dylan', which our book doesn’t consider as integral a part of the ‘proper’ Hollies canon, but hey no one said it had to be perfect). The run of records features here contains 'Dylan' the patchy 'Hollies Sing Hollies', the superb 'Confessions Of A Mind', the experimental 'A Distant Light', the gorgeous 'Romany' when Allan Clarke split for a solo career and new Swedish singer Mikael Rickfors turned the band into even more of a blissful harmony band and the under-rated and hard-to-find  'Out On The Road' a part of the band’s proper discography at last, as well as period A and B sides and the occasional outtake already released on Hollies sets (‘Rarities’ ‘At Abbey Road’ ‘Long Road Home).
There are perhaps less hits for newcomers compared to the dozens in the first volume (though you still get [160] ‘He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother’ and [187] ‘Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress’!) but plenty of little known nuggets of brilliance every bit the equal of the first volume including the noisy nostalgia of B-side [159] ‘Not That Way At All’, the gorgeous ballad for lost souls [154] 'Marigold-Swansong', the Hollie breakup song [150] 'My Life Is Over With You', the stunning class wars minor hit single [179] 'Gasoline Alley Bred', the New Zealand hit for young lovers everywhere [174] 'Too Young To be Married', the catchy life-is-passing-me-by-song  [185] 'To Do With Love' the slow-burning epic [196] 'Touch' the stunning harmony-fest that is [204] ‘Romany', the other stunning harmony fest that is [215]'The Last Wind' and the stunningly beautiful flipside [223] 'I Had A Dream' some of the greatest things The Hollies ever did (which, of course, means some of the best things any band ever did!) Yes there's a few peculiar mistakes and one-off experiments in here too that don't quite come off and the Dylan album will have you vowing never to play disc one again as long as you live, but there's a lot more great here than ghastly and I defy anyone to get to the end of this set and not want to hear the next one. Even for fans who know this stuff well there are a few surprises offered up by the strictly chronological order: the first Hollies session ‘proper’ with Terry in the band that wasn’t for a single quickie or a covers set is the deeply unremarkable [152] ‘Do You Believe In Love?’ The cute but silly Clarke original [164] ‘Eleanor’s Castle’ really stands out recorded in the middle of two of Tony Hicks’ deepest songs for the group, [168] ‘Little Girl’ and [171] ‘Confessions Of A Mind’. The last thing recorded by the Clarke era band the first by the Rickfors one was twice-released flipside [194] ‘Oh! Granny’. The set is also sensibly split so instead of getting too many re-recordings you end this one with ‘Out On The Road’ and the re-recordings are saved for sequel ‘Head Out Of Dreams’. Suffice to say if you've never Hollied, or even if you've never Hollied after Nash left the band, you haven't really lived and this set is an impressively cheap way of putting that right.

"Head Out Of Dreams: The Complete Hollies August 1973-May 1988
(EMI, March 2017)
CD One: The Day That Curly Billy Shot Down Crazy Sam McGee/Mexico Gold/Out On The Road/Born A Man/Pick Up The Pieces Again/It’s A Shame It’s A Game/Transatlantic Westbound Jet/Don’t Let Me Down/Falling Calling/Tip Of The Iceberg/Burn Baby Burn/Rubber Lucy/The Air That I Breathe/Down On The Run/No More Riders/Love Makes The World Go Round/Give Me Time/Lonely Hobo Lullaby/Son Of A Rotten Gambler/Layin’ To The Music
CD Two: 4th July Ashbury Park (Sandy)/Come Down To The Shore/Hello Lady Goodbye/You Gave Me Life/Lucy/Look Out Johnny (There’s A Monkey On Your Back)/Second-Hand Hangups/Another Night/Time Machine Jive/I’m Down/Stranger/Narida/My Island/Samuel/Sweet Country Calling/Crocodile Woman (She Bites)/Star/Love Is The Thing/I Won’t Move Over/There’s Always Goodbye
CD Three: Write On/Boulder To Birmingham/Here In My Dreams/Daddy Don’t Mind/My Love/Russian Roulette/Corrine/C’mon/Be With You/Lady Of The Night/Louise/48 Hour Parole/Thanks For The Memories/Wiggle That Wotsit/Draggin’ My Heels/Hello To Romance/Let It Pour/Burn Out/Amnesty/Crossfire
