I hear “Jennifer Eccles” on the radio so infrequently that when it does play I’m thrown into immediate, giddy fits of twittering apoplexy. I can scarcely explain why, except to say I’ve really only heard it on a radio station broadcasting from Elkins, WV (I was living in Salem, WV at the time, so it’s a miracle the airwaves got that far), and nevermind the fact that it’s a pop gem par excellence. Despite the simple lyrics, I have no idea what they’re talking about. But when has that ever gotten in the way? (Often, actually, but shhh.)
The Hollies are at least the second high-profile British pop band of the ’60s to name themselves after Lubbock, TX’s Buddy. And though often counted among the league of titanic British Invasion bands, snuggling next to the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Kinks, &c. for esteem and prestige, they were, also like the Kinks, a fairly marginal force in American pop in the ’60s. Certainly their talent is not to be played down; their commercial stature, however, was practically knee-high to a cricket.
Enjoyed in a string among, say, “Carrie Anne”, “Bus Stop” and “Stop! Stop! Stop!”, “Jennifer Eccles” speaks favorably of the tight harmonies, squeaky, colorful melodies, and fervent energy that marked the Hollies’ best efforts. Why it wasn’t included in 1973’s The Hollies’ Greatest Hits is inexplicable, but while a gulf was erupting between harder rocking bands like the Stones and their cotton-candy counterparts Herman’s Hermits, “Jennifer Eccles” illustrated the middle ground, a well-produced, tuneful track that employed atypical instrumentation and was written by the performers themselves.
As easily as they are to dismiss superficially, the Hollies–chiefly Graham Nash, later of, yes, Crosby, Stills & Nash–established a reputation for quality pop music skewed left of middle. And they certainly aren’t on the radio as frequently as they should be.
BONUS: In 1995 Mark Oliver Everett–later E of the Eels–recorded a dirge-like version of “Jennifer Eccles” for a Hollies tribute called (ugh) Sing Hollies In Reverse. It’s notable for, if nothing else, how flexible a pop song is when you take a good look at what’s being said. It’s very glum in the wrong hands!