BY THE LIGHT: ALLAN CLARKE
After about three months of attending meetings and absorbing as much as possible, CBS made a deal to sign Pink Floyd for the territories of the United States and Canada. I was sent to London to be both a lawyer, drafting papers, and an ambassador to the Band, since I was at heart and in reality, a rocker. At that time, I met Allan Clarke, who was the lead singer of The Hollies.
In my musical roots and influences growing up, the vocal sound created by Allan, Graham Nash and Tony Hicks was the tightest harmony blend I had heard since the Everly Brothers (whose sound I also loved as a child). It made me happy every time I heard them. Allan and I developed a friendship at that time.
When I left United Artists to start my own business, PASHA, Allan and The Hollies had just scored some monumental hits with "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother," "Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress" and "The Air That I Breathe." In speaking with Allan through that period, I sensed he wanted to establish his own identity, away from the group. He had liked the multitude of records that I had arranged and produced during my United Artists tenure and suggested that we team up to make his solo albums. Thus was born the first PASHA signed exclusive recording artist, Allan Clarke.
Our concept was to have the great songwriters of the day write original songs for one of the great voices of the day - Allan. I sold that concept within one week of shopping the record deal to Chuck Plotkin, who was the head of A&R at David Geffen's Elektra/Asylum label. Chuck, as you may know, went on to produce many of Bruce Springsteen's best records, and he had a solid set of ears.
As we started to do the pre-production for the album, Bruce Springsteen continued to come up in conversation. Firstly, I was at CBS when Clive Davis and John Hammond signed him to the label. I went to Asbury Park and Max's Kansas City and saw one of the most dynamic, live musical performers of all time. I became an instant, lifelong fan. The Hollies were the first artists to record a Springsteen song in early '73 with their rendition of "Sandy." My favorite song on Bruce's debut album was "Blinded By the Light," as was Allan's. Allan called Bruce and asked him about the idea, which he solidly supported. In fact, had our timing been a bit better, we might have even had Bruce sing the background harmonies on our version. Since "Greetings From Asbury Park" was not a big commercial success at that time, we all felt that we might be able to make it a hit since Allan was so widely accepted by radio and the public as a classy, commercial voice.
We finished the album, which was recorded in London and L.A., with lots of pride. We had songs from Janis Ian, Melissa Manchester and Carole Bayer Sager, Dan Fogelberg, Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, Iain Sutherland and even one from Spencer Proffer, along with "Blinded By The Light" (which was track one, side one).
When we turned in the completed album, there was a management change at the label and our project became an "inherited" deal from the old guard. When Allan and I insisted that the Springsteen song be our first single, we were laughed out of the building. We were told that the lyrics were cumbersome, the story amorphous and the writing was too intricate for pop radio in America. "Go pick another track and don't even raise the issue of that weird song again," we were told. I didn't have the power base to fight City Hall, therefore we went with a different track. Notwithstanding the solid critical acclaim, the album was not a commercial success. Manfred Mann was a neighbor of Allan's in Hampstead, England. When Allan told him that we were not going to release "Blinded by the Light," Manfred Mann "covered it." Well, the Record of The Year in America in 1977, and a number one single worldwide was Manfred Mann performing a song called "Blinded By The Light," written by Bruce Springsteen.