The Hollies' 15 best songs, ranked
28 February 2022, 12:36 | Updated: 21 September 2023, 14:11
Gold Meets... The Hollies
The Hollies recorded some of the very biggest hits of the 1960s and 1970s.
Hardly any bands in rock and roll history have the longevity of The Hollies.
There's been some major lineup changes, including the departures of founding duo Allan Clarke and Graham Nash, but the band have continued from 1962 to the present day... a record maybe only The Rolling Stones can match.
- Hollies bassist Eric Haydock dies, aged 75
- Gold Meets... The Hollies: Escapades with Little Richard and Graham Nash's exit
The current lineup still includes lead guitarist Tony Hicks and drummer Bobby Elliott, both of whom have been with the group since way back in 1963.
So it feels like the perfect time to take a closer look at 15 of their very best songs.
The Hollies - Sorry Suzanne (1969)
Written by Geoff Stephens and Tony Macaulay, this 1969 single reached number three in the UK charts, and even got to number one in Switzerland.
A jangling Merseybeat tale of love and regret ("I was looking 'round for someone new / What a foolish thing to do"), it was the group's first song to feature Terry Sylvester, who replaced the departing Graham Nash.
I Can't Tell the Bottom from the Top
The Hollies - I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top from Swiss Television 1975
After closing out the 1960s with 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother', The Hollies started the next decade with the soaring 'I Can't Tell the Bottom from the Top'.
A number 7 single in the UK it featured piano from a man named Elton John. I wonder what happened to him...
The Hollies - Jennifer Eccles (Live 1968)
Written by Hollies founding members Graham Nash and Allan Clarke, 'Jennifer Eccles' got its name from Allan's wife Jennifer Bowstead and Graham's ex-wife Rose Eccles.
A number 7 hit in the UK (and number 40 in the US), it's the ultimate tale of playground love ("White chalk, written on red brick/ Our love, told in a heart").
Jennifer also popped up in The Scaffold's classic 'Lily The Pink' ("Jennifer Eccles had terrible freckles"), which featured Graham Nash on backing vocals.
On a Carousel
The Hollies - On A Carousel (1967)
Another song from Nash and Clarke, this time was also co-written with the band's Tony Hicks, 'On A Carousel' was a self-conscious attempt for the band to write their own massive hit rather than relying on outside composers.
They pulled it off with style, reaching number 4 in the UK and 11 in the US. Graham Nash took the lead for the first verse, and it's one of his favourite songs by the group.
"'On a Carousel' was one of the Hollies' best songs," he said in his memoir Wild Tales: a rock & roll life.
"It's a pop song with an infectious chorus, but flirts with gorgeous shifts in rhythmic texture [that keep] the melody from becoming predictable.
"And the lyric captures the essence of young love without the usual moon-and-June cliches. We knew it was a hit from the get-go."
Stop Stop Stop
The Hollies - Stop Stop Stop
While The Hollies started their career banging out pure Merseybeat bops, they swiftly proved their experimental spirit and broader horizons.
In the autumn of 1966, Nash/Clarke/Hicks reworked their previous B-side 'Come On Back' to make 'Stop Stop Stop', which married the writers' three-part vocal harmony with banjo from Tony.
Played through a tape delay, it gave the song a quirky, Middle Eastern vibe that helped the song on its way to number 2 in the UK and number 7 in the US.
Here I Go Again
Here I Go Again
A classic slice of bouncing Merseybeat, 'Here I Go Again' was written by Mort Shuman (who later wrote 'Viva Las Vegas') with Clive Westlake.
It topped the Mersey Beat magazine chart on its release in 1964 and got as high as number four in the official charts, too.
This doo-wop classic was written by Maurice Williams when he was just 15 and first released by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs in 1960.
The Zodiacs took it all the way to number one and it's such a stunning track it's no surprise that it's been covered many times over (The Four Seasons, Jackson Browne, The Dave Clarke Five, Cyndi Lauper and Bruce Springsteen have done it, among others).
The Hollies' raucous version went all the way to number 8 in the UK singles chart as their third single in 1963.
The Hollies - Bus Stop (Top Of The Pops - June 1966)
'Bus Stop' was written by Graham Gouldman, a Salford lad who had already written 'For Your Love' and 'Heart Full of Soul' for The Yardbirds and would go on to form 10cc.