CD Four: Caracas/What Am I Gonna Do?/Feet On The Ground/Writing On The Wall/Clown Service/When I’m Yours/Lovin’ You Ain’t Easy/Satellite Three/Something To Live For/Sanctuary/Maybe It’s Dawn/Song Of The Sun/Stormy Waters/Boys In The Band/It’s In Everyone Of Us/Say It Ain’t So Jo/Harlequin/Can’t Lie No More
CD Five: Soldier’s Song/If The Lights Go Out/Peggy Sue/Wishing/Love’s Made A Fool Of You/Take Your Time/Heartbeat/Tell Me How/Think It Over/Maybe Baby/Midnight Shift/I’m Gonna Love You Too/Peggy Sue Got Married/What To Do/That’ll Be The Day/It Doesn’t Matter Anymore/Everyday/Carrie/Driver/Take My Love and Run/Musical Pictures/Let Her Go Down
CD Six: Casualty/Take My Love and Run (Re-Make)/Say You’ll Be Mine/Something Ain’t Right/If The Lights Go Out/Stop! In The Name Of Love/I Got What I Want/Just One Look/Someone Else’s Eyes/Having A Good Time/You’re All Woman/You Gave Me Strength/Laughter Turns To Tears/Too Many Hearts Get Broken/This Is It/Reunion Of The Heart/Stand By Me/For What It’s Worth I’m Sorry/Shine Silently/Your Eyes
“When you know there’s a time for a love that survives...”
The final part of the trilogy takes the Hollies story on its longest and bumpiest road yet, all the way through Clarke reunion ‘The Hollies’ in 1974 through to the peculiar cut-off date of ‘Shine Silently’ in 1988 (why not make this a seven disc set and release everything by the Clarke era of the band in one go?) This is, in many ways, the weakest of the three sets: there are still no unreleased tracks, only one top ten hit ([230] ‘The Air That I Breathe’) and the lowest consistency of all the Hollies era, with mistakes ranging from bad disco to bad 1980s pop. And yet, considering that we’re onto the later lesser years that didn’t sell, so much of this set is still fabulous that it might surprise the casual listener with so many great magical inventive pioneering songs here that never get the attention they deserve. This year’s pick of the Hollies pops includes: the stunning orchestral madhouse of [243] ‘Second-Hand Hangups’ where guilt = the best sounding violins you’ve ever heard in your life, the hauntingly beautiful [254] ‘Love Is The Thing’ where Hollie harmonies have never been more sensual or intense, the hard-hitting bare-bones rock of [265] ’48 Hour Parole’, the lovable loser disco of [270] ‘Draggin’ My Heels’, the earnest melancholy of [275] ‘Writing On The Wall’, the dynamic urgency of [287] ‘Say It Ain’t So, Jo’ and the sublime beauty of [286] ‘Sanctuary’, as perfect a ballad as any in The Hollies canon, even if it was left unloved and unreleased for over a decade. In truth this is a patchy set and you really don’t need the first album (silly trivial pop) bar the two hit singles, the1980 Buddy Holly cover or the poppy reunion album from 1983 ‘What Goes Around...’ or indeed most of the post-1983 singles back on EMI (though it’s terrific to have the likes of [314] ‘Too Many Hearts Get Broken’ and [323] ‘Shine Silently’ back in the public domain again rather than rare singles that cost a fortune at record fairs).
This time round the mysteries revealed by the strict chronological order include: who knew that the orchestra-heavy [282] ‘Boulder To Birmingham’ and [263] ‘Here In My Dreams’ were recorded at the start of the disco-laden sessions for ‘Russian Roulette’? Or that the slow weary [291] ‘When I’m Yours’ set the template for the similar-sounding ‘5317704’? Or that the futuristic [277]‘Let It Pour kick-started sessions for ‘A Crazy Steal’ despite sounding nothing like the rest of that album at all? Head in or out of dreams, whether you’re a casual or committed fan alike, this might musically be the weakest of the trio of sets out and if you’re completely new to the world of The Hollies then you need to buy those first. However we call The Hollies if not the world’s greatest then probably the world’s most consistently great band for a reason and if you thought all the point of owning this set ended when Nash quit the band then you might be amazed just how long The Hollies keep their impressively ridiculous array of styles and talent up across this dazzling set. This volume wraps up an excellent trilogy of sets that make The Hollies affordable and glorious all over again, at their current single-CD-and-a-half price deserving a place on your music shelves even if you have only a tiny interest in The Hollies’ catalogue. Superb.

