Monday 26 March 2018

The Hollies: Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Versions

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


I don't know about you, dear reader, but so far this book/website has seemed awfully studio-bound: yes there are the odd live albums dotted round in the discographies but a touring life was usually as important if not more so to our AAA artists. Even we can't go through every gig they ever played however, so what we've decided to do instead is bring you five particularly important gigs with a run-down of what was played, where and when and why we consider these gigs so important, along with one particularly good one that summed up the band's setlist during their live peak (or one of them, anyway). Think of these as a sort of 'highlights' covering from first to (in some cases) last, to whet your appetite and to avoid ignoring a band's live work completely! People don’t think of The Hollies as a ‘live’ band and they are probably unique amongst AAA bands who started off in the 1960s for not releasing a live album until as late as 1977. However, they’ve performed more gigs than almost any other of our acts, with regular tours (at least one a year) every single year between 1963 and the present day (the sole exception being a gap after Carl Wayne’s death and before Peter Howarth). That’s a lot of gigs: for once the online statistics are a bit hazy (nobody seemed to be counting the gigs played by the poor overlooked Hollies, while sets out there argue to the number the exact amount performed by, say, Neil Young and Pink Floyd). But it’s at least 1500 – by my reckoning it’s surely more like 5000 (touring three months every year – and some years it was six!) Here then are five extra special ones...

1)  Where: Oasis Club. Manchester When: September 30th 1962 Why: First Gig Under The Hollie Name Setlist: Unknown

The first gig fans think of as a ‘Hollie’ gig dates as far back as 1948 when Clarke and Nash sang ‘The Lord Is My Shepherd’ at Ordsall Primary School’s assembly. Technically the first gig performed under the Hollie name was a more low-key affair, at the bottom of the bill at one of Manchester’s many growing clubs, topped by the band ‘Mike Segar and the Crestas’. The dating, by the way, seems odd: everyone involved in the story recalls the band name being chosen while the band were sitting in a dressing room full of holly round Christmas time, but everyone seems to have been agreed that this is the first gig under the Hollies name, as early as September time, while posters exist to prove that the band were credited under this name not just ‘The Deltas’ or something. The band was still very much bass player Eric Haydock’s band at this point, with Clarke and Nash the ‘new boys’ on vocals, Don Rathbone still the drummer (as he will be on The Hollies’ first two singles) and with Vic Steele having recently become Eric Stewart’s replacement on guitar (he’d left to form his own band ‘The Mindbenders’ and will crop up again in our 10cc book). Funnily enough this club will also play a major role in the life of a future AAA band, as it was a Stone Roses gig at the Oasis Club in the 1980s hanging on Liam Gallagher’s bedroom wall that gave the Mancunian (who won’t be born for another decade or so) the idea for Oasis’ band-name. We’re not quite sure what the band’s setlist would have been: most likely their slot was very short anyway being a bottom-of-the-bill band but Clarke and Nash were already keen to play anyone in earshot their first song [21] ‘Little Lover’ so that may well have made the set alongside some early Hollie covers such as [1] ‘Ain’t That Just Like Me?’, [3] ‘Searchin’ and [16] ‘Rockin’ Robin also likely (nobody took any notice of such a small local band at the time though so nobody wrote it down – and Hollie archivist Bobby Elliott hadn’t joined the band yet so even his memory won’t help!)

2)  Where: Coventry Theatre When: March 29th 1964   Why: First Gig As Part Of Packager Tour Setlist: Unknown

This is The Hollies’ golden period. The band are still riding high in the charts with [35] ‘Just One Look, are about to release [37] Here I Go Again’ (two songs almost certainly played at this gig) and they’ve just become top of the 1960s institution the ‘package tour’ for the first time, alongside lightweight rivals The Dave Clark Five. Appearing at the bottom, where The Hollies were so recently, are The Kinks who are still struggling as a Beatles cover act before the breakthrough hit with ‘You Really Got Me’ six months down the line. Nash and Clarke came to their ‘rescue’ when their manager tried to tell the band they weren’t being professional enough and wouldn’t stand a chance of being a serious band (Nash told them to stop being such bullies, a fact Dave Davies recalls with thanks in his autobiography ‘Kink’). Also of interest on the bill is 1950s legend Big ‘Dee’ Irwin, who’d just scored big with his solo hit ‘Swingin’ On A Star’ in 1963. He became really good friends with The Hollies (the most ‘professional’ band on the bill even back then) and – with half an eye on resurrecting his career – wrote them a song [28] ‘What Kind Of Boy?’ that duly appeared on their second album ‘In The Hollies Style’ that November. The Hollies also seem to have gone down better with the crowds than the Dave Clark Five (though admittedly some DC5 websites disagree on principle...) and even on a tour of bands they admired The Hollies seem to have gone down best on a package tour that the few lucky enough to see it still talk about today. As for the music played, sadly even in this period Hollie setlists are sketchy. I would stake my Tony Hicks banjo replica, though, that they performed a selection of their ‘hits’ so it seems likely that the track listing comprised most or all of the following: [15] ‘Stay’ [35] ‘Just One Look’ and [37] ‘Here I Go Again’. If I know my Hollies I would imagine they’ll also have played a number of their most popular songs  off their debut album too, like [14] ‘Memphis Tennessee’ [16] ‘Rockin’ Robin’ [18] ‘Do You Love Me?’ and [22] ‘Candyman’, all of which were played live by the band if not necessarily at this gig.

