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The Hollies Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction

Monday, 15 February 2010

But I digress…!
You gotta love that commercial.
The only way to accurately explain how important the Hollies are is to provide a little historical perspective. So I beg your indulgence for a moment for what will seem like a digression but actually isn’t.

Don’t worry the whole thing’s only like ten minutes so it’s not bad.

First of all every ten, twenty years, it’s probably a good idea to put this night in perspective.

You know, a lot of us in this room have been doing what we do a long time. We can’t help it, I guess, if we take it all at least a little bit for granted. Sometimes some of us don’t even show up. And we can’t help but feel a little disappointed now that the business is pretty much artistically, financially, and spiritually bankrupt. With a few exceptions. And I say a few exceptions so you can pretend you’re one of them.

It’s temporary probably, a cycle type thing we hope. There’s lots of great new bands out there and hopefully we can find a way to create an infrastructure to support them. But we can’t help be a little jaded. A little cynical about what’s going on, right?

So it’s good once a year that we stop for a minute.

And think about what we do. And this is it.

This is our best night, right?

The Grammys, nice people, good show, a lot of fun but, with all due respect, it’s mostly bullshit.

The American Music Awards, nice people, a lot of fun, mostly bullshit.

But this Hall Of Fame thing really has just a little bit of bullshit. On the bullshit scale, this is pretty good. As frustrating as it can be. This is as good as it’s gonna get. We should respect it and enjoy it.

Because this night makes us think about what we do. And when you rise ABOVE the bullshit for a minute, you realize something that day to day we don’t think about often enough. And that is this-

This thing we do, it’s beautiful.

Making music, creating art, inspiring people…motivating people…making people feel good…helping them understand a little bit about life, helping them get through the day…feel a little less confused…a little less alone. What Andrew Loog Oldham called the Industry of Human Happiness. It is truly a divine craft that we work our hands in.

Of course we didn’t have any of these big ideas when we started. Frankly most of us were just trying to get laid. Maybe get a little famous. Maybe get a little rich. But mostly it was the pussy. And of course trying to avoid having to work for a living. Something really went wrong with that one! I don’t want to name any names.

We are a strange combination of troubadours, court jesters, rabble rousers, and magicians, catching and communicating the mystical mystery of music. This would be a wonderful job in any era. But those of us who have lived in the time of what will surely be remembered as a Renaissance Period are truly blessed. I sincerely believe the 20-year period from 1951 to 1971 will be studied and analyzed for hundreds of years to come.

It may sound crazy but I actually believe history will be divided into the pre-60′s, and post-60′s. Because the ’60′s was the birth of consciousness. Everything changed. And not all for the better. We’re still struggling with the fragmentation that inevitably comes with cultural changes THAT profound. Civil Rights, The Sexual Revolution, Women’s Rights, Gay Rights, Questioning One’s Government, the Explosion of the Teenage Marketplace, The Anti-War Movement, Computer Science, the introduction of Eastern Religion and thought to the West, the concept of a Global Community, the radical realization that our Constitution wasn’t finished, and a new mass media to tell us all about it.

Which included a terrific little magazine called Rolling Stone by the way.

These massive cultural changes both liberated and divided us. And our culture is still searching, still hoping to regain some common ground.

But for a moment our generation was very much as one.

And it was Rock and Roll that provided our common ground, our means of communication, our education, our means of venting our frustrations, our strength against the fear of growing up. It gave us hope and faith and somehow instilled in us a belief that there would be a future. It replaced everything our parents, our schools, and our society had taught us, and it would become our common religion.

The Disciples and Missionaries of this new religion would, for my age group, first come from England. We called it the British Invasion of 1964/’65. Ironically, as it would turn out, they would introduce us young Americans to what would eventually be recognized as a new art form, that much to our surprise, was born right here in our own country.

An art form born to serve the needs of a new species of humanity called the Teenager. Chuck Berry and Bob Dylan would add the eloquence and the specifics, but we didn’t need anything more than Little Richard. He opened his mouth and out came liberation.

These unlikely missionaries from England would change society’s perception, and history’s evaluation, of the Rock and Rollers of the 1950′s completely. Their status would change from temporary teenage circus freaks passing through town as an amusing diversion helping kids get through those awkward years from adolescence to adulthood, to Pioneers of that New Art Form. Pioneers that were in fact instinctive creative geniuses whose work will be celebrated forever.

I never would have heard of Little Richard or Bo Diddley or Chuck Berry or Jerry Lee Lewis or Carl Perkins or Muddy Waters if it weren’t for the British Invasion. Forget about Arthur Alexander or Larry Williams. No chance.

It was the English bands that made us aware of the Pioneers’ greatness by their own greatness. They introduced us not just to their own extraordinary music, and not just to the global community of new ideas, but to the very idea of a band.

A band.

The singular profound revelation of my life.

The critically important notion that a group of individuals could be stronger together than apart, complementing and completing each other, communicating friendship, brother and sisterhood, and ultimately Community itself.

Where would we be without that?

It is therefore a joy and pleasure to celebrate these artists, those that came before them, and those that have come since, and thank them in this setting once a year.

So here we are thanking the Beatles, the Dave Clark 5, the Rolling Stones, the Animals, the Yardbirds, the Kinks, Herman’s Hermits, the Searchers, the Zombies, the Who, Manfred Mann, the Spencer Davis Group, Procul Harum, and the band we celebrate and honor tonight, we’re here to thank the Hollies.

In our Renaissance, the best music in the world was also the most commercial. That may never happen again. And few had more wonderful records than the Hollies. For exquisite English Rock harmony it was the Beatles and the Hollies.

They started, as most of the British Invasion did, doing American covers in 1963-Ain’t That Just Like Me, Searchin’, Stay, Just One Look, You Must Believe Me, putting their own immediately recognizable identity on what were already very good records.

And then came the incredible originals.

My first memory of connecting the band to the song was an extraordinary record called Look Through Any Window, which begins with one of the signature guitar riffs of the ’60′s, and one I still can’t play properly, played by the Hollies’ unsung, very underrated, superb guitar player, Tony Hicks, who’s giving a guitar lesson somewhere right now as we speak.

His beautiful guitar texture, along with his third harmony part, would complement one of the great two-voice harmony blends in Rock history with Allan Clarke and Graham Nash, and one of Rock’s most inventive and solid rhythm sections with Bobby Elliot, Eric Haydock, and Bernie Calvert, on amazing records like I’m Alive, Bus Stop, Pay You Back With Interest, On A Carousel, I Can’t Let Go, Carrie-Ann, Stop! Stop! Stop! and their masterpiece of masterpieces King Midas In Reverse.

Not to mention a whole second life of hits with Terry Sylvester joining the group like He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother, Long Dark Road, The Air That I Breath, and Long Cool Woman.

The Beatles would name their group after the Crickets, the Hollies after their lead singer Buddy, and would arrive on our shores with their British Invasion brothers and sisters just in time to save my life.

It is my distinct honor and pleasure to induct into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-

Alan Clarke, Graham Nash, Tony Hicks, Eric Haydock, Bobby Elliot, Bernie Calvert, and Terry Sylvester, the magnificent Hollies.