WEIRDLAND: December 2015

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Buddy Holly Story jukebox musical

Tickets are on sale now for Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story - when it comes to E.J. Thomas Hall, January 12-13, as part of the 2015-2016 Broadway in Akron series. The show that inspired a generation of multi-million selling juke-box musicals starts a 9 week tour of the USA on Monday, January 4th, 2016. Loved by critics and audiences alike, Buddy tells the enduring tale of the musical icon's meteoric rise to fame and his final legendary performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, before his tragic and untimely death at the age of 22.

Buddy's widow, Maria Elena Holly, says of the show: "When we opened the show we never imagined Buddy's music and story would still be rocking stages and entertaining audiences around the world week-in week-out over 25 years later. I believe this is testament to a great show - the first of its kind - and to the enduring appeal of Buddy Holly and what he represents; a youthful energy, huge talent and creativity, combined with a determination to make a lasting impression in this world." Source: www.broadwayworld.com

Buddy Holly learned to play the piano and violin as a youngster. He went barefoot in the summer, rabbit hunting in the fall, and liked to read comic books, adventure stories, or science fiction. Holly was elected king of the sixth grade at Roosevelt School. 

One of the most commonly asked questions of the 1950s was “What will you do when rock ‘n’ roll dies?” Colonel Parker brought Elvis incredible fame and wealth, while Buddy’s manager held him back and stole a fortune from him. While 1956 would turn out to be a spectacular breakout year for Elvis, for Buddy it was a year of failure and exploitation that would test his resolve to make it as a professional entertainer.


In RCA’s Nashville studio on January 10, Elvis recorded “Heartbreak Hotel,” which would reach the top of Billboard’s pop chart in May, launching Presley’s fabulous run through the end of the decade. Meanwhile, Buddy’s Nashville Decca session on January 26 was a disaster. “It’s a wonder the world ever again heard of Buddy Holly,” Amburn noted. Buddy’s second release for Decca also failed miserably, and at year’s end the label declined to renew his contract. As 1957 dawned, Buddy was penniless, his career no further along than it had been 12 months before.


By the time “That’ll Be the Day” became Buddy’s first hit record, Elvis already had five #1 singles and eight gold records. In January 1957, without a manager, a band, or a recording contract, Buddy returned to Lubbock and considered quitting the music business. Deciding to give it one more try, he formed another band and drove ninety miles northwest of Lubbock to record at Norman Petty’s recording studio in Clovis, New Mexico. There, on February 24, 1957, Holly’s life changed when he recorded a rocking version of “That’ll Be the Day.” Source: www.elvis-history-blog.com

Just before Christmas 1958, Buddy had hoped to resume his relationship with Echo McGuire, who would be home for the holidays during her school break. But McGuire had a new boyfriend. “I told Buddy what I had decided,” Echo says. “From that point on, I put him aside.” While waiting for the release of “That’ll Be the Day,” Holly helped lay tile with his brothers. Holly also helped Norman Petty build an echo chamber for his studio, in the attic above Petty’s father’s service station. On the deepest level of his life Buddy was troubled and unfulfilled. Like many in his circle, he was headed for misfortune. For Buddy, life on the road offered no opportunity for meeting the kind of girl he wanted to marry. Buddy, the young man who genuinely loved “good girls,” found such girls even tougher to meet as a famous rocker.


Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue” hit the one-million mark in sales the same day Alan Freed’s Christmas show debuted at the Paramount Theater near Times Square on December 27. While in New York, Holly and the Crickets made their first television appearance on the Arthur Murray Show on December 28, performing “Peggy Sue.” When the band arrived backstage before the show, Holly & The Crickets mingled with the starstudded cast, which included Tallulah Bankhead, June Havoc, Gloria DeHaven, jazz singer Sarah Vaughan, and screen-siren Hedy Lamarr. Rock ’n’ roll was civilization’s wake-up call, and its pioneers, like James Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus, were forging in the smithy of their souls “the uncreated conscience” of their race. But its immediate future in 1958 was rife with so much hatred and hostility from society that it’s remarkable that rock ’n’ roll managed to survive at all.


