I WOULD BE REMISS in my love for the Hollies if I did not mention the exploits of their on-again/off-again lead singer, Harold Allan Clarke. In his second (?) sojourn from the group he helped found in Manchester, England, in 1962, he took a rather different approach stylistically to the material with which his fans had come to associate with him.
Clarke was one of the first “name” artists to recognize Springsteen’s gifts as a tunesmith and this insight is carved into vinyl.
• In 1974, Clarke recorded If I Were The Priest, which was issued on the ALLAN CLARKE album.
• In 1975, Clarke recorded Blinded By The Light; unfortunately, his record company was turned off by the excessive lyrics. It was released as a single in several European countries. Did it chart anywhere? I dunno; you tell me. It appeared on the I’VE GOT TIME album in 1976.
• In 1975, Clarke also recorded Born To Run—before Bruce had finished recording his version! Unfortunately, it was withheld from release by his record company! (Who know it all, of course.) It was finally issued as a single in England after Bruce’s version—to no avail (of course).
A darling to Springsteen fans?
So, had the record company decision-makers NOT known so much and simply released the records of choice by an artist with a track record of dozens of hits worldwide as the lead singer for the Hollies, then what?
Allan Clarke’s solo career might have taken off, yes? Or, at the very least, he might have been recognized by peers, critics, and aficionados as a bit of the old trailblazer, no? Still, I must confess a few things:
1. I haven’t listened to Clarke’s solo endeavors in a loooong time. My memory of his albums is that they were excessive in the Seventies sense of the word—especially production, engineering, and Allan’s singing). They seemed to miss everything that made him so great a singer within the context of a group.
2. I was not blown away by his take on these songs; they seemed rushed, even more than Manfred Mann’s above, as though Clarke couldn’t get a hand on a proper meter for the reading. He could have judiciously pruned a wee bit here and there, saving himself a mouthful.
3. I could be misreading the potential of the past and overestimating the possible effects of a few reconsidered decisions by EMI. Nothing much could have happened and all things would be as they are now.
For the most part, these tracks were given just one look and then lost to time, filed away on ho-hum albums that no one (outside of Hollies fandom) even knows about!
Nonetheless, Clarke’s endeavors to bring the music of Bruce Springsteen to a larger audience when Bruce himself did not have one should make him a darling to Springsteen fans everywhere.
As for my own opinions stated above, well, time changes most things, as it has my taste and my perspective (I’m alive). And that’s part of what these blogs are all about, innit?
The Hollies and the Boss
And there’s another Allan Clarke reference associated with Springsteen’s album: in 1974, the Hollies recorded a version of 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) with the shortened title of Sandy. It was included in their ANOTHER NIGHT album, which was released in February 1975, when Bruce was still an unknown.
Sandy was pulled from the album for release as a single a few months later, where it mostly failed to ignite the interest of record-buyers. In the US, it stalled out at #85 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #86 on the Cash Box Top 100.
It wasn’t even released in the Hollies’ home country of England! It did reach the Top 10 in Holland, the Top 20 in New Zealand, and the Top 30 in West Germany, but that’s about it.
Why this gorgeous recording by an established group with a massive worldwide hit (The Air That I Breathe) only a few months old behind them failed to score is something that I will never understand. For those of us who were still Hollies fans and buying their records in 1975, Sandy was one of the highlights of the year. . .