Mar 05

THE HOLLIES – “I’m Alive”

Popular16 comments • 3,067 views

#198, 26th June 1965

Solid beat-groups-to-order record which I’d guess lands unerringly in the “had to be there” box. If this hit you at a certain age or in the right situation then maybe something would spark – but what pop song can’t you say that about? Everything about “I’m Alive” is well done but the Hollies throw away their best hook in the intro and the drummer only really starts having fun in the last ten seconds. In between is a song which to my first-time ears sounds like a reasonable exercise in a waning style, and a chorus that protests too much.



  1. 1
    Anonymous on 7 Mar 2005 #

    One of the perversities of the pop charts is that artists’ biggest hits aren’t necessarily their best hits. The Hollies produced a long, steady progression of hits over a number of years before going into a late sixties self-indulgent decline. (“He’s Not Heavy,” their biggest Stateside hit–I think–impressed me greatly then, but now strikes me as overblown, sentimental, and cliched.)

    “I’m Alive,” basically a good, solid pop song, shows some spark of what the Hollies could do. (I “was there,” Tom, in the “you had to be there” sense, even though this was only a minor hit here, so I’m more sympathetic to the charge it once had.) What we don’t hear is the lead vocal switching between Alan Clarke and Graham Nash (this sounds like Clarke alone) or intricate vocal and guitar harmonies that the Hollies did so well. You’d have to look to “Look Through Any Window” (even though the lyrics are a bit incoherent) or “Bus Stop” to hear them at their peak.

    I remember this as a song I really liked, but, listening to it retrospectively as I write this, I can see why someone who wasn’t there finds it a bit lacklustre.

    Doctor Mod

  2. 2
    Robin on 7 Mar 2005 #

    “Bus Stop” is their finest single, no question.

  3. 3
    Marcello on 8 Mar 2005 #

    “I Can’t Let Go” seemed to me a far more urgent and animated take on the same dying Merseybeat-by-proxy (Mancbeat?) template, but that stopped at #2.

    And the next time we encounter the Hollies on Popular will, sadly, be 23 years down the line. Guess what the (TV advert-prompted reissue) song was?

  4. 4
    Anonymous on 8 Mar 2005 #

    (Sigh) Of course–“He Ain’t Heavy” to promote “lite” beer. Strange how the most grotesque juxtapositions drive commercial success……

    Right about “I Can’t Let Go.” But I think that the Hollies are at their most “textbook perfect” Beat group style in “Here I Go Again,” Mersey/Manc Beat refined to its highest essence; and, of course, such refinement is usually the harbinger of the end of an phenomenon.

    Doctor Mod

  5. 5
    Alan Connor on 15 Mar 2005 #

    Resurrection Watch: Boots Winter Medicine and Holland & Barrett.

    Additional crap: first offered to Wayne Fontana. Hey, why don’t we make Tom’s job less fun with an expectation of Writer / Producer credits for each entry? Or try and add them ourselves.

  6. 6
    Marcello on 15 Mar 2005 #

    Tip for Alan; if you see a battered second-hand copy of one of those old Charlie Gillett/Simon Frith Rock File books from the early ’70s, pick it up; they do tables of all UK top 20 hits from 1955-1973 complete with writer and producer credits, as well as both UK and US chart positions where appropriate.

  7. 7
    Tom on 15 Mar 2005 #

    One of the recent Guinness Books has writer credits but not producers. The very recent 1000 No.1s book has both but I’m not 100% certain I trust it.

  8. 8
    bramble on 7 Sep 2006 #

    At the core of all the Hollies songs was the creative and subtle jazz-based drumming of Bobby Elliot, probably the finest drummer to come out of 60’s British pop.Even on I’m Alive, not their greatest,listen to the ride cymbal throughout and the interplay of snare and bass drum. His skill was in enhancing a song whilst barely making his presence obvious -the opposite of the Keith Moons.

