The Hollies’ ‘Long Cool Woman’: Admit It, You Don’t Know the Lyrics

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It’s a classic rock song you’ve likely heard hundreds of times. Whenever The Hollies‘ “Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress)” comes on the radio, you perk up because Allan Clarke’s instantly recognizable guitar lick introduces a welcome listen. And for the first 25 seconds or so, as you begin to tap your foot, the band kicks in, and you start to sing along with Clarke’s lead vocals…

Saturday night I was downtown… so far so good…
Working for the FBI… hmmm… a lot of you didn’t know the last word
Sitting in a nest of bad men… what?!?
Whiskey bottles piling high… okay, knew that part…

Bootlegging boozer on the west side… you’re kidding, right?
Full of people who are doing wrong… confidence coming back
Just about to call up the D.A. man… (see comment regarding “Bootlegging” verse, above)
When I heard this woman singing a song… kinda sorta knew that part

A pair of forty fives made me open my eyes… what?!?
My temperature started to rise… confidence coming back…

It’s time for…

She was a long cool woman in a black dress… nailed it
Just a 5’9″ beautiful ‘n’ tall… uh, oh…
Just one look I was a bad mess… oops…
‘Cause that long cool woman had it all… sorta knew that.

Listen to it again (for the first time)

(Here are the rest of the lyrics, including something about a tall walking big black cat. You knew that part, too.)

This 2-page ad for the single appeared in the June 10, 1972, issue of Record World

The song represented a comeback of sorts for the British Invasion band when it was released in the U.S. on April 17, 1972. After a string of hits in the mid-’60s, they had hit a cold spell until 1969’s “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” reached #7. But several follow-ups failed to gain any traction.

“Long Cool Woman” delivered a much-needed hit, reaching #2 on the Hot 100 (and #1 in Record World, on September 9, 1972, where it sold a reported 1.5 million copies. (It failed to click in the U.K., though, peaking there at just #32.)

Related: Another 1972 classic, this one from the Rolling Stones, that you likely don’t know the lyrics

The Hollies in the ’60s (Photo from the group’s Facebook page)

The song represents the Hollies’ highest charting hit in America, ahead of such favorites as “Bus Stop” (#5), “Stop Stop Stop” (#7), and “Carrie Anne” (#9).

In 2019, we asked Clarke if he had a favorite among all of the Hollies’ big hits. “The thing that I love most is ‘Long Cool Woman,'” he said. “I don’t know how it happened, really, but I was writing with Roger Cook at that particular time; we had written a quite a few songs. This particular song we wrote very quickly. He said, ‘I suppose that will get on the album, won’t it?’ I played the song for the boys and they said, ‘Well, that’s great. That’ll go on the album. So let do it now. You play the guitars and we’ll just put bass and drums on it.’ Now, our recording manager wasn’t there, so the engineer, who was a young guy, helped with the sound. But it was one of those things that instantly happened. I think we did the backing in two takes. I did the singing in one or two takes, and then afterwards [guitarist] Tony [Hicks] said, ‘I’ll put another guitar on top of yours, and then we’ll mix it.’ Then the engineer said, ‘A slap echo will sound great on this.’ It was one of those songs that we just thought of things and then did it.”

Watch the Hollies perform the hit on The Midnight Special (You still won’t be able to understand the lyrics…)

Related: Clarke talked to us about many of the Hollies’ biggest hits

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10 Comments so far

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  1. Tony
    #1 Tony 16 July, 2020, 09:26

    Since this remains my all time favorite song I never had any issue with the lyrics ! Also it’s the best song John Fogerty never wrote..

    Reply this comment
  2. Freemann
    #2 Freemann 16 July, 2020, 11:47

    Great song I must have listened to this one 2 million times !!!!!

    Reply this comment
  3. Timflyte
    #3 Timflyte 10 September, 2020, 11:28

    Important trivia left out of the article. It was intended to be a solo release and Allan left before it was a hit. ( He records his solo album ” my real name is harold”) The Hollies had a hit record and no longer had the singer & writer in the band. So The Hollies come back to the US to tour and Terry Sylvester sings the lead ( on youtube performing on the Midnight Special ) and they added a singer from Norway who can sing english but can’t speak it supposedly. They do one album with Mr.Rigors then Allan comes back.

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  4. Bob
    #4 Bob 11 September, 2020, 12:32

    I looked up the lyrics myself a long time ago because I love to sing along with this song,,and there were just too many dead spaces where I didn’t know the lyrics and I just had to find out. But I must admit some of them were a little disappointing compared to what I thought they were and my own made-up version .

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  5. muddywatersmann
    #5 muddywatersmann 10 September, 2021, 01:36

    always loved this song, esp driving in my car…how song sounded coming out of dashboard radio! rare, great, great, great!!
    sounds great still where it is being played!!! and easy to play over and over again, and sing along to and bop along to, whether ya get lyrics correct or not!!! God Bless ALL THE WOMEN, whether long short cool…or not!

    Reply this comment
  6. mick62
    #6 mick62 12 September, 2021, 08:17

    Simply, the Hollies best song.

    Reply this comment
  7. Mikefromthehammer
    #7 Mikefromthehammer 18 April, 2022, 10:53

    I knew a “long cool woman” when I started a new job in 1977. She was the most beautiful woman I have ever met. Sadly she passed away due to leukemia in late 1994 or early 1995. This was a loss I’ve never gotten over. Every time I hear this song I think of Joyce.

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  8. Don Key Otay
    #8 Don Key Otay 26 April, 2022, 15:03

    I always heard the lyrics “I gotta be forgiven if I wanna spend my livin with a long cool woman in a black dress” as “I gotta be Bob Dylan if I wanna be a-singin with a long cool woman in a black dress”

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