Their first top ten US hit (it reached number 5 on both sides of the Atlantic), it followed the likes of The Beatles and Byrds with its nod towards Indian influences and raga rock.
The Hollies - Carrie Anne
Yet another smash hit from the Clarke/Nash/Hicks partnership, 'Carrie Anne' was released in 1967 and went to number 3 in the UK and number 9 in the US.
Never not-working, the band apparently wrote the song during a concert with Tom Jones, the song is apparently a tribute to Marianne Faithful.
Look Through Any Window
The Hollies - Look Through Any Window
Another hit from Graham Gouldman, this time written with Charles Silverman, 'Look Through Any Window' had the tough task of following up 'I'm Alive.
It got to number 4 in the UK and number 32 in the US (their first top 40 over there). Its jangling 12-string guitar riff echoed the work of contemporaries The Byrds. Nash would later join ex-Byrd David Crosby in Crosby, Stills, Nash (& Young).
I Can't Let Go
THE HOLLIES I Can't Let Go
Written by Al Gorgoni and Chip Taylor (the writers of The Troggs' massive 'Wild Thing'), the song was first recorded by Evie Sands in 1965, but it was The Hollies who made it a massive hit the following year.
Their powerful version was the last single with last with original bassist Eric Haydock, and went all the way to number two.
Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress
The Hollies - Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress) (Official Audio)
Written by Allan Clarke together with Roger Cook and Roger Greenway (who co-wrote I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing'), it only reached number 32 in the UK but went all the way to number two in the US, selling over 1.5 million copies there alone.
One of their best 1970s tracks, its opening riff sounds a lot like T Rex's 'Get It On', which was released a year earlier, but the sound is a bit swampier than its glam cousin.
It also tells a noirish tale of whiskey and shadows ("Saturday night I was downtown / Working for the FBI") rather than flashy lights and sequins.
I'm Alive - The Hollies
American songwriter Clint Ballard Jr. wrote the incredible 'I'm Alive' for The Hollies in 1965 and they, unbelievably, passed it over to fellow Mancs The Toggery Five.
Thankfully they swiftly saw reason and recorded it themselves, scoring their first-ever number one song in the process.
It's a deeply uplifting song about a man with no heart who finally comes alive when he meets the woman of his dreams.
The Air That I Breathe
The Air That I Breathe - The Hollies(1975)
Written by Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood, this classic song was first recorded by Hammond (dad of future Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr) for his 1972 album It Never Rains in Southern California.
It was The Hollies who made it their own, taking it all the way to number two in the UK singles charts a couple of years later. Their version was engineered by a certain Alan Parsons.
The song returned to the top ten as a Simply Red cover in the '90s and also heavily inspired Radiohead's breakthrough single 'Creep', with Hammond and Hazlewood getting co-writing credits for that song.
He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother
The Hollies - He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother
It couldn't be anything else, could it? The Hollies' version of 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother' is one of the most tender and heartbreaking songs in pop history.
It was written by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell, who were introduced by Tin Pan Alley legend Johnny Mercer. Russell was dying of lymphoma at the time and the pair met only three times, but that didn't stop them completing this masterpiece.
That evocative title dates back to at least the 1880s, and Scott and Russell harnessed its beauty for their soaring classic.
It was first recorded by Kelly Gordon for his Defunked album in 1969, but it was The Hollies who made it a standard the same year with their own take, sung by Allan Clarke, and another of the Hollies' tracks with Elton John on piano (apparently being paid £12 for the session).
It got to number 3 in the UK and number 7 in the US, while a 1988 re-release on the back of a Miller Lite advert took it all the way to the top of the charts.
The Justice Collective - He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother (Official Video)
A cover by Neil Diamond followed in 1970, while Bill Medley recorded his version for the Rambo III soundtrack in 1988 (his version and the Hollies re-issue were on the charts at the same time).
The song returned to the top of the charts once more, when The Justice Collective recorded a version to support charities associated with the Hillsborough disaster in 2012, winning the Christmas number one that year.
As well as Hollies Bobby Elliott and Tony Hicks, the song featured Robbie Williams, Holly Johnson, Glen Campbell, Gerry Marsden, Mel C, Mick Jones, Beverley Knight and many more in its all-star lineup.