The Air That I Breathe – The Hollies – 1974

All I need is the Air that I Breathe Cover artOne of the great things about music is that  there is no right or wrong – one person’s love can be another person’s pet-hate – for instance, The Hollies’ 1974 #1 UK hit, The Air That I Breathe.

my least favourite song of all time…?   …maybe…

Okay, we all have songs which, though loved by others, just don’t grab us. In fact, all of us have a song which immediately comes to mind when we’re asked, “What’s your worst song of all time?”  Chances are, it’s not a particularly terrible song – there’s just something about it that grates you.

Well, with that in  mind, mine is, without a shadow of a doubt, The Hollies’ version of The Air That I Breathe.

For a long time I thought it was the song itself I didn’t like. Then, I heard kd Lang’s  magnificent version. It made me realise, it’s not the song – it’s the way The Hollies sing it…

instant dislike – never recovered

So, there I am doing my homework, transistor blaring as usual. The DJ announces, “Coming up the latest hit single from super-group, The Hollies.”

“Should be good,” I assume. I like their other singles. Just a few years before they turned out Magic Woman Touch and, before that, the smooth sound of, Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress.

Prior to that were a string of hits characterised by 60s harmonies and the joie de vivre that infused so many songs of that era – Just One Look, I’m Alive, Bus Stop, Carrie Anne, Stop, Stop, Stop, Jennifer Eccles, Sorry Suzanne, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother, I Can’t Tell the Bottom From the Top, Too Young to be Married,

So, I’m waiting, bated breath… and on comes the most gloomy, dreary, dour, (insert your own word here) drone I’ve ever heard in recorded form. It goes on to become one of The Hollies’ greatest hits – one of their three #1 UK hits – but I dislike it immediately. And, all these years later, I sense a feeling of ‘blueness’ descend whenever I hear it. To be blunt, I find it depressing. In fact, to my ears, this song is even worse than, Debbie Boone’s, You Light Up My Life – and that’s saying something!

Having said all that, some of you will love it and that’s the great thing about music.


In 1992 Albert Hammond said:

When you listen to the song, you’d think this is a show stopper, and lyrically, you’d think I wrote it probably for the most beautiful woman that ever existed in the world. And in fact, The air that I breathe was written for quite an ugly person actually, I mean ugly outside, physically outside. She wasn’t a great looking girl, but she was a terrific person inside. She was warm and kind and… This person was the person who gave me shelter in Los Angeles, when I didn’t have any place to stay. I had no money, I had no Green Card, I couldn’t work, I could have been a homeless. I sat down with Mike Hazlewood, and I said “Mike, this is what’s happened to me, and this is the person.” And I think Mike came up with [the line] “the air that I breathe.” More than my story, it was because we lived in LA, and for the first time in our lives, we were introduced by smog. And every time we woke up, we’d look at the Hollywood Hills, and there was like a yellow monster up there. And I think that was his reason for coming up with [the line] “the air that I breathe”. My reason was a love story, his was ecology or whatever you want to call it, you know. But it worked.

Deservedly, The Hollies were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.

the air that i breathe fax

  • The Air That I Breathe was written by Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood.
  • The Air That I Breathe was originally recorded by Albert Hammond and appears on his 1972 album It Never Rains In Southern California.
  • The Air That I Breathe was The Hollies last major hit.
  • Over ten major acts, and scores of others, have recorded The Air That I Breathe. Acts to have covered the song include: Phil Everly, Olivia Newton-John, Hank Williams Jr., Julio Iglesias (with harmonies by The Beach Boys), Barry Manilow, kd lang, Simply Red, The Mavericks.
  • Contrary to the information on a number of Internet sites which state that Maroon 5 recorded this song, The Air That I Breathe by Maroon 5 is a different song bearing the same title.
  • In 1976 Albert Hammond recorded a Spanish version entitled, Necesito poder respirar.
  • For the Radiohead song, Creep, Thom Yorke shares royalties and writing credits with Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood, because of the similarities between that song and The Air That I Breathe.
  • The Air That I Breathe has been in a number of movies and television programmes including; the 1999 film, The Virgin Suicides; the series finale of teen drama Dawson’s Creek; and the 2007 Adam Sandler film I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.
  • The Air That I Breathe lyrics.

what about you?

We all have a worst song – push the COMMENT button and share it with the rest of us.

the hollies version;

Albert Hammond’s Original version;


14 Responses to The Air That I Breathe – The Hollies – 1974

  1. Piggy says:

    I think my worst song would have to be Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond. I’m not a fan of Neil Diamond fullstop but Sweeet Caroline would have to be the worst!

  2. Greg.K. says:

    Ahh – thoughts of singing Sweet Caroline at the top of our voices at the Whitianga Movie theatre…..

  3. Piggy says:

    Haha yes, I remember that time well!

  4. Bruna says:

    Lol funny, I absolutely love this song… I’m a big fan of Simply Red’s version, but Hollies’ is very good in my opinion. Specially for the way they sing it! 😀

    I have way too many “worst” songs though… A lot of plastic-meaningless-pop-poop out there. 😛

    Great post!

  5. Greg.K. says:

    And that, Bruna, is the magic of music…. we all get something we love. It’s a reminder never to be a musical snob because music belongs to everyone and it all comes from someone’s experience of love and hopes and dreams and…

    PS – don’t tell anyone this but, I love anything by Simply Red!! 🙂

  6. Eric G says:

    So many bad songs – it is much harder to pick one as the worst ever . . . but maybe your challenge here is more about what is the song you find most grating that others seem to love . . . for me it would have to be “Hey Jude” – too many repeats of the same nagging “nah nah nah.”

    • Greg.K. says:

      Wow! Hey Jude!! That’s a big call. But, just as there is no accounting for what people like, you also cannot criticise what they don’t like. Different people dislike different things for different reasons.
      Another 70s song people seem to love but I find just grates is You Light Up My Life.

  7. Back in the ’80’s I hated Careless Whisper by Wham. That song had the ability to appear everywhere. I like Olivia Newton-John’s version of The Air That I Breathe, although is not one of my favorites.

  8. Damion says:

    Total Eclipse of the Heart …Bonnie Tyler

    “Turn around…

    Run lads!!!!

  9. Damion says:

    Heh, heh, heh…I wouldn’t have been able to resist either. I’m glad, though, that I don’t start hearing the song in my mind from just seeing the title and “Turn around…” and “Bright Eyes”…phew!


  10. Duffy Power says:

    Hello ! In defense of The Hollies, I’m glad they FINALLY got recognized for their music and style, being inducted into the RRHOF in 2010, should have been done at least 20 years earlier. My nominee for a crap song would be : “Afternoon Delight” by The Starland Vocal Band. These losers even got their own TV show because of this crap song !! Horrible song, horrible no talent band. Last I read, one former member of the band was a supervisor working at a Dairy Queen ! Should have saved their money.

    • Greg.K. says:

      Hi, No need to defend The Hollies. They are an AWESOME band and fully deserve RRHOF status. I just never liked that song… although, I have to admit, if I hear it these days it doesn’t seem as bad as it once did.
      Afternoon Delight? Hmmm – I’d agree, not the finest 70s song. 🙂

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