At the End of the Day

The most common hide-and-seek game in town these days is the evasion of responsibility. Be they the Whitewashers of Whitehall, Labour politicians, website hosts, website power packs, Helpline deadheads, Brussels virtue signallers, bankers, medical modellers, economic forecasters, journalists, lawyers or NHS Big-Hair administrators…it matters not a jot. Risible excuses are carefully crafted in post-hoc memoranda such that they become entirely sensible rationales. Sick to death of writing about (and dealing with) these pointless pillocks, tonight I am awarding myself a trip back into a gentler, more honestly idealistic youth.

I drove over to a bastide town near here yesterday. I don’t particularly like it – it gets more like an outer south London suburb every year – but it does nevertheless have a medium-sized supermarket that sells gluten-free bread and remarkably cheap smoked salmon, and one gondola end in which there are usually some bargains.

Before leaving on this minor provisioning expedition, I chose some CDs for the car’s player. I didn’t play music on the way there (there was a half-decent news channel on the radio) but on the way back, I slotted in an historic – dare I say epic? – compilation called The Very Best of the Hollies.

The years peeled away as 2020 in rural France disappeared off the radar to be replaced by the Manchester club scene from 1962 to 1965. It was a blissful episode.

Let me tell you a few things about The Hollies. Its most creative member was Graham Nash, a poor kid from Salford (where my Dad was raised) who began performing in 1958 – before the Beatles – and who went on to form US Supergroup Crosby Stills & Nash (and occasionally Young) while setting up home for some time with the legendary Joni Mitchell…by far the greatest influence on my guitar playing, mediocre as it might be.

The Hollies began to break through via The Jungfrau, the Twisted Wheel and the Oasis clubs where “Mods” like my good self worshipped the latest dance routine before moving on, around 1966, to Tamla Motown.

The Hollies’ creative output in terms of sheer sales really was astonishing. Their music perhaps created more tingle-hair anthems than anyone else – The Air That I Breathe, He Ain’t Heavy, Long Cool Woman and I’m Alive – but the skill and joie de vivre of their triple harmonies has never been equalled. Within three beats, everyone around at the time can identify a Hollies track.

As late as 2010, all the band members were inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame – Allan Clarke, Graham Nash, Tony Hicks, Eric Haydock, Bobby Elliott, Bernie Calvert, and Terry Sylvester.

Eric Haydock died last year agd 75.

Lead singer Allan Clarke left the Hollies 20 years ago to support his wife, who was being treated for cancer. She survived, and they are still together after 55 years of marriage.

Clarke, 77 and unfazed by the transformation of the music industry by new technology, has secured a new record deal after teaching himself how to use a common music-making program on his computer.

He and Graham Nash are now talking again about ways to work together.

A struggling band often acted as support for The Hollies. Then called Herman & the Hermits, they were so awful we used to go round The Cathedral pub for a couple of illegal pints of beer while they were on. As Herman’s Hermits, they were taken under the management wing of promoter Mickie Most, and (with their cutesy lead singer Peter Noone) became one of the most successful Brit bands in the US with I’m into Something Good.

But the Hollies, eh? They were something else.

Write on, though there’s no one out there listening to your song, Write on