Breakfast with: Clarke – ex Hollies

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Sep 2019 Breakfast with: Clarke – ex Hollies

By Martin Hutchinson

ALLAN CLARKE, one of the most distinguished voices in British music history, is set for a dramatic return to the musical frontline – and no one is more than surprised than Allan himself.

‘Resurgence’ is the title of Allan Clarke’s new solo album, and as a title it couldn’t be more apt.

Allan’s place in music history is assured. As co-founder and lead vocalist with The Hollies, he was part of a band that amassed an incredible 18 Top Ten and more than 30 UK chart hits from Just Like Me in 1963 to the Nik Kershaw penned The Woman I Love in 1994 – that’s 31 years!

He also recorded eight highly-acclaimed studio albums between 1972 and 1989 which enhanced his reputation as a songwriter and interpreter of other writers. He was an early champion of Bruce Springsteen, with The Hollies recording July 4, Asbury Park (Sandy) as far back as August 1974.
Then in 1999 he dropped a bombshell by retiring from the band he had led for in excess of 35 years.

“There were two reasons I left,” Allan told me. “Firstly I was having problems singing the songs and hitting the high notes, but also my wife got cancer for the second time and I decided I would spend what time we had left with her.

“It was the right decision and she’s still here – we’ve been married 55 years now.”

But 20 years on from The Hollies, why release a new album now?

“It was a surprise to me. It wasn’t supposed to happen. I actually started writing a bit of poetry and people said I should put music to the words. So I sent one of the poems to Carla Olsen in Los Angeles who put music on it, but it wasn’t quite how I imagined the song.

“My son Toby suggested I use a computer program called Garage Band, which is basically a recording studio in an app, and the added bonus was that I could record at my own pace.”

Allan then went through the sequence of events that led to the recording and release of the album.

“Firstly, I put down some guitar and then sang. My voice is a lot different to when I was in The Hollies. I surprised my self and it gave me the impetus to carry on and I ended up doing 20 songs.

“I had about eight completed songs, but felt I wanted them ‘brought to life’ so I went to my old friend Francis Haines, took the songs down to his studio and we did a production number on them.”

Then the record company got involved.

“The record company had been trying to get me to do something for 30 years and then I got a call from Hartwig Masuch, the CEO of BMG. He’d heard the songs and wanted to meet me. The upshot was that he was very interested in the album and now it’s being released.”

The 10 tracks seem to have a ‘country rock’ feel.

“I like Country music. It’s always been an influence and I like it a lot more now that it’s ‘crossed over’. But I think only two of the tracks sound like Country – Journey Of Regret and You Broke My Heart. The rest are ballads and good old fashioned Rock and Roll.”

One track is entitled Long Cool Woman’s Back In Town. It takes up the story of Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress), Allan’s rocking composition which gave The Hollies the biggest hit they ever had in America, when it spent two weeks at No.2 in 1972 (and incidentally Allan’s favourite Hollies song).

“I didn’t write it as a sequel,” he admitted “But I had the idea that the District Attorney ran away with her, thinking he’d done the right thing, but sometimes the right way is the wrong way to go.”

Allan took his time recording the new album.

“Yes, we started in March and we finished it in September. I did a lot of the guitars and my grandson Sam Clarke played guitar too. Francis Haines, who produced the album with me, plays piano and bass.”

“All the songs are very personal: after all, they’re my lyrics and they all mean something. Music is how you listen to it.”

Are there any plans to tour the album, after all, Allan’s now 77 – evidenced by the ‘LXXVII’ on the album cover?

“Not at the moment,” he admitted. “It was one of my stipulations when signing the agreement to do the album. Plus people would want me to do some Hollies songs, and I can’t sing them nowadays.”

What about another album?

“You never know. I’m still writing – in fact I broke off writing to speak to you. We’ll see.”

‘Resurgence’, the new album from Allan Clarke, is out on CD, LP and Digital formats on BMG on September 20.

“It’s given me a new lease of life in doing something I thought I’d never do again,” Allan added.