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Vrinda Post subject: Bernie Calvert Interview
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This is an interview with Bernie that I found on Sundazed.com. Check it out! The interviewer's questions and comments are in the bold type.

Evolution Of The Hollies: The Legend Continues

BERNIE CALVERT of the HOLLIES

Interviewed by JUD COST


The Hollies from Manchester, England must have been the most level-headed bunch ever to set foot on a rock & roll stage. No drug binges, no hotel rooms crawling with groupies. They didn't even feel the need to toss television sets out the window of the local Howard Johnson's or trash the wet bar. It was all about the music with these guys. And dedication.

During the career of a band still going strong after more than 35 years, the Hollies have soldiered on, at one time or another, without the services of every one of its principal players, with the exception of guitarist Tony Hicks and drummer Bobby Elliott. As Terry Sylvester - the man who replaced Graham Nash in 1968 - put it to me in a previous interview for Moving Finger, "I don't think the individual people in the band are as important as the band, itself." It's almost like that corny part in Gone With The Wind when Scarlett O'Hara's dad tells her that there's something stronger than her everyday problems: Tara.

Bernie Calvert recently shared his memories of those glorious days when he was drafted into the Hollies in 1966 - while still working in a factory - just in time for the band to record one of its masterpieces, Evolution. As usual, we had to trim the original Q&A to fit the size of the CD's booklet. Here is the director's cut, a fascinating glimpse into the world of a legendary rock band.

I've come to realize over the years that Evolution is my favorite Hollies album. There are so many different facets to it.
That's right! It was a time of great change in music. The Beatles were trying to do something different, and so were we. And don't you think it's funny that nothing at the time was released as a single off that album (the British version of Evolution)? "Have You Ever Loved Somebody?" would have made a great single. I also think "When Your Light's Turned On" could have been a hit single. Don't you agree? I mean, they're both so commercial. And you can see all kinds of different influences on that album too.

Well, let me throw a couple at you. "Games We Play" reminds me a little bit of the Move, from Birmingham. And "You Need Love" sounds like folk-rock by the Searchers or the Byrds.
Yes, I can see both of those. They were very commercial sounds. When I was listening to the album earlier tonight, I spotted this feeling in "Games We Play" that the rhythm section is in the same place that we were in on "Jennifer Eccles" a little later. I tell you what was nice to hear again was "Ye Olde Toffee Shoppe." I think that was one of the first tracks where I was featured heavily on keyboards. I played the harpsichord on that. I took piano lessons for about four years, from the time I was eight to when I was twelve. Then rock & roll took over, I got interested in playing bass, and I dropped the piano. Mike Vickers - the guy from Manfred Manne - did all the string and brass arrangements for the album, and it would be session players who actually played all that. They're very complementary, those arrangements, and they don't detract from what the Hollies were all about.

How did Mike Vickers get involved? Was he always a pal of the band?
He was, yeah, and he was a great help to me, as well. There was an instrumental we did later on the Hollies Sing Hollies album called "Reflections Of A Time Long Past." That was one of my only contributions as a writer with the Hollies during my entire 15-year career. Of course, the Hollies were a vocal group, but they agreed to put my instrumental on the album. I'm not heavily academic as a musician, but I had all these ideas for scoring strings and Core Anglais. And Mike Vickers got involved with that one and helped me with the score. That sound on "Lullaby To Tim" on Evolution was the tremolo effect that was available on amplifiers for guitars in those days. We were always trying things in the studio. I remember Graham recording a vocal in a dustbin for one song. We were just trying to get a close effect, if you like, on the vocal, a very very warm, close effect. I do remember seeing him with this thing over his head and being vaguely amused.

