Guide to British Music of the 1960s

 

The Hollies

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Allan Clarke - vocals, Tony Hicks - guitar/vocals, Graham Nash - guitar/vocals, Eric Haydock - bass, Bobby Elliott - drums

The Hollies were founded in Manchester by Allan Clarke and Graham Nash in 1962. They had been performing skiffle music together since the late 1950s. They performed under the names the Guytones, the Two Teens and Ricky & Dane before teaming up with the Fourtones. Guitarist Derek Quinn left the band to join Freddie & the Dreamers and this was followed by Nash and Clarke leaving to join the Deltas. Eric Stewart had recently left the Deltas to join the Mindbenders and the band's bass player was Eric Haydock. At the time the band's drummer was Don Rathbone and the lead guitar player was Vic Steele.

The first gig as the Hollies was December 1962, the name being a mix of a Christmas decoration and Buddy Holly. They were offered a record deal by Parlophone in 1963. Vic Steele did not want to turn professional and left the band to be replaced by Tony Hicks. He had been a band called the Dolphins with Bobby Elliott. The first single was a cover of the Coasters' song Ain't That Just Me. Another Coasters cover Searchin' was released as the second single, after which, Rathbone decided to leave the band. He was replaced by Tony Hicks' fellow Dolphin Bobby Elliott. Elliott had also played with Shane Fenton & the Fentones. Both singles made the charts and the band started to record their debut LP.

The third single Stay was the first to reach the UK top ten and it was followed by the debut LP Stay With the Hollies in early 1964. While the first two LPs were representative of their live act, they were starting to write their own songs, some of these appearing as b-sides under the pseudonym L Ransford.

Even though many bands were now writing their own material the Hollies were still issuing cover versions for their single releases. Single releases such as Just One Look, Here I Go Again and Yes I Will showed that the group were developing strong harmonies that became the Hollies' trademark. The May 1965 release of I'm Alive gave the groups its first number one in the UK. This was followed by the superb Look Through Any Window that showcased an outstanding guitar line from Tony Hicks. The track was written by fellow Mancunian and future 10CC member Graham Gouldman who had also been writing hits for the Yardbirds and Hermans Hermits. However, the next single was less successful. The Hollies recorded the George Harrison track If I Needed Someone and released it on the same day that the Beatles released Rubber Soul with the same track. While the guitar sound and harmonies were well-suited to the Hollies it did stoke some Liverpool/Manchester rivalry.

Chip Taylor's I Can't Let Go returned the Hollies to the top of the charts. Again, this emphasised the vocal harmonies and the guitar sound that the band was producing. Bass player Eric Haycock left in April 1966. He was replaced by Bernie Calvert who had been in the Dolphins with Tony Hicks. Graham Gouldman supplied another hit single with Bus Stop and more commercial success soon followed with Stop! Stop! Stop! and On a Carousel.

Like many other bands the Hollies embraced the changing environment and the next two LPs For Certain Because and Evolution owed more to the psychedelic genre. By now there was a developing split in the Clarke/Nash/Hicks axis with Graham Nash's songwriting taking a more experimental route. King Midas in Reverse was a more ambitious track and, despite its obvious class, did not reach the top of the charts.

An LP of Bob Dylan covers followed, at which point Graham Nash decided to leave to form Crosby Stills & Nash, another group known for its superb harmonies. He was replaced by Terry Sylvester from the Escorts. Hits such as Listen to Me, Jennifer Eccles and Sorry Suzanne followed. Allan Clarke left the band soon afterwards although he later rejoined after an unsuccessful solo career. By now the Hollies were moving towards the cabaret circuit.

Eric Haydock died in January 2019.

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