‘Raining In My Heart’, ‘Moondreams’ and ‘True Love Ways’ were slow, reflective ballads, without a hint of beat, and Buddy sang them completely ‘straight’, banishing all clicks and hiccups from his voice, drawing only on its warmth, its conviction, its gentleness, its ability to address the listener personally. Buddy's mother, Ella, picked ‘True Love Ways’ as the stand-out track, though even she did not dream what an imperishable standard it would become. Written ostensibly for and about Maria Elena, its stupendous charm lies in its mixture of intimacy and universality. While speaking directly and uniquely to Maria Elena, it is also a message to ‘all those who really care’, as ever counselling patience, hope and trust in the benignity of Fate. Maria Elena tried to cook for the musicians: “She about killed us cooking,” Waylon Jennings says. “She tried to cook beans and burned them. Can you imagine burning beans? Buddy said, ‘Don’t say anything. Just eat them.’”

Buddy and Maria Elena found an apartment in New York in Greenwich Village, on Fifth Avenue. Buddy designed cabinets for the kitchen as well as a bar that opened out onto the terrace. If he couldn’t make it as a singer, he told his wife, he could always earn a living as a draftsman or engineer. Ella had always been proud of how skilled and resourceful Buddy was, how he could fix anything that went wrong around the house. "Buddy Holly: A Biography" (2014) by Ellis Amburn.

Sharon Sheeley (Eddie Cochran's fiancé) wrote in her memories: "Buddy Holly was terribly shy; he tended to complicate his alienation because of his extreme shyness, his self-consciousness about his 'homely' looks.  Buddy not only knew rock 'n' roll would last, he also understood it had to evolve over time. Buddy was our superior from a musical theory aspect. "Summertime Blues: A True Rock 'n' Roll Adventure with Eddie Cochran" (2010) by Sharon Sheeley

On Friday, 30 January, the ‘Winter Dance Party’ chasséed down the frozen highway to play the Laramar Ballroom in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Rock stars of today would not put up with such conditions for five minutes. But rock stars of 1959 were an infinitely hardier, more philosophical breed. Maria Elena had to break it to Buddy that, after almost four weeks, there still was no sign of ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’ in Billboard’s Hot 100. Buddy made a brave show of not being worried, telling her it would probably turn out to be another ‘sleeper’ like ‘That’ll Be The Day’. But inwardly he resigned himself to having missed yet again. That night, close to despair, he called his friend Eddie Cochran, who was recording in the enviable warmth of California. ‘Eddie came back from the phone really concerned,’ Cochran’s girlfriend, Sharon Sheeley, remembers. ‘He said “Buddy’s so down, he thinks it’s all over in the charts for him. I told him, don’t be a fool. You’re the best there is. You’ll be back up there again soon.” ’ 

Even with Buddy dead, however, Norman Petty continued to find reasons not to pay. Maria Elena was obliged to leave the gentlemanly Orenstein and seek more aggressive legal representation, whereupon Petty finally disgorged what his books said he owed Buddy and what Maria Elena now describes as ‘a paltry sum’, just over $35,000. Paltry or not, it would have made the difference between struggling through the Midwest on a second-rate tour or staying safe and warm in the Brevoort building, among the hippies and coffee-houses. It was enough, in every sense, to have kept Buddy alive. —"Rave On: The Biography of Buddy Holly" (2014) by Philip Norman

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas from Weirdland!

"It's A Wonderful Life", Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, my friends!

Monday, December 21, 2015

"Young Man with a Horn" (Noir City Film Festival), Buddy Holly: Christmas Rockabilly

The Noir City Film Festival returns to San Francisco's majestic Castro Theatre for its 14th edition, January 22-31, 2016. Its timely theme, given the threat traditional arts face from the technology revolution and its skyrocketing living costs, is “The Art of Darkness”—a collection of 25 noir-stained films exploring the pressures, pitfalls, paranoia and pain of being an artist in an indifferent and often cruel world. This time the tortured protagonists aren't felons or fall guys, they're writers, painters, dancers, photographers, and musicians. Some of the best art-flavored classic noirs will screen, including Nicholas Ray's In a Lonely Place and Fritz Lang's Scarlet Street.

YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN - 1950. Rick Martin (Kirk Douglas) finds a sense of belonging in only one thing—the trumpet he bonded with as a young orphan. In his rise to artistic success, Martin struggles to maintain relationships as strong as the music he creates, and eventually he risks losing everything in a steady swirl of arrogance and alcohol. Doris Day plays the singer/savior Martin tosses aside in favor of sultry Amy North (Lauren Bacall), an ennui-ridden socialite whose bisexuality stealthily slipped past the Hollywood censors. Source: www.noircity.com

Young Man with a Horn is a 1950 musical drama film based on a novel of the same name by Dorothy Baker inspired by the life of Bix Beiderbecke, the jazz cornetist. His death, in turn, gave rise to one of the original legends of jazz. In magazine articles, musicians' memoirs, novels, and Hollywood films, Beiderbecke has been reincarnated as a Romantic hero, the "Young Man with a Horn". His life has been portrayed as a battle against such common obstacles to art as family and commerce, while his death has been seen as a martyrdom for the sake of art. The musician-critic Benny Green called Beiderbecke "jazz's Number One Saint," while Ralph Berton compared him to Jesus. The romantic notion of the short-lived, doomed jazz genius can be traced back at least as far as Beiderbecke, and lived on in Glenn Miller, Charlie Parker, Billie Holliday, Jaco Pastorius and many more.

In the film, Rick becomes an alcoholic who neglects his music and even destroys his horn. He disappears, until one day Smoke finds him in a drunk tank. Jo is contacted and rushes to Rick's side, helping him to recover his love of music and of her—a happy ending found neither in the novel nor in the life of Bix Beiderbecke.

Kirk Douglas as Rick Martin and Lauren Bacall as Amy North, publicity still of Young Man with a Horn (1950)

Doris Day as Jo Jordan in Young Man with a Horn (1950).

Yelping, growling, delighting in his voice as an instrument of seemingly infinite inflection and suppleness, Buddy Holly proved that he could hold his own with the wildest men in rock. Catching New York’s Christmas 1957 spirit, Buddy bought himself the present of his dreams, going into Manny’s and selecting a Guild F-50 Navarre acoustic guitarIt can be heard on “Well All Right.”


‘I’m Gonna Love You Too’ was a frisky rockabilly throwback on which the Crickets found themselves augumented from an unexpectedly appropriate quarter. As the last notes of the playback died away, a real cricket, which had somehow found its way into the echo-chamber, gave a reverberant double chirrup. Since the noise happened to be exactly in beat, they decided to leave it on the record. 

Some of his guitars were only briefly in his possession. Buddy enjoyed giving them away to young rockers who couldn’t afford them. Joe B Mauldin says that Buddy was the most generous person he’d ever encountered. One day at the Paramount a youth approached Buddy and said he really admired Buddy’s guitar. “Here, man, you keep it,” Buddy said. As Christmas 1958 approached, on December 14, he recorded the eloquent “Crying, Waiting, Hoping.” Buddy’s voice gently probes the poignancy of every line, uncovering nuances of truth and emotion that lift the song to universal significance.


“Learning the Game,” relentlessly tragic in its view of romance, was the last of the apartment tapes, recorded on December 17. Buddy had borrowed enough money to shower his family with expensive presents, which the financially strapped Holleys appreciated. Larry Holley would look back on the 1958 holiday season as a glorious Christmas. The Avalanche-Journal carried a picture of carolers on the front page with the headline "Christmas Arrives Quietly Over Area". Though Buddy Holly’s visit was by far the most newsworthy event to occur in Lubbock that Christmas, the paper made no mention of him. Throughout his career, his hometown paper, either through reportorial oversight or in deference to its Bible Belt readership, ignored him, despite hit records and a triumphant world tour.


The recordbuying public also ignored the stunning oddity of “Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues.” Holly desperately needed some good news, but Decca kept him completely in the dark about the sales of “That’ll Be the Day.” 


Back in Lubbock, Buddy called on old friends, sang his latest songs for them, and encouraged any beginners who sought him out.  “Raining in My Heart” was one of Buddy's personal favorites. Larry agreed it was the best thing Buddy had ever done. Buddy’s voice had never been more tender or appealing than in this ballad, which tells of a lover’s brave, vain efforts to hide his broken heart. Above all, the recording evokes the sweetness of the singer: Buddy Holly’s power to evoke our love is uncanny. 

