Meet: The Holly ‘s Bobby

Mar 2020 Meet: The Holly ‘s Bobby

By Martin Hutchinson

IT’S looking like a great year for fans of The Hollie: not only do they have TWO UK tours to look forward to – one in the Spring and the other in the Sutumn – but the long-awaited autobiography of drummer Bobby Elliott has been published.

‘He Ain’t Heavy, It’s My Story’ is the story of, and written by, one of the most popular and influential drummers in British music and not only tells Bobby’s story, but the story of The Hollies.
It’s been a long time coming, as Bob tells me.

“It’s taken me about five years to put it all down. I’ve always kept diaries and I’m the band’s archivist. [he laughs] I know where all the bodies are buried.
“I’m always telling stories to the rest of the band about the early days.”

And it’s truly an autobiography and has not been ghost-written.

“No, I’ve typed it all myself with my two fingers. All my own words and pictures – including an image of our original contract to play at The Cavern Club.”
It wasn’t always an easy process.

“No, it’s been – as they say – a bit of a rollercoaster. It was a long learning curve; firstly I had to get a literary agent, then there was the method of writing – it had to be on one side of A4 paper and double-spaced.”

“At times, the writing was easy, you’d hit a ‘purple patch’ sometimes when it all flowed. But there were times when it was a bit more difficult.”
“But I tell you something… it made me feel really good to have someone who wanted to publish it. It’s really flattering”

So, what does the book cover?

“It starts from me being born really. I was a War baby, born in 1941, and the first thing I remember was my beautiful Aunty Irene. She’d hold me and sing to me, and I think it was the rhythm of her singing that kick-started my interest in music. And her husband used to play me records of stuff like Spike Jones and His City Slickers.”

“Then there’s getting into music, meeting Tony Hicks and joining The Hollies. I particularly remember going into Abbey Road Studios and feeling in awe of it all.”
And Bob says that there is scope for a second book.

“Yes, this book ends around 1983, when we had the reunion with Graham Nash. We’d done the tour of America with him, and after we’d wrapped on the final show, we were in LA and me, Al [Allan Clarke] and Tony [Hicks] were all in the Polo Lounge drinking cocktails, and when I reached that point I thought it a good place to stop.”

Bobby has been truthful in the book.

“Yes, it’s all factual. I’ve been honest about the boys in the band and I’ve been fair and balanced.”

“I’ve written about one of our managers – or should I say ‘mis-managers’. So it’s all there – I’ve held nothing back.”

What about happy memories? “One of the stories in the book was from when we were in Canada. We’d done a show in Ottawa and had gone back to the hotel. There was some noise coming from an adjacent room and it was the record company get together.  “Me and Graham Nash went in and we saw a pretty blonde sat there with a book in her hands, and it was Joni Mitchell. I was knackered after the gig and went back to my room leaving Graham there.

“The next day, we were flying to Winnipeg and we got into the lobby and asked ‘where’s Graham?’. We went to his room and there he was, still in bed.
“Next to him was Joni Mitchell and nexxt to her was a Martin guitar and Graham said to Joni: ‘Play Bob that song you’ve just written. So she did and it was ‘Both Sides Now’. Graham told us that he’d get a later flight and we left for our flight.”

Bob’s book is published by Omnibus Press and is a fascinating read. As for touring, The Hollies have another busy year ahead with a pair of UK tours as well as foreign climes.
“Yes, we’re all fired up for the dates and love touring in the UK. This time, we’ have some back-projection going on with footage being shown with our progress through the years.”
And what can we expect to hear? Naturally, all the hits like He Ain’t Heavy, The Air That I Breathe, Stop Stop Stop, etc. The new song Priceless, that Pete sings solo is in the set, and Magic Woman Touch that we haven’t done for a long time.

“We’ll see how it goes early on in the tour and see if the set works – we can always tweak it if necessary. But we’ll do about 50 to 55 minutes in the first half, and an hour plus after the break. We can’t mess too much with the songs as we have to inform the lighting and sound team as everything is pre-program-
med.”

Bob and the band always enjoy touring. “Yes, we have a real family feel, not just in the band, but with our technicians too. It makes for a good backstage atmosphere.”

The band has recorded two new studio albums in recent years: ‘Staying Power’ and ‘Then, Now, Always’, plus a live album ‘We Got The Tunes’, and Bob hints that there might be more.
“I have about five songs that I’ve written with Pete [Howarth – the lead singer] and I think we should really do another live album.”

Despite being in his late seventies, Bob still has a gruelling schedule with the band.

“I’m touching wood as I speak, but I seem to be in fairly good nick, but it can be hard. Last year, we did 14 shows in 15 days in Australia and New Zealand, and the day off was flying to New Zealand. And straight after that, we did 20 dates in Germany.”

And this year looks like being the same. “Before the UK dates in April and May, we are off to The British Virgin Islands. This cruise liner comes in and there’s a 2,000-seater theatre on board, and we’ll be doing two shows there as part of the Flower Power Cruise. They’re quite fun.” He smiled.

“Then there’s the UK Spring dates. followed by a tour of The States in July. Getting the documents for America can be a pain sometimes. I might have to go down to the American Embassy in London to get my visa! Then more UK dates in October and November.”

“What a great life to be doing something I love for all these years.”

The Hollies touring the UK from April 16 to May 9 and then again from October 15 to November 8.
Bob’s book is published by Omnibus Press on April. ISBN 978-1913172206.