"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.
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
"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.
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
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).
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.
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
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.
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!