WASHINGTON, August 24, 2013 – The British rock group The Hollies was as ubiquitous as the Beatles in their heyday from the mid 1960s until the early 1970s. They charted 30 singles, had 21 singles on the “Billboard” Hot 100 and 18 top 10 hits.
The Hollies recorded such songs as; “He ain’t Heavy,” “Long Cool Woman,” “Carrie Anne,” “The Air that I Breathe,” “Bus Stop,” “On a Carousel” and many more. “He Ain’t Heavy” and “Long Cool Woman” reached number one.
In 2010, The Hollies were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Today, they tour in Europe to sold out audiences in several countries.
Washington Times Communities columnist Paul Mountjoy caught up to drummer/percussionist Bobby Elliot. He has been a Hollie since 1963 when band co-founder Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills and Nash fame was active. Elliot was kind to grant this interview and discuss the amazing Hollies:
Paul Mountjoy: Hello, Bobby-how is your upcoming tour coming along?
Bobby Elliot: Hi, Paul. The Hollies ‘24-date Autumn Tour starts early October covering England, Scotland and Ireland. Before then, we play a couple of open air gigs in England followed by two TV shows in Germany. I will take a holiday before the tour starts.
Tony Hicks and I are fine tuning the Hollies’ February tour of OZ and NZ. We were there earlier this year. Great venues Down Under and it’s a real treat to perform outdoors in some of the famous New Zealand wineries.
PM: Are you enthused the Hollies remain so popular?
BE: Of course. The band has performed every year since the Hollies was formed. Performing is our life-blood.
PM: You have been designated as one of the best rock drummers in rock history. How do you feel about such a comment, seeing that you are self-taught?
BE: I set out to be the best rock drummer in Europe. I think I got somewhere near.
PM: You realize Ringo started the same way?
BE: I saw Ringo playing with Rory Storm and the Hurricane (pre-Beatle).
PM: Is it true that “Carrie Anne” was the first rock song to use steel drums?
BE: That’s what plays the solo. We had difficulty tanning them to the track so we used the gentle persuasion of hammers.
PM: Which song is your personal favorite?
BE: “Long Cool Woman-rocker.”
PM: Did you imagine you would be so popular in the States?
BE: We had some great times in the States like meeting the Mamas and the Papas at their recording sessions and of course, Buffalo Springfield at the Whiskey in L.A.
PM: Are you going to tour here (USA)?
BE: No. I don’t think so. We don’t do package tours and that was the latest offer over there.
PM: You have been a Hollie since 1963 and you are now 71 years old. Did you think you would still be rocking at 71?
BE: No, it seems very old when you are 20.
PM: At what point were you just enjoying the fruits of your labors?
BE: I’m loving working on the band and our great technicians. We’re a family on the road. When the audience is on their feet at the end of our performance and we take our bow, I’m in heaven.
PM: How is your health holding up?
BE: So far so good.
PM: You have seen members come and go. How do you feel of today’s line up?
BE: This is the best band. Peter Howarth, our front man is such a talent as are the other guys. Working alongside them has made Tony and I reach even greater heights in our playing and enjoyment.
PM: Do you realize that everyone of a certain age loves your music in the USA?
BE: That’s really nice to know.
PM: How about “He Ain’t Heavy” making a comeback as Number 1 again?
BE: A class song; our anthem, written by two Americans, Bobby Scott and Bobby Russell.
PM: “Long Cool Woman” seemed such a departure form the normal Hollies sound. Can you tell us about this?
BE: It was taken from our album “Distant Light.” Don Ellis from CBS/Epic phoned Tony to say that they wanted it to be our next single back in 1972. It was written by Allan and the two Rodgers, almost like a country song to start. I slowed it down and suggested Al play the guitar piece that he used to play in the dressing room when he was passing time.
It was a first or second take and that was that, another album track. Had we thought at the time that it was going to be a single, then we’d have probably stuck our trademark harmonies on it!
PM: it seems, for example on “Carrie Anne,” most members got a chance to sing. Was this an attempt to make each member popular in the Beatles fashion?
BE: Tony started writing “Carrie Anne” but he began singing “Hey Mr. Mann” then changed it to an American girl’s name: Carrie Anne. Graham did the two verses and Clarkey wrote the middle eight. Maybe it was for camera shots on TV. We were aware that the three guys up front were equally popular.
PM: you have played with some outstanding musicians in your time and endured and lived the Hollie experience since inception. Can you sum up your most heartfelt thoughts and feeling for us?
BE: Here is part of a song I am writing with Pete:
There is a little piece of me in every theater in the land
I left my mark….I left my soul
So much to give, so long to live
We journey, we hit the highs, as the sun goes down and the last chord dies.
PM: Thank you so much, Bobby
BE: Thank you for your kind words, Paul.
The Hollies do not need to be part of a package tour. They have the background, pedigree and credentials that serve as resumé arguing in favor of a single act tour. Currently, they sell out wherever they go.
It’s time for some wise promoter here across the pond to start making the arrangements.
Paul Mountjoy is a Washington Times Communities columnist.
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