How the Hollies Branched Out on Their Third Album
When the Hollies released their third U.K. album, Hollies, in September 1965, the group had yet to conquer America as part of the British Invasion. But an increased reliance on original tunes by Graham Nash, Tony Hicks and Allan Clarke made the album a No. 8 hit in Britain.
Hollies is sometimes referred to as Hollies '65 to avoid confusion with the 1974 release of the same name. Eventually, the Top 10 U.K. singles "I'm Alive" and "Look Through Any Window" were added to the album and repackaged as Hear! Here! in the U.S. in November.
Like other British groups in the mid-'60s, the Hollies relied on American R&B, soul and folk music to fill out their albums. Covers this time around included Curtis Mayfield's "You Must Believe Me," Lloyd Price's "Lawdy Miss Clawdy," Roy Orbison's "Down the Line" and Peter, Paul and Mary's "Very Last Day."
But those covers paled in comparison to the tracks written jointly by Nash, Hicks and Clarke under the pseudonym L. Ransford, the name of Nash's grandfather. Hollies confirmed their growing confidence as songwriters. "Graham, Tony and I right from the beginning were always writing songs," Clarke said in Play On! Power Pop Heroes, Volume Two. "It's just that whenever we played our stuff to our producer, Ron Richards, he'd say 'Well, that’s okay as a B-side but it’s not an A-side.'"
Nash and Hicks explained their writing process in an interview with Goldmine magazine. "I think it was in great part to us growing up and us realizing that 'Moon, June, f--- me in the back of the car' are all well and good, but there’s more to talk about," said Nash. "I think it was also due very much to the influence of the Beatles. To see their exponential growth as writers from the time I met them in 1959 through the '60s was very, very encouraging to us. There was also a very subtle competitiveness to it all with the great bands around at the time."
"I’ve always been a chorus man," added Hicks. "Choruses excite me and I know when I hear that if the song's gonna be a hit. To a large extent if the three of us wrote a song, I'd probably come up with the chorus. When Graham heard that he was always very good to sort of work out a verse or verses, and if Allan by that time hadn't put much in, he'd knock out a middle eight. I wouldn't say the process worked like that on every song, but to a large extent it was."
Five of the 12 songs on the U.S. release were penned by Nash, Hicks and Clarke. "So Lonely" is a standout, a moody tune performed with the simplicity of much of the Hollies' early work. The gloomy lyrics of "Too Many People" warn of the dangers of overpopulation and war. The unmistakable sound of Nash's vocals on "Put Yourself in My Place" make it another highlight.
Imperial Records, the Hollies' U.S. label, didn't release the band's second U.K. album, In the Hollies Style. But the success in Britain of two new singles, "I'm Alive" and "Look Through Any Window," convinced Imperial to release Hollies as Hear! Here! The label dropped two covers — "Mickey's Monkey" and "Fortune Teller" — to make room for the two hits.
Watch the Hollies Perform 'Very Last Day'
In his autobiography, Wild Tales, Nash said the band was introduced to "Look Through Any Window" when they were asked by a friend to listen to a budding young songwriter. "We go over to the address he gave us — a semi-detached house in one of the better neighborhoods in Manchester — to meet this so-called songwriter, a 15-year-old Jewish kid named Graham Gouldman. Now, we're the Hollies — and we know we're the Hollies, so we're not going to make it easy on him, kid or no kid. We're sitting in this posh, middle-class living room, slipcovers on the sofas, nice art on the wall. I threw Mr. Songwriter one of my best stony stares and said, 'Okay, kid — give it your best shot.'
"He picked up an acoustic guitar and started playing 'Bus stop, wet day, she's there, I say, "Please share my umbrella …"' And it's f---ing fabulous! Tony, Allan and I are cutting glances at each other, and … we know this is a hit song. We know what we can do with it too, putting a Hollies spin on the tune. We were pretty excited, ready to rush out of there and get our claws into this song, when I said to him, 'Uh, before we go … got anything else?' Before the words were out of my mouth, he started singing, 'Look through any window, yeah, what do you see? / Smiling faces all around …'
"We just stopped and stared. 'Okay, kid — that's two. We're definitely taking those two. No question about it …,'" he continued. "Before we even got back home, Tony had put a gorgeous 12-string riff to the intro of 'Look Through Any Window.' The song was made to be sung by voices like ours. All the harmonies were right there, and in no time we turned it into a Hollies song. We recorded it in less than two hours and knew we had an instant hit on our hands."
Gouldman, who wrote classics like the Yardbirds' "For Your Love" and "Heart Full of Soul," later became a founding member of 10cc. "Look Through Any Window," co-written with Charles Silverman, became the first Hollies track to enter the Top 40 in the U.S. It was the first of a string of '60s hits that included "Bus Stop," "Stop Stop Stop," "On a Carousel" and "Carrie Anne."
Nash wanted to expand beyond the Hollies' hit single formula and left the group in 1968. He relocated to Los Angeles and formed the supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash with David Crosby and Stephen Stills. Clarke retired from the music industry in 1999. Hicks still performs with a revamped Hollies lineup that includes original drummer Bobby Elliott.
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