Did you know [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]The Hollies[/lastfm] had more hits than [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]The Beatles[/lastfm] in England ? Did you know “The Hollies” were singing together before [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]The Rolling Stones[/lastfm]? Did you know two members of the group are still together almost 50 years later, and more remarkably, are still touring?
A great new documentary titled “Look Through Any Window” was released this week covering the early years of this very versatile and sometimes overlooked group that once featured Graham Nash.
Film historian David Peck’s “Look Through Any Window,” named after one of their early British hits, contains rare footage of 22 live performances of “The Hollies” starting in 1963, encompassing all of their American hits, and some British songs that should have been hits in the US. What makes this documentary stand out is that David used the entire footage of each performance, (not edits), so the fans can hear the iconic Hollie’s songs exactly as they were performed.
I’m Bill Dudley from 94.7 The WAVE, on loan to our sister station, K-EARTH 101 to write about one of my favorite bands The Hollies. Graham Nash and Allan Clarke met in grade school when they were 6, and have been friends ever since. At a recent screening in Santa Monica, both Allan and Graham were present to hear the warm reception to “Look Through Any Window”, which is not only The Hollie’s story, but a video history of each of their lives.
The two noticed a certain harmony they had together, right from the start. Guitarist Tony Hicks joined in 1962, and added a third voice to what would become one of Rock n’ Roll’s best three part harmony acts. Drummer Bobby Elliott was added soon thereafter, giving a flare that was seldom seen with “the sticks” in that era. All four participated in the film, telling the long and unusual history of the group that was formed in December 1962 (very close to Christmas), and who also loved Buddy Holly. Thus, for both reasons, they became “The Hollies.”
While already big in England in 1963, The Hollies didn’t conquer the American charts until 1966 with “Bus Stop.” This song being a perfect example of how Hollies hits were actually short stories,(and mini-symphonies) about real events. “Stop, Stop Stop” became the first hit song written by Clarke, Hicks and Nash to hit the top 10.
Featuring Tony on banjo, it was based on a belly dancer the band saw on their first trip to New York City (and America) in 1965. The most outstanding footage in the film was captured at Abbey Road Studios in January of 1967. It is 10 minutes of the actual construction of their third hit, “On A Carousel” with a very young Graham Nash, flanked by Hicks and Clarke at the microphone, using NO HEADPHONES. Bobby is assembling his part on the side, while George Harrison was in the room next door.
1967’s “Carrie-Anne” was actually written for a girl some of The Hollies were enamored with singer, Marianne Faithful. Unfortunately for them, she was also Mick Jagger’s girlfriend at the time, thus the name change. David Peck found great BBC video of Nash singing “Dear Eliose”. Much of The Hollies early work is in black and white, as it should be. However, David actually created a music video of “King Midas In Reverse” from some extremely rare color footage. It fooled the entire audience. We all thought it was a real video from 1967.
Creative differences, and a yearning to live in America prompted Graham Nash to leave The Hollies in late 1968. The following year he joined David Crosby and Stephen Stills to form one of the world’s most iconic groups, Crosby stills & Nash. Graham was once again making brilliant three part harmony, and this time it was at Woodstock.
Devastated at first by Nash’s departure, Alan Clarke, Tony Hicks and Bobby Elliott also forged ahead to create three of their biggest hits with a much different sound. Alan beautifully sang “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” “The Air That I Breathe” and “Long Cool Woman.” even playing guitar on that one. Terry Sylvester very capably replaced Nash, and remained with the group for a long time.
Friends for nearly 65 years, Nash describes Clarke as “One of the greatest singers of the rock generation.” Listen to “The Air That I Breathe,” and I’m sure you will agree. It is stunning, and sadly their last American hit in 1974. Clarke is retired now, but he and Nash performed together at The Hollies well deserved, (and much delayed) induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2010.Hicks and Elliott still tour as The Hollies. Nash got back together with Alan, Hicks and Elliott in 1983. I hope they do it again next year, for their 50th anniversary.
“Look Through Any Window” is currently available on Amazon.com. If you are looking for a documentary film that really covers the details in the creation of the music, and highlights the talent that made it, this is the film for you. One of the best I’ve ever seen.
“Shotgun Tom” Kelly has been a friend of David Peck, the man that put assembled this great story, for many years. Shotgun loved it as much as I did, and so did Tom Petty who also attended the screening. David has produced over 75 other diverse music documentaries, including Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Curtis Mayfield, Dusty Springfield, and a brand new one on a 1961 Ray Charles concert in France, coming out soon. Check them all out at Reelingintheyears.com