Watch: Hollies 1963-75 DVD

 

Released via Eagle
Vision/Reelin’ in the Years Productions,
Look Through Any Window 1963-1975 is an example of how to do a clip-heavy
rock-history documentary right.

 

By Steven Rosen

The Hollies’ Look
Through Any Window 1963-1975
is the fifth volume in Reelin’ in the Years’
DVD series on the British Invasion – others have featured Dusty Springfield,
Small Faces, Herman’s Hermits and Gerry & the Pacemakers. Under director
David Peck, this is a good example of how to do a clip-heavy rock-history
documentary right: Don’t rush it; include old footage of entire songs rather
than excerpts, and find as many
examples as possible where the group performed live rather than lip-synched
their hits. And in the contemporaneous interviews with members, don’t let them
get bogged down in reliving every spat and disagreement (as last year’s Ballad of Mott the Hoople did); have
them talk a lot about what made their individual songs special.

 

The Hollies are an appropriate act for such an approach,
because they first and foremost were a vocal-harmony group. Lead singer Allan
Clarke’s ebulliently crystalline enunciation had a sharpness that was cushioned
by Graham Nash’s and Tony Hicks’ intuitively sympathetic support. When Nash
took an occasional lead, as on the intro into “On a Carousel,” his higher voice
had an appealingly, slightly strained naturalism. This sound made their string
of hits instantly – and permanently – memorable: “Look Through Any Window,” “I
Can’t Let Go,” “Bus Stop,” “Carousel,” “Carrie Anne” and more. (Hicks also was
a fine guitarist.) Also helping immensely was their knack for finding or
writing vivid songs that balanced minor and major chords effortlessly, capable
of alternating between bittersweet melancholy and youthfully exuberant optimism. (Graham Gouldman’s “Bus Stop” is perhaps
the finest example.)

 

 

 

As the 22 performance clips here show, as well as excellent
studio footage of them rehearsing “On a Carousel” at Abbey Road Studios, they
could always sing in tune. The interviews with Clarke, Nash, Hicks and drummer
Bobby Elliott offer some interesting tidbits. “Carrie Anne” was really about
Marianne Faithfull, but the Hollies were too shy to state it lyrically;
Clarke’s and Nash’s wives helped write “Jennifer Eccles,” a cutesy tune that
Nash hated.

 

When the group members do talk about their developing
differences, they actually speak to something larger happening in late-1960s
rock: Nash, having met David Crosby on an L.A. trip, realized there was a
different kind of rock, more organic and confessional, emerging than the
audience-friendly, Top-40 productions of the Hollies, and left for America to
seek it. As he explains, he was also frustrated that his attempt to have the Hollies match the Beatles in art-rock
production, “King Midas in Reverse,” met with fan indifference. (The song here
accompanies footage of the band in England and Japan.) When the Hollies tried
to bounce back with the poppy drivel that was “Jennifer Eccles,” their period
of artistic relevance seemed over.

 

But they did soldier on with some big hits without Nash, and
the documentary includes them – “Sorry Suzanne,” “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My
Brother,” “Long Cool Woman (in a Black Dress),” and “The Air That I
Breathe.”  Given a chance to sing out,
Clarke could make the ballads transcend their sentimentality, but in reality
the Hollies were now just British Invasion survivors trying to find an
occasional Top 40 hit. The documentary doesn’t cover their interesting
post-Nash album of Dylan covers done in 1969. But it does close with their 2010
inclusion into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, although Hicks and Elliott
didn’t make the ceremonies because their current version of the band (without
Clarke or Nash) had a prior booking.

 

 

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