They ain’t heavy, they’re The Hollies and they’re in Lowestoft

Bobby Elliott of The Hollies speaks to MARTIN HUTCHINSON about touring, fame and keeping it fresh 50 years on.

Longevity in the music business is a rare commodity, very few pop bands last more than five years; some last by splitting up and then reforming... sometimes more than once.

But there is a band who will next year celebrate 50 years of music making. In all that time they have never split up and two of the band who were there at the start are still there now.

I’m talking of course about The Hollies, who are undertaking a UK autumn tour ahead of next years’ celebrations.

The band was formed around Christmas time 1962, releasing their first record in 1963.

There then followed a string of hits – no less than 30 – that included such classics as The Air That I Breathe, I’m Alive - their first number one - We’re Through and The Woman I Love, their last chart entry in 1993.

Their most famous hit is the 1969 number two He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother, which became their second chart topper when it was re-released in 1988.

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Not only that, but throughout their history, and especially during the 70s, they produced some critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums.

One of their albums was a collection of Bob Dylan songs and in 1980 an album of Buddy Holly songs was issued.

By the autumn of 1963 the line-up of the band had settled at Allan Clarke on vocals, Graham Nash and Tony Hicks on guitars, Eric Haydock on bass and Bobby Elliott on drums.

Hicks and Elliott still steer the ship today, superbly complemented by ex-Mud bassist Ray Stiles, who has been in the band since 1988; Ian Parker on keyboards, who joined in 1990; Peter Howarth on vocals and Steve Lauri on guitar, who joined the band in 2004.

Much of The Hollies’ success came from the Clarke, Hicks, Nash partnership, who not only wrote many of the hits but supplied the band’s trademark three-part harmony. Now it’s Hicks, Howarth and Lauri.

Elliott is confident the band can continue to ply their musical trade long after the 50th year.

“Everything is good in Hollieland at the moment,” he tells me.

“We’ve all had our holidays and are raring to go.”

The band have a very hectic touring schedule which takes them all over the world.

“Earlier in the year we were in New Zealand – I love it there – in fact, we played Christchurch just before the earthquake.

“And of course our live album, The Hollies Live Hits, which got to number four in the album charts in 1977, was recorded there.”

“Next we are off to Germany and Scandinavia before coming back to Ireland and our tour of Britain.”

While in Norway the band will be playing concerts in Oslo and Trondheim which have already raised $40,000 in advanced ticket sales for the Bayalpata Children’s Hospital in Nepal.

The show, when it comes to the UK, promises to be a hit-fest as Elliott explains.

“We’d get lynched if we didn’t do the hits, but what’s gratifying is that we’re now getting requests to perform some of the newer songs from the recent Staying Power and Then, Now, Always albums.

“We don’t want to get too clever. We try to change things round a bit, just to keep things fresh, but not too much.”

Elliott and the band are obviously looking forward to the UK tour.

“Absolutely!” he agrees. “We love playing in Britain – always have done.”

Unlike many bands that became famous in the 60s, The Hollies have always remained massively popular and Elliott thinks he knows the reason.

“We’ve been blessed with the quality of the songs, plus we’ve had so many hits we can go on stage and do a full two-and-a-half hours.”

The band has always been known for their exemplary musicianship and he’s the first to sing the praises of his band-mates.

“It’s a joy working with them, they are great musicians – and along with our loyal team of technicians, are terrific company. We have fun on the road. Fun is the drug and 50 years on it’s the reason Tony and I love being The Hollies.

“We’re lucky in that we tour a lot and don’t need much in the way of rehearsals. We expect everybody to know what they’re doing and of course they do.”

What’s more, The Hollies’ fans can now get hold of a newly-released DVD containing two hours of vintage clips from 1963–1975 and interviews with Elliott, Hicks, Clarke and Nash. Entitled Look Through Any Window, it will be released in early October.

The Hollies will be appearing at Lowestoft’s Marina Theatre on Thursday, October 6. Tickets are selling fast.

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