Saturday, January 04, 2014

Phil Everly (1939 - 2014)

The Everly Brothers had their hits in that period at the end of the 50s and the beginning of the 60s when, if we're to believe conventional wisdom, nothing very interesting was happening.

They were soon to be put in the shade by The Beatles, who loved them as much as they loved anyone. George was a particularly big fan. Don and Phil were the third proper group he saw live and he would perform the obscure album track "So How Come (No One Loves Me)" in the Beatles stage act in 1961.

The Everlys always appealed to guitarists. Even in their tuxes on Sunday Night At The London Palladium there was always something rootsy about them.

I remember their red label Warner Brother singles sounding their best on the jukebox in the new coffee bars where you could get a cup of frothy instant in a Duralex glass cup. The best ones, like "Cathy's Clown" and "Price Of Love", were sad and slightly sour. They were just the thing when you were fourteen and feeling sorry for yourself, which was most of the time.

But the place they sounded best of all was at the fairground. In those pre-headphones days one of the few places where you could hear recorded music played loud was at the fairground. The records accompanied the dodgems or the waltzer and the combination of movement and music squared the intensity of the experience.

The song generally lasted as long as the ride. For me the Everlys will always summon the sadness and elation of the fairground. They had a song about it.


  1. Their harmonies had a real touch of melancholy about them, definitely.

    It was also years before I realised McCartney was singing about them on Let 'Em In

  2. During the early 1980s, around the ages of 9 or 10, the highlight of my summer holidays used to be roller-skating at Great Wakering Sports centre.

    The people who DJ'd these events were probably in their late teens and didn't own enough contemporary records to soundtrack our endless circumnavigation of the sports hall. In between Duran Duran and The Thompson Twins there was always a smattering of 60s hits that were most likely drawn from their parents record collections.

    If there is one song that defines this era for me it is 'All I Have To Do Is Dream' by The Everly Brothers - its lazy tempo perfectly matching my slow, graceful trundle. It was this memory that immediately came to mind when I heard the news that Phil Everly had died.

  3. The Everlys were quite difficult to cover well, but Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe do a fantastic job of Poor Jenny and When Will I Be Loved.

    The reverence for the originals shines through.

  4. Not many acts (a) have a string of great big global hit records, (b) hugely influence the musicians that followed them, and (c) create a body of work that is as fresh and rich today as the day it was made. The Everlys achieved this; Phil's passing is sad, but his and Don's achievements exemplary.
    Few fifties stars tried to develop their sound as the sixties took off, but the Everlys - despite being overshadowed by what followed - were still extending their range in mid-decade, after the hits had gone on hold. (cf Roy Orbison, Del Shannon, but few others)
    I saw them live at an open-air gig at Government Center in Boston in the mid 90s, and though the voices had lost some of their reach, their unique chemistry was intact.
    All that, and the coolest catalogue number ever!

  5. I am the proud owner of catalogue number WB 1.

    RIP Phil.

  6. I agree Front of Store, but raise the stakes with "Roots", their 1968 album. Released the same year as "Sweetheart of the Rodeo", it's one of the seminal LA country-rock albums. The concept mixes old and new songs, such as Merle Haggard's 'Mama Tried', 'T for Texas' and some early Everlys' classics re-made (plus one of Randy Newman's lesser efforts, 'Illinois'), interspersed with clips from the Everly Family's early 1950s radio show. It explains where they came from and how they're responding to the changes wrought by the Beatles, the Byrds, Buck Owens and pot. The producer is a young Lenny Waronker and the musicians are an A-team of LA session players. It rewards frequent listening in a way that the standard Everlys canon can get a little over-exposed. Here in New Zealand about 15 years ago, a playwright Ken Duncum wrote a brilliant play called "Blue Sky Boys", about a fictional night in the early descending phase the Everlys' career. Its set in 1964, when they were playing Wellington in a small hall the same night the Beatles were appearing at the Town Hall. Phil and Don vent about their career, their sibling rivalry and substance abuse and then, of course, finish with a stunning medley. A two-part film on YouTube captures the Roots period of the Everlys, filmed live in Australia in 1971. The guitarist is a stunner, and the song selection shows how the brothers were trying to loosen up their clean-cut image, or reveal what was really going on backstage and after hours.

  7. There is a play by Catherine Johnson entitled Long Time Gone about the breakup between the brothers. It's not a musical but music from Roots is used between scenes. I saw it at the Lyric Studio, Hammersmith, in the nineties and it was pretty good. My main memory is of the brothers' rueful acceptance that together they were greater than the sum of their parts. It wasn't a docudrama: the playwright said in the programme notes that she was primarily interested in the mythology surrounding twins.