A jangly band from Manchester who play pristine melodic guitar pop who are not the Stone Roses – an interview with 60’s hit makers and Manchester Beatles – The Hollies by Ted Dahlin who caught up with the band when they played Oslo recently. I once interviewed the Stone Roses in 1986 and they spent a large chunk of the interview raving about the Hollies…
Then, Now and Always. The Hollies : Staying Power .
The legendary Hollies visited Scandinavia at the end of August and I managed to catch their show in Oslo. They had two shows lined up here, one in Oslo and the other in the smaller town of Trondheim. Norwegians have always appreciated The Hollies and the gig was to a sold out audience. It was no surprise to see that I was one of the few “young”Â people there. They seem to attract a audience in their 60’s and 70’s, who know all their lyrics and sing along loudly. The Hollies have been to Scandinavia on several occasions and I got the impression that it is the same group of fans that catch their shows every time. Before the concert I observed Tony Hicks standing around in front of the stage talking to a fan. Bobby Elliot joined him after a while and it was so far from the screaming fans that I am sure they had experienced in their early heyday.
The Hollies, were originally started in Manchester in the early 60’s by Graham Nash (later Cosby, Stills and Nash) and Allan Clark. After being in a few short lived bands like The Fourtones, Nash and Clark got together with Eric Haydock on bass, Don Rathbone on drums and Vic Farrell on guitar. They called themselves The Dominators of Rhythm, but changed it to The Hollies in December 1962. Before they recorded their first record, Farrell left and was replaced by Tony Hicks, who had been playing in their rival band, The Dolphins. Bobby Elliot, who was the drummer for The Dolphins, replaced Rathbone in 1963.
The Hollies had their breakthrough in 1963. The same year as The Beatles and became known as Manchester’s Beatles. Their genre now known as the Mersey beat was originally guitar based music, and bright vocal harmonies, but they later used more keyboard to their sound. At this time there was a lot of bands in the UK playing cover versions of American hits. The Hollies first two singles were The Coasters originals from 1957 and 1961. They made it into the UK charts, but they weren’t making any original songs themselves, like the Beatles were doing. It wasn’t until their 6th single We’re Through in 1964 that they made it to number 7 in the UK charts with an original song. They then went on to have two hits in the US with Look Through Any Window and Bus Stop, both written by Graham Gouldman (later 10CC). It was this success that marked the start of a series of original hits. In 1968 however, Graham Nash left the group after King Midas in Reverse was not as popular with the record buying audience as they had hoped. Many believed at the time that Nash leaving was the end of The Hollies, but now almost 50 years later they are still touring and making music. Bobby Elliot and Tony Hicks are the only members still going strong since the early 60’s. Bass player and vocals, Ray Stiles, previously of the glam rock group Mud, has been with them since 1987. Steve Lauri plays rhythm guitar and Ian Parker plays keyboards. Parker previously played with Tom Robinson Band. In the late 80’s he joined Clannad and the early 90’s saw him touring with Elke Brooks, Killing Joke and Joan Armatrading, before he joined The Hollies. Peter Howarth is lead singer and replaced Carl Wayne when he died in 2004.
The Hollies released their first album since 1983 in 2006 with Staying Power. Followed by Then, Now and Always in 2009, which included the song She’ll Kill for Me which was written by Bobby Elliot for his late wife, who was also Tony Hick’s sister. In 2010 the released Midas Touch..
It was with mixed anticipation that I attended the concert. My expectations weren’t high as the lead vocal was not the guy I’d been listening to in my bedroom in my early teens. With just the guitar and drums of the early cast, I felt their sound must be different somehow. The voice wouldn’t be the same and I was prepared for the worst. The stage was taken by the Norwegian promoter Knut Skyberg, who was responsible for getting the Hollies to Scandinavia, on quite a few occasions. He wished us welcome and then told us that the concert was in aid of the help-organization Nyaya Health and that all the profits would go to a hospital that was dedicated to helping people in a remote area of Nepal. The Hollies entered the stage to loud applause and set of to impress the 400 or so audience. They went from one hit to another and I couldn’t believe I wasn’t hearing any difference to the original sound. They are well worth the concert ticket price and seem to have kept their sound, unlike many older bands that experiment with old music as they get tired of performing it in the same way over and over. The Hollies talked to the audience and were not afraid to visit the people standing around the stage in the break. These were certainly no divas. But then there was never any danger of the crowd of 60 or 70 something’s acting in a disrespectful manner. I have later caught up with Bobby Elliot who gave me this interview.
Interview with Bobby Elliot from the Hollies
The Hollies were huge in the 60’s and 70’s , did you ever think, back then, that you would still be recording and touring, 50 years later in 2011 ?
At the age of 21, not in my wildest dreams. When you’re young, fifty years seems an eternity.
You have had more hits than The Beatles. Who inspired you, music-wise. back then in the 60’s ? Was it the American music scene or local heros ?
With me, in my teens, it was American musicians and artists. Eddie Cochran, Sinatra, Little Richard, Mel Torme – and Jazzers: Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker and Thelonius Monk.
You are no strangers to Scandinavia, but it was the first time you have played Trondheim since 1977. How did you feel the concert went ?
We enjoyed all our gigs in Scandinavia. You people gave us special bonus Hits – ‘Stewball’ and Very Last Day’. We’re greatful for that… in fact we are still performing those two songs on our current British Tour, and our followers love them.
This tour is special as the profits are going to a charity called Nyaya Health, which runs a hospital in Nepal. What is your opinion about the proceeds from the show going to charity ?
I like the idea. Very refreshing and inspiring.
You released the album Staying Power in 2006 as the first since 1983. Then came Then, Now and Always in 2009 followed by Midas Touch last year. When can we expect the next one ? Do you have any plans to go in studio again in the near future ?
No plans to record just yet as we’ve been so busy on the road, but if a special song comes along, it will be studio time again.
It’s been a fantastic last 2 years for you. Albums being released and inclusion in the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And you are touring each year. I’m told you have been touring continuously since the 60’s. Is touring something you enjoy especially, or is it just a part of the job that needs to be done to keep the fans happy ?
We tour because performing LIVE is the BEST feeling. I’m addicted to playing drums with my buddies. We have the best band – and when the show has gone well and the audience give us a standing ovation – it’s heaven.
You have toured with some amazing people over the years. Are there any artists that especially stand out in your memory ?
The King Curtis Orchestra. Curtis was an ace sax player, and along with his sixteen piece band backed the whole show, when we played the Paramount Theatre – five shows a day, for a week, in NYC, back in 1965.
Little Richard and his band were also on the bill. His guitarist was an unknown Jimi Hendrix.
Can you tell me something that the fans don’t know and that you think might interest them ?
Tony Hicks and I have been playing together for about fifty-one years. First with his band, The Dolphins and then….