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Hollies Biography

Last updated: 03/14/2010 12:00:00 PM

Formed in Manchester in 1962 by childhood friends Allan Clarke (b. 15 April 1942, Salford, Lancashire, England; vocals), and Graham Nash (b. 2 February 1942, Blackpool, Lancashire, England; vocals/guitar). They had already been singing together locally for a number of years as a semi-professional duo under a number of names such as the Guytones, the Two Teens and Ricky And Dane. They enlarged the group by adding Eric Haydock (b. 3 February 1943, Burnley, Lancashire, England; bass) and Don Rathbone (drums), to became the Fourtones and then the Deltas.

Following the recruitment of local guitar hero Tony Hicks from the Dolphins (b. 16 December 1943, Nelson, Lancashire, England) they became the Hollies. Almost immediately they were signed to the same label as the Beatles, the prestigious Parlophone. Their first two singles were covers of the Coasters' '(Ain't That) Just Like Me' and 'Searchin''. Both made the UK charts and the group set about recording their first album. At the same time Rathbone left to become their road manager and was replaced by Bobby Elliott (b. 8 December 1942) from Shane Fenton (Alvin Stardust) And The Fentones. The group's excellent live performances throughout Britain had already seasoned them for what was to become one of the longest beat group success stories in popular music.

Their first two albums contained the bulk of their live act and both albums became long-time residents in the UK charts. Meanwhile, the band was enjoying a train of singles hits that continued from 1963-74, and their popularity almost rivalled that of the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Infectious, well-produced hits such as Doris Troy 's 'Just One Look', 'Here I Go Again' and the sublime 'Yes I Will' all contained their trademark soaring harmonies. The voices of Clarke, Hicks and Nash combined to make one of the most distinctive sounds to be heard in popular music.

As their career progressed the aforementioned trio developed into a strong songwriting team, and wrote most of their own b-sides (under the pseudonym 'L. Ransford'). On their superb third collection, Hollies in 1965, their talents blossomed with 'Too Many People', an early song about over-population. Their first UK number 1 came in 1965 with 'I'm Alive' and was followed within weeks by Graham Gouldman 's uplifting yet simple take 'Look Through Any Window'. By Christmas 1965 the group experienced their first lapse when their recording of George Harrison 's 'If I Needed Someone' just scraped the UK Top 20 and brought with it some bad press.

Both the Hollies and John Lennon took swipes at each other, venting frustration at the comparative failure of a Beatles song. Early in 1966, the group enjoyed their second number 1, 'I Can't Let Go', which topped the New Musical Express chart jointly with the Walker Brothers''The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore'. 'I Can't Let Go', co-written by Chip Taylor, had already appeared on the previous year's Hollies and was one of their finest recordings, combining soaring harmonies with some exceptionally strong, driving guitar work.

The enigmatic and troublesome Eric Haydock was sacked in April 1966 and was replaced by Hick's former colleague in the Dolphins, Bernie Calvert (b. 16 September 1942, Brierfield, Lancashire, England). The Hollies success continued unabated with Graham Gouldman's 'Bus Stop', the exotic 'Stop! Stop! Stop!' and the poppier 'On A Carousel', all UK Top 5 hits, and (at last) became major hits in the US charts. The Hollies were quick to join the 'flower power' bandwagon, as a more progressive feel had already pervaded their recent album, For Certain Because, but with Evolution, their beads and kaftans were everywhere. That same year (1967) the release of the excellent Butterfly showed signs of discontent.

Inexplicably, the album failed to make the charts in either the UK or the US. It marked two distinct types of songs from the previously united team of Nash/Clarke/Hicks. On one hand there was a Clarke-influenced song, 'Charley And Fred', and on the other an obvious Nash composition like 'Butterfly'. Nash took a more ambitious route. His style was perfectly highlighted with the exemplary 'King Midas In Reverse', an imaginative song complete with brass and strings. It was, by Hollies standards, a surprising failure (UK number 18). The following year during the proposals to make Hollies Sing Dylan, Nash announced his departure for Crosby, Stills And Nash. His replacement was Terry Sylvester of the Escorts.

Clarke was devastated by the departure of his friend of more than 20 years and after seven further hits, including 'He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother', Clarke decided to leave for a solo career. The band soldiered on with the strange induction of Mickael Rickfors from Sweden. In the USA the million-selling 'Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)' narrowly missed the top spot, ironic also because Allan Clarke was the vocalist on this older number taken from the successful album Distant Light.

Clarke returned after an abortive solo career which included two albums, My Real Name Is 'Arold and Headroom. The return was celebrated with the worldwide hit, 'The Air That I Breathe', composed by Albert Hammond. Over the next five years the Hollies pursued the supper-club and cabaret circuit as their chart appearances began to dwindle. Although their albums were well produced they were largely unexciting and sold poorly. In 1981 Sylvester and Calvert left the group. Sensing major problems ahead, EMI suggested they put together a Stars On 45-type segued single. The ensuing 'Holliedaze' was a hit, and Graham Nash was flown over for the television promotion. This reunion prompted the album What Goes Around, which included a minor hit with the Supremes' 'Stop In The Name Of Love'. The album was justifiably slammed by the critics, and only made the US charts because of Nash's name.

Following this, the Hollies went back to the oldies path, until in 1988 a television beer commercial used 'He Ain't Heavy', and once again they were at the top of the charts for the first time in over a dozen years. In 1993 they were given an Ivor Novello award in honour of their contribution to British music. The mid-90s lineup in addition to Clarke, Elliott and the amazingly youthful Hicks featured Alan Coates (guitar), Ray Stiles (bass) and Ian Parker (keyboards). The Hollies' catalogue of hits, like those of the Beach Boys, Beatles and Kinks will continue to be reissued for future generations. Their longevity is assured as their expertly crafted, harmonic songs represent some of the greatest music of all mid-60s pop.

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