Graham Reid | | 5 min read
A couple of years Noel Gallagher of Oasis saw Tony Hicks of the Hollies in a local supermarket and felt compelled to yell, "Love yer band, man. You've got the songs". And the Hollies certainly did. Pop-rock classics among them.
So when in March 2010, the Hollies out of
Manchester, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – it seemed long overdue. For a decade from 1964 starting with Just
One Look (number two in Britain) through I'm Alive, Look
Through Any Window, Bus Stop, Stop Stop Stop and He Ain't
Heavy then on to Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress and The
Air That I Breathe, the Hollies were coining close-harmony hits
which, during the 60s, challenged their Parlophone labelmates the
Beatles on the charts and as a band outlasted them.
Through Any Window was
co-written by Graham Gouldman (with Charles Silverman) who also wrote
Bus Stop as
well as For Your
Love, Heart Full of Soul
and Evil Hearted You
(all by the Yardbirds), No
Milk Today and Listen
Hermits) Pamela Pamela
(Wayne Fontana) and later was a founder member of 10cc. Curiously one of the songs which broke the Hollies' run of hits was their cover of If I Needed Someone penned by George Harrison for Rubber Soul which, ironically, almost sounded written for them.
However the five-piece, which was part of the British Invasion of America in the mid Sixties, increasingly wrote their own material and – outside of the singles – their albums Evolution and Butterfly in '67 brought in the Technicolor sound of slightly psychedelic pop.
The early guitar jangle and close harmony style was much admired (the Byrds, Tom Petty) and they often came off as a blend of the Everly Brothers and their contemporaries the Searchers. The Hollies were creditable and influential so their inauguration into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame seemed a little belated.
Yet the Hollies who tour today – with
original members Tony Hicks and Bobby Elliott – weren't at their
own inauguration. They were represented by former members Graham Nash
(who had quit in late '68 to live in America and join up with David
Crosby and Stephen Stills), original vocalist Allan Clarke and some
And although in conversation
singer/guitarist Hicks – who wrote Too Young To Be Married, a
number one hit in Australia and New Zealand in '70 – says they're
all still friends it seems unusual the band that carries the name
“We were committed to a concert at
the London Palladium,” he says. “I suppose we could have got out
of it but we didn't want to let the people down – and it would have
meant travelling to New York.
“But we knew Graham and Allan were
going to be there to represent us. I haven't seen what went on, but
it was a great honour, especially when you realise the other people
who have been inducted like the Beatles, the Stones, the Who . . .”
What went on was a short reunion set
with Steven Van Zandt of Springsteen's E Street Band joining in.
Quite an event to have missed, but Hicks is unconcerned. He's still
out on the road, and on their way to New Zealand for dates in February 2011.
“We've just done 20 dates in England
and they were sold out. We got a standing ovation every night because
we give the audience what they want. Ninety percent of what we do
will be the hits that people are expecting and a couple will come
from the latest CD. We threw them in and they were well received. And
I think they will be in New Zealand – and if they aren't then we
will change it.
“We're doing a completely different
version of Look Through Any Window and its going down an
absolute storm. We've thrown the chords around and there is a double
guitar solo where I bounce off our other guitarist Steve Lauri and
the audience lapped it up. It wasn't what they were expecting.
“We do that with a few songs, but
obviously the classics like He Ain't Heavy and The Air That
I Breathe we don't play around with. But that keeps it fresh for
Hicks and the Hollies have been on the
road since those “Greyhound tours zigzagging across the States”
in the mid Sixties where they shared stages with the likes of Little
Richard (with the then-unknown Jimi Hendrix on guitar) and it was
experiences there which prompted them to write their own material.
Their first self-penned hit being Stop Stop Stop about a belly
dancer which featured Hicks on a distinctive banjo part.
“That was written because were taken
by our record company in New York to Turkish restaurant with belly
dancers. The general vibe of being on either the East or the West
coast inspired us. On the West Coast we were hanging out with the
Mamas and the Papas, and the Byrds, and people like David Crosby –
which is basically why Graham [Nash] left, he liked what was
happening in America and wanted to be a part of it.”
The Hollies close harmony sound
continued without Nash, but one of their biggest US hits didn't
feature those memorable vocals.
“We had a number one with Long
Cool Woman in a Black Dress. Ron Richards our producer had a good
ear for hits but he didn't spot that and it was CBS which said they
thought we had a shot with it.
“It was unusual or us because it was a straight rock'n'roll song which took about half an hour to do.
Ron had spotted it he would have no doubt tried to get the harmonies
in there, because we were the Hollies.”
Hicks admits he is surprised by the
rediscovery of their Evolution and Butterfly albums (“I
can't get my head around it, but I accept what people say”) and
says after 45 years “all we want to do is play the right venue for
the right people and give everyone a great time.
“And we seem to be getting the hang