Allan Clarke "Reasons To Believe In"
(Polydor, '1990')
Reasons To Believe In/I'll See You Again/Catch 22 Situation/ Hands Are Tied/Spellbound/That's What Dreams Are Made Of//Touch And Go/Caught In The Act/Every Heart Has A Vision/I Wouldn't Beg For Water/Yesterday's News/Without Love
"Sometimes it hurts so much that I wonder what kind of spell I am under...”
A candidate for the obscurest AAA album of them all, this seventh and final Allan Clarke solo album was only ever released in Germany and has never been re-issued to date. Does it deserve to be? Well, that really depends on what you think of The Hollies in the 1980s (whatever the 1990 dating) as this collection of Clarke co-writes and pop covers is really not that different to all the non-album singles the band had been releasing since 1983. The synths twinkle, the fake drums boom and the songs aren’t as memorable as in yesteryear, but Allan’s voice still sounds good and shines through the surroundings, while some of his lyrics remain as interesting as in the days of old. That’s enough to put it somewhere below ‘Headroom’ and ‘The Only Ones’ in the Clarke discography admittedly, the two creative lynchpins of the solo Hollie releases, but it’s arguably on a pair with the rest. What it really needs, of course, is a remix taking all the period trappings away as I sense there’s a really good album in here fighting to get out if only we could hear it – such was the period though and even the big names weren’t immune to trying to sound like the youngsters. Interestingly, while most of Clarke’s albums tend to be a bit more youngster-friendly than the Hollies releases (Clarkey spends the early 1970s trying to be groomed as a hip rock and roll star before turning the clock back to childhood nostalgia in 1979), this one is older and wiser despite being even more contemporaneous than usual. There are lots of lyrics here about growing older, adjusting to middle age and staying true to your wife of decades instead of getting lots of girls. Though Allan hadn’t made much music in the eleven years since his last album, clearly a lot has changed in his outlook on life. So it’s a shame, given the massive twenty-three-year gap between band albums that more of his fans didn’t get to hear that change properly, with EMI in Britain passing over this release and leaving it up to their colleagues over on Polydor to put it out instead, but then only in very limited places. The Hollies had, of course, always been popular in Germany and had their own exclusive Hollie-records before (see ‘Out On The Road’) but they scored a real coup with this record during a period when The Hollies toured there more or less constantly. Germany clearly knew something the rest of us didn’t know – that there was plenty of room in the Clarke singing and especially songwriting tradition still to come ten years or so away from retirement.
The album starts with the album’s single, the only song that can occasionally be heard nowadays and which is easily the best thing here. ‘Reasons To Believe’ starts off like a typical 1980s Hollies pop song with its swirling synths and Clarke singing in a slight falsetto. But it’s a much deeper song than any of the band originals from this period, with Clarke’s narrator realising that he and his missus have got into a rut and promising to still keep giving her surprises and ‘reasons to believe’ in him. It’s a pretty song with a good pop hook riff and sudden bursts of adrenalin into a shouty singalong chorus that for the first time in decades returns to the trick of [58] ‘I’m Alive’ having a sad and lonely narrator on the verses suddenly re-engaging with life on the choruses. Allan even sings [37] ‘Here I go....Again!’ in the chorus just like the days of old. This song should have been one last big hit.
‘I’ll See You Again’ is a little like [313] ‘You Gave Me Strength’, a slow forgettable ballad that grows little bit by little bit until we reach a mammoth chorus about ‘somewhere somehow’ seeing an old flame again and being reunited with them. IN the context of other Clarke songs about loss (particularly on ‘Headroom’) maybe Allan is singing about his fanbase here?
‘Catch 22 Situation’ sounds oddly happy for song that reads so sad, complete with synth-trumpet blares and a keyboard on a ‘jungle’ setting, like the early Hollies B-sides. Clarke fears a ‘rise and fall’ in a relationship where ‘one of us is always gonna get hurt!’ but it’s the drama he can’t tear himself away from.
The fiery ‘Hands Tied’ rocks as hard as any song can when it has so many ugly 1980s synths hanging from it, kept together with a fierce [81] ‘I Can’t Let Go’ style bubbling bass note. Clarke begs for a relationship not to fall apart because he knows it still has more to offer, begging pleading and cajoling his lover not to say goodbye.