Hollywood has yet to produce an authentic portrait of the rock ’n’ roll experience, though it is one of the most emblematic of the twentieth century. The moviemakers’ flirtation with Buddy Holly’s life is a classic example of distortion and exploitation, smoothing out the hard, jagged edges that make a life in rock ’n’ roll so engaging, perilous, tragic, and archetypically modern—torn between a yearning for acceptance and a compulsion to destroy all that is false and hypocritical in society. The real Buddy Holly is to be found nowhere in the various efforts to represent him on film. —"Buddy Holly: A Biography" (2014) by Ellis Amburn.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

David Bowie's 'Lazarus' ("Black Star"), Buddy Holly's aural sunshine


A trailer for David Bowie’s forthcoming single Lazarus has been made available ahead of its release on 18 December. Taken from his new album ★ (Blackstar) the song also shares its name with his current off-Broadway musical. The followup to his most recent single, Blackstar, will receive its world premiere on BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq show on the 17 December. It is the only track on ★ which is featured in the stage production Lazarus. The New York Times praised its “Ice-cold bolts of ecstasy shoot like novas through the glamorous muddle and murk of Lazarus, the great-sounding, great-looking and mind-numbing new musical built around songs by David Bowie,” the Guardian called it “unapologetically weird”, while Rolling Stone hailed Lazarus as a “Surrealistic tour de force.” Source: www.theguardian.com


“Ashes to Ashes” seems composted from old records, stitched together out of discarded rhythm tracks and random overdubs. Deep in its bones is a song Bowie had loved since childhood, Frank Loesser’s “Inchworm,” as sung by Danny Kaye. “Inchworm’s” semitonal moves between F and Eb are echoed in “Ashes,” which moves from F to Eb at the end of its verses, with Bowie also inspired by the way Kaye’s lead vocal rises and falls against a equally wavering choral counter-melody.


But its most direct ancestor was a sequel song, too: Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue Got Married” —there’s a sad self-consciousness in “Peggy Sue Got Married” that you also find in “Ashes.” Like “Ashes,” “Peggy Sue Got Married” opens with Holly asking if you recall his older hit (Bowie sighs “it’s such an EARLY song”), but then he equivocates—he’s heard something, he may be wrong, he’s just the messenger. “I just heard a rumor from a friend,” Holly sings, teasingly (“I heard a rumor from Ground Control,” Bowie answers, 20 years later), then strings you along with little three-note loops: “I don’t say… that it’s true…” and culminates with the roller-coaster rise-and-fall of “I’ll just leave that up to you.” And Holly’s trademark vocal fills, his oohs and moans, are mirrored by Bowie’s interjections in “Ashes”: “oh no—don’t say it’s true” or “oh no, not again!” and especially the “who-oh-oh-oh” after “out of the blue.” It’s the sound of Buddy Holly’s ghost.

Bowie’s playing with this conceit in “Ashes to Ashes”—what else is there for Major Tom but a fall from grace? I ain’t got no money and I ain’t got no hair, he laments, like a kid’s parody of a blues song. Creepy, suggestive of some old horror bricked up in rhymes, Bowie’s lines echo the chants in Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker, the latter written in the broken language of a post-nuclear-holocaust Kent reduced to a second Stone Age. For “Ashes,” Bowie wrote one of his finest, most extravagant and taxing melodies, one that seems to work against the song at times.


The first verse starts with Bowie in flight, swooping from a high A-flat down to an A-flat deeper in his range. He sings a trio of sudden collapses (“do-you-re-mem-ber-a-guy” is all high notes, the quick fall comes on “that’s-been“; same for “in-such-an-ear-ly (high) sooong” (low), etc.). Then comes a line with a much shorter range, almost conversational (“oh no, don’t say it’s true“). The high, falling lines are fanciful, the retorts are flat and short. “They got a message from the action man” stays almost entirely on one note, like a newscaster breaking into the song.


Again, this is pure Buddy Holly. As Theodore Gracyk wrote in Rhythm and Noise: “Holly’s dips and swoops embroider the beat and thus bind rhythm and melody together, dissolving the typical division between vocal and rhythm section…[Holly] exploits the peculiarities of his own voice.” Source: bowiesongs.wordpress.com

When Elvis Presley died, 25,000 people gathered outside Graceland in the sweltering Memphis heat. John Lennon's murder drew millions of people to Central Park for a silent vigil. But when Buddy Holly's plane went down in an Iowa cornfield at a little past 1 a.m. on February 3, 1959, there was nobody waiting for him among those swirling snowdrifts. The Lubbock, Texas singer never had a vigil. His home did not become a pilgrimage site and his family never held a memorial service for his fans. Yet with each passing decade, the myth of Buddy Holly has grown by substantial degrees. 

