In the film industry, when you’re trying to set the tone for an old-school movie about drug-running, undercover federal operations or the seedy wild-west lawlessness of urban environments in the seventies, there’s only one song you reach for: The Hollies’ 1971 jammer “Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)” – Written at a time when sexual discovery was high & the war on drugs was just coming into being, the general vibe of Rock ‘N’ Roll music typically leaned towards images of rebelliousness & independence, every song seeming to portray the same wild & carefree attitude of a motorcycle drifter traveling the nation, knockin’ boots at every stop & partaking in the euphoria of illicit substances, truly the master of one’s own destiny. The Hollies capture this aesthetic with “Long Cool…,” delivering a fierce, constantly progressing Blues Rock tune fit for a free-roaming motorcycle protagonist, comprised of raunchy guitars that chug along with the same sound profile as a sputtering engine, overactive drums that beat with the expressiveness of an independent soul & in-your-face vocals that refuse to back down, the gritty tonality of Allan Clarke’s voice giving audiences that authentic Rock brashness they so desired; Put it all together & you’ve got a song that is a character in itself, a melodic representation of the Rock ‘N’ Roll spirit that wants nothing more than to do its own thing, embodying the will of frustrated Americans at the time.
Narratively, Clarke plays the role of a former FBI agent reminiscing on his days working undercover in prohibition-era New York, mingling with the wrong crowds & setting up a major sting operation at a hidden speakeasy. As he’s about to call in his DA reinforcements, a woman gets up on stage to sing, stopping him dead in his tracks as he stared at her longingly, lines like “my temperature started to rise” & “with just one look I was a bad mess” indicating he had fallen for her right there, hook-line-&-sinker, leaving him conflicted as to what he should do in this scenario. Suddenly, sirens are heard & the bar is thrown into a frenzy, patrons desperately clamoring to escape their apparent cage before a single gun-shot roared through the chaos, indicating the DA had already gotten the drop on them. Luckily, Clarke had the mindset to grab on to the singing woman’s wrist as he was being arrested, assuring her that if they stuck together he’d be able to grant her immunity, thus ending his career & beginning his new life with woman of his dreams – This sort of rough & tumblin’ tale feels so appropriate for the drifter aspect of “Long Cool…,” as it plays out like a story one would tell in the midst of an intense poker game among fellow undercover agents, reveling in the events of their glory years & shooting the shit, pleased in the notion that they lived an adventurous lifestyle full of danger & intrigue; With that in mind, it’s no wonder this tune is used so often in seventies-era movies action dramas.
"Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress" (also titled "Long Cool Woman" or "Long Cool Woman (in a Black Dress)") is a song written by Allan Clarke, Roger Cook, and Roger Greenaway and performed by the British rock group The Hollies. Originally appearing on the album Distant Light, it was released as a single on 17 April 1972 (on Parlophone in the United Kingdom), selling 1.5 million copies in the United States and two million worldwide. It reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1972. Billboard ranked it as the No. 24 song for 1972.