‘Spellbound’ has a manic synth riff that just won’t settle down and which seems at odds with a lyric about how love is magical and can transform all life. There’s a ‘million questions’ love poses but Clarke feels his detiny beckoning and falls into love like a ‘dream’. Not a Hollie love song to match the days of old sadly, but Allan sounds good even trapped in an elevator full of synths.
The album’s worst song is surely ‘That’s What Dreams Are Made Of’ which is forgettable period pop where the hideous drum track and sound effects are turned up much higher than anything else and Allan’s vocal gets buried behind a female choir of backing singers. The song itself is no lost classic though even in a remix: ‘A world made for two – that’s what dreams are made of’. Not mine, I have to say – this group of noisy bustling synths is more like a nightmare.
Slow-burning torch ballad ‘Touch and Go’ is more like it, although it’s a shame that Allan chooses this one track with so much emphasis on the vocal to deliver less than his best. The singer wonders aloud for the umpteenth time about the mysteries of love and how he can fall so deeply under the spell of another, but the tune is gorgeous and this is all in all one of the album’s most memorable songs. If he’d added a slice of Hollie harmonies and this could have been another big hit, maybe.
The spooky and mysterious ‘Caught In The Act’ has Clarke flexing his muscles, admittedly sounding more ‘Manic Woman In A Heavy Metal T-Shirt’ than the classics days of old but exciting nevertheless. Clarke offers a needy goth ‘protection’ from her bullies, she offers him a kiss and bites him and the pair didn’t stay strangers for long! A last slice of Hollie naughtiness before the end of the book, with this song recalling [265] ’48 Hour Parole’.
The poppy ballad ‘Every Heart Has A Vision’ would do well as a German Eurovision Song Contest one day but feels slightly out of place here, a little too charty and a little too un-Holliesy. It’s a clichéd 1980s idea of psychedelia, full of hippie-speak about coming together and being humane, even though the synths make everyone sound like robots – and there are an awful lot of people on this track, it has to be said!
‘I Wouldn’t Beg For Water’ is like all the other slow 1980s Hollies synth ballads: forgettable. Which is a shame because the lyrics are rather weird. In a re-write of [230] ‘The Air That I Breathe’ Clarke tells us that he enjoys his soul being ‘on fire’ and wouldn’t ever beg for water to put it out. All these years on from telling us he doesn’t need to eat, sleep or drink and Allan still has no respect for health and safety!
‘Yesterday’s News’ sounds melodically like the same song, though the lyrics are more of a breakup song: another tale of a relationship that the narrator thinks has time to run as he promises to do better next time. This song sounds more fatalistic about things though: ‘So sad but true we are yesterday’s news’ sighs the chorus.
The album ends on the album’s quirkiest song ‘Love Moves In Strange Ways’, a scary atmospheric piece with an odd oompah-riff and a spoken-word verse that sounds more like Bruce Springsteen than anything we’ve had since [241] ‘Sandy’. Allan sounds uncharacteristically aggressive as he tells us that love can shock us to the core and change our personalities, unleashing the darker side of ourselves. He’s clearly going for [187] ‘Long Cool Woman’ friskiness but this comes off sounding more comedy than sexy.
Still, there are some worthy moments here and it’s a real shame that more fans didn’t get to hear what was the last big effort from Clarke in the studio before his retirement in 1999, with only a handful of pretty dire singles and re-recordings to come before he hangs up his microphone for good. The result is an odd album very much trapped in the excesses of its own era in a way that even ‘What Goes Around...’ isn’t, but that voice sounds good, some of the songs are right up there with the best of anything The Hollies had done in the past decade (the title track especially) and solo album number seven is a seventh record that really should have made this very talented singer a big star.

