While the world was going crazy for groups like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in the ’60s, there wasn’t much spotlight for The Hollies to step into. Regardless, despite having to compete with groups such as those, The Hollies still managed to become one of England’s biggest musical exports of that decade. With close to 60 charting singles, and a boatload of records, the band’s legacy is still pretty strong, even if the current version of the group that is still… surviving is more of a textbook example of ‘when to give it up.’
When The Hollies began in 1962, they started off with a lineup of considerable strength, despite their original vision being something of an Everly Brothers-styled vocal group. With Allan Clarke on lead vocals, Tony Hicks on lead guitar, and Graham Nash (of later Crosby, Stills And Nash fame) on backing vocals and rhythm guitar, the group was musically sound, and this soon translated into some pretty huge success with a string of hit singles.
The ’60s continued with the group releasing many brilliant tracks such as ‘Carrie Anne‘, ‘King Midas In Reverse‘, ‘Jennifer Eccles‘, and ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother‘, but near the end of the decade, Graham Nash left, and this lineup change started to result in a lack of success for the group. Sure, they were still touring and recording, but as the love of ’60s styled vocal groups started to wane, the group had to find a way to stay relevant. Thus, a more rock-based approach was needed.
1971 saw the group release their Distant Light album. Undoubtedly, the album’s biggest success was ‘Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress’, which has since been used in countless film and TV series, along with being covered by numerous bands. I first heard the track while growing up after my father put on a compilation of music from the ’70s. From the track’s opening guitar work, to the brilliant rhyhtmic section of the track, and onwards to Allan Clarke’s vocals, the track seemed like a brilliant representation of the group’s shift towards rock music.
The Hollies didn’t exactly see too many hit singles in their corner after this one though. Admittedly, the group did score big with their cover of Albert Hammond’s ‘The Air That I Breathe‘, which even lead to a bit of controversy when it came out that Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ shared the exact same chords.
Overall, ‘Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress’ seems to serve as somewhat of a fitting farewell for a group like The Hollies. Despite the fact they still had countless singles afterwards, none were as successful, and as such, this can be sort of seen as the point at which they had reached the end of their commercial peak. From here, it was all downhill.