3)  Where: Danceland, Cedar Rapids, Iowa When: April 9th 1965 Why: First US Gig Setlist:

The Hollies’ first appearances in America have been a bit overshadowed, both by other acts (who went down better Stateside) and by their own later tours (when, in 1966, Nash first met Mama Cass Elliott and fell in love with the American way of life). At the time they were just one of many bands touring over there from England and got lost in the crowd. However in retrospect this gig – their first in America four days after Allan Clarke turned twenty-three – is a very important part of their career. It was on the back of gigs like this one that [60] ‘Look Through Any Window’ became the first charting Hollie single in America (before [95] ‘Bus Stop’ made them – temporarily – household names a year or so later). And going to America was a big deal for a band who, more than perhaps any other in the 1960s, were music fanatics. This was the land of Buddy Holly and The Everly Brothers, the band’s two biggest influences and the home of so many of their R and B cover material (many bands covered English bands too but The Hollies’ covers are almost exclusively American). It seems strange though in retrospect that the band didn’t do more TV over there: less successful British bands had gone down well on The Ed Sullivan Show but instead The Hollies were on less influential programmes like ‘Shindig’ and ‘Hullabaloo’ (and then not till later in the year). The USA will, of course, go on to play a big part in The Hollies’ career, tempting Nash away to a new life while The Hollies’ career suffers in so many ways when the band fail to follow-up ‘Bus Stop’ (at least for another six years when [187] ‘Long Cool Woman’ becomes their ‘other’ big hit). Even in this comparatively famous period we don’t know for certain what The Hollies might have played, but we do know what other 1965 setlists looked like, with the band now playing a much longer set than they did in their early package tour days. So here’s a guess based on other concerts from later in the year with certain songs not recorded yet removed: [15] ‘Stay’ [35] ‘Just One Look’ [58] ‘I’m Alive’ [44] ‘Very Last Day’ [59] ‘You Know He Did’ [56] ‘Yes I Will’  [37] ‘Here I Go Again’ [39] ‘We’re Through’ [29] ‘Too Much Monkey Business’ and [60] ‘Look Through Any Window’. You may have noticed that pretty much all these songs are still in the band’s concerts regularly now half a century later....

4) Where: Earlham Park, Norwich When: May 10th 1969 Why: First Gig With Terry Setlist: [93] Stop! Stop! Stop! [79] Stewball [60] Look Through Any Window ‘When Your Ship Comes In’ ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’ [158] Sorry Suzanne ‘Dang Me’ [126] Carrie Anne [81] I Can’t Let Go

This one is a key change in Hollie history, after an unprecedented six months break. After their last tour with Graham Nash at the end of 1968, who was accompanied by David Crosby at his dressing room every night to make sure he didn’t back out of being a Hollie, this is the first gig with Terry Sylvester (technically it’s only the latest of several line-up changes involving lead guitar players, drummers and bassists but the first one that got the press’ attention, especially as back when this gig was performed Crosby Stills and Nash were only three weeks away from releasing their much anticipated debut album). It is, reportedly, a shakey gig but not because of their excellent new harmony singer, who (judging by TV performances a few weeks later and contemporary reviews) slots into the group so well most people had forgotten Terry had never been on stage with the band before. No the problem is that, for the first time The Hollies are performing a ‘full’ show, rather than being part of an endless package tour. They have a lot of space to fill – and yet the timing is awful, as they reluctantly turn their back on their past for the most part. So what we get is a weird hodgepodge of two different ideas The Hollies had for their next LP: ‘The Hollies Sing Country’ (a studio version of ‘Dang Me’ remains in the vaults) and ‘The Hollies Sing Dylan’ (‘When Your Ship Comes In’ and ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’ both made the album). Plus an unexpected revival of 1965’s ‘Stewball’ (perhaps being considered for the ‘country’ album), latest single ‘Sorry Suazanne’ (released the week before) and Terry’s first harmony performances on four old hits (which are all notably Nash-light, apart from the closing high harmonies of ‘I Can’t Let Go’). A real snapshot of history when The Hollies haven’t yet discovered where their future lies – and aren’t quite prepared to let go of the past (even if there are less Hollie hits from the Nash era here than all their subsequent tours).

