Hollies – Carrie Anne

I have a soft spot for the Hollies. They started in the early sixties and continued through the seventies without Graham Nash who quit the Hollies for what he thought was a hipper band…Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Soon to include the elusive Neil Young.

Hollies members Allan Clarke, Tony Hicks, and Graham Nash wrote this song and shared the lead vocals, with each taking a verse (Clarke, then Hicks, then Nash). The Hollies had great harmonies and also a secret weapon in Tony Hicks as a guitar player. He was and still is outstanding but was never as known as his later neighbor George Harrison and his other peers.

Tony’s son Paul Hicks was in Dhani Harrison’s band and has worked with Giles Martin on Beatle remastering projects.

This song is about the British singer and actress Marianne Faithfull, who is well known for her relationship with Mick Jagger. She also had a brief fling with lead singer Alan Clarke. For a short time. “Marianne” was changed to “Carrie-Anne” so it wouldn’t be so obvious.

The song peaked at #9 in the Billboard 100, #9 in Canada, #3 in the UK, and #2 in New Zealand in 1967. This song was a straight-ahead pop hit, but changes were coming. Sgt Peppers was released so The Hollies, with the urging of Nash, tried going the more psychedelic route. The next single was King Midas In Reverse which only peaked at #18 in the UK and was considered a failure. Personally…it’s my favorite early Hollies song.

A side note…The Canadian actress Carrie-Anne Moss, best known for playing Trinity in The Matrix, was named after this Hollies hit. The song was on the charts at the time of her birth in August 1967.

From Songfacts

The group didn’t let on that the song was about Faithfull until 1995, when Graham Nash spilled the beans in a documentary.

In the song, the singer recalls the schoolyard days when he and Carrie Anne were friends, but she went for the older boys. Now their older and he tells her that although she’s lost her charm, he’s willing to “be her teacher” and take her on. By the end of the lesson, he’s sure she’ll be his girl.

According to the book Forty Years of Steel by Jeffrey Thomas, this song marks the first use of steel drums in a commercial pop record. Steel drums evoke an island vibe, but there’s nothing tropical about this song and none of The Hollies played the instrument (it’s not clear who played it on the record, but their producer, Ron Richards, apparently arranged it). Still, inserting a steel drum solo where a guitar solo would be certainly made the song stand out. Stephen Stills, Nash’s bandmate in Crosby, Stills & Nash, incorporated steel drums into his 1970 hit “Love The One You’re With.”

The Hollies had a very impressive run of hits starting in 1963, but Graham Nash wanted to put hit-making aside so they could create songs with more weight behind them. He ended up leaving the group in 1968 and forming Crosby, Stills & Nash. In an interview with Bruce Pollock, Nash said listeners “want to hear songs that mean more to them than ‘Hey Carrie Ann, what’s your game.'”

Carrie Anne

Hey, Carrie Anne
Hey, Carrie Anne
When we were at school, our games were simple
I played a janitor, you played a monitor
Then you played with older boys and prefects
What’s the attraction in what they’re doing

Hey, Carrie Anne, what’s your game now
Can anybody play
Hey, Carrie Anne, what’s your game now
Can anybody play

You were always something special to me
quite independent, never caring
You lost your charm as you were aging
Where is your magic disappearing

Hey, Carrie Anne, what’s your game now
Can anybody play
Hey, Carrie Anne, what’s your game now
Can anybody play

You’re so, so like a woman to me
(So like a woman to me)
So, so like a woman to me
(Like a woman to me)

Hey, Carrie Anne, what’s your game now
Can anybody play
Hey, Carrie Anne, what’s your game now
Can anybody play

People live and learn but you’re still learning
You use my mind and I’ll be your teacher
When the lesson’s over, you’ll be with me
Then I’ll hear the other people saying

Hey, Carrie Anne, what’s your game now
Can anybody play
Hey, Carrie Anne, what’s your game now
Can anybody play

Carrie Anne, Carrie Anne, Carrie Anne

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

23 thoughts on “Hollies – Carrie Anne”

  1. a good one, if the vocals were a bit different one could imagine it being an earlyish Beatles tune from around the ‘Help’ era, although if so it would have probably been relegated to a b-side. Never had a clue it was about Marianne Faithful.

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  2. Marianne Faithfull is proud of her reputation as being the ultimate shag girl in rock having Jimi Hendrix, Gene Pitney, most of the Stones, Allen Clarke of the Hollies, Chris Blackwell, and David and Angie Bowie among her conquests, especially when she was able to have them write songs about her. Marianne struck up a friendship with singer-guitarist Graham Nash, and this led to a brief fling she had with Clarke who was married at the time. Marianne recalled, “If it felt good, you did it. It would have been hypocritical not to sleep with someone simply because he or she was involved with someone else!”

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  3. The first video highlights Clarke’s voice. I don’t see Graham!? It also sounds like it was live music not lip synched. Weird interlude in there where the steel drums are supposed to be. I do love the studio version. You can’t beat those lyrics, and yes the steel drums elevate the song. I also like the song, “King Midas in Reverse.” I am glad Graham stayed with them long enough to create a wealth of excellent tunes. I’m also glad he moved on to CSN(Y) where he helped create a whole new batch of excellent tunes! I enjoyed learning the origin story of the song also.

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    1. Thanks Lisa… Graham took a huge chance doing what he did but I don’t blame him. They were not growing but after he left they had a lot of success in the 70s so everyone won.

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  4. I never knew it was about marianne faithful! She was bad girl of rock who did it all and lived to tell the tale, and then comeback weatherworn and credible. Loved yhis as a kid. Friends of my parents had it in their singles collection so i used to play it when i popped in on them. Loved playing other peoples records! The Hollies were great but the younger generation know little about them these days, bizarre considering 60s essentials like bus stop, syop stop stop, im alive and more. And their serious period 1969 through 1974 when they came on with showstopping ballads and ccr soundalikes. Still prefer hollies to the more famous csn, as well.

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    1. Their voices were one of a kind. The harmonizing between Clarke and Nash were great. Tony Hicks was also a terrific guitar player…much better than a lot of his peers.

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  5. Okay, Max, another something learned. Marianne Faithful sure got around and got used up early on. I had no idea the song was about her, but now it makes sense. There are some great videos on
    ( ugh ) YouTube showing The Hollies live. They never lip it and sound great. The boys never got respect for what great musicians they were, especially Hicks who is as good as any of the players back then. One video shows how he got the banjo sound from his guitar when playing Stop All The Music live. Interesting guy with innovative ideas. Another good post on Rock N Roll history.

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    1. Thanks Phil. I read Nash’s autobiography recently and started to listen to Hicks a lot more. Yea they never got the notice they should have.

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  6. While I’ve never explored the Hollies in greater depth, I’ve always liked “Carrie-Anne” and other tunes like “Just One Look”, “Bus Stop”, “He Ain’t Heavy”, “Long Cool Woman” and “The Air That I Breeze”. They had catchy tunes and great harmony singing.

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