Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



UK beat group of the '60s, formed in Manchester '62, named after Buddy Holly (as the Beatles named themselves after the Crickets). The original lineup was Allan Clarke (b 15 April '42, Salford), vocals; Graham Nash (b 2 Feb. '42, Blackpool), rhythm guitar, harmony vocals; Tony Hicks (b 16 Dec. '43, Nelson), lead guitar; Eric Haydock (b Feb. '43, Stockport), bass; Don Rathbone, drums. Hicks and Haydock were ex-Dolphins; Clarke and Nash ex-Two Teens and Deltas; Rathbone was soon replaced by Bobby Elliott (b 8 Dec. '43, Burnley) from Shane Fenton and the Fentones. They were signed by EMI in the post-Merseyside search for more Beatles and recorded for Parlophone under house producer Ron Richards. They began by covering Coasters hits; 'Ain't That Just Like Me' failed, but 'Searchin'' made no. 12 UK. 'Stay' (cover of Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs) showed evidence of the vocal harmonies that would set them apart; 'Just One Look' (also '74) refined this further, with Nash permitted a solo vocal: the cover of the USA Doris Troy hit made no. 2 UK behind the Beatles; the Hollies had arrived. (Troy d 16 Feb. 2004 aged 67; the successul songwriter, backup singer and Atlantic recording artist was popular in Britain and lived there for a few years from the late 1960s, making an album for the Beatles' Apple label.)

The Hollies escaped the cover dead-end by evolving a writing team of Clarke, Hicks and Nash, credited on B sides as 'L. Ransford'; mixed with transatlantic pedigree pop (Gerry Goffin, Graham Gouldman) their original input ensured longevity: 'Here I Go Again', 'We're Through', 'Yes I Will', 'I'm Alive' and 'Look Through Any Window' were top ten '64-5, while cover of George Harrison's 'If I Needed Someone' made no. 20. By '66 their hits appeared in the USA top 20 too, while Hicks's catchy, repetitive figures and unusual instrumentation added to their appeal. They continued with bright, harmony-laden pop: 'I Can't Let Go', 'Bus Stop', 'Stop Stop Stop' (with Hicks's banjo) were hits '66, the year in which ex-Dolphin Bernie Calvert (b 16 Sep. '43, Burnley) replaced Haydock. LPs Evolution and Butterfly '67 showed some influence of progressive rock but fans wouldn't wear it; Nash left late '68 to 'make records that say something' with Crosby, Stills and Nash, replaced by ex-Swinging Blue Jeans Terry Sylvester (b 8 Jan. '47, Liverpool); Nash's keening, vibrant vocal edge was sorely missed by fans. Despite eight UK top ten hits '67-70 and continued US success, projects like The Hollies Sing Dylan '69 betrayed a lack of direction, but a French reissue (on Magic) of Hollies Sing Hollies from the same year came as a nice surprise: they were playing and singing good pop while critics as usual were demanding great art. Maudlin ballad 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother' (by Bob Russell and Bobby Scott) was a hit '69-70 (no. 7 USA).

Clarke went solo '71 and some thought the end was near, but the writing was not affected much since it had been subcontracted to the likes of Roger Cook, Roger Greenaway and Tony Macauley. Replacement singer Mikael Rickfors (b Sweden) brought only 'The Baby' (no. 26 '72), but USA no. 2 '72 with old Creedence-influenced Clarke-sung record 'Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress' brought him back to the group. Hit 'The Air That I Breathe' (UK no. 2/USA 6 on Polydor) was their last of the decade. Clarke continued to record solo without much success, though he was first to cover Bruce Springsteen when he was still unknown; the Hollies continued in cabaret until a major surprise when Nash rejoined after 'Holliedaze' hit medley (no. 28 UK) '81; LP What Goes Around '82 was the result, promoted world-wide (cover of 'Stop In The Name Of Love' was a USA no. 29 hit). They continued in the mid-'80s without Nash again and back on EMI; lineup was Clarke, Hicks, Elliott, Alan Coates and Steve Stroud (ex-Bucks Fizz), Dennis Haines (ex-Gary Numan) on keyboards. A pop institution with sound among the most distinctive of their era; 28 UK/12 USA top 40 hits attest their ability to do a simple thing well.