Allan Clarke (lead singer) from Salford, and son of Blackpool, Graham Nash (vocals, guitar) had been friends since childhood and formed the nucleus of the Hollies in 1962. The band’s name came from sprigs of holly at Christmas time when they got together. They were signed in 1963 to EMI after a performance at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. The group’s stable line up was drummer Bobby Elliot (formerly Shane Fenton aka Alvin Stardust and The Fentones), and when Eric Haydock left the group he was replaced by Bernie Calvert in 1966. Tony Hicks and Graham Nash shared the guitar spotlight and Allan Clarke as the vocalist. The Hollies had a squeaky-clean image and were famous for their rich vocal harmonies, which rivaled those of The Beach Boys. They quickly developed a distinctive style of three-part harmonies (Clarke, Hicks and Nash) combined to make one of the most recognisable sounds to be heard in popular music. Heavily influenced by the Everly Brothers with ringing guitars, and hook-happy material this made their well produced repertoire, irresistible. The Hollies were label chums with the Beatles and had their first hit with Stay, a cover version of Maurice Williams and The Zodiacs classic.
A second single closely followed which was another cover version, this time Doris Try’s Just one look.
By the mid sixties the Hollies had established themselves as UKs pre-eminent singles bands, and enjoyed huge chart success in many countries. A string of classic harmony-pop hits followed as the band went from strength to strength. Between 1964 and 1969, only two Hollies songs failed to reach the UK Top 10. "If I Needed Someone" (No. 20, 1965), was a cover version of George Harrison’s composition, recorded by The Beatles on Rubber Soul. The other was "King Midas in Reverse" (No. 18, 1967). This was an original Hollies song, heavily influenced by prevailing trends in psychedelia, with an ambitious strings, brass and flute arrangement. Its modest success was a disappointment particularly to Graham Nash, who was keen to progress beyond their usual style.
Artistic differences arose in 1968 when the Hollies planned to record a full album of Dylan songs and Graham pulled the pin and went to join Stephen Stills and David Crosby in one of the first super groups, Crosby, Stills & Nash.
Ex Swinging Blue Jean’s guitarist-singer Terry Sylvester replaced Graham and the band had an immediate hit in 1969 with "Sorry, Suzanne", which reached No.3 in the UK.
Elton John joined the group in the studio and played on their next single the emotional ballad "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother", (hit No. 3 in 1970).
Alan Clarke briefly left the group in 1971 for a solo career. Swedish singer Mikael Rickfors replaced the singer and the band had had a minor hit with "The Baby".
However when the EMI released a rival single featuring Alan Clark and the Hollies with Cajun style "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress" and it reached #2 in the US and No. 32 in the UK. Clarke rejoined the group (1973).
Allan Clare’s self penned “The Day That Curly Billy Shot Down Crazy Sam McGee" took them back in to the charts again.
But it was in 1974 The Hollies had their last Top Ten success, "The Air That I Breathe". It was their last major hit.
The Hollies were without doubt the most accomplished of all the British groups and their live performances were always worth catching. In 1976 Live Hits album was recorded in Christchurch, New Zealand. So they were no strangers to Australasia and toured many times and continued to record and tour all over the world in various line ups throughout the 80s. Allen Clarke retired in 1999 and was replaced by Carl Wayne, former lead singer of the Move. The Hollies still tour but with only two original members, Tony Hicks and Bobby Elliott.
Worth a listen:
Just one look (1965)
Look Through Any Window
Sorry Suzanne (1969)
The Air that I breathe (1974)
Crosby Stills, and Nash.
Teach your children well