THE HOLLIES PART II: A CONVERSATION WITH GRAHAM NASH

This article is written by MIKE RAGOGNA at THE HUFFINGTON POST

MIKE RAGOGNA: Graham, let’s talk about the new HOLLIES DVD LOOK THROUGH ANY WINDOW. It covers from 1963 to 1975 and it’s loaded with vintage footage as well as interviews including those with you and ALLAN CLARKE.

GRAHAM NASH: It was really terrifying to see myself growing up. (laughs)

MR: (laughs) How did THE HOLLIES get together?

GN: It was basically me and ALLAN singing together since we were six years old. We’d sing THE LORD’S PRAYER at the beginning of class and stuff like that – we sang in little funny school shows and stuff. ALLAN and I could really sing together, so that became the basis of it. The (other) guys came up to us one day and said, “You know, you need a lead guitar and some drums and some bass.” Me and ALLAN had been just two acoustic guitars, so they had to prove it to us and they did; they played some of our stuff and it rocked. So we formed a band, which later – a year and a half later, in December of 62 – became THE HOLLIES.

MR: Can you talk about the reaction you all had to THE HOLLIES’ first hit record?

GN: I remember it to this day. We were going to do a show on the BBC and we were walking down the street in London and approaching two workmen who were working on a storefront. They had a radio there and out of the radio came BUS STOP. It completely blew our minds.

MR: BUS STOP is one of the great pop classics.

GN: And we did it in less than an hour.

MR: What was the session like?

GN: The session was interesting because our original bass player ERIC HAYDOCK had left the group that week. We were doing ABBEY ROAD in London at EMI later that week and we didn’t have a bass player. So BERNIE CALVERT – who had all ready played with TONY HICKS and BOBBY ELLIOTT in a group in the north of England – joined us. That was the very first thing he ever played on.

MR: And so many great recordings followed. One of the forces behind your recordings was RON RICHARDS, who oversaw production.

GN: He’s a brilliant man.

MR: How did you all meet?

GN: We were playing a show at THE CAVERN in Liverpool. It was a lunchtime show for the young working girls in the district there. They would have a show from twelve o’clock to one o’clock, which was exactly their lunchtime and I had, the night before, broken the last string on my guitar and I couldn’t afford to buy strings. So I played the entire show without any strings and RON RICHARDS was there.

He was looking for – in his mind, probably – the next BEATLES, because if THE BEATLES came from Liverpool, surely there were other bands. Although we were from Manchester, we were playing at that lunchtime show. He loved what we did, he loved the effect that we had on our audiences and how passionate we were. He invited us down to London. The first record that we released was sometime around March of 63. It was a hit and we haven’t looked back since.

MR: Now I also spoke with ALLAN and asked him about the story behind CARRIE ANNE – if there was a MARIANNE FAITHFULL connection there. So I also wanted to ask you the same question.

GN: The story with CARRIE ANNE is that we wrote it – started it – as a song for MARIANNE FAITHFULL. We’d all seen her and we all wanted her. She was a deliciously sexy young Catholic schoolgirl with all of the baggage that comes along with that. We loved MARIANNE and she actually came on the road with THE HOLLIES for a month or so. So we started it out to be a song about MARIANNE and then we chickened out. We tried to find a name that was kind of similar to MARIANNE and one that would not give the game away, shall we say. We came up with CARRIE ANNE; me and TONY started writing it mainly and then ALLAN came and joined in.

MR: The most memorable thing for me about that record is not just the hook and the fun production and the sound, but your reaching those phenomenally high notes.

GN: Yeah – well, you know, what can you do?

MR: Sorry to fawn, but I’m a big fan of your vocal abilities.

GN: Thanks. I’ve still got it too.

MR: (laughs) Do you have a favourite HOLLIES recording?

GN: No, it’s like trying to say which is your favourite kid. I have fond memories of all of them – of CARRIE ANNE, of BUS STOP, of STAY, of SEARCHING, of JUST ONE LOOK, of I CAN’T LET GO and on and on and on. I remember them all fondly. My favourite song, actually, is the one I’m writing now, which I’m going to play for you when we see you.

MR: Nice. Graham, at what point did you decide to leave THE HOLLIES and move on with your career?

GN: Hearing myself sing with DAVID (CROSBY) and STEPHEN (STILLS) in 68.

MR: And it was CASS ELLIOT who put that together, correct?

GN: CASS did, but that’s in opposition to what STEPHEN believes. STEPHEN believes that the first time we sang together was in CASS’ kitchen, but it wasn’t. It was in JONI’S living room.