I think you said you played with Tony Hicks before either of you joined the Hollies.
I was in a beat group with Tony and Bobby (Elliott) called Ricky Shaw And The Dolphins. The guy's name was Patrick Belshaw, actually, but he became Ricky Shaw for obvious reasons (laughs). We kind of based ourselves in this area, not too far from Clitheroe, Nelson, Burnley and Colne, which are sort of cotton towns in the north of England. But we used to go into Manchester because that's where all the best gigs were, and of course you get known on certain circuits. And simultaneously Graham Nash and Allan Clarke were members of Ricky & Dane Young And The Fourtones. They were playing the same circuit and, of course, they spotted Tony Hicks as a very talented guitar player. They were forming this band with a view to turning professional at the time, and they actually persuaded Tony to join because they had a recording contract. And of course the Hollies were born at that stage. They knew that Bob could play too and the original drummer only lasted about six months and then Bobby was in the band. And a number of years later yours truly. I'm just glad they remembered me (laughs).

Why did Eric Haydock, the bass player you replaced, leave the band?
There were some problems in 1966 with Eric, about him not wanting to do certain shows. And there were some personal problems. They didn't tell me too much about it at the time, just that there was a clash of ideas - where they should be and what they should be doing.

How did the Hollies approach you about joining?
I was working in the factory Monday afternoon - I remember it clearly - and the phone rang. And the charge hand came down to me at my machine and said, "There's a phone call. It's the Hollies' manager." And I ran to the phone and Michael Cohen, the manager, said, "Bernie, we've got a problem with the bass player. The boys are going to Scandinavia for a three week tour on Thursday of this week. Can you join them?" You can imagine the feeling, for goodness sake, completely out of the blue. I said to the guy in charge of the factory, "Can I have three weeks holiday?" And he said, "The Hollies? They're famous. My daughter thinks they're great. Can you get me some autographed photos?" And I said, "Yeah, no problem." So he told me, "Your job will be waiting when you come back." And off I went to get a visa since I didn't have a passport.

Did you go back to the factory after the tour?
Well, I did come back, but in the meantime we'd recorded "Bus Stop," which was released towards the end of the Scandinavian tour. It became a hit in Scandinavia straightaway, and it also got to number two in the charts over here. Then I was back in the factory, a rock and roll star with greasy hands in a pair of overalls (laughs). Workers would come up to me and say, "Can we have your autograph?" We used to have the radio playing over the intercom at the factory. And you could hear "Bus Stop." I was almost in tears.

How long was it before you got the job permanently?
We had this wonderful old tradition in Britain at that time where we had what they called Wakes Weeks. The whole town used to close down for a couple of weeks during the summer months for a holiday. It was a throwback from the cotton era when all the mills used to shut down. So, it was coming up to the Wakes Week and we were all getting ready to go away on holiday, and on the actual Friday we were due to finish, the phone rang again, and it was Michael Cohen, the Hollies manager. And he said, "The boys want to offer you the job permanently, Bernie, if you're interested." Without hesitation I said, "Of course I'm interested." So he says, "Well, OK, you're on the payroll from now." The Hollies were run very professionally, just like a business. And then he said, "Just bear in mind that your first gig is in September." And this was only July! So I got the complete summer off, three months doing nothing. Well, of course, it wasn't doing nothing, really, I was getting my guitar and working like crazy.

Was it tough getting in shape for the Hollies' grueling schedule?
I'd been working every weekend with bands until Ricky Shaw and the Dolphins disbanded when Tony and Bobby joined the Hollies. I worked with other bands after that, but only one or two nights a week, if I was lucky. Then suddenly I was with the Hollies and we were doing two gigs a night, six nights a week. It was a lot of work getting in shape to play that much, but I was reasonably relaxed, because I wasn't yet a fully fledged member of the band. I was only helping out. It was just a distant dream at that time, really, because Eric was still waiting in the wings and, of course, Eric was a good bass player. I knew that anyone who took over would be a lucky guy. There was no hint of him leaving at that point. I came back from Scandinavia and they paid me what was a princely sum of money in those days for doing it. I went back to the factory and was satisfied that I'd made a hit record with the Hollies. And then I got the magic phone call.

How was that first three-week tour?
Scandinavia was amazing. We worked at these places they call folk parks, kind of open-air gigs. They have them everywhere, and they're brilliant. On early summer evenings it doesn't actually go completely dark, so we could do a gig at one folk park at seven o'clock in the evening, then drive maybe a hundred miles and do another one at eleven o'clock. There were thousands of people there and it was still relatively warm. After a couple of weeks the band was so tight.