  9. 9
    JangleRadio on 7 Jun 2008 #

    Along with “Here I Go Again” this was one of the first records to establish the Hollies long running pop formula. Alan Clarke’s sharp voice that cut through radio speakers, those always great harmonies, Bobby Elliot’s tasteful drumming and Tony Hicks jangly guitar work. Hicks is one of the best and yet most underrated lead guitarists of the 60’s. He was using a Vox “teardrop” 12 string during at this time and it really shines on this track.

    “I’m Alive” is a textbook example of knowing when to lay back on the verses and when to “go for the kill” on the choruses and the big finish. To my ears it’s a perfectly executed pop record, though it lacks the urgency or novelty of the Hollies later singles.

    And it’s a shame that Imperial records in the USA never gave the Hollies early singles any promotion. This track “bubbled under” the Billboard Hot 100 at 101!

  10. 10
    Waldo on 18 Dec 2009 #

    This is a case of one of a group’s lesser known records being the biggest hit chartwise. Same with The Small Faces, I think. “I’m Alive” is a good pop record and probably a witty choice for a funeral, as indeed is “The Air That I Breathe” but “Bus Stop” was The Hollies’ choice offering, much finer even than the Bunny-enbargoed warble concerning the weight of one’s male sibling.

  11. 11
    Sam on 12 Sep 2010 #

    I wasn’t there, I don’t think my parents had even met yet, but The Hollies’ best moments (of which this is one) possess an irresistible, life-affirming pop rush which gets me every time. It’s not quite ‘I Can’t Let Go’ but this gets 8.5 from me; the unstoppable build-and-build of the chorus is just delirious.

  12. 12
    wichita lineman on 13 Sep 2010 #

    As a kid with Hollies Greatest on the turntable and the Guinness Book in hand, I’d frown at this one – I never really got how I’m Alive was their biggest hit, but it’s grown on me more and more over the years. I think the build of the chorus is most remarkable in that it never quite reaches a moment of release, giving it a sustained tension while at the same time having a constant Tizer-fizz dynamic and “Life affirming pop rush” for a lyric.

    Written by Clint Ballard Jr of whom I’m know very little other than he also wrote Game Of Love for Wayne Fontana & the Minders – no.1 in the US around the time I’m Alive was no.1 here – and the Zombies’ excellent penultimate Decca single Got To Get A Hold Of Myself.

  13. 13
    Billy Smart on 22 Jan 2011 #

    TOTPWatch: The Hollies performed ‘I’m Alive’ on Top Of The Pops on five occasions;

    27 May 1965. Also in the studio that week were; Marianne Faithful, Sandie Shaw, The Rockin’ Berries and The Walker Brothers. Jimmy Saville was the host.

    3 June 1965. Also in the studio that week were; Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas, Donovan and The Kinks. David Jacobs was the host.

    24 June 1965. Also in the studio that week were; Adam Faith & The Roulettes, Dusty Springfield and The Yardbirds. Jimmy Saville was the host.

    1 July 1965. Also in the studio that week were; The Dave Clark Five, Dusty Springfield and Tom Jones. Alan Freeman was the host.

    25 December 1965. Also in the studio that Christmas were; Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames, Jackie Trent, The Kinks, The Seekers, The Walker Brothers and Unit 4 + 2. Jimmy Saville, Alan Freeman, Pete Murray and David Jacobs.

  14. 14
    hughie on 17 Mar 2012 #

    bbc should have saved all of its quality recordings. now almost 50 years along well get the hollies radio archive discoveries. would have liked that even more many years ago. but well get to here my friend erics great bass playing again and allans super vocals. the great all round group. im getting my radio fun ordered as soon as.

  15. 15
    lonepilgrim on 25 Jul 2015 #

    as others have said, this sounds like a serviceable example of the pop music of its era but it does’t really stand out as particularly memorable. With a few exceptions The Hollies always seemed a bit too tasteful for their own good

  16. 16
    Gareth Parker on 7 Jun 2021 #

    Another of my favourite bands and another of their singles I enjoy the most. 10/10 for me.

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