It’s time for a little pandemic lockdown frivolity!
The Hollies: Look Through Any Window, 1963-1975
Eagle Rock Entertainment, 2011, 120 minutes
I’ve told the story several times about how I became a fan of Crosby, Stills, and Nash (and sometimes Young) back in 1969 at the age of thirteen. I liked the group so much that I delved into the back catalogs of the members’ previous bands; David Crosby’s Byrds and Steve Stills’ (and Neil Young’s) Buffalo Springfield. To each their own, but of the three amigos, I liked Graham Nash’s songs the least. They were way too heavy on the saccharine for my taste. But being the nerdy completist that I was, I also lightly delved into the back catalog of Nash’s previous band, the Hollies.
During this COVID-19 quarantine, I was looking to fill some time and stumbled across this documentary on Amazon and decided to queue it up on the turntable for a spin for nostalgia’s sake.
Graham Nash and Allan Clarke grew up as grammar school mates in Manchester, England and both had a talent for singing. With the rise of rock and roll, the pair aspired to forming their own band. The duo founded the Hollies in 1962, and after several personnel changes, they cemented their hit-making line-up in 1966 with Clarke as the lead vocalist and frontman, Nash on rhythm guitar (barely) and vocals, Tony Hicks on lead guitar and vocals, Bernie Calvert on bass guitar, and Bobby Elliot on drums. The band had phenomenal success in the U.K. – 18 Top Ten singles – and to a lesser degree, in the States (6 Top Ten). The Hollies were especially noted for their unique vocal blend with Nash’s high harmonies nicely complementing Clarke’s tenor lead and Hicks rounding out the bottom.
Like the Beatles and most of the other bands that were part of the early years of the British Invasion (1964-1967), the Hollies were strictly a pop band that played songs with simple melodies and simple lyrics for their teeny bopper audiences. But whereas the Beatles and others progressed into more sophisticated musical forms, the Hollies largely stayed in their bubble-gum lane. A frustrated Nash prodded the group to expand their horizons, resulting in the slightly-adventurous albums, “Evolution” (1967) and “Butterfly” (1967), but the increasing tensions caused him to finally part with the band in 1968 and begin his tenure with CSN&Y.
This documentary traces the history of the Hollies from their start to their less-successful, post-Nash years. There’s interesting interviews with Nash, Clarke, Hicks, and Elliot. Twenty-two song performances are included in the video. Some are live and some are lip-synched. The only criticism I have of this documentary is that each song is played in its entirety. Many of the lesser-known songs should have been sampled and the interview segments expanded.
Clarke retired from the band in 2000 and Hicks and Elliot soldier on as the Hollies with journeymen filling the slots. The Hollies were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.
The Hollies’ 18 U.K. Top Ten singles:
- 1963 – Stay
- 1964 – Just One Look – Here I Go Again – We’re Through
- 1965 – Yes I Will – I’m Alive – Look Through Any Window
- 1966 – I Can’t Let Go – Bus Stop – Stop, Stop, Stop
- 1967 – On A Carousel – Carrie-Anne
- 1968 – Jennifer Eccles
- 1969 – Sorry Suzanne – He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother
- 1970 – I Can’t Tell The Bottom From The Top
- 1974 – The Air That I Breathe
- 1988 – He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother (re-release)
Three “shoulda been Top Tens”: One of my favorite Hollies songs, “Dear Eloise” (1967), wasn’t released as a single in the U.K. and only made it to #50 in the U.S. Although it performed only modestly in the U.K. (#32), “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” (1971) was a huge #2 hit in the U.S. The excellent “Long Dark Road” (1972) was released only in the U.S. and peaked at a disappointing #26.
Postscript: As the documentary ends and the closing credits roll, an excellent 1971 rendition of the Hollies singing “Amazing Grace” a capella plays in the background.