Buddy Holly's career hardly seems the stuff of legend. He only accepted top billing on the 24-day, 24-town "Winter Dance Party" tour alongside the Big Bopper (of "Chantilly Lace" fame) and Richie Valens ("La Bamba") as a way to dig himself out of bankruptcy. And yet his influence on early rock 'n' roll is almost unmatched. Holly was barely out of high school when he opened for Elvis Presley in 1955. He popularized the two guitar, one bass, one drum lineup that so many acts (the Beatles, the Kinks, Talking Heads, Weezer) would later adopt. Holly wrote his own material and used his signature pitch-changing hiccup to move seamlessly between country, R&B and rockabilly.

In Texas, a neighbor told Holly's mother to turn on the radio. When the news report came out, she screamed and collapsed. In Greenwich Village, Buddy Holly's pregnant wife heard the news on television and suffered a miscarriage the following day, reportedly due to "psychological trauma." Both John Lennon and George Harrison learned to play guitar in part by listening to Buddy Holly records. The first Rolling Stones' single released in the U.S. was cover of Holly's "Not Fade Away."


The first song memorializing the [dead] musicians —Eddie Cochran's "Three Stars"— was recorded just one day after their deaths. But Don McLean's 1971 single "American Pie" turned the plane crash into a metaphor for the moment when the United States lost its last shred of innocence. McLean envisioned that last Buddy Holly concert in Clear Lakes, Iowa: teenagers in pink carnations and pick-up trucks, dancing and falling in love and dancing some more. The snow fell silently outside as the country teetered on the brink of the 1960s; no one in the ballroom had any idea what would happen next. Source: content.time.com


‘It’s So Easy’ stands among the best things Buddy Holly ever recorded; perhaps the nearest rock ’n’ roll has ever come to pure aural sunshine. As in the blues call and-response style, two-line verses alternate with a sinuous treble riff, the guitar jaunty and confident, the voice ruefully – and, it would seem, prophetically – owning up: People tell me love’s for fools, So here I go, breakin’ all o’the rules... ‘It’s So Easy’, released under the Crickets’ name in early September, ironically proved too complex for its intended audience, failing even to make the US Top 100 and becoming the first Holly production not to enter the British Top 20, although in Australia it reached number 8.

Melbourne Herald journalists who interviewed Buddy Holly found him engaging and unpretentious; one described him as ‘the perfect representation of the American person – ascetic, serious, dignified...’ Buddy’s stage persona was the very opposite of what had been expected – not cool, serious and grown-up, but friendly, funny and unpretentious. The era of rock stars being trapped in their hotels by screaming girls was still far in the future. Buddy and the Crickets could walk the wintry West End of London streets in perfect safety, recognized by almost no one. Buddy had been ready to break up the Crickets if June Clark would leave her husband and run away with him. His chaste brief encounter with Barbara Bullough, the Wigan hotel receptionist, had further underlined how desperate was his search for someone to assuage the heartbreak of losing Echo McGuire. 

Maria Elena Santiago was a bewitchingly attractive young woman, especially to one of Buddy’s peculiar susceptibilities; a mixture of big city sophistication and almost quaintly old-fashioned decorum, of doll-like femininity and evident humour and resilience. A jubilant Buddy went to the phone and broke the news to his family in Lubbock. Maria Elena says that Buddy's parents: ‘both made me feel welcome right away. They said Buddy had found a gorgeous girl. They thought I was a little doll with my clothes, my accent. They made me feel like I was something breakable.’ The sole opponent of Buddy’s marriage plans was his manager Norman Petty. Perhaps naïvely, Buddy had hoped for Papa Norman’s felicitations along with the rest. Maria Elena: “He tried to break us up. He told Buddy not to marry me because I was a cheap woman, that I’d slept with all kinds of other men who’d come in to Peer-Southern. Buddy got so mad, he wanted to leave Norman right there and then. I made it a condition of my marrying Buddy that he got this whole situation resolved. I told him: I don’t want to sit around all the time, waiting for handouts from Norman Petty. If you want us to be married, you have to get your finances in order.” 