5) Where: Theatre Royal, Hanley When: November 27th 1999 Why: Final Gig With Allan Setlist: [37] Here I Go Again [135] Jennifer Eccles [35] Just One Look  [251] 4th July, Ashbury Park [15] Stay  [97] After The Fox [229] Don’t Let Me Down [159] Not That Way At All [123] Butterfly [94] Running Through The Night [58] I’m Alive [124] On A Carousel [81] I Can’t Let Go [56] Yes I Will [158] Sorry Suzanne [128] King Midas In Reverse [39] We’re Through [334] Peggy Sue Got Married ‘Blackbird’ [60] Look Through Any Window [95] Bus Stop [126] Carrie Anne [93] Stop! Stop! Stop! [230] The Air That I Breathe [160] He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

By now The Hollies are one of the 1960s survivors, still regularly plugging away up and down the English and German coasts. By now it’s been sixteen years since they last released an album and their most recent release was the 1995 Buddy Holly tribute [335] ‘Peggy Sue Got Married’, a track that seems to have only ever been played by the band on this tour (and without both Buddy’s original vocal and Nash’s harmony as heard on record). But The Hollies are still going strong and not just making up the numbers but are electrifying, night after night (having seen them on every tour up to this one in the 1990s I can tell you that every night was fabulous). This gig, though, is sad and for many fans – me included – the end of the ‘real’ Hollies. Allan Clarke’s last show before retiring (in part because he felt he was losing the power in his voice) and one of third harmony singer/rhythm guitarist Alan Coates’ last gigs too, it’s a real show of goodbyes, with almost  every charting top forty Hollies single in there somewhere including some that hadn’t been around for years: [135] ‘Jennifer Eccles’ for instance and two of Clarke’s personal favourites from his time writing for the band, quirky 1969 B-side [159] ‘Not That Way At All’ (which must have been especially poignant with its tale of growing up and leaving childish things behind) and 1974 album track [229] ‘Don’t Let Me Down’. The Hollies are by this stage playing their own ‘Nash’ slot for curious CSN fans too with performances of [128] ‘King Midas In Reverse’ (never played live until the 1983 reunion tour and heard intermittently thereafter) and the CSN-friendly Beatles cover ‘Blackbird’. There’s even [97] ‘After The Fox’, the Peter Sellers collaboration I was convinced was the only song The Hollies could never revive! However the rarest song here by far is [94] ‘Running Through The Night’, either the first or second ever Hollie  original ([21] ‘Little Lover’ is the other candidate), heard on stage for the first time ever. There can only be one ending though, with ‘He Ain’t Heavy’s road that’s long with many a winding turn the perfect way to end. Sadly we never did get a live album from the 1990s Hollies tour (we got one each from the 1960s (1968 via the ‘Clarke-Hicks-Nash Years’ box set), 1970s (1977’s ‘Hollies Live Hits’), the 1980s (1983 reunion tour recording ‘Hello Graham Nash’) and the 2000s (The hideous ‘Hollies Hits Live’). But the 1990s were a special time for The Hollies as a live act, with superb versions of [298] ‘Soldier’s Song’ and [338] ‘Purple Rain’ in addition to what’s here. There is still talk about releasing a live concert from Cologne in 1992, but to date no one seems that interested; an awful shame if my bootlegs of other gigs between 1990 and 1997 are anything to go by.


Sometimes when artists pick up that musical baton they pay tribute to their heroes by covering their favourite songs. Here are three covers that we consider to be amongst the very best out of the ones we've heard (and no we haven't heard them all - do you know how many AAA albums out there are out there even without adding cover songs as well?!) I’m surprised too, but one of the very first AAA bands to get the ‘tribute album’ treatment, fourth only to The Beatles, Stones and Pink Floyd, were our old friends, whose ‘Hollies In Reverse’ tribute from 1995 is one of the best examples of the series and recommended (in part at least) to all curious Holliefanatics (how about a re-issue sometime soon as well?) Our article this book is necessarily compromised by the fact that many of the most covered songs associated with The Hollies weren’t actually written by the group ([35] ‘Just One Look’ [58] ‘I’m Alive’ [160] ‘He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother’ and [230] ‘The Air That I Breathe’ amongst them). There are too multiple versions of [126] ‘Carrie Anne’ around, none of them as joyful or innocent as The Hollies’ original. There is, though, a trio of excellent lesser-known Clarke-Hicks-Nash/Sylvester originals which are well worth tracking down...

