“Performing is better than any drug”
BOBBY Elliott, The Hollies drummer since 1963, is in a good frame of mind ahead of their 2013 UK dates, as is the rest of the band.
“We’re all good and raring to go,” he tells me from his home. “In fact, today I’ve been checking all my drum equipment in readiness for the tour.”
The Hollies became a major player in the music world in the sixties with hits like On a Carousel, Carrie Anne, Jennifer Eccles and He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.
The latter got to No.2 in the charts in 1969, but, when reissued in 1988, went one better – to top the charts.
The seventies produced more hits like Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress, Gasoline Alley Bred and The Air That I Breathe, as the band seemingly concentrated on releasing some excellent albums like 5317704, Another Night and Buddy Holly (which came out in 1980).
Since then, they have continued to release some excellent material such as the recent albums Staying Power and Then Now Always. The band has also retained its amazing popularity and still sells out tours around the world, despite having celebrated their 50th anniversary.
In January, the group toured Australia and New Zealand, where a good reception is always on the cards.
“We did some indoors and outdoors dates, and we were quite pampered. The tour was sold out and, at some of the outdoor gigs, people were bringing picnics.”
“However, we had our last date in Melbourne; we showered and caught the plane at three in the morning.
“Up through Dubai and straight to Manchester – I had one of the worst jet-lags ever,” he said, with a grin.
Are The Hollies better received Down Under than in their homeland?
Bob answers candidly: “It’s much of a muchness really. We had a massive chart-topper in Australia in 1970, with a song by Tony Hicks called Too Young to Be Married. It always goes down a storm.
“We’ll probably keep it in the set for the British dates.”
“When we toured Britain last year, I found out we weren’t recording any of the shows,” said Bob. “We were doing really well, so I thought: ‘let’s get it recorded’. The thing is, I didn’t tell the rest of the band.
“I got the technicians to set it up and we recorded about four shows from which we managed to get a full recording together.”
“I didn’t tell the rest of the lads because, when you know you’re being recorded, you can be a bit guarded. My way worked much better and we got an honest recording.
“Of course I told them all afterwards and we are all very pleas-ed with it.”
Sheer excellence is a hallmark of The Hollies, with exemplary musicianship and faultless harmonies; and no wonder! Most of the band has been together for a long time, Bobby and guitarist Tony Hicks have been in the band since 1963, bassist Ray Stiles (ex-Mud) joined in 1988, and keyboard player Ian Parker arrived in 1990.
Long-standing lead singer Allan Clarke retired in 1999 and ex-Move singer Carl Wayne was brought in. Sadly, Carl passed away in 2004 and current singer Peter Howarth joined.
Second guitarist Steve Lauri arrived at roughly the same time – and that completes the line-up.
Commenting on the band’s longevity and ongoing population, Bob puts it down to ‘knowing a good song.’
“We have pride and passion and as long as people want to come and see us, I’m very flattered – in fact, it’s a privilege to play such great songs with some brilliant musicians.”
Now in his seventies, the Lancastrian drummer has no plans to hang up his sticks.
“I’ll carry on, ‘cos I love it, it’s not a chore, and as long as my body and brain hold out I’ll just keep going on.”
As for the show, Bob said: “It’ll be the set we did in Australia with a few changes. We can’t change too much, as everyone wants to hear the hits, and we don’t like to disappoint. Performing is better than any drug. “You give your all in a show and afterwards, you’re tired but elated, especially when everything goes tickety-boo. And it’s fun too.”
The show also features an ‘unplugged’ section by Pete Howarth, and Bobby has a special place in his heart for a couple of songs which he told me after I asked him if He Ain’t Heavy was his favourite song to play live. “No, not really. It always moves me and it’s a very emotional song, but for me it’s Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress. “You can’t beat a bit of rock and roll,” he laughs.
“We let our shows talk for themselves. If people walk out with a smile, then it makes it all worthwhile.”
The Hollies appear around the UK during April, then again during October and November.