Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Hollies -- "Carrie Anne" (1967)

The Hollies stood out from so many of the British Invasion bands because they had consistency, musicianship, longevity, talent and an abundance of songwriting skills.

In some ways, they were the forerunners of the jangly Byrds sound, even contributing member Graham Nash to them. No matter how the music scene evolved around them through the years, they stuck to their chiming guitars, multiple harmonies and classy choice of material.

It's tough for me to pick out one song to start with the Hollies, so I'm diving in with "Carrie Anne." This one stands out for me because it's their biggest hit to prominently features Nash's unmistakable vocals, and it has an out-of-right-field steel drum solo, which must have seemed alien at a time of guitar dominance. It took a lot of guts to put that type of solo in there -- there's nothing in the song that resembles anything Caribbean -- yet somebody had the genius to try it, and it works.

The year it came out, the band was already in the third year of an incredibly long roll of chart topping hits, which started with their cover of "Just One Look" in 1964, so they were really picking up steam heading into their next single, "King Midas In Reverse."

"Carrie Anne" was also co-written by band members Nash, Tony Hicks and Allan Clarke. Clarke was the lead vocalist for the band for all those successful years and known for his emotional delivery. Although on "Carrie Anne," the lead vocals were traded, Clarke pretty much stood front and center for the band's long productive history.

This past late fall, "Carrie Anne" had the honor of being the first Hollies song my young daughter clicked with, immediately identifying with the lyrics of playing school games as kids.

When we were at school our games were simple
I played a janitor, you played a monitor
Then you played with older boys and prefects
What's the attraction in what they're doing.

Hey Carrie Anne, what's your game now, can anybody play?
Hey Carrie Anne, what's your game now, can anybody play?

The "Carrie Anne" videos below are a real treat. The first is a live 1969 performance on BBC's Channel 4 in black and white, with no steel drums, substituted by the bassist plays along with some off-screen orchestra. Graham Nash has left the year before. The second video was a 1968 lip synch performance on "The Smother Brothers Show" in color, Nash in full "Robin Hood"-type gear. And finally, a 1973 live performance on "ABC in Concert" at a time when Clarke had left the group for a solo career and was replaced by Swedish singer Mikael Rickfors.

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