Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review: 'The Hollies: Look Through Any Window (1963-1975)'

The Hollies never influenced their peers or created L.P.s on the level of The Beatles or The Stones or any of the other top-tier British bands of the ‘60s. They just made one great pop single after another, amassing a trove of top-forty wonders on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. “Bus Stop”, “Stop! Stop! Stop!”, “Carrie Anne”, “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress”—all smashes and all as fresh sounding today as they were 40-plus years ago. Singles-oriented bands don’t tend to get the respect that groups with a Revolver or Beggars Banquet under their belts do, so The Hollies: Look Through Any Window (1963-1975) is a particularly pleasurable surprise. This over two-hour-long documentary tells the group’s story via brand new interviews with core members—Graham Nash, Alan Clarke, Tony Hicks, and Bobby Elliott—and pristinely presented archival footage. Nearly all of the group’s hits are here, and they sound and look spectacular. Color excerpts of The Hollies performing “Baby That’s All” and “Here I Go Again” in the fairly obscure 1964 film U.K. Swings Again look like they were shot last week (that Hicks looks about 12 in them is a tell-tale sign they weren’t). Because there are no promo films or live clips of “King Midas in Reverse”, director David Peck cut together a montage of home movies shot by tour manager Rod Shields to serve as backdrop for the pivotal track.

Despite their past conflicts, the guys are respectful of each other in the new interviews. In retrospect, it’s pretty amazing to think they clashed over “Midas” and considered it such a departure from their hit-making formula when it’s really just as catchy and accessible as anything else they did (and quite a bit more substantial than, say, “Jennifer Eccles” or “Sorry Suzanne”). Or that Nash parted ways with The Hollies to hook up with Stephen Stills and David Crosby, whose music was only moderately edgier than that of his former band. And let’s not forget how unusual the chiming “Bus Stop”, the steel-drum-speckled “Carrie Anne”, or “Stop! Stop! Stop!”— with its balalaika-simulating banjo and wacky tale of a horny spectator’s ejection from a belly-dancer show (based on a true story, as funnily recounted by Nash)—were. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of The Hollies: Look Through Any Window (1963-1975) is how it puts such subtle innovations and the band’s abilities into perspective. Seeing Hicks recreate that tricky “Stop! Stop! Stop!” riff on his electric banjo today may inspire you to head back to your old Hollies records to truly appreciate his playing for the first time.

The Hollies: Look Through Any Window (1963-1975) will be screened at the American Cinemateque’s Aero Theater in Santa Monica, California, this September 22. After the screening, Nash, Clarke, and the film’s producers will take part in a panel discussion. Reelin’ in the Years Productions’ DVD release follows on October 4. You can pre-order it on Amazon.com here.
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