Terry Sylvester "I Believe In Love"
(Major Oak Records, 1994)
I Believe (When I Fall In Love)/It Never Rains In Southern California/Save The Last Dance For Me/Sorry Suzanne/C’mon Everybody/My Island/Sandy/I’m Down/Just One Look/Let It Be Me/Indian Girl/All That She Wants/Mary Anne/Julie/Aruba Town/It’s Not Easy/Atlantis/It’s Too Late/In Motion/Big Man’s World/Pick Up The Pieces Again/End Of The Line
"When you hear that music you just can’t sit still”
Released – as far as I can tell – only in Canada – this is yet another variation on the ‘Terry Sylvester’ album from 1974 as the album was updated onto CD for the very first time. This isn’t, though, a straightforward re-issue but a group of the old re-recordings surrounded by outtakes from the period, new recordings with a new band and even a whole bunch of Hollie re-recordings recorded live to boot. It’s certainly value for money at twenty-two tracks (which is a small consolation for Hollie fans who’ve paid a fortune to track it down) but does seem like rather an odd mixture. The Hollies re-recordings with Terry now singing Allan’s parts don’t really work and make you yearn for the originals without the messy 1990s production values, whilst it might perhaps have been better just to have had the whole of both versions of Terry’s first album (‘Terry’ and ‘I Believe’) out together on one disc, with perhaps a bonus collection of new recordings. Still, the new recordings show promise with Terry in good voice and not too many production pyrotechnics to get in the way and as the closest thing around to a sequel of the Griffin-Sylvester album it’s more than good enough to make certain quarters of the fanbase go weak at the knees. Rather than review everything again we’re going to stick with the ‘new’ songs here – take it from us the original album sounds as patchy as ever and the Hollies re-recordings are largely an abomination – would you believe [158] ‘Sorry Suzanne’ actually sounds worse?! (though [241] ‘Sandy’ at least is rather sweet and a lot more romantic than Clarkey’s interpretation).
Albert Hammond wrote [230] ‘The Air That I Breathe’ so we know what a fine writer he can be. But ‘It Never Rains In Southern California’ is a drippy song, a slow turgid ballad about the realities of living in ‘paradise’ – the narrator is ‘overworked and under-fed’.
The Coasters’ ‘Save The Last Dance For Me’ is a fun moment of retro-ness as Terry sings in a deeper voice than usual on a straightforward reading of the old classic, though he’s sliughtly overwhelmed by the mammoth backing choir.

I like ‘C’mon Everybody’ though with Terry having great fun on an acoustic revival of Eddie Cochran’s hit and sounding not that different to when he was an ‘Escort’ with the world at his feet.
Terry really did sing Everlys cover ‘Let It Be Me’ when he was in The Escorts and sounds mightily good taking Phil’s higher delivery part here before soaring as the lead in the yearning middle eight. Maybe this spot-on Everlys cover helped get him the job as a Hollie?
‘All That She Wants’ is a brief 45 second busked version of the hit song by Ace of Base and a big hit in 1992. Terry only knows the chorus though...why is this bit of fun but ephemeral fluff here?!
‘Julie’ is a lot more substantial, a sweet simple song about a girl whose the ‘only one’ that would have fitted in well with the mellow vibe of the first album. A song to a girl seen from the stage, it’s oddly similar to Ray Davies’ ‘The Ballad Of Julie Finkle’ written about an imaginary girl he thinks is in the crowd every night he plays.
‘Aruba Town’ is in the Netherlands, but goodness knows why it gets such a heavy namecheck in this so-so new song about pastures new.
The next sequence includes what seem to be outtakes from another attempt at making a Terry solo album sometime in the 1970s. Terry sings against an orchestra arranged by none other than Hollie producer Ron Richards and his voice is instantly clearer. The highlight of the whole set, ‘It’s Not Easy’ is a beautiful new song about trying to split up, reminiscing with a long-term lover before they go their separate ways but acknowledging that love has died ‘and I will have to spend my nights alone again’. Though nicely mellow for the most part, there’s a great rocky middle eight here where Terry pleads to his love ‘don’t go away and forgive me I pray!’ Way too good to have been in the vaults all this time.
‘Big Man’s World’ is a slightly later outtake (from the Griffin-Sylvester period?) that’s another strong find. Over a ‘Distant Light’ era-like echoey piano Terry sings about needing a ‘helping hand’ as he finds himself disconsolate and alone, struggling to cope with life’s downward turns and he sounds remarkably good audibly trying to hold it all together.
If only a few more rarities like the last two had been found in the vaults this might have been a real return to form, especially with the hard-to-find new recordings from 1976 thrown in here too – alas the newer recordings and especially the live Hollies stuff don’t always compare. No substitute for a full new Terry album by any means, but there’s still a lot here to keep fans happy.


'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

No comments:

Post a Comment