Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Buddy Holly

I was not quite 2 years old when Buddy Holly died, and I don’t think I read the paper that day, so I was unaware of that bit of news. It was, according to Don McLean, “the day the music died.”

But… not so. Not only did the music not die, but The Crickets left their stamp on every rock band that’s played from then until now, from The Beatles (named in their honour) to Rascal Flatts. Sure, maybe Chuck Berry invented rock and roll, and maybe Little Richard “brought it to life” (yes I know it was Dick Clark in The Beach Boys’ song), but it was Buddy Holly that created the template, and he had the music to back it up.

And man, look at him. Sure, Elvis was every girl’s dream. But Buddy was every guy’s. He proved that you didn’t have to look like anything to be amazing.

So let’s get this over with right at the start: I don’t have Fool’s Paradise, a Crickets single that’s the B side of Think It Over and which was a hit in the summer of 1958. Holly had 11 singles on the Billboard top 100, 15 on the UK top 20, and they can’t seem to fit them all onto a single collection. Baffles me.

I was in Toronto in the summer of 1978, that’s where I got 20 Golden Greats. It may have been at Sam The Record Man, but I can’t remember. It was somewhere on Yonge St. anyway. My friend had been to high school there, and so he had friends there, so we drove down in Daddy’s car and stayed with one of his friends, whose exact name escapes me. And we met up with DW, no relation to Arthur, who eventually took us home to his home in Ottawa. Anyway, that album’s been with me for a long time.

Some of these tracks come from A Rock & Roll Collection, and some come from a K-tel album, and some come from an original copy of The Buddy Holly Story, vol. II. Both sides of the Love Is Strange single came right off the single. A few more stray tracks I got from here and there...

Some of these recordings were credited to “Buddy Holly” and some to “The Crickets,” though most of the Buddy Holly records were actually The Crickets; some of the later ones used studio musicians, and some of the posthumous ones The Fireballs. But in his life time, no recordings were issued by “Buddy Holly & the Crickets.”

Buddy Holly / The Crickets:

