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allan clarke - his name is 'arold
 
The Hollies
 
"Graham and I played clubs in Manchester, doing an Everly Brothers-type thing. The Everly Brothers were our real inspiration, because of the two-part harmonies."
- Allan Clarke on forming The Hollies with Graham Nash
   

Harold "Allan" Clarke was born on April 5, 1942 in Salford.

Allan met Graham Nash at the Ordsall Primary School in Manchester when they were both five years old. They quickly became close friends, singing together in the school's choir. In their teenage years, they were heavily influenced by skiffle and began to perform together at local clubs under different names including The Two Teens, The Levins, the Guytones (based on the brand of guitar they used) and the Fourtones.

As they moved from skiffle to rock'n'roll, trying to emulate the harmonies of the Everly Brothers, they tried to pass themselves off now as a brother act - Ricky and Dane Young. It was in this re-incarnation that they were approached by Eric Haydock to join the Deltas, who were soon transformed into the Dominators of Rhythm and finally into the Hollies.

In the early days, Allan typically sang lead vocals with Graham on harmony although Tony Hicks was later added to the vocal mix. Allan also contributed on the harmonica on a number of songs.

The Hollies, with Allan Clarke as frontman and guitarist, went on to enjoy 25 hit singles between 1963 and 1972, including the chart-topper, 'I'm Alive' and fifteen more Top 10 singles.

Despite Graham Nash leaving The Hollies in 1968 (to form Crosby, Stills & Nash), the group went on to enjoy a superb year. The singles 'Sorry Suzanne' and 'He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother' reached UK Number 3, as did the album 'The Hollies Sing Dylan', on which Allan also payed harminica.

bottom from the top

By 1970 though things had changed. The single, 'I Can't Tell The Bottom From The Top' may have reached the UK top 10 but the next five releases all languished low down the UK charts. The albums 'Hollies Sing Hollies' and 'Distant Light' also failed to chart, whilst in between, 'Confessions Of The Mind' reached the lofty heights of Number 30. There was success though in the USA with the rockier single, 'Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)'. Despite failing to chart in the UK, it became The Hollies biggest ever US hit (reaching number 2). They also enjoyed a Billboard Top 26 hit with 'Long Dark Road'.

Whether or not it was this sudden success in the USA or the the failure to chart in the UK, Allan Clarke decided to call it a day and go solo in August 1971.

His reason for leaving the band he set up?

"I saw how well Graham Nash was doing in the States, and I thought, I'd like a little bit of that. It wasn't that I was trapped in the Hollies, but I wanted to try and create something different, that didn't sound like the rest of the group. So I approached the rest of the boys with the idea that I should do a solo album. Their reaction, quite rightly, was that if I wanted to make a solo album, I should leave the group. I didn't want to leave; I had no idea if I would be successful. But I decided to take a chance, signed with RCA and made the album called 'My Real Name Is Harold', which was me stripping myself bare of the past."

'My Real Name Is Harold' and its singles, 'You're Losing Me' and 'Ruby' did not gain commercial success, and all failed to chart in 1972. The album interestingly included the track 'Nature's Way of Saying Goodbye' and 'You're Losing Me' - aimed at his ex-band mates perhaps?

The follow-up album, 'Headroom' and the single 'Who?' also flopped in 1973. In between, he also found time to play harmonica on one track for Manchesteter band, Blue Mink, on their 1972 album 'A Time of Change'

"I wanted to be famous in my own right. I think everybody does if they're honest. Originally, I was trying to get away from the Hollies sound, which is difficult as I'm the lead singer."

Meanwhile The Hollies had a new lead singer, Michael Rickfors however he was unable to recapture the classic Hollies sound and, like Allan's solo career, the band faltered - the album 'Romany' and its single 'Magic Woman Touch' failed to chart in November 1972.

the manchester air that i breathe

By now Allan Clarke had left Manchester and was living in the capital. Was this the reason his career was at rock bottom? He decided to do something about it.

"I left London and moved back up north, and when I was there, Tony met me for a drink and asked me if I'd like to rejoin. I was in two minds, because I still wanted to do solo work. The agreement we made was that I could do what I wanted outside the group; but actually, when I went back we had a couple of hits, so the Hollies ended up taking most of my time."

So, following this Boddingtons-fuelled reunion, it was no surprise that on August 7th 1973, Allan was back in the studio recording with the Hollies, replacing Rickfors.

Their next single (written by Allan), 'The Day That Curly Billy Shot Down Crazy Sam McGee' charted at Number 25 in the UK, Oct 1973, and recaptured the classic Hollies sound. It was followed in January 1974 by the smash wordwide hit, 'The Air That I Breathe' (No.2 in the UK and No.6 in the US).

sideshow

Their next album though, the self-titled 'The Hollies', only just managed to scrape into the Top 40 (UK No.38 and US No.28) in March 1974. Interestingly Allan released the aptly-named solo single, 'Sideshow', the same month and despite the B-side being titled 'Don't Let Me Down Again', it did, failing to chart. To highlight how close Allan's solo career was to his involvement with The Hollies; 'Don't Let Me Down' also appeared on 'The Hollies' album and let the band down too when it flopped on its US single release.

Back with The Hollies, Allan's bad luck continued with the band's next nine singles all failing to chart. Of their five albums between 1974 and 1978, only 'Hollies Live Hits' charted, at a very impressive UK No.4.

not born to run

In between Allan's duel career was allowing him to try and find success as a solo artist. The self-titled album 'Allan Clarke' again missed out on chart success in 1974 whilst the record company dictated his next flop:

Having recorded a version of a song by a then unknown 24 year old American musician, Allan's record company delayed until finally releasing it as a single the same week as its writer. Needless to say Bruce Springsteen's version of 'Born To Run' was to go down in musical history instead of Allan's cover. The track though was later recorded by The Hollies and was the highlight of their 1976 'Write On' album.

Unfazed, Allan released the solo album 'I've Got Time' in 1976, again without commercial success. The singles, 'Living In Love'and 'If You Think You Know How To Love Me' also flopped.

Back with The Hollies, Allan watched 'A Crazy Steal' fail in August 1977 and once again decided to leave. This time, the band waited for him to return.

In the meanwhile his solo album, 'I Wasn't Born Yesterday' with its aptly titled, 'I'm Betting My Life On You', continued his run of chart failure in May 1978.

back with the golden greats again

Allan did enjoy some chart success however with The Hollies, ironically when he was no longer in the band. The greatest hits compilation album, 'Hollies Golden Greats' reached UK Number 2 in July 1978. Maybe it was the royalties cheque landing on his doormat that prompted him, however it was no surprise that exactly two years after leaving the band for the second time, Allan returned to the Hollies.

Allan returned to record the album, 'Five Three One - Double Seven O Four' and stayed with The Hollies until retiring in 1999, following the serious illness of his wife, Jennifer. In the meantime, he enjoyed chart success with the medley single 'Hollidaze' (UK no.28 in Aug 1981) and the re-issue of 'He Ain't He's My Brother' , which topped the chart in Sep 1988 after being featured in a Miller beer advert.

He failed to score solo success despite his efforts with the albums, 'Legendary Heroes' (1979), 'Best of Allan Clarke' (1981) and ' Reasons To Believe' (1990).

Allan Clarke is a true Mancunian legend that has tasted all aspects of success and failure!

 

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