I suppose you were off and running in September.
The first two gigs we did when I became a permanent member were in the north of England. One was in Morecombe, a coastal town thirty miles to the west, and the second was in Nelson, our home town, would you believe? It was a fantastic evening, with three thousand kids in this big auditorium. It was like coming home, and I was with Hollies. Shortly after that we went to Stockton in the northeast for a week's cabaret, sort of a residency in this club. And then we flew to America! You've got to remember, I'm just fresh out of the factory. We landed in Baltimore and went straight to a gig in the afternoon. And then we had the evening off and I went to a club to see the Four Seasons. And that was amazing, watching them live. It was all fantastically exciting. We didn't play in London - the London Palladium and the Hammersmith Palais - until 1967, the year after I joined.

Did you tour the US extensively that first time over?
That first time we toured for five weeks. We were traveling on a Greyhound bus with five beds on it. We'd do the gigs, then sleep while the driver drove overnight to the next gig. We'd have breakfast at Howard Johnson's by the roadside. I remember the maple syrup and the waffles and pancakes (chuckles). As you can imagine, it was something of a relief just to get off the Greyhound bus. The guys in the road crew went in a truck with the equipment. We did some weird and wonderful gigs, and that tour helped to get us established in America. We weren't that big over there yet. "Bus Stop" was the first single that broke in a big way, as I recall. And that's when it all started. It was a lot of fun but also hard work and very uncomfortable at times. The strangest place we played was something called The Prison in Burnsville. It was a club but we were playing behind bars (laughs). The stage actually had bars across it, just like a prison. It was just part of the weird and wonderful life of touring. We also played some nice gigs, of course.

People keep telling me about a show you played back then called The Big Bam In Alabam, in Montgomery, Alabama I think. Does that ring any bells?
No, it doesn't. Maybe I slept through it (laughs). I never got any kip (sleep) on the Greyhound bus, I'll tell you.

How do you see the Evolution album nowadays?
Well, it was really a change of direction. The guys themselves - Graham, Allan and Tony - were into a good writing period, writing some really good songs. As I said before, it's sad, on reflection, that some of the songs from Evolution weren't released as singles, because they really do stand up. And "Rain On My Window," you were right about that one. It has got shades of "Bus Stop" about it. It was definitely a carry-over. The atmosphere is very similar. "Heading For A Fall" is kind of a departure, since it was written in 6/8 time, and it features the old banjo that Tony used on "Stop, Stop, Stop."

Was there anybody in the band who did those crazy rock & roll things, the wretched excess you'd read about in magazines?
Nah, we were a pretty level-headed bunch. We've always been good mates. I've known Tony and Bobby since they were thirteen years old. And we played together throughout our teenage years. We just got on as pals, basically. And, no, there were no silly devils, really. I think we were too ordinary. We often said we should start smacking hotel bedrooms. But the Hollies were run professionally, just like a business.

Was there a Hollies counterpart to Brian Jones of the Stones, someone to add sitar or dulcimer where it was needed?
Tony was very creative musically and very experimental with sounds. He used to come around to the studio with all kinds of weird and wonderful instruments. He was the guy who sussed out the banjo and the echo that produced that magical sound on "Stop, Stop, Stop." The sound for "Carrie Anne"- the lyrics were very much based on true life experience, by the way - kind of came naturally. When we laid the track down I put that little bit of percussion on the intro with this instrument that has a little stick you drag across this ridged area. It was lying around in the studio and it worked really well. It kind of got us into that Caribbean feel. We hadn't decided when we got to the solo to put steel drums on. We just played the musical sequence and it was so obvious what was needed: steel drums. It may have been (Hollies producer) Ron Richards' idea to do it.

