Golden days for The Hollies

The Hollies. Photo contributed.
The Hollies. Photo contributed.
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LONGEVITY in the music business is a rare commodity.

But there is a band celebrating 50 years of music making, and in all that time they have never split up, and two of the band who were there at the start still remain.

I’m talking of course about The Hollies, who are undertaking a UK tour to commemorate the milestone.

Getting together around Christmas time 1962, they enjoyed a long string of hits. No less than 30 hits including such classics as The Air That I Breathe, I’m Alive (their first number one), We’re Through and The Woman I Love, make up their impressive catalogue.

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. And as well as their hit singles, the band produced a number of excellent and highly-acclaimed albums.

By the autumn of 1963 Allan Clarke and Graham Nash had been joined by Tony Hicks on guitars, Eric Haydock on bass and Bobby Elliott on drums.

Hicks and Elliott still steer the ship today, superbly complemented by bassist Ray Stiles (ex-Mud), who has been in the band since 1988; Ian Parker on keyboards, who joined in 1990, and 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).

Bobby Elliott is confident that 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 are all raring to go.”

Their anniversary show, which comes to Buxton Opera House on Wednesday April 11, promises to be a hit-fest, as Bobby 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, you don’t change a winning formula. We try and change things round a bit, just to keep things fresh, but not too much.”

For the 50th anniversary tour, they aren’t planning to make many changes to the set-list as the drummer – now 70 - tells me.

“We have added Dolphin Days from the Then, Now, Always album as it’s like a potted history of the band and tells of me and Tony going down to Manchester joining the rest of the lads.”

Unlike many bands that became famous in the sixties, The Hollies have always remained massively popular, and Bobby 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 Bobby is 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,” he adds. “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.”

l Tickets for ‘The Hollies - 50 Years On’ at Buxton Opera House on April 11, priced £25 and £27, are available on 0845 127 2190 or online at www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk.

Martin Hutchinson