Listen: I’m Alive / The Hollies
I'm Alive / The Hollies
Talk about an explosive and immediate intro, here’s one of the most. This tore through my hand sized orange AM transistor radio, an item that almost needed surgically removing from my hand after a couple of years. We went everywhere together, to school, on lunch breaks, to the barber, dentist, shopping for records, the shower and even to bed.
I would wait religiously for the latest single from the UK’s Hit Parade to get an initial airing. Decades before info was a click away, we seemed to know pretty fast about new singles from the English groups, and would wait for that first listen. Many times wait and wait and wait to hear them, unsuccessfully.
I recall writing a letter to Jim O’Brien, the 7-midnight disc jockey on Syracuse’s WNDR, asking would he please play more of the new English bands and he actually read it. This was spring ’66, when playlists were fairly loose but didn’t exist at all to a kid listener. Back then, the stations took and played requests and as well, read letters on-air. I mentioned a few bands, The Alan Price Set being the only one I can recall at this moment. And he read my letter, rattled off all my requests and said “We’d love to play these but they just don’t get released in the USA”.
I knew about these records via BILLBOARD. Not only were they printed in the HITS OF THE WORLD section of the publication, whereby they reproduced international Top 10′s and in the case of the UK, their Top 50 chart; but the magazine also listed weekly new US releases in their SINGLES REVIEW section, with label and catalog number. They were all released here, it’s why I wrote the letter.
And so, in hindsight, my mistrust of American radio officially began.
I will say this, Jim O’Brien clearly got some free plays during his shows. For a short period, he did a feature called ECHOES OF ENGLAND, during the British Invasion years. I heard some great stuff on that program: Them, The Silkie, The Yardbirds, The Honeycombs, even The Pretty Things ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’. And for a few weeks in September ’67, he opened most of his shows with The Pink Floyd ‘See Emily Play’. But he did tell a disappointing fib that night.
Regardless, to his credit, it was the grand man himself who played ‘I’m Alive’ one evening. Holy whoever, did it sound fantastic. Dwarfed the songs on either side of it. I loved ‘I’m Alive’ immediately, and excitedly thought I’d be hearing it often, but never did, not ever again.
It had an equally short lived life nationally, a one week spike at #103 on BILLBOARD’s BUBBLING UNDER THE HOT 100 chart, and that my friends, was that.