1)  [40] Come On Back (‘Ou-Va-T-Elle?’) (Ronnie Bird, A-side 1965)
All of Europe fell to the delights of rock and roll, though some countries more than others. France was the one place where The Beatles could actually hear themselves play as late as 1965 and one of the only countries not to have a big rock and roll movement of their own. The closest they came was Ronnie Bird, a soulful singer who looked like Brian Jones and sounded like Mick Jagger and who should have been much bigger than he was, recording two albums for Decca in 1965 and 1966 before calling it a day. Though The Hollies have traditionally always been the band that went down best in Germany rather than France, this track was one of the most popular in Ronnie’s setlist, the words of the Hollies’ B-side (to [39] ‘We’re Through’) translated with far more care than happened back the other way on [60] ‘Regadez Pas De Fenetres, Yeah!’One of The Hollies’ best rockers anyway, this interpretation is impressively tense and powerful, driven off by some great harmonica parts. You do miss Eric Haydock’s gloriously relentless bass compared to the Hollies’ original though!
2)  [176] I Wanna Shout (Wicked Lester, ‘Wicked Lester’ 1972)
Here’s an interesting one for you. The obscure album closer from ‘Confessions Of A Mind’ was picked up on by a pre-Ace Frehley, pre-makeup version of Kiss back when they were still known as ‘Wicked Lester’ for their low-key poor-selling debut album. Paul Stanley sings in a deep growl over country-overtones that are actually quite impressive despite being unlike both the original and most Kiss songs (there’s no distracting Bobby Elliott drums for a start and the whole thing is less ‘cute’ than the Hollies’ original. No Hammond organ solo either, which is a plus to be honest). It’s certainly more than good enough for release – but sadly this album wasn’t until 2001 when it finally appeared as part of the ‘Kiss Box Set’. As an extra bit of info for you, I’ve never really got much into Kiss who were always a bit flat and commercial for my tastes, but one song of theirs I’ve always loved was the catchy-as-hell ‘Shout It Loud’ from their biggest album, 1976’s ‘Destroyer’. As it turns out that song was based on this one by The Hollies, being basically a faster re-write about being so overcome with joy and love that you can’t help but express yourself in the loudest way possible! Oh and one extra thought to ponder: someone in this early version of Kiss must have been a really big Hollie fan because this song wasn’t even released over there (having been cut from the ‘Moving Finger’ bastardisation of the ‘Confessions Of The Mind’ LP).
3)  [107] Heading For A Fall (Andrew, ‘Hollies In Reverse’ 1995)
Our pick as the best song from that Hollies tribute album, this 1967 classic from ‘Evolution’ sounds mighty good when updated to sound like Britpop.Slowed down to a thud, with the song’s distinctive riff now played on a chirpy piano, while overladen with long extended power-chords from the organ and a similarly inventive quirky bass, this all sounds amazing. There are no harmonies but Andrew Sandoval – better known as a rather excellent biographer and sleevenote writer, especially of The Monkees – sounds excellent as the little-boy-lost whose falling further and further under a pretty girl’s spell. It all sounds very new agey and yet perfectly fits both the drama and weight of the original, with some natty drumming and an organ filling in for the famous bagpipe part. The rest of the ‘Hollies In Reverse’ album is pretty strong (featuring our old friend Carla Olsen performing a very rare cover of Mikael Rickfors [195] ‘Touch’ in between teaming up with Byrd Gene Clark and Stone Mick Taylor, plus Brian Wilson’s backing band The Wondermints performing a crazy version of [106] ‘You Need Love’), but this is the best stab at taking something old and re-creating it as something new, without losing so much of the original it sounds pointless. Wasting their time? Hardly...
Finally, though strictly speaking it isn’t a Hollies cover, readers might also be interested to learn that Elton John recorded a rather nice version of [177] ‘I Can’t Tell The Bottom From The Top’ before he was famous for the various artists ‘Pop Busters’ compilations (re-released many times down the years, most recently as 2010’s ‘Legendary Covers Album’). Elton clearly models his arrangement closely on The Hollies’ version of 1970 – no surprise, really, given that he was the one playing the famous opening piano lick on The Hollies’ version too back in his days as a session musician.


'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

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