On A Carousel

Album: On A Carousel 1963-1974 The Ultimate Hollies CD (1967)
Charted: 4 11
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Songfacts®:

  • This song likens the timeline of a typical romance to a ride on a carousel. It starts off with the boy and the girl on their horses, with him in hot pursuit. Round and round they go, up and down they ride, but just when he thinks he's getting close, she gets off the ride. It seems he's lost his chance, but when she drops some prizes she won before, he makes his move. Now they can ride the carousel next to each other.
  • The Hollies had a string of hits by this point, but most came from outside writers. With "On A Carousel," band members Graham Nash, Allan Clarke, and Tony Hicks used what they had learned to construct a clever and effective pop song. Speaking with Bruce Pollock, Nash explained how it came together. "I remember doing 'On A Carousel' in a bar room in Margate, this seaside town in England," he said. "Somebody would say, 'hey, carousel,' then it would go round and round and we'd end up with a song. Everything was pretty light, lyrically shallow. So, you would be able to think of something and write a pop song to it. You could really manufacture songs about anything. You develop a vocabulary of hooks and you swing two hooks together. It's a technique that can be learned. I don't think anybody just naturally writes that kind of song."

    A year later, Nash left the group, eager to write songs that were more profound and sometimes political. He found kindred spirits in David Crosby and Stephen Stills, with whom he formed Crosby, Stills & Nash.
  • The Hollies had three talented vocalists in Nash, Clarke, and Hicks. On this track, Nash sings the first verse solo, but Clarke joins him for the rest of the song. The three of them fill in the cracks with rich harmonies.
  • Joni Mitchell wrote "The Circle Game," a song that also uses the carousel metaphor to tell a story, in 1967, the same year this was released. Nash and Mitchell ended up having a very colorful, up-and-down romance, starting in 1969. The 1970 CSN song "Our House" is about the place where they lived together.
  • The Hollies fanclub magazine, which later became a newsletter, was called "Carousel" in reference to this song.
  • The B-side is The Hollies' first attempt at psychedelia, a song called "All The World Is Love."
  • When the Hollies recorded this in 1967 they were filmed by Granada Television for a documentary about the pop business.
  • This plays at the end of the 2014 Mad Men episode "The Monolith," recalling Don Draper's pitch in an earlier episode for the Kodak carousel slide projector.
  • The earliest known record of a carousel is a Byzantine etching from 500 AD which shows riders swinging in baskets tied to a central pole.

Comments: 8

  • Chris From Glass Moon from Raleigh NcThanks Jeff!
  • Nick from Manchester Uk I adore this track, however, I wish the drums were a bit louder. They seem to be drowned out by the tambourine.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn April 16th 1965, the Hollies appeared at the Paramount Theater in New York City, it was their first live performance in the U.S.A.
    At the time they did not have a record on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; but between 1964 and 1975 the group had twenty-two Top 100 records; six* made the Top 10 with their biggest hit being "Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)", it peaked at #2 {for 2 weeks} in 1972; the two weeks it was at #2, the #1 record for both those weeks was "Alone Again (Naturally)" by Gilbert O’Sullivan...
    * They just missed having a seventh Top 10 record when "On A Carousel" peaked at #11 in 1967.
  • Steve from Northampton EnglandI've often wondered why the lyrics 'as she leaves she drops the PRESENTS that she won before' are not 'drops the PRIZES.....', as surely you win a prize, not a present. Maybe the lyrics just flow better.
  • Rachel from Nashville, TnI feel like there's an elephant in the room -- I can't be the only one that's noticed that "On a Carousel" sounds EXACTLY like a lesser-quality Beatles song.? It sounds so much like the Beatles that I googled to see if Paul/John wrote it and gave it to the Hollies. I am shocked that no one else on this gleefully sardonic internet has pointed this out.
  • Mrcleaveland from Cleveland,Love the harmonies on this one.
  • Jeff from Ft. Lauderdale, FlGlass Moon did a really nice cover of this song in 1982.
  • Kevin from Reading , PaGraham Nash of CSN(Y)co-wrote this and is featured on vocals, though I would presume that most people learned enough in rock to look this song up would already know as much.
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