Ignored Obscured Restored
Buddy Holly released his first record – “Blue Days, Black Nights”/”Love Me” – on Decca in April 1956, when he was just 19 years old. He died less than three years later, in February 1959, at the age of 22. In that very short career, Holly recorded eight Billboard Top 40 hits in the US, 3 of which were Top 10.
His discography is so well known and so highly respected that it should be no surprise that his songs have remained alive for generations via cover versions. Today’s SotW post highlights a few of the best.
The Beatles were huge Buddy Holly fans. They chose their name as a play on Holly’s Crickets, but not Beetles, instead making a pun out of their “beat group” music. They also included as many as a dozen of his songs in their early club sets, many of which can be heard on the BBC recordings. So, let’s start with “Words of Love” from Beatles For Sale in the UK and Beatles VI here at home; the only cover to make it onto an official, studio release.
The Beatles don’t stray very far from Holly’s original arrangement – the “handclaps” are a new feature – but the Lennon/McCartney (Lennon/Harrison?) harmony is sublime. The boys laid this track down in two takes – no surprise since it was in the band’s repertoire since their days woodshedding in Hamburg, Germany.
In 1969, Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Rick Grech formed Blind Faith, one of the first rock “supergroups.” The short-lived band released only one album that had only 6 cuts – but one of them, “Well All Right,” was a cover of a Buddy Holly B-side.
Blind Faith made the song their own, adding a heavy opening riff and an improvisational middle section that extended its play time to a whole 4 ½ minutes!
In 1978, Blondie released their power-pop classic, Parallel Lines. On it, they covered Holly’s “I’m Gonna Love you Too” and released it as the first single from the album (though it didn’t chart!).
Deborah Harry’s vocal and the bands aggressive backing adds some punk/new wave fury to the arrangement that modernizes Holly’s original, smoother rockabilly approach.
A Buddy Holly tribute album, Rave On Buddy Holly, was released in 2011. It has covers of Holly songs by contemporary artists The Black Keys, She and Him, Modest Mouse, My Morning Jacket, Fiona Apple, the recently deceased Justin Townes Earle, and classic rockers Paul McCartney, Nick Lowe, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, and Graham Nash. It proves that Holly’s music remains vital. The album is worth a listen.
Enjoy… until next week.