As a British rock and roll band formed in the early sixties, The Hollies
signed to Parlophone in 1963 as label-mates of The Beatles
, and released their first album in the United States in 1964 as part of the first wave of British Invasion releases. They are commonly associated with Manchester, as several original Hollies
came from the city and its outlying communities.The Hollies
had a squeaky-clean image, and were famous for their rich vocal harmonies, which rivalled those of The Beach Boys
. They scored their first major British hit in 1964 with a cover of Maurice Williams and The Zodiac's "Stay" which hit Number Eight in the UK charts. They quickly followed with a cover of Doris Troy's "Just One Look." Frequent releases during the mid-60s included many cover versions of popular songs, as well as a few group-penned hits and many songs written especially for them by professional songwriters.
By 1965 The Hollies
were established as one of Britain's pre-eminent singles bands, and they enjoyed huge chart success in many countries in the mid-Sixties, releasing a string of classic harmony-pop hits including ""Bus Stop"" (written by future 10CC
member Graham Gouldman), "I'm Alive," a UK Number One, "I Can't Let Go," "Stop Stop Stop," "Carrie Anne" (from which actress Carrie-Anne Moss got her name, having been born when the song was on the charts), "On a Carousel," "Look Through Any Window," and "Jennifer Eccles."
Drummer Bobby Elliot is also considered by many to be one of England's best drummers; together with longtime bassist Bernie Calvert, who replaced Eric Haydock in 1966, they enjoyed a solid, almost jazz-oriented backbeat. Tony Hicks and Graham Nash shared the guitar spotlight, Hicks even adding banjo occasionally as on "Stop Stop Stop," while frontman Allan Clarke sang in his distinctive nasal tenor.
Between 1964 and 1969, only two Hollies'
songs failed to reach the UK Top Ten. "If I Needed Someone" (Number 20, 1965), was a George Harrison composition, originally recorded by The Beatles
on Rubber Soul
, and John Lennon's dismissive comments of their rivals' version led to angry exchanges in the press between both groups. "King Midas in Reverse" (Number 18, 1967), an original Hollies'
song, was heavily influenced by prevailing trends in psychedelia, with an ambitious strings, brass and flute arrangement. Its modest success was a disappointment particularly to Nash, who was keen to progress beyond their usual style.
When Nash left in 1968 due to creative differences, in particular over the plan to record a full album of Dylan songs which he saw as a step backward for the band, 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 & Nash
. He was replaced by guitarist-singer Terry Sylvester, formerly of the Swinging Blue Jeans
. This lineup had an immediate hit in 1969 with "Sorry, Suzanne," and followed it later that year with the emotional ballad "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother," whose recording featured the piano playing of Elton John. Both reached Number Three in the UK.
Clarke briefly left the group in 1971 for a solo career. On the expiry of their EMI/Parlophone contract they signed with Polydor, and European star Mikael Rickfors overcame language barriers as Clarke's replacement, yielding the minor hit, "The Baby." Meanwhile EMI had taken a two-year-old track from their album "Distant Light", featuring Clarke on lead vocal and unusually lead guitar as well, the Creedence Clearwater Revival
-inspired smash, "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress," as a rival single, reaching Number Two in the US and Number 32 in the UK. Clarke rejoined in 1973 and they returned to the UK Top 30 with another swamp rocker penned by Clarke, "The Day That Curly Billy Shot Down Crazy Sam McGee."
In 1974 they had a UK Number Two hit and US Top Ten success with the soaring, grandiose love song "The Air That I Breathe," which brought comparison with the group's successful vocal style to The Everly Brothers
as well as to The Beatles
; it had previously been recorded by Phil Everly on one of his solo albums. It was their last major UK hit for over a decade. Subsequent singles like "Son of a Rotten Gambler," "I'm Down," and "Boulder to Birmingham" failed to chart.
Unlike some other British Invasion bands The Hollies
were also accomplished in concert, as indicated by their 1977 Live Hits
album, recorded in Christchurch, New Zealand the previous year, which included effective performances of lesser-known songs such as Hicks' working-class portrayal "Too Young to Be Married" (a Number One single in several overseas territories, though never released as such in the UK or US), as well as the expected hits.
In 1981 Calvert and Sylvester left. That same year, in the wake of the "Stars on 45" medley craze, they were persuaded to record their own contribution, "Holliedaze," which returned them to the UK Top 30. Nash and Haydock briefly rejoined to promote the record on Top of the Pops. They continued to record and tour all over the world in various lineups through the mid-1980s, last hitting the US Top 40 with a remake of The Supremes'
"Stop in the Name of Love," which reached Number 29 in 1983, from the album What Goes Around
. A live album featuring the Clarke-Hicks-Elliott-Nash regrouping, Reunion
, followed that same year.
After its use in a TV commercial for Miller Lite
lager in the summer of 1988, "He Ain't Heavy" was reissued in the UK and reached Number One, thus establishing a new record for the length of time between chart-topping singles for one artist of 23 years. By this time bassist Ray Stiles, formerly a member of '70s chart-topping glam rock group Mud
, had joined the permanent line-up. A reissue early in 1989 of "The Air That I Breathe" only made Number 60. In 1993 another new single, "The Woman I Love," written by Nik Kershaw, reached Number 42 in the UK.The Hollies
still tour, although with only two original members, Hicks and Elliott. After Clarke's retirement in 1999, he was replaced by Carl Wayne, former lead singer of The Move
. Wayne only recorded one song with them, "How Do I Survive," the last (and only new) track on the 2003 Greatest Hits
. He worked with the group for nearly five years, his presence assuring the addition of a few Move
songs to the live show, before his untimely death from cancer in August 2004, and was replaced by Peter Howarth.The Hollies'
first new studio album since 1983, Staying Power
, trailed by the singles "Hope" and "So Damn Beautiful", was released in 2006.