How was it working with Ron?
Ron was brilliant. He was a master diplomat, which he needed to be, dealing with all these different artists. And he had a fantastic ear for a commercial song. When Tony discovered "He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother" - it was Tony who brought the song to the studio - it wasn't one of the best demos in the world. It was just Bobby Scott singing it at the piano. But Tony spotted the potential, played it for Ron, and Ron said, "That is a big hit record for you, boys." He spotted it straightaway. When we arrived at the studio to start working on an album Ron would hear one or two options that we had in mind for arrangements and he'd say, "Go with that one." Then he'd disappear into the control room and stay there and just make the odd comment to us: "Try this, Bernie," "Try that, Bob." And when he said to us, "Come and have a cup of tea," we knew that we'd got something. He just let us get on with it. And he had a very good ear for mixing, as well. He had a knack of getting it right. You could hear everything, even on a mono mix.

You were good friends with Graham at the time, weren't you, Bernie?
Yeah, I got on really well with Graham. He was just a very positive person. He could only see positives. He was the kind of guy who would encourage and push. He just brought out the best in people. I never had a wrong word with Graham. As a personal friend, he was probably closer to Allan, because they'd been very close since they were young lads. I was sad to see him go, obviously, but I was delighted when Terry came along and was able to fill his shoes. I'd room with Terry when we were on tour and became really good mates with Terry. But, yeah, sad to see Graham go but it was the right move for him. He's been a big success. Allan was very upset when he left because they were close mates, but we were very positive that we could still carry on. And, as it turned out, our best years were still in front of us.

Did you hang around with any US musicians in 1967?
I tell you who was really good to us back then was Cass Elliott. She came to our gig in Chicago, the day before my birthday. And we had a few days off, so Cass said, "I'm gonna treat you for your birthday. I'm flying all of you out to Los Angeles." The Mamas & Papas were absolutely huge at the time. She got us first class seats on the airplane, and we stayed at her home in Beverly Hills, a big A-frame house up in the hills. It was about that time when Graham started to meet up with Crosby and Stills.

Did you do any television while you were in LA?
We played the Smothers Brothers show and we also did some of the chat shows around that time. I tell you why I remember that. You recall the famous jazz bass player Ray Brown? He was in the session band when we played The Merv Griffin Show. And he actually complimented me on my bass part in "Bus Stop." He said to me, "That's a really nice bass part." I was totally in awe of this guy. That was really nice.
PostPosted:Sat Feb 24, 2007 23:06 pm

Last edited by Vrinda on Wed Aug 22, 2007 3:04 am; edited 3 times in total
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Gee Post subject: Top Interview...
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Great post Vrinda...Well done !
Really good to hear Bernie's point of view for a change....and nice to hear his views on "Evolution" too....of course his first Hollies album was "For Certain Because..." in 1966, when his arrival into the band really boosted them up a gear....
PostPosted:Sun Feb 25, 2007 22:08 pm
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Vrinda Post subject:
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Thank you, Geoff! Always glad to be of help.

It is nice to hear what Bernie has to say, and from what he says here, he must have no regrets about his years with the Hollies.
PostPosted:Sun Feb 25, 2007 23:15 pm
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snowflake Post subject:
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Hi, Vrinda. Thanks for posting that interview with Bernie. It's so great to get his insights on those fab years when he was with The Hollies. The thought of traveling in that Greyhound bus from gig to gig trying to sleep on those beds bolted to the floor -- must have been a grueling tour! But it's obvious from this that he really has fond memories of his time with the band, and has nothing but good things to say about his colleagues.

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PostPosted:Mon Feb 26, 2007 15:06 pm
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SpartyScott Post subject:
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As always, Bernie is incredibly gracious to all concerned, with nary a mention about the unpleasantness of his departure.
PostPosted:Wed Feb 28, 2007 20:41 pm
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shootthebusstop Post subject:
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What a fairytale story.I'm still waiting for someone at work to say to me"It's The Hollies on the phone and they were wondering.............? Laughing .

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PostPosted:Fri Sep 14, 2007 13:52 pm
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Bonus Post subject:
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Great interview! Thanks!
PostPosted:Sat Sep 15, 2007 7:52 am
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Dennis Post subject:
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That interview is taken from the Sundazed "Evolution" CD liner notes.
PostPosted:Tue Sep 18, 2007 13:44 pm
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