The Hollies formed in Manchester, England in 1962 and found early success the same way as many British acts of that time: covering American hits from a few years earlier. They cut their teeth on songs like Poison Ivy, Searchin’ and Stay, with the same kind of British sound as early Beatles, Rolling Stones and Kinks. But from the beginning they seemed to have an affinity for harmony that set them apart. As they matured out of the cover phase and began recording material written for them as well as their own songs they further developed that three part harmony along with a ringing guitar sound and added some really catchy hooks.
At first The Hollies only found moderate success in the US. It wasn’t until 1966’s ‘Look Through Any Window’ that they hit the Top 40 and really caught on.
Incidentally, I’m trying to use live clips as much as possible because The Hollies sounded great live. The vocal harmonies and jangly guitars weren’t a studio creation.
They finally hit the Top Ten in 1966 with ‘Bus Stop’, another great song and another terrific live performance:
The Hollies are probably most famous today for someone who left the band: Graham Nash, who left in 1968 after becoming dissatisfied with the groups commercial pop oriented direction. He famously formed one of the first supergroups, Crosby, Stills and Nash and had even greater success outside of The Hollies. The Hollies definitely felt Nash’s loss but they had more than enough talent to carry on with his replacement, Terry Sylvester of The Swinging Blue Jeans.
‘Carrie Anne’ was another 1966 hit but here they are in 1969, sans Nash and still sounding great. I love Bobby Elliot’s drumming in this clip but Terry Sylvester should have reconsidered that haircut:
Musical tasted in the late ’60s turned towards album oriented acts but The Hollies were always more of a pop singles band and struggled to stay relevant. In 1972 they hit it big with one of their most well known songs, the uncharacteristically CCR-ish ‘Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress’. Here’s Marc Bolan with the intro for a 1975 performance:
The Hollies had one last huge hit in 1974 with ‘The Air That I Breathe’. Amazingly, the band is still together today,they’ve been together continuously since 1962 and still sound great. Here they are on QVC of all places,
And damned if it doesn’t sound exactly like Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ at the beginning. In fact it’s so similar that Thom Yorke shares songwriting credits on ‘Creep’ with the two writers of ‘The Air That I Breathe’.
The Hollies are still touring so go see them if they come through your town!