Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Boy Can't Help It: The Hollies: "Stop, Stop, Stop"

Okay, what the hell is going on here?!? I mean, DDDBM&T and The Troggs are expected to perform songs that are suggestive (hell, suggestive - they practically give instructions) and now these nice boys from Manchester (not London - what did that guy think) are singing about...sexual obsession?

He's sweaty, the belly-dancer's sweaty, he's getting excited and there is no way this is going to end well. If anybody wanted to know what the 'male gaze' is about, it's all right here - she enters the room, the spotlight is on her - even if he wants to look away, he can't. Even more than The Troggs though, he is nervous; he compares her to a snake - alluring and strange - and he can barely breathe. The dancer dances on, unaware of him, doing her job, tapping her cymbals and rolling along, gyrating to and fro...

...and then he's there, onstage with her! Standing in the light, stock still I'd guess, but then just as suddenly he grabs her and they tussle, falling into the crowd and knocking down drinks. He wants her and he wants her now; who knows anything beyond that, even himself? It "happens every week" (for how long now?) and he of course gets thrown out, which may or may not also happen every week. The sparkling harmonies and high ringing banjo are very typically Hollies, but this song (by the band's composers) goes beyond just wanting and needing to obsessing and taking (or trying to take) the girl. That he keeps pleading for the dancing to stop could mean he knows what he feels is wrong, he knows darn well what's going to happen, but his desire for her is so strong that it drowns out that more sensible side of himself. On the one hand, he's a jerk; on the other, a man who really should know better but- in a different way from The Troggs - can't control himself.

Who could have expected this from The Hollies? What the heck was going on with pop in general? Here Clarke and Nash talk about what pop is and how much things have changed in a few years. The kids have moved on, a new crop of girls scream for them, and presumably the older kids want something different now. I'm not sure if this song is for those older kids (it's a strange song for The Hollies, after all) or if the older kids are now getting into...rock?

There is a shift here, something is indubitably happening and all the bands must sense it, and the old restlessness is returning. The kids of '63 who went crazy for Merseybeat are nearly four years older now and can handle psychological complexities and weirdness - as long has a good beat and they can dance to it. Just how a song about - let's face it - attempted rape/abduction got on the airwaves I don't know, save for The Hollies' general good reputation, and the brightness of the song itself. But that they - Graham Nash in particular I sense - want to keep pushing limits just as much as anyone else means something seriously is up, and if this is acceptable then all hell's going to break loose*, if it hasn't already.

*Beyond the intensely sexual side of the charts in late '66, there's also the freakout of "Good Vibrations" (talk about people staring a radios wondering what that was) and "Painter Man" which is allied with The Who's taking-art-to-the-masses idea quite literally. Happenings, where the action was part of the art - and participants could become part of the work-in-progress - knocked down the idea that art was special, even as The Creation lamented the life of the artist.

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