MR: Now that’s a topic we could talk about all day…you and JONI MITCHELL.

GN: I loves JONES and she loves me. What we had together was very special and we both realize it.

MR: So, the various CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG configurations began – as did your solo career, with SONGS FOR BEGINNERS. Every track on that album is very rich with lyrics and emotion. What do you think of it now when you look back at the album?

GN: People seem to really like that record and I’ve often wondered why. I’ve been going back recently and listening to it and seeing what it is that I did…and yeah, they are some pretty decent songs. I’m serious as a heart attack about music and I wanted it to be the best. The reason that those songs didn’t end up with CROSBY, STILLS & NASH is because everybody was writing at the same time. And when you’re with CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG you can only have two or maybe three songs per album because the other three guys write. I had all these songs that were in my head and I had to do something with them. I would’ve gone crazy if they’d not been recorded. I needed it and we always said when we were together that it wouldn’t be a named group. We would use our names, because we were going to make music with whomever we wanted at any point in our lives.

MR: And there has always been an element of social consciousness in your music.

GN: Yes. My last show with THE HOLLIES, which was at THE LONDON PALLADIUM, was a benefit for children. When THE HOLLIES were on the road, we would very often go to hospitals and check out kids, go and take a guitar and play them songs and stuff. I’m a human being…We all need help in this world. This can be a pretty gloomy world if you choose to look at it that way. So yeah, I like to speak my mind…and I realize that not everyone’s going to agree with me. But certain people will.

MR: Beautiful. Are you going on tour to support the DVD?

GN: I’m about to leave for the airport and go to New York. CROSBY and I have a show in New York and then we fly the next day to Europe and start in Dublin.

MR: Graham, before we go, I want to thank you very much for your efforts over the years when it comes to trying to advance alternative energy use and development, your being one of the early voices of the anti nuclear movement and also for creating WIND ON THE WATER, your recording with DAVID that’s a masterpiece on protecting whales.

GN: CROSBY and I just made a DVD of a live show that we did about 2½ months ago. It’s an incredible concert and a fabulous DVD. The reason why I’m saying that is because the performance of WIND ON THE WATER on that recording is fabulous. We have to wean ourselves off this oil monster.

MR: We’ve sort of weaned ourselves off the nuclear monster, but there’s more work to do.

GN: Well, yeah, but the nuclear industry – even though it hasn’t been supported by any investment from Wall Street since its conception – relies on public funding. In these economic times and especially the times after the Fukushima disaster – with the information from THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES that over a million people were killed at Chernobyl – I think it’s a stupid way to boil water, when the sun is boiling down on us. I’m in Los Angeles right now and the sun is boiling here.

MR: In some parts of the country, it just doesn’t make sense not to use a natural resource.

GN: I agree. I have solar on my house here and where I live in Hawaii.

MR: Graham, what advice do you have for new artists?

GN: Believe in what you’re doing. Don’t waste people’s time, especially your own. Time is the only thing we have…time and family. That’s it, period.

MR: Do you feel at this point that there are a lot of artists who are actually doing that?

GN: I don’t care. There are a lot of people that are very involved in trying to make the world a better place, but of course, you can almost count the people that own the media on two hands. They want a bunch of sheep.

“Just lie down, let us rob you, buy another pair of sneakers and a soft drink and shut the hell up.”

I’m not one of those people and there are a lot of people here in America who feel the same way. They’re getting sick and tired of the gap between the rich and the poor getting wider and wider by the day.

MR: There will be a blowback, I feel, towards Obama, but I personally think that’s the wrong blowback.

GN: It is the wrong blowback. You’ve got to understand the incredible mess he inherited, but quite frankly, money buys the law. Money buys politics. Money buys congresspeople and senators and even presidents. That’s the way it is. So we have to fight to be heard, we have to fight for what we believe is right and we have to not waste time doing it – like I said before.

MR: Beautiful, Graham. Thank you for that. Terrible segue, but I need to ask you what’s coming up for you beyond the tour.

GN: Well, I’m working on ten records at the same time – all in my mind and on my computer. I’m doing STEPHEN STILLS’ box set right now, which will be three or four CDs. I’m working on the CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG live 1974 tapes, which will be at least a three CD set. I’m working on a benefit album that me and CROSBY have done, because we’ve sung with some incredible people. So I’m putting together that album as well as an acoustic record of me and CROSBY from 93. A bunch of stuff.

MR: Graham, thank you very much for your time. This was very special.

GN: Thank you, kid.

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