Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Chivalrous Shout: The Hollies: "I Can't Let Go"

The men of flashing brilliance are back; no one is ever going to argue that The Hollies were great - they aren't in the Big Four (Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks) in terms of capital-I Importance. But as it happens that may not matter as much as you might think. Just as Baroque pop gets going at this time, so does power pop, which is all about high harmonies, key changes and a cheery determination about love, no matter the odds. In the original this song* is slow and soulful, done by the underrated Evie Sands; there it is a song wherein she almost cannot let go of him physically because she wants him so much, it is as if her soul is stuck to him. (One incongruity of the Sixties is that this rather painful condition is backed by go-go dancers.)

Sands' version properly should have been the hit, but she was dogged by bad luck and in swooped The Hollies to cover it, polishing it up and thus transforming it from a song of visceral attachment to one of bright and shining chivalry. He's tried and tried and has given up and is simply going to wait; it is like an anthem sung in a queue. Allan Clarke sings this smiling, the voices leap and tackle the lyrics as if they were flying fish, and any pain in the song is forgotten in the sheer sonic rush.

When people look back at the Sixties and think merely of turbulence, they should also remember that there was a lot of exuberance and thrills involved too, intense attachments that could simply take people over...and groups which may not have gone way out there (I can't imagine them doing a concept album, for instance) but were steady presences in a time when having a group that was reliable was a relief in itself. Anyone who says The Hollies are their favorite group (or who says they are majorly influenced by them) values power pop, or perhaps makes it themselves, such as Canada's own Sloan (who covered it on their Recorded Live at a Sloan Party! album). Power pop may not have survived in the UK, but it flourished in North America, thus proving that The Hollies were more important than even they thought; and as you might expect I am far from done with them. Indeed by the time I am, they will have helped invent another kind of musical style altogether.

*Written by Chip Taylor; we will get back to him, dear readers, with a very different song quite shortly.

No comments: