BYE, BYE PHIL

Phil Everly passed away on Friday, January 3 at the age of 74.  Too soon.

Who was Phil Everly, you ask?  Soon come.  Much of what passes for musical analysis, report or historical record in Jamaican media is about as profound as a Lady Saw/Macka Diamond clash at Sting and as thorough as Darren Sammy’s captaincy. Most of what I read in the newspapers or hear on radio I recall from album liner notes or CD booklets.  Lyrics are now regularly quoted (didn’t happen five years ago) just to fill the page without purpose or message (cryptic or otherwise).  I don’t see anyone trying to educate our youth about the history of musical influences which drive the art’s development and which make the music industry so profoundly interesting.

Most will know Phil Everly as the younger of the singing duo The Everly Brothers.  His brother, Don, two years his senior, is still with us.  The Everly Brothers were originals; something we rarely see today.  Of course, they had their influences, especially in Kentucky bluegrass and Appalachian folk, but they produced a unique blend of sounds that inspired some of the most famous singers to come all of whom worshipped at the altar of the Everlys.  The brothers started out as songwriters but, in 1957, came upon a song that touched their heartstrings:

                             “Bye bye love
Bye bye happiness
Hello loneliness
I think I’m-a gonna cry-y

                         Bye bye love
Bye bye sweet caress
Hello emptiness
I feel like I could die
Bye bye my love goodbye

Bye Bye Love, written by married couple Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, Became a Number 2 hit for new singing duo, The Everly Brothers, after Don, whose biggest influence was blues superstar Bo Diddley, added a Bo Diddley beat below the original simple melody which was perfectly performed by legendary guitarist, Chet Atkins (who played on most of their hits).  Then the brothers’ harmonies brought teenage angst to the interpretation of the lyrics.  The song, which had been rejected by 30 singing acts, was brought to life by the Everlys and subsequently covered by the likes of Ray Charles who was attracted to country music by the bluesy twist Don, Phil and Chet put on that song.  “Daddy” Ray instantly recognized the possibilities of a soul/country fusion and the result was his seminal 1963 country music (with strings) double album.

In all this, the brothers earned US$64 for recording the song.

                             “There goes my baby with-someone new
She sure looks happy, I sure am blue
She was my baby till he stepped in
Goodbye to romance that might have been
.”

That song also inspired a young Jewish songwriter, born and nurtured in Newark New Jersey, according to musician Donald Fagen, as a “certain type of New York Jew, almost a stereotype…”  The songwriter’s name was Paul Simon and, as soon as he heard Bye Bye Love, he called his friend Art Garfunkel and they started working together on what would become a seminal career as Everly Brothers’ musical offspring. The duo’s first hit, Sound of Silence, used the distinct trademarks of The Everly Brothers bluesy, hillybilly fusion and anxiety-filled harmonies to deliver the story of Simon’s spiritual journey:

                             “Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again.
Because a vision, softly creeping,
left its seeds while I was sleeping.
And the vision that was planted in my brain
still remains
within the sound of silence.

The story of Simon and Garfunkel’s early struggles and the time it took between the recording of that song and it becoming a hit is for another column.  Today, we honour The Everly Brothers, true Rock n Roll pioneers whose mark on today’s music is as indelible as it is forgotten. For their biggest hit locally, the Everly brothers again turned to the husband/wife song writing duo Felice and Boudleaux Bryant:

                             “When I want you in my arms;
when I want you and all your charms;
whenever I want you, all I have to do is
Drea-ea-ea-ea-eam, dream, dream, dream.

That song scored big time in the USA and the UK where it blew away a young Liverpuddlian named Paul McCartney.  Even before that, a young singer/songwriter named George Harrison had been struck with Bye Bye Love.  When All I Have to do is Dream was released in the UK, Harrison had just joined a band of Liverpool lads calling themselves The Beatles.  McCartney and Harrison couldn’t wait to cover the song (yes, Beatles covering a song) and, later on, Harrison and Bob Dylan recorded an even rarer version of the song.  The early Beatles unashamedly copied Everly Brothers harmonies adding their own British twist.     

The Everly Brothers’ worshipped fellow Rock N Roll pioneer Buddy Holly and often performed in concert with Holly and his band.  Their biggest UK/USA hit, Cathy’s Clown (1961), was written about Don’s teenage torment at the hands of a high school girlfriend; the melody and drum line were inspired by Ferde Grofé’s “Grand Canyon Suite”; the backing band was Buddy Holly’s The Crickets; and it included some tight, complicated vocal arrangements subsequently copied by The Beatles.

                “Don’t want your love any more
Don’t want your kisses, that’s for sure
I die each time I hear this sound
Here he comes, that’s Cathy’s clown.

Listen carefully to the vocals on the Beatles first hit Love Me Do a song based around two simple chords, G7 and C, before moving to D for its middle eight. Lennon plays a bluesy, dry “dockside harmonica” riff; then Lennon and McCartney are heard on joint lead vocals, including Everly Brothers-style harmonising during the beseeching “please” before McCartney sings the unaccompanied vocal line on the song’s title phrase.  John grudgingly allowed Paul to have that lead only because it was discovered in studio that the harmonica bit encroached on the vocal so he wouldn’t be able to do both in live performance. 

Then listen as Everly Brothers harmony completely takes over their second hit Please Please Me with John Lennon taking on Don Everly’s baritone parts while McCartney imitated Phil with his higher pitched counter-melodiesIt’s a little known fact that The Beatles once toyed with calling themselves “The Foreverly Brothers”.

In 1989, Cathy’s Clown was covered by country star Reba McIntire and it became her thirteenth number one hit on the Billboard Country charts.   

The Everly Brothers, very early inductees in the Country Music and Rock N Roll Halls of Fame and 1997 Grammy lifetime achievement awardees, were true musical pioneers and geniuses whose lineage can be tracked directly to many of today’s stars.  As recently as November, Norah Jones and Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong recorded an Everly Brothers tribute and Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr says he learned about the power of music as a child, watching his mother and aunt “…rushing into the house having bought the Everly Brothers’ record Walk Right Back and watching them play it 15 times in a row…”

Rest in peace, Phil.

Peace and Love

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2 Responses to “BYE, BYE PHIL”

  1. paul wright Says:

    Thanks. I only “worshipped these brothers by singing most of their songs in the shower. This historical info is priceless. You didn’t menion the fact that in real loife they hated each pther. Why? Anyway, thanks

  2. кино Пятая власть ЩМп Says:

    Лучшие фильмы!

    Смотрите фильмы

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