The Everly Brothers entered my life through my Mum & Dad’s very limited contemporary record collection in 1970. One of 3 rock long players that lived in my house was Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Trouble Waters. As a nine year old I was lost with the majority of the albums bleak lyrical content, but was drawn to the songs with an upbeat rock n roll close harmony feel (Keep The Customer Satisfied, Cecilia) especially the live recording of Bye Bye Love. In a nutshell every track which sounded like The Everly Brothers. It was like a beacon of light pointing me in the direction of treasures I still am discovering more of, that is …EVERYTHING THE EVERLY BROTHERS EVER RECORDED.
Then there was the mid 70s Walk Right Back with The Everly Brothers TV advertised comp. All the big hits were present - from Bye Bye Love (1957) to The Price Of Love (1965). Songs about love, all about love and nothing but love. Innocent & quite often lost. All delivered with a harmony that even now floors me. Family voices locked inside each other. Lost in perfect pitch & synchronicity. I was in love.
This last year just gone, saw me reacquaint my love affair. Due to the magnificent tribute album released in January by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy & Dawn McCarthey – ‘What The Brothers Sang’. Listening to their versions of some of the lesser known Everly Brothers songs did what all good tribute albums should do, they got me digging out the originals. Every time I discovered a slab of Everly Brothers vinyl on my second hand record shopping sprees i bought it, including cheap comps (& there’s a lot of them, even 100 Golden Greats (£9.99) on CD works for long car journeys with the family). And, what a world of delights i discovered.
‘Songs Our Daddy Taught Us’ from 1958 is amazing, an album which could even lay claim to being the first Americana record. A collection of folk tunes passed down by their Pa, Ike Everly. I always thought of it as a brave career move for two teen idols at the peak of their career to release an album of olde time music. But, in his last ever interview Phil points out another plot, conceding that Songs Our Daddy Taught Us was “such a strange album,” Everly admitted that there may have been other reasons than just artistic ones for a collection of somber folk tunes having been the brothers’ second LP release. Like, maybe, it being a contractual obligation album. “I think it was at the transitional period where we had another album to do for [first label] Cadence, and then we were going to go to Warner Brothers. So all of that comes into play,” Everly said. But “it was so much a part of our life, our heritage.” Foreverly, a newly released tribute album by Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones is a song by song recreation of Songs Our Daddy Taught Us (it’s actually quite good)
Few rock n roll acts kept up some sort of profile through out the post British Invasion period. The Everlys did – scoring hit singles The Price Of Love (1965 – UK number 2). But more importantly they made albums that mattered. Although commercial failures at the time, albums like “Sing Country Hits” “Rock n Soul” “Beat & Soul” & “Two Yanks In England” are all worth checking. But, their most essential album was released in 1968 called “Roots” . It was a self conscious attempt to retrieve their past. Using clips from the early 50′s radio show hosted by their Mum & Dad. The album’s centre piece is a reworking of their second hit 1957′s “I Wonder If I Care As Much”. The original is a lovely jaunty version, losing it’s painful lyric in their harmony. On “Roots” their voices display a new maturity, an added weight & edge. They slow the song down – changing tempo – breaking it down into pieces, as if they were looking at it from above. The song questions their whole career
Tears that I have shed today
Give relief & wash away
The memory of the night before
I wonder if I’ll suffer more.
I wonder if I care as much as I did before.
It’s not without irony that Don & Phil performed all these songs of passion, in a such a harmonious style defining what love and affection meant in rock n roll, but were often at war with each other. The story goes that the death of the Everly’s happened in July 1973 at the John Wayne Theatre in Buena Park, California. Before the gig was over, Phil smashed his guitar on the floor and walked off the stage. Don finished the gig by himself. “The Everly Brothers” he said, “died ten years ago”. In it for the money reunion tours followed over the years, but their work was done. With Phil’s sad passing recently it’s now official, that unique sound has gone. When those two voices came together in song you could imagine God sitting up there listening to their blend, smiling to himself & saying ” I did good there”
The Everly Brothers – I Wonder If I Care As Much (1957)
The Everly Brothers – I Wonder If I Care As Much (1968)