Any fan of the 1960s British Invasion—and pop music in general—should make a point of seeing Look Through Any Window 1963-1975, an often fascinating documentary on the Manchester band The Hollies. Through original footage and interviews with guitarist/vocalist Graham Nash (later of Crosby, Stills, and Nash), lead singer Allan Clarke, guitarist/vocalist Tony Hicks, and drummer Bobby Elliott, the film traces the history of the often underrated band, ending with their last big hit, 1974’s “The Air That I Breathe.” While The Hollies weathered though turbulent times and ultimately found themselves eclipsed in fame by contemporaries The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, their tight, intricate harmonies and memorable pop songs have rightfully earned them a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Scattered throughout the interviews are clips of the group performing (either live or lip-synched) their biggest hits, including “Bus Stop,” “Look Through Any Window,” “Stop Stop Stop,” “Carrie Anne,” and many more tunes. Much of the footage derives from variety show appearances and concerts, including the 1964 NME Poll Winners Concert. A particularly engrossing segment involves the band deconstructing the recording process of “On A Carousel” with their vocals, drums, and guitar parts isolated. Their clear explanations of two-and three-track recording and how they arranged the harmonies are illustrated by 1967 footage of them laying down the track at Abbey Road Studios. Crafting quality pop music requires artistic skill as well as technical ability, and this section proves that The Hollies were more than equal to the task.
One band member notes that The Hollies were difficult to categorize, and the variety of sounds represented here successfully argues that fact. Just compare “Long Cool Woman in A Black Dress” to “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” or the silly ditty “Jennifer Eccles” with the psychedelic “King Midas in Reverse.” Clearly the band constantly experimented with their sound, although Nash’s constant pressure to broaden their songwriting even further led to his artistic restlessness and, ultimately, his departure. Judging from their interviews, Clarke, Hicks, and Elliott bear no ill will toward Nash; in turn, Nash notes that at one point Crosby, Stills, and Nash began scoring hits at around the same time as the reconfigured Hollies.
Interesting trivia emerges from Look Through Any Window: Reggie Dwight (better known as Elton John) played piano on “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”; Clarke, Hicks, and Nash wrote “Stop Stop Stop” after watching a beautiful go-go dancer at a nightclub; on that same track, the banjo arrangement was an innovative feature not present on many rock and pop songs; and that a street musician played the steel drum solo on “Carrie Anne”–they never saw him again after that recording. Their critiques of all 24 songs included on the DVD show that, as Nash states toward the end of the documentary, The Hollies were extremely serious about their art. Look Through Any Window certainly demonstrates that the group carefully crafted every song they recorded, from the instrumentation down to their trademark three-part harmonies.
During the closing credits, The Hollies’ gorgeous acapella rendition of “Amazing Grace” plays. This serves as an appropriate end note to the film, as it shows that the group’s talents reach much deeper than their pop songs might suggest. Hollies fans will adore the documentary for its straightforward, technical, and fond look back at the band. Newcomers to the group’s sound should view Look Through Any Window 1963-1975 to learn about song craftsmanship and creating sophisticated harmonies, and simply to appreciate a band that still has no equals in terms of memorable singles and the ability to broaden their sound without compromising their artistic integrity.
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