Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Hollies

Frannie and I dug out The Hollies / "Look Through Any Window" DVD over the long holiday weekend to watch again ... and I've got to tell you, it is every bit as enjoyable on repeated viewings.  This thing is SO well done ... and the music is non-stop.  Plus the personal touch of the various Hollies members telling their story in their own words makes this one of the best rockumentaries ever made.
Ironically, Gary Pig Gold recently reposted HIS review of the DVD ... so we're going to do the same ...
You can catch them both below (along with a comment from David Peck, President of Reeling In The Years Productions, who made this incredible film, after seeing our original review a couple of years ago!)  kk   

Attention, Pop Pals!
Gary Pig Gold's review of the still-amazing LOOK THROUGH ANY WINDOW Hollies DVD has now been published on the Roctober Reviews site (with the print edition in Roctober Magazine to follow soon).
Here is the virtual address, for one and all to not only read, but reprint, re-post, quote from and / or Link to ...
Never as naughty as the Rolling Stones, nor as pin-up perfect as Herman's Hermits; seldom as musically adventurous as the Yardbirds, nitty-gritty as the Animals, or full-on bombastic as The Who. Of course, as truly no-one was, they just weren't as precociously talented as those Beatles either.
In fact, throughout the entire artistic marathon which was 1960s pop, perhaps their only true competition – in the vocal department at least – would be from the all-American Beach Boys. And, like them, it seems the only true "crime" The Hollies ever committed during their illustrious decades-long career was that they solely concentrated on, well, just making good records.
For you see without the assist of a cut-throat manager, cutting-edge studio supervision, wily publicist or even with-it wardrobe consultant (as late as 1972 the Hollies could still be found touring North America in the kind of matching cream-colored suits even the above-mentioned Mike Love & Co. had jettisoned by 1969) Allan Clarke, Graham Nash, Tony Hicks, Bobby Elliott, Terry Sylvester et al were left more or less to simply let their own string of absolutely fab hit singles do their walking and talking for them.
And what's wrong with that, I'd like to know?
A whopping twenty-two (!) of those hits and then some now generously fill Eagle Rock / Reelin' In The Years' two-hour-plus The Hollies: Look Through Any Window, packed alongside enough behind the scenes reminiscences, vintage newsreel clips (including a fourteen-minute glimpse inside a 1967 Hollies session at Abbey Road) and even personal road-view home movies to please the most discriminating British Invader out there, I'd wager.
Well, then! Our story begins as a six-year-old Allan Clarke is fatefully seated next to Graham Nash in an otherwise nondescript Manchester classroom. A decade later, the two pals chance upon the Everlys' "Bye Bye Love" at a Catholic Girls School dance and their destinies, both musical and otherwise, are immediately and foreverafter bonded.
So, as teenagers did throughout late-Fifties Britain, Allan and Graham began honing their harmonizing in local pubs and social halls, eventually forming a series of increasingly sophisticated beat combos which, in the wake of the Beatles' initial success – and despite Graham having not a single unbroken guitar string left on his Harmony acoustic during their audition – won a recording contract with none other than EMI's Parlophone label (RIP).
A flurry of effortlessly pop-go-lucky Hollies hits follow, each lovingly illustrated within Look Through Any Window via a veritable goldmine of seldom-seen promotional and performance clips, unencumbered with annoying voice-overs and left to unspool in their pristine totality.
Watch a Queen Elizabeth look-alike stroll somnambulantly through what appears to be a flower shoppe for 1963's pioneering "Little Lover" jukebox video. See the band bravely face down various Stones, Searchers, and even Beatles at the 1964 NME Poll Winners concert, then see – and hear – the Hollies meticulously craft "On A Carousel" in the recording studio ( … it seems the Granada TV crew had just been ushered out of a "Penny Lane" overdub session being held next door). Clearly, for an outfit so often dismissed as being image-less and / or less-than-charismatic, we recognize instead five guys who can more than hold their own against the antics of a Gerry and the Pacemakers or even the on-stage fury of a Dave Clark Five.
Between these astonishing clips we hear the tantalizing back-stories told in contemporary interview footage with Graham, Allan, utterly brilliant drummist Bobby Elliot and wiz-kid vocalist / guitarist Tony Hicks, the latter of whom actually picks up the nearest 12-string to demonstrate his trademark "I'm Alive" solo, "Look Through Any Window" Byrds lick, and still-astonishing "Stop Stop Stop" banjo / balalaika hybrid. The man was, and remains, a disarmingly soft-spoken yet nevertheless undeniable musical wonder.
Watch closely too and you'll see various Hollies cavorting around Japan to the accompaniment of "King Midas In Reverse," discover who "Carrie Anne" really began life as, and even watch Allan Clarke looking for said song's steel drum band hidden down his trouser leg at Yugoslavia's Split Festival, I kid you not.
Most unfortunately however, the fun and games – though thankfully not the hits – began ending circa 1967 as Graham suddenly got himself all "serious" (as in severely profound-o-delic); a curious, demoralizing change of attitude, not to mention altitude, which just didn't sit at all well with his pot-pie-as-opposed-to-pot fellow Hollies. No matter though: after a bizarre fling with DayGlo menswear and albums named after holometabolous insects, the man was soon sent packing aboard his Marrakesh Express to the supposedly hipper climes of Los Angeles … and into the welcoming arms of Messrs. Crosby and Stills. Good on ya then, Willy.
Enter ex-Escort / Swinging Blue Jean Terry Sylvester, straight into Graham's old white suit and bow tie as we watch the second chapter in Hollie History unfold with the UK # 3 hit "Sorry Suzanne" through "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" (featuring Elton John's £12 piano part), "Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress," "The Air That I Breathe" and, twenty-two years too late, induction at last into that Rock and Roll Hall of, um, Fame.     
Consider this entire package then, including Ben Fong-Torres' studious liner notes for the accompanying 12-page "Hollies Scrapbook," a (re-)introduction to the deceptively simple 'n' smiling musical magic which continues to be this band's stock in trade. An admittedly upbeat combo whose music, in Graham's well-put words, nevertheless remained "serious as a heart attack," with nary a vocal harmony configuration left unexplored or an instrumental note misplaced, overlooked, or thankfully overplayed. In short then, The Hollies exemplify the long-lost art of a band that did only what needed to be done; nothing more, but hardly nothing less.
Or, as Allan Clarke best sums up, "We were just a great group who sang great songs and had a lot of hits." Case closed.   
The Hollies: Look Through Any Window is but the latest addition to Reelin' In The Years' exemplary British Invasion series, so if you haven't already grabbed the rest of the set, what on Earth are you waiting for??
-- Gary Pig Gold

