Saturday, July 2, 2022


This old band infrequently get a mention in these pages, usually in conjunction with a mention of Graham Nash, the erstwhile manc turned golden boy of Laurel Canyon. Whilst he left the band a little over 50 years ago, it may surprise some readers that the band play on, never having actually ever stopped. This makes them, along with the Rolling Stones and, arguably, the Searchers, the longest legged beat combos of this sceptred isle. (I'm going to discount Herman's Hermit's seeing as, without Peter Noone gurning at the front, well, they aren't, really, are they?)

I confess I was a big fan of the band in my pre-teens, they having as big a thumbprint on the charts as any of the above and even of the Beatles. In fact, add in that, from Manchester, separated by only 35 miles from Liverpool, yet with accents as impenetrable to one as to the other, they were considered the big local opposition to the Moptops. More so, one might argue than the Stones, London seeming a lifetime, or certainly a day's journey, away. They certainly seemed a perennial on Top of the Pops. 

Jennifer Eccles 

Started by the aforementioned Nash and Allan Clarke, for years their distinctive frontman and lead singer, in an astonishing 1962, they performed mainly covers, at least for the charts. A couple of Coasters's covers gave them recognition, before hitting the top ten, in the UK, with Stay. Possibly better now known for Jackson Browne's version. this song was originally by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, but I'll bet which version Browne heard first. Gradually encroaching on US awareness, via Canada picking up on the band, and their first couple of LPs, as with the Rolling Stones' early work, were released with different songs and running orders, so as to appeal more to the market, eager for the beginnings of the "UK invasion", as the mid 60's assault on the US charts was called. Clarke, Nash and Tony Hicks, the guitarist then and still now, last man left standing, had begun writing songs, using the name L. Ransford, in an echo of the Nanker/Phelge adopted by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. But it was still with covers they were making their name, with Graham Gouldman behind some of the better known, Look Through Any Window and Bus Stop. Gouldman is a one man hit factory who wrote huge numbers of hit songs in the 60s, for bands as diverse as the Yardbirds and the aforementioned Herman's Hermits. In the 70s, as a member of, and the continuing sole original member and focus of, 10 c.c, he wrote even more, as well as with Andrew Gold, as Wax.

Bus Stop

Bus Stop was their first US top ten breaker, and led to tours across the pond. It is likely that this where and how Nash began first to want to expand his horizons, his mind likely expanded by the smoking materials his new American friends were sharing with him. His bandmates wanted poppier material than Nash's King Midas In Reverse, such as to play the Bob Dylan songbook; Hollies Sing Dylan was an album Nash only distantly engaged with. That, along with the fact the band wouldn't countenance Marrakesh Express, a song he had written and offered them, meant he eventually packed his bags and left, finding more likeminded souls who would.

King Midas In Reverse

The rest of the band, whose line-up had been fluctuating wildly anyway, outside the core three members, were left a little blindsided. Ex-Swinging Blue Jean, Terry Sylvester, replaced him, joining the two residual songwriters, adding his muse to theirs. As the '60s ended and '70s began, they had a further fertile period of success, albeit by relying, once more, on cover versions like He Ain't Heavy (He's My Brother). Ironically, about this time, their follow up to Hollies Sing Dylan, the helpfully entitled Hollie Sing Hollies did not chart in their homeland, attaining 32 in the Billboard chart. Allan Clarke was now developing itchy feet, leaving the band himself in 1971, if the band then having a pretty big hit with Long Cool Woman In a Black Dress, from the album he had last appeared from. An uncharacteristically upbeat and rocky number, he had already left as it was breaking the charts, leading to confusion for subsequent tours. However, he rejoined after a few years, the band now moving into similar territory. They even covered Springsteen, if broadly unsuccessfully, their US management dumping the band shortly thereafter.

Long Cool Woman In a Black Dress

Back home they had become more of a legacy group than a going concern, limping on, with the odd hit scattered along the way. What I hadn't realised or remembered was that Nash returned himself to the fold, in the mid '80's, for a tour and an album. What an opportunity that should or could have been, but, glancing at the requisite Wiki page for What Goes Around, I can perhaps see why it sank without my trace. Not a song by any of the songwriters present, the original triad of Nash, Clark and Hicks, a lot by a Paul Bliss, whomsoever he, and some lack lustre Motown covers. Clearly Messrs Stills and Crosby, Young for that matter, lost little sleep, as back he went to them.

Carrie Ann

The band played on, although the roundabout of members was in full swing, not least when Allan Clarke retired from music altogether, in 2000. (Or nominally, a solo album coming out a year or so back.) Hicks was still bravely hanging on, as was permanently be-hatted drummer, Bobby Elliott, a fixture since 1963. His initial replacement was Carl Wayne, once the lead singer of the Move, and which led to what may have been nostalgia heavy shows, as they would feature songs by both bands during their set. But he died, of cancer, in 2004. It seems the band have had a relatively steady line up in the 18 years hence, lead singer duties now c/o Peter Howarth, the rest of the band made up of Ray Stiles (ex-Mud), Ian Parker (also in Clannad) and Steve Lauri (5000 Volts), present since 1986, 1991 and 2004 respectively. (Which meant, awkwardly, when they were elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 2010, only two of the current six were deemed eligible......)

Hollies at the R&RHoF

I think they definitely classify as survivors. Would I go see them? Whilst I would probably never have deemed it ever something I would think of, actually, now, I think I might, doomed, no doubt, to disappointment. Unlike, say, the Searchers, who, with a similar current cabaret circuit career, I would certainly jump at, they said to put on a corking show, that encompasses not only their mid 60's fame, but their uncanny resurgence in the late 70s/80s on Sire records.

The Air That I Breathe (10 days ago......)

As a footnote, given the song that entitles this piece, here are Eels, Mark E. Everett's band, with their excellent version thereof.