Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Hollies

Better remembered for their last three U.S. hits (all of which THC disliked); He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother (1969), Long Cool Woman With A Black Dress (1972) and Air That I Breathe (1974), The Hollies of the mid-1960s were a terrific pop band.  Though not as lyrically clever as two of THC's favorite 80s pop acts, Squeeze and Crowded House, The Hollies made up for it with catchy hooks and melodies along with soaring three-part harmonies.

The original band featured Tony Clarke on lead vocals and had a rhythm guitarist and high harmony singer named Graham Nash.  Like The Who, they were popular in their native Britain well before breaking through in the U.S.  From late 1963 to mid-1966, the band had eight Top Ten singles in the UK, all of which flopped in the US.  Looking back it's hard to figure out why the last two in that sequence were not hits in America.  Just listen to Look Through Any Window and I Can't Let Go.
You may recognize that chiming guitar sound.  Here's a similar one from that era, George Harrison (actually someone imitating him) on If I Needed Someone.

The US breakthrough came with the release of Bus Stop, the first time THC ever heard them (he still has the 45), and which reached #5 on the US Charts.  The song was bright, shimmering and innocently romantic.  A few years ago we had another song featuring an umbrella which was not quite as innocent - this time it was the girl with the umbrella.

Over the next year they followed up with three more Top Tens in the US; On A Carousel; Stop Stop Stop and Carrie Anne along with two less successful releases, which remain THC favorites, Pay You Back With Interest and King Midas In Reverse (Duran Duran borrowed the sound of the latter in the 80s).
In early 1968, The Hollies had a UK success and US flop with Jennifer Eccles, a trifling bubble gum tune.  Shortly thereafter Nash departed the group.  He'd wanted to take the band in a different musical direction, but the other members wanted to return to their pop roots.  Nash went off to Los Angeles to become a full time songwriter but ran into David Crosby and Stephen Stills and you know the rest of the story.

The Hollies went on to have two more Top Ten UK hits before He Ain't Heavy returned them to the US charts but the glory days were gone.  The final tally is impressive, 18 UK and 7 US Top Ten singles.

No comments:

Post a Comment