Beer ad gives The Hollies their first No.1 in 23 years
FOR all their popularity, Manchester’s The Hollies only made the top of the UK charts once in their heydey - with ‘I’m Alive’ in 1965.
In 1988, touring the ‘classic rock’ circuit and without a chart hit in a decade and a half, they found themselves back at the top thanks to the use of one of their past hits in a TV beer ad for Miller Lite.
‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ had previously been released by the Hollies in 1969, reaching No. 3 in the UK charts and No. 7 in the US.
In reaching number one, the re-release created a chart record for the length of time between chart-topping singles for one artist of 23 years.
The success of the single spurred EMI to release the compilation ‘All The Hit & More: The Definitive Collection’ in September 1988. It made No. 51 in the UK albums chart - the first Hollies album to chart since the ‘20 Golden Greats’ compilation a decade earlier.
‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ wasn’t a Hollies original. The ballad was co-written by American songwriters Bobby Scott and Bob Russell and introduced to the Hollies by Russell’s son-in-law Jefferey Spearitt, who was living in London at the time.
Bob Russell was dying of lymphoma when he and Scott collaborated on ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’. He passed away in February 1970, just months after the Hollies first scored a hit with the song. Famously, Elton John - then a session musician - played piano on both ‘He Ain’t Heavy...’ and Hollies’ 1970 hit ‘I Can’t Tell The Bottom From The Top’.
The top ten this week in 1988 was also second chance saloon for Bill Withers whose best-known song was back at No. 4 thanks to a ‘Sunshine Mix’ remix by Dutch DJ Ben Liebrand.
‘Lovely Day’ - notable for Withers’ sustained 18-second long note towards the end - was first released in late 1977 when it peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US and at No. 7 in the UK. Withers’ note is believed to be the second-longest in UK chart history: Morten Harket of A-ha’s 20-second note in their 2,000 single ‘Summer Moved On’ is thought to be the longest
Liebrand’s remix of ‘Lovely Day’ resulted in renewed interest in the Withers original, which saw a surge in airplay into the early 1990s and came to firmly overshadow the radio presence of Liebrand’s version.