And here's another look at our report, originally found here:  Click here: Forgotten Hits: The Hollies    

Thanks to FH Reader (and mega-promoter) Bob Merlis, we had the golden opportunity to view the brand new Hollies DVD, "Look Through Any Window, 1963 - 1975", six weeks before it will be available to the rest of the world through Reelin' In The Years Productions and Eagle Rock Entertainment ... and I've got to tell you ... this film is nothing short of OUTSTANDING!!!

The Hollies placed a dozen songs in the U.S. National Top 40 between 1966 and 1975 (including a #29 "comeback" single in 1983 when the band reunited for a brief album and tour ... man, I wish I could have seen THAT show!!!)
Not really part of the "first wave" of The British Invasion, The Hollies first caught our attention here in The States in early 1966 with their break-through US Hit "Look Through Any Window", which reached #32 on The Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles Chart.  (It had a far better showing here in Chicago where it soared all the way to #3 ... and still gets a fair share of airplay.)
More hits followed ... "Bus Stop" pushed them into The National Top Ten for the first time when it peaked at #5 in 1966.  (That record went all the way to #1 in Chicago ... and their previous release, "I Can't Let Go" made The Top Ten in Chi-Town as well, despite falling short of The Top 40 nationally.)  "Stop Stop Stop" (#7, 1966); "On A Carousel" (#7, 1967) and "Carrie Anne" (#9, 1967) kept The Top Ten string going.
What most folks probably don't know is that The Hollies already had six British Top Ten Hits before they broke through with their first hit record here in America, including the #1 Hit "I'm Alive" and "Yes, I Will", a #9 Hit in 1963 that would be covered by The Monkees four years later as "I'll Be True To You".  It's fun to watch the group develop both in look and in sound from these early clips (with their piled-high Everly Brothers pompadours and suits) to a more relaxed, hippie-dom state later in the film ... it's a chance to witness first hand a complete musical and cultural evolution from start to finish.
This new Hollies DVD Production begins by offering selections from the earliest days of their success in Great Britain, featuring some songs that most of us won't be familiar with ... but then explodes with a virtual hit-barrage once their success expands worldwide.  Most remarkable about all of this is the INCREDIBLE sound and video quality of these clips ... we were blown away by the clarity of some of these performances, some of which are now well over 45 years old!
Holding the whole thing together are in-depth, current day interviews with Graham Nash, Allan Clarke, Tony Hicks and Bobby Elliott, all of whom offer loving, behind-the-scenes reflections in complete candor.  (In fact, when this film has its first official world-wide premier at the American Cinematheque's Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, California, on September 22nd, both Nash and Clarke will be on hand to take part in a panel discussion immediately following the screening!)
The stories behind the songs are especially entertaining.  (Without giving too much away, we learn that Tony Hicks did most of the song-searching, visiting publishers to see what they had to offer in the way of new material ... but along the way, the band also developed into quite successful songwriters in their own right ... the story behind "Stop Stop Stop", a Top Ten Hit for the band in 1966, is hilarious ... and we also learn that another Top Ten Hit, "Carrie Anne", first saw life as "Marianne" ... as in Marianne Faithfull ... whom all of the members of the band seemed to have a HUGE crush on ... they just didn't have the guts to leave her name in the song!!!)
About two-thirds of the way through, we are also allowed a behind-the-scenes look at Abbey Road Studios to watch a remarkable film of The Hollies recording their soon-to-be smash hit "On A Carousel".  Viewers are treated to a fly-on-the wall perspective, as they put the song together layer by layer with guitarist Tony Hicks and drummer Bobby Elliott each adding their parts to the backing track, followed by Graham Nash (and then Allan Clarke and Tony Hicks) dubbing on their musically unadorned vocal tracks.  It's nothing short of remarkable, and it's all there to enjoy in crystal-clear sound and video.  There are also specially filmed video clips of the band doing "Dear Eloise" as well as a made-for-this-DVD montage of home movies that now accompany "King Midas In Reverse", two of their lesser-known hits.  (While The Hollies may be best remembered for their impeccable and inventive harmonies, it's interesting to see just how much they experimented along the way, changing up there sound from record to record, always challenging themselves to grow musically.)
