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The Hollies Biography

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The Hollies are an English rock and roll band formed in the early 1960s. They are commonly associated with Manchester, as several original Hollies came from the city and its outlying communities.

The Manchester quintet, heavily influenced by the Everly Brothers, is known for their rich three part harmonies rivalling those of The Beach Boys, ringing guitars, infectious melodies, jazz oriented backbeats, and a squeaky-clean image. They have been called the British Everly Brothers. Nevertheless, The Hollies are one of the most commercially successful pop/rock acts of the British Invasion. While groups like the Beatles would sometimes toy with non-pop experiments, the Hollies kept their material catchy and appealing no matter what style they pursued; however, they tried easing into more sophisticated folk-rock and mildly psychedelic sounds as the decade wore on, especially on their albums.

Their mass recognition is generally limited (especially in America) to a selection of perhaps a dozen hit songs, from 1964's "Just One Look" to 1974's "The Air That I Breathe". In reality, their recorded history started in 1963 and encompasses more than 350 songs, spread over dozens of albums, EPs and singles, across 33 years (Eder,1996).

Clarke, devastated by the departure of his friend of more than 20 years, had been locked into the group identity for nearly all of his adult life, and now felt the urge to step out on his own. The group was beginning a work on a new album, which Clarke would do with them, after which he would begin work on his own career and his own recordings, independent of the band. Ironically, the new album was to benefit from Clarke's plans for a solo career, but the group's ability to take advantage of its unexpected success was to be sorely tested. While recording the album, titled Distant Light, Clarke turned up with a song that was to be added to the record: a throwaway, co-authored by Clarke, Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, titled Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress) (Eder, 1996).

Recorded on a day when producer Ron Richards was absent, the album gave Clarke a rare chance to show off his guitar skills. The problem was that Clarke had not intended it to be released on a Hollies album, but as a record of his own. However, a couple of members of the group did play on it and he was forced to include it on Distant Light. This, in turn, led to an open breach between Clarke and the rest of the group, once they learned that he intended to do a solo recording. Clarke was issued an ultimatum, that he either remain with The Hollies or pursue a solo career, but not both.

In a 1973 interview with Melody Maker, Clarke states (Eder, 1996)

In 1981 Calvert and Sylvester left and were replaced by Alan Coates and Ray Styles, respectively. Sensing major problems ahead, EMI suggested they put together a Stars On 45-type segued single. The ensuing Holliedaze was a hit and returned them to the UK Top 30 (Rock, 2000). Nash and Haydock briefly rejoined to promote the record on Top of the Pops. The Hollies received a small boost in press interest in America when Graham Nash decided to reunite with the Hollies. They found worldwide success with an update of the Supremes classic Stop! In The Name Of Love, which reached No. 29 in 1983, subsequently, the group recorded an album (What Goes Around). The next year, a live album featuring the Clarke-Hicks-Elliott-Nash regrouping, Reunion. However, this proved a false start, the album received reviews, but they were often negative, and a tour by this line-up had to be hastily re-booked into smaller halls (Unterberger & Eder, 2005). He Ain't Heavy was reissued in the UK in 1988 and reached No. 1 after its use in a Miller lite beer commercial, thus establishing a new record for the length of time between chart-topping singles for one artist of 23 years (Biography, 2002).

Although The Hollies continue to tour and record today, with only two original members, Hicks and Elliot, there really is no public demand for new recordings, and by the 1990s they had ceased recording regularly. Ian Parker joined the group on keyboards circa 1990. However, their status as pop music legends is already assured. Their classics are frequently reissued and win the band new fans all the time thanks to the durability and imagination of the group’s song writing. In 1993, they were given an Ivor Novello award in honor of their contribution to British music. The group was also the subject of a tribute album, Sing Hollies In Reverse, in 1995. It featured major alternative-rock figures like the Posies and Material Issue covering their Hollies favorites, thus proving the enduring nature of the group’s work.

Allan Clarke, after nearly 40 years as the lead vocalist for the band, found that his singing didn't come to him as strongly or as well as he was used to. In 2000, he decided to retire, leaving Hicks and Elliott as the last two core members of the group. In 2003, EMI Records recognized the Hollies' musical significance with a huge (and hugely satisfying) six-CD box set, The Long Road Home: 1963-2003, covering every era and major line-up in the group's history (Unterberger & Eder, 2005).

After Clarke's retirement, he was replaced by Carl Wayne, former lead singer of The Move. Wayne only recorded one song with them, How Do I Survive, before his untimely death from cancer in 2004, and was replaced by Peter Howarth, who had worked for many years with Cliff Richard and had starred in a national tour of The Roy Orbison Story. The Hollies have recently completed a new studio album, their first since 1983, Staying Power, trailed by the singles Hope and So Damn Beautiful, was released in 2006. (Biography, 2002).

It is a sure bet that the Hollies’ music will continue to delight lovers of pop for pop's sake for a long time. Despite the line-up changes throughout the years, the Hollies have always managed to put out great music with their trademark three part harmony. One of the best and most successful bands from their birth professionally in 1963 into the new millennium.

The Holllies 1973 recording of Jesus Was a Cross Maker was featured in Cameron Crowe's 2005 movie Elizabethtown.

Artist Profile. (2004). The Hollies. Retrieved September 1, 2006, from Rockphiles Web site: www.rockphiles.com

Eder, B.(1996). Just One More Look at The Hollies. [electronic version] Goldmine, 22 (415)

Rock and Roll Biographies. (2000). The Hollies. Retrieved August 31, 2006, from Classicbands Web site: http://www.classicbands.com/hollies.html

Unterberger, R. & Eder, B. (2005). The Hollies Biography. Retrieved August 30, 2006, from All Media Guide Web site: http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll
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