Furrowed-brow gospel rock which risks being weighty in all the wrong ways. The title phrase is from a 1940s magazine cover, said by a cute li’l scamp in a “from the mouths of babes” moment. Transpose it to a rock song and you get a stodgy mix of wartime folksiness and King James solemnity (“no burden is he”). The arrangement echoes this unhappy combination: dustbowl harmonica and churchy string section in a forced marriage of two quite different kinds of seriousness.
And even so, if it was 1969 they’d just about get away with it. It’s a type of song which does very little for me – I was harsh on “Hey Jude” partly because it did so much to establish this style, but there’s a real humility and humanity in that record which I was too wary to spot. Pleas for togetherness in the late 60s weren’t entirely homilies: as with “Woodstock” there’s a desperation lurking behind the hair shirts and chest-beating here, a real sense that something important might not be lost if we’re just good to one another. Even if there’s colossal self-satisfaction too.
It’s the self-satisfaction that admen picked up on when they used “Heavy” for a Miller Lite commercial and launched it to the top of the charts. Lite! Not heavy! That’s why they’re called “creatives” you know. But yes, the music doesn’t just work as a pun: advertising is only toxic to pop when it illuminates something in the record, and I think that’s the case here. “Brother” in the original has a gospelly ‘everyman’ meaning; in the context of chugging a brew it’s halfway at least to the modern “bro”, and a bond of humanity becomes a bond of back-slapping masculinity. Which I’m not wholly against, but only in the late 80s did advertisers make it sound quite so smug. It’s hardly the Hollies fault, but observe the fella’s expression as he raises his beer at the advert’s end and learn why I’ve mistrusted this song ever since.