All the hits are here and well represented, and most are presented in a live setting (along with a few vintage "live" television performances.)  One of my favorites is seeing The Hollies performing "Jennifer Eccles" at The Split Festival in Yugoslavia, dressed in tuxedos and clowning it up a bit as the song at various times is both falling apart and spot-on vocally.  Talk about your Forgotten Hits, "Jennifer Eccles" only made it to #40 back in 1968 but, to my ears, has always been one of their most infectious tunes, reaching #15 here in Chicago that year.
Graham Nash's leaving the band (to form Crosby, Stills and Nash) is addressed, again in complete candor by all of the members of the band ... and even Graham himself gets off a great line about watching his old band climb back into The Top Ten on the charts without him thanks to the timeless classic "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" in 1970 ... while Crosby, Stills and Nash were simultaneously also enjoying their earliest chart success.
A couple more "comeback" hits followed ... "Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)" went all the way to #1 in 1972 ... and two years later The Hollies were back in The Top Ten with "The Air That I Breathe", a song written by Albert Hammond that they discovered when they heard Phil Everly's solo version of this tune ... not the first time that The Everly Brothers inspired the band!
One thing is clear as you watch this film ... The Hollies were able to take ANY style of music and adapt it to their own, making it "The Hollies Sound" in the process.  (It's particularly enlightening to hear that they stumbled across the third part of their trademark harmonies quite by accident!  Just another quirky happenstance that helped to identify the band!)  They were FINALLY inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2010, after being ignored the first 22 years of their eligibility ... and this film simply reinforces their rightful place there.
Recommended for even the most casual Hollies fan, "The Hollies: Look Through Any Window, 1963 - 1975" is BY FAR the strongest release yet in Reelin' In The Years Productions' British Invasion Series thus far (which also includes spotlight features on Gerry and the Pacemakers, Herman's Hermits, Dusty Springfield and The Small Faces.)  While more releases are planned, no official release dates have been announced.  That being said, DON'T miss your chance to pick up this great Hollies DVD on October 4th ... you won't regret it.
Kent Kotal
Forgotten Hits

You can only imagine our pride when we heard from David Peck, Director of this extraordinary film ...
Hello Kent,
David Peck here, Director of the Hollies film you so kindly raved about.
It's very nice when so much hard work is put in that a writer such as yourself takes the time to really watch it and really review it. It's very obvious that you watched every frame and I truly thank you for that.   When I first read your review I was walking with my six year old daughter and I reacted with a very loud YEAH! and then, after she asked me why I was so happy, I had to explain how good it feels to have someone compliment your work. I guess it's a good thing that it was a positive review cause I would have hated to have to explain what the word "shit" meant.
All the best,
David Peck 
Reelin' In The Years Productions
It's a stellar piece, David ... everyone connected should be very proud of the results.  (Love your "oh shit" comment, by the way!!!  lol)  Not to worry here ... we absolutely LOVED it ... and please let us know as new titles are being released so we can help to spread the word.  (With your collections featuring Gerry and the Pacemakers, Dusty Springfield, Herman's Hermits and The Hollies already in our collection, you can tell that we're VERY big fans of this series!!!)  kk