10 December 2010

TGIF Rock-n-Roll Oldies: The Hollies - 1971

The Hollies are an English rock group, formed in Manchester, England in the early 1960s. The band was not named -as popular legend has it- after Buddy Holly, but rather for the holly decorating the house of founding member Graham Nash at Christmas-time 1962.

The Hollies are amongst the most musically-flexible survivors one can imagine, and the band became one of the leading British groups of the era, enjoying considerable international success delivering hits in varied styles.

Along with The Rolling Stones and The Searchers, they are one of the few British pop groups of the early 1960s that have never officially broken up and that continue to record and perform here in 2010. The Hollies were inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year as well.

The Hollies are known for their bright vocal harmonies. Though initially known for its cover versions, the band moved towards written-to-order songs provided to them by such writers as Graham Gouldman. Soon after, the group's in-house songwriting trio of Clarke, Hicks and Nash began providing hits. 

When Graham Nash left in December 1968 it was due to a number of issues. Nash was by then feeling something of a prisoner of his early pop success; like John Lennon and George Harrison he too disliked the screaming of fans drowning out the songs in concerts. He felt imprisoned within The Hollies "pop group identity" too, when he wanted to write more personalised songs of a reflective nature not necessarily utilising vocal harmonies, and was clashing with producer Ron Richards over material. 

Furthermore, he disagreed with the group's decision to make their next album one entirely comprising Bob Dylan songs. Nash relocated to Los Angeles, where he joined forces with former Buffalo Springfield guitarist Stephen Stills and ex-Byrds singer David Crosby to form one of the first supergroups, Crosby, Stills and Nash. Nash told Disc magazine at the time: "I can't take touring any more. I just want to sit at home and write songs. I don't really care what the rest of the group think."

Their album Hollies Sing Dylan reached the #3 position on the UK chart, but the record flopped in the US> The next album Hollies Sing Hollies did not chart in the UK, but the U.S. version called He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother included the hit single of the same name and reached U.S. #32.

Nash's departure saw The Hollies again turn to outside writers for their single A-sides, but the group's British chart fortunes rallied during 1969 and 1970 and they scored four consecutive UK Top 20 hits (including two consecutive Top 5 placings) in this period, beginning with the Geoff Stephens / Tony Macaulay song "Sorry Suzanne" (Feb. 1969) which reached #3 in the UK, followed by the emotional civil rights–themed ballad "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother", which featured the piano playing of Elton John, and which reached #3 in October 1969.

The next single, "I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top", again featured the young Elton John on piano and reached UK #7 in April 1970, charting in twelve countries. 

Later EMI lifted a track from their album Distant Light,  the Creedence Clearwater Revival-inspired song, "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress", which reached #2 in the US.

In 1974 they scored what was to be their last major new hit single with the love song "The Air That I Breathe" -Phil Everly- which reached #2 in the UK and US.


Randy-g said...

Long cool woman still is a favorite of mine....

Reaganite Republican said...

The song or the babe-type?

Or both lol

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