That’ll Be The Day – This is where The Beatles learned all their tricks, and in fact a very early recording of a very early version of The Beatles doing this was released on the first volume of their Anthology. There is strength here, and it’s appropriate that Holly pilloried the title from John Wayne, because there is as much swagger in this song as there is in any of Wayne’s characters, and Holly’s advantage was that he was invisible to radio listeners, so by the time they actually saw what he looked like, they were hooked. Number 1 in the fall of 1957 by The Crickets, and Linda Rondstadt put it back into the top 20 19 years later.
Peggy Sue – By Holly, solo on the label, but of course it was The Crickets. He stripped everything down to basics, guitar, drum, maybe a bass that if it’s there you can’t hear it, and he said everything he needed to say. This was in the top 10 as 1957 drew to a close.
Words Of Love – This is sappy but Holly pulls it off, and he does it with musical smarts to spare. One of his best known songs because The Beatles did it on Beatles For Sale / Beatles VI, but it was The Diamonds who put it on the chart in the summer of 1957, beating Holly to the charts by that much.
Everyday – This was the flip side of Peggy Sue, and Bobby Vee had a crack at it, and so did James Taylor, but they needn’t have bothered. Holly owns it, not surprisingly, and the surprise here is the … xylophone? Chimes? Whatever. It works.
Not Fade Away – The flip side of Oh Boy, this was made famous by The Rolling Stones, for whom it was their first North American hit. Buddy takes on Bo Diddley, and gives him a good run for the money.
Oh, Boy! – By The Crickets, from late 1957. This is the same sort of song as Tonight’s The Night by Rod Stewart, Tonight’s The Night by The Shirelles, Tonight My Love Tonight by Paul Anka, but Holly’s take avoids the juvenile angle somehow. Go for it…
Maybe Baby – Another Crickets single, this one a hit in winter, 1958. All the uncertainty of attraction is here in two words.
Listen To Me – There’s a wistfulness here that changes the meaning of the title from “do what I say” to “hear my heart.” This was the B side of I’m Gonna Love You Too, from 1958. The Hollies did a different song called Listen To Me, then in 1980 they covered this on their Buddy Holly album.
Heartbeat – The physical impact of love, as only Holly could tell it. A Buddy Holly single from the winter of 1959. Herman’s Hermits covered this, and so did Humble Pie.
Think It Over – Another “Buddy Holly” record. From the summer of 1958.
It Doesn’t Matter Anymore – This one opens up a whole new universe. This is a “Buddy Holly” on which The Crickets are undoubtedly absent. What we have is a whole string section, playing a lot of pizzicato, on a song written by Paul Anka. When this hit the chart in the spring of 1958, Holly was a memory, but it still mattered.
It’s So Easy – “It’s so easy to fall in love” proclaims Buddy, with a certainty that belies just about every other pop song that ever been written in the history of the universe. This was released as a single in 1958 but it didn’t crack the chart. Linda Ronstadt hit with it though, 19 years later.
Well All Right – A song of youthful defiance, the flip side of Heartbeat. Blind Faith took this to another level on their one and only LP in 1969.
Rave On – Total celebration. If you can sit through this without moving, your’re dead. From the spring of 1958.
Raining In My Heart – The arrangement is like It Doesn’t Matter Anymore, of which this is the flip side, but the song is more MOR, total pop ballad. But it’s Buddy so it’s good. This is not the Slim Harpo song. From the spring of 1959.
True Love Ways – A real syrupy ballad this time, makes Raining In My Heart sound like Bo Diddley. Released as a single in 1960. A hit for Peter & Gordon in 1965.
Peggy Sue Got Married – Priceless. This update of Peggy Sue was a UK hit in the fall of 1959. They built a whole movie out of this song.
Bo Diddley – Nobody does Bo Diddley like Bo Diddley of course. But nobody does Bo Diddley like Buddy Holly either. At just the right volume this shakes the foundation of the universe. A UK hit in the spring of 1963.
Brown Eyed Handsome Man – Just to prove that he can do Chuck Berry as well as he can do Bo Diddley. A UK hit in the winter of 1963. The writer of this blog may be considered by some to be a brown eyed handsome man; but of course, I leave that to others to decide. And I think we can agree that it's Jackie Robinson in the last verse?
Wishing – Buddy gets wistful again. A UK hit in the fall of 1963.
Tell Me How – The B side of Maybe Baby. The point here is that relationships should come with an instruction manual.
Peggy Sue Got Married – An alternate mix, without background vocals, which kind of defeats the purpose in this case.
Slippin’ And Slidin’ – Well we’ve heard Buddy do Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry, and here he is doing Little Richard, and his Little Richard is a lot more mellow. The riff is borrowed from The Everlys’ Bird Dog.
What To Do – A jilted lover contemplates his options. “What to do to keep from being lonely” – some real issues here.
Love’s Made A Fool Of You – A hit for The Bobby Fuller Four in 1966, their follow-up to I Fought The Law, which was written by Sonny Curtis of, and originally recorded by, the post Buddy Holly Crickets.
Reminiscing – A hit on the UK chart in the fall of 1962, the same time as Love Me Do by The Beatles.
Lonesome Tears – The B side of It’s So Easy. Also wasn’t a hit.
Down The Line – The best type of rock and roll – great dance track and you can’t understand a single word.
You’re So Square (Baby I Don’t Care) – What happens when you’re in love with a non-conformist. Elvis did this too, but Buddy’s version was a UK hit in the summer of 1961.
Crying, Waiting, Hoping – The Beatles did this at their Decca Records audition. Buddy does it better. This is the B side of Peggy Sue Got Married. Pop music seems to be big on self pity, on obsessing, on not moving on.
Reddy Teddy – This Little Richard cover is closer to the spirit. This is good, but Little Richard is hard to cover, and Buddy Holly, I love him and all, but he’s no Paul McCartney when it comes to this stuff.
Send Me Some Lovin’ – I don’t know who wrote this or who the original recording artist was (anyone?) but it was recorded by Little Richard and by Sam Cooke, who had a hit with it. John Lennon covered it on his Rock And Roll album. Buddy does it straight, but he doesn’t make you forget Sam Cooke.
Shake Rattle And Roll – The Jesse Calhoun song, recorded originally by Joe Turner, and a huge hit for Bill Haley & His Comets. Buddy rocks it up in style, and uses some lyrics from Haley’s clean version, and some from the original.
Early In The Morning – Not the song that Nilsson does on Nilsson Schmilsson. Buddy’s version of this song was a hit in the summer of 1958, and so was the Rinky Dinks’, and the Rinky Dinks were really Bobby Darin, and I wouldn’t want to choose between them. Buddy’s version definitely does not have The Crickets on it, but it does have a female chorus, which makes it different from his usual fare.
That Makes It Tough – This has a bit of a country feel; it’s the B side of True Love Ways.
Now We’re One – A celebration of marriage. This was the B side of Early In The Morning.
Take Your Time – This is the B side of Rave On. The Hollies, who named themselves after Buddy Holly, did a Buddy Holly tribute album in 1980, but this is the only Holly song they did prior to that, and that was in 1966. (They redid it on the Buddy Holly album too).
Learning The Game – This is the A side of That Makes It Tough, released in 1960. The Searchers covered this, but the album cover called it “Led In The Game.”
Little Baby – Not about an infant. Otherwise it’s pretty routine, except for the prominent place of the piano on this, unusual on a Buddy Holly record.
Moondreams – This is real smooth, with strings. It was the B side of True Love Ways in the UK.
That’s What They Say – A bit of philosophy, things will happen when the time is right and all that. The B side of What To Do.
You’re The One – Originally the B side of Love’s Made A Fool Of You, but reissued as the B side of Love Is Strange in 1969, and there’s where I found it. The Fireballs play on this; it was done posthumously.
I’m Looking For Someone To Love – Allegedly written, or partly written, by Buddy’s mother, this Chuck Berryish track was the B side of That’ll Be The Day.
I’m Gonna Love You Too – This was the A side of Listen To Me. It was a Canadian hit for Terry Jacks in the early 70s.
Midnight Shift – An early (pre-That’ll Be The Day) recording. This apparently was part of the Annie series (Roll With Me Annie, Annie Had A Baby etc) but it’s become more associated with Buddy Holly than with whoever originated it (Hank Ballard, in the case of Work With Me Annie). A song about a trollop. There’s a more than decent version by Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen.
Love Is Strange – Buddy’s take on the Mickey & Sylvia hit. The Fireballs play. Released in 1969, ten years after Buddy died.

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