Having managed to allow his birthday to pass me by, I have done likewise with the anniversary of his death. Yet, this flutter malarkey was set up solely with the purpose of sharing my most abiding musical passion with you. So tough, two weeks out of date you’re getting it.
To whom does the burd refer? Buddy Holly. For it was he who started me on the path of loving music. My mammy gave me her travel mono record player – how I wish I had kept it – and a box full of 45s and 33s belonging to her and my pa. They included two original Holly LPs and I never looked back.
Buddy could not only sing, he could play. And he experimented and innovated. It was he, not Elvis that the likes of the Beatles and Rolling Stones turned to for a musical education. He racked up so many firsts – one of the first inductees into the Music Hall of Fame, the first white artist to play at the all black Apollo in New York, one of the first to write, produce and perform his own songs. Which is why he is still important today. Buddy Holly pushed back the boundaries, paving the way for all those who came afterwards.
So what choons to share with you? Well, this for starters. To prove that some of his songs were bested by others’ renditions of them. Not Fade Away was the Stones’ first big hit, and while it’s a faithful interpretation, it is made quite wonderful by Brian Jones’s harmonica playing.
And this one, poignantly, the last song he ever played before he set off on that fateful flight. He was indeed a brown eyed handsome man.
But this is probably my all time favourite Buddy choon. It’s the way he inserts light and shade, loud and soft and switches the emphasis from vocals to melody and back again. And it’s the simplest of musical premises, a repetitive basic chord and drum formation but to what effect! I still listen to this at least once a week and never tire of it. Well… All Right, if you insist.
It’s testament to Buddy Holly’s greatness that he still influences artists today.
As if on cue, up pop the Raveonettes with a new album out in early April and they released this track this week to promote it. Serendipidity eh? Not only was their name inspired by Holly (from the hit, Rave On), but they’ve also played in Buddy tribute gigs.
Another particular favourite of the burdz is a little known duo hailing from the West Country, who do perfect protest skiffle-pop. Again, their whole sound and look – right down to the double bass and the quiffs – is one big tribute to the man and this choon was on a mixtape that did the rounds at yooni. We liked to be a wee bit different…
Finally, Weezer, who in their early days adopted the look of the Crickets and penned a song in tribute. Oh, and appeared on Happy Days to perform it. Live! Now they are all growed up, they’re still sporting elements of the look and sound, as this video for Photograph testifies. Only real difference? Nearly a million Youtube hits.
It wasn’t just the music but Buddy was a damn fine lyricist. He loved to tell a story, and even managed to spread the tale of his first love over two songs: Peggy Sue and Peggy Sue Got Married. Neither are complex or clever or weighty, but the story over both songs is told in an intimate conversation. It’s almost like he’s on the phone to a friend, sharing the news and having a chat, yet such casualness in a pop song was pretty unheard of at that time. Artists tended to talk at you not engage you, and while there were big power ballads they weren’t this personal. Like I said, genius.
“…I just heard a rumour from a friend, I don’t say that it’s true, I’ll just leave that up to you. If you don’t believe I’ll understand. You recall a girl that’s been in nearly every song This is what I heard, of course the story could be wrong She’s the one, I’ve been told Now, she’s wearing a band of gold Peggy Sue got married not long ago.”
Of all the songs that Buddy recorded, this is the one that makes me wonder what might have been had he lived. This was a bit of an industry standard but no one had thought to record it like this. The phrasing of the lyrics, and the use of an orchestra to recreate the sound of rain, including pitter patter raindrops in the intro, and to emote the lyrics was truly outstanding. I wouldn’t claim it as a firm favourite but it has its place, especially when I’m feeling blue. Far from encouraging me to wallow, it always brings a smile to my lips. Enjoy.