Thursday, 9 January 2014

Vale Phil Everly

The Everly Brothers need no introduction, so I'm not going to give them one. No disrespect, but they cast a shadow loud and long over popular music that it's pretty obvious to most people who they are.

Ditto their music. Just rattling off a list of their hits will instantly bring back memories for pretty much everybody.

It is with much sadness that 2014 starts off with the passing of the younger of the two brothers, Phil Everly, at age 74. Up until recently, The Everly Brothers were still doing gigs around the US, so this has come to a bit of a shock to a lot of people.

Their influence is incalculable. Any rock band from the 1960s and 1970s and beyond learned to sing harmonies from the Everlys: The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Big Star, Queen, The Ramones, Dave Edmunds and Rockpile, Nick Lowe and Brinsley Schwartz, Simon and Garfunkel, Green Day - you name it, they got it from Don and Phil.

Their career can be split into three distinct phases: The early Cadence label years from 1956 to 1959, the Warner Brothers years from 1960 until their breakup in 1973, and then the reunion years from 1984 onwards.

The Cadence era featured some gorgeous tunes but they were limited to rockabilly/country hybrids and torch ballads. There's some wonderful music within this era, but for my money the real gold is in the first few years of the the 1960s, where they were given almost free reign by Warner Brothers to write and record anything they felt like. Thus, this period is highly musically inventive and fascinating.

My father had a vinyl copy of the 1962 release "The Golden Hits of the Everly Brothers" and I grew up listening to this album regularly. In these 12 tracks the musical diversity is huge. From pure pop nuggets such as "That's Old Fashioned" and the classic first WB single release "Cathy's Clown" to sweet close harmony ballads like "So Sad" and "Crying In The Rain". From bitter hard rockers "How Can I Meet Her?" and "I'm Not Angry" to the jazzier chord phrasings of "Don't Blame Me". From the slight Middle-eastern leanings of "Temptation" to the country-pop of "Walk Right Back". From the pounding rhythm experiments of "Muskrat" to the overwrought emotions of the morbid plane-crash balled "Ebony Eyes". It's a riveting listen from start to finish.

The world is a better place for having the music of the Everly Brothers. Vale, Phil.

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