Even the patient and ever-optimistic Buddy had finally reached the end of his tether. He was tired of Petty’s failures as a manager – revealed in ever starker detail by living in New York and seeing how the careers of rival artistes were run. He was tired of Petty’s excuses for not paying him the money he had coming in royalties from Coral-Brunswick. Above all, he was tired of Petty’s calculated snubs to Maria Elena. Petty's parting-shot, allegedly, was words to the effect: ‘You’ll starve to death before you see a penny of those royalties!’ Petty vehemently denied ever having said such a thing. At all events, both Maria Elena Holly, who was there, and Buddy’s brother Larry, who saw him immediately afterwards, corroborate the phrasing. Buddy returned from Clovis depressed. Buddy couldn’t believe that J.I. and Joe B. could have let themselves be suborned, giving Petty a cast-iron excuse to continue withholding the money. He made one last attempt with J.I. when they bumped into each other at a café on Main Street, Clovis. Peggy Sue remembers the painful encounter: ‘Buddy asked Jerry if he was really sure about what he was doing. Jerry said that, as far as he could tell at that moment, he was. Buddy said: The person I really worry about in all this is Joe B.” —"Rave On: The Biography of Buddy Holly" (2014) by Philip Norman

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Music Review: Buddy Holly – ‘Collected’

Sixty years ago, on October 15, 1955, two historical figures converged in Lubbock, Texas, when Buddy Holly opened for Elvis Presley’s show at the Fair Park Coliseum. During his decline phase in the 70’s Elvis Presley singled out Buddy Holly admiringly: “Looking back over the last 20 years, I guess the guy I’ve admired most in Rock ‘n’ Roll is Buddy Holly.” In January 1986 —over thirty years later since their first professional encounter— both Elvis and Buddy Holly were among the first inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Like Christmas Season, Buddy Holly’s music conjures an unadulterated spirit that we can celebrate immediately by listening to his recent compilation Collected 3-CD set (57 tracks) which includes alternate versions —'Crying, Waiting, Hoping' or 'Wishing' giving off Christmas carol vibes— and rare tracks like Baby Won’t You Come Out Tonight, Love’s Made A Fool of You or That Makes It Tough. Buddy Holly was one of the most inventive pioneers of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and this newly-released retrospective confirms his fabulous legacy. Holly —ranked #13 among “The Fifty Greatest Artists of All Time” by Rolling Stone— was once described by All Music Guide critic Bruce Eder as “the single most influential creative force in early rock and roll,” whereas Philip Norman called him in his biography Rave On: The Biography of Buddy Holly (2014) “the 20th century’s most influential musician.”


All these deserved accolades are all the more true when one submerges into that idyllic fusion of powerful rhythm and vivid melody that defines Buddy Holly’s timeless ouvre. Christopher J. Oglesby (author of Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air, 2006) asserts: “Buddy Holly gave voice to all the outcasts, misfits, artists, dreamers, shakers, wailers and moaners of the world. Elvis will always be the King of Rock and Roll. Buddy Holly is most certainly its George Washington. He’s a true American hero.” Lifelong fan Paul McCartney —who acquired the rights of Holly’s catalog— said: “Buddy Holly gave you confidence. He was the boy next door.”


Holly’s whirlwind career only lasted from 1956 until his sudden death on February 3, 1959, caused by a fatidic airplane crash. Well, All Right —one of the many examples that prove his permanent influence on The Beatles— is eloquently lauded by critic Jonathan Cott: “The irrepressible optimism of this song, like the incantatory trance of Listen to Me and Words of Love conveys Holly’s magical notion that the insistent repetition of one’s wishes is in fact the fulfillment of the wish itself; as in ritual, the rapture of song becomes the proof of this magic and, in the end, the magic itself.”

NPR critic Tim Riley —author of Tell Me Why: The Beatles— examined Holly’s outwardly “naïve” yet intriguing image in his article Learning the Game, or How John Lennon Learned to Stop Worrying and Love His Inner Geek (2006): “Long before ‘Post-Modern’ became pure jargon, Buddy Holly put quotes around his ‘normalcy’ to disarm rock machismo. Holly hiccupped his hormones out loud, flipping everybody’s high school jitters into metaphor. Everything ‘straight’ and ‘innocent’ in his sound became ironic. Holly pushed ‘normal’ to extremes. On his records, everyday stuff turned radical.”


In the chronicle Hey, Buddy (2010), Gary W. Moore transcribes an interview to Don McLean —who wrote the hit American Pie in 1971 as an elegy dedicated to Buddy Holly’s memory— in which he laments the numbness bordering on indifference shown by the American society in the face of such an irreparable loss. McLean complains about the British Invasion that, shortly after Holly’s death, took over the musical scene in the US: “In my opinion, no rock act, not the Beatles, not the Stones, nor anyone else, can top records like Peggy Sue or Rave On. They are rock mountains that nobody has climbed. The diversity of Buddy’s music is also profound. Moondreams and True Love Ways are musically as advanced as anything by the great popular composers. Gershwin or Berlin would have marveled at these compositions.”

The last track of Collected (Disc 3) is That Makes It Tough (recorded on December 8, 1958) , whose lyrics are tinged with sadness and regret: “Memories will follow me forever/Tho’ I know our dreams cannot come true/All those precious things we shared together/Time goes by/I’ll still remember you/And that makes it tough.”

In September 2015, Whatever Happened to Peggy Sue?: a Rock ‘n Roll Riff Memoir by Peggy Sue Gerron —written by the eponymous muse that inspired Holly’s Peggy Sue and Peggy Sue Got Married— was released in paperback format. Peggy Sue’s story mirrors an alternative version of her relationship with Buddy Holly. At one moment during their double honeymoon shared in Acapulco —Peggy Sue had married Holly’s drummer Jerry Allison— when Maria Elena (Holly’s widow) wasn’t present, Buddy Holly allegedly said to Peggy Sue Gerron: “If you belonged to me, I’d give you anything in the entire world, including the world if you wanted it.”

Another ‘what if’ tale, also published this year, is The Winter Dance Party Murders, where Greg Herriges gives voice to a new character who enters into the ominous events that led to the plane crash where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper died: “The plane engines whistled as we sailed out over the Atlantic. On the front page of The London Times folded on my lap was a photo of John Lennon planting an acorn for peace, but behind the metal-rimmed glasses the eyes of Buddy Holly looked up at me. I learned that most of life is like a cheap trick and the rest what they call the truth.”

Charles Hardin Holley’s “hold on his fans is to be explained by his very humanity,” as John Goldrosen —author of Remembering Buddy: The Definitive Biography Of Buddy Holly— claims. Buddy Holly, the hillbilly who turned into the first stuttering geek of rock, was doubly subversive: first becoming a rocker against the mores of a provincial community, and second being an anomalous kind of rocker. His music is one of the great triumphs of the Rock & Roll revolution, making us laugh at the cheap tricks along the way and cry after finding out the truth. Article first published as Music Review: Buddy Holly – ‘Collected’ on Blogcritics.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Elvis: 'If I Can Dream', Whatever Happened to Peggy Sue (Buddy Holly), The Phoenix Sound


This is a song from the brand new album "Elvis Presley: If I Can Dream" (2015). This version of "There's Always Me" was remixed and dubbed with the sound of The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Nearly 40 years after his death in 1977, Elvis Presley once again returns to the music charts. “If I Can Dream” features a flawless blending of the entertainer’s original vocal recordings reworked with the lush and elegant accompaniment of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The stirring orchestration gracefully breathes new life into 14 Presley classics that showcase the singer’s unforgettable voice.


I can still fondly recall being in awe of Presley’s stage presence performing hits like “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Hound Dog” and thinking that this guy with all the swagger and charm was certainly one of the coolest dudes I’d ever seen. A spirited version of “Burning Love” opens the album as the added strings feverishly propel Presley’s passionate singing to a higher level of excitement.

Priscilla Presley serves as an executive producer of the album and keeps the memory of her former husband alive and well through this special project that she has stated he would have always wanted to do. Source: www.heraldstandard.com


This colour clip was shot silent in 1955 in Oklahoma City while Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley were working the two bottom slots on a country package tour headlined by Hank Snow  not only the earliest film footage of Holly but that of Elvis as well. Part of the film was shot with an 8mm camera in Buddy Holly’s hometown of Lubbock, Texas.

Elvis performed in Lubbock several times that year. He first met Buddy Holly at a show at the Fair Park Coliseum on February 13. Elvis "just blew Buddy away," recalls Sonny Curtis, "the way he could get the girls jumping up and down definitely impressed Holly. But it was the music that really turned Buddy around. He loved Presley's rhythm it wasn't country and it wasn't blues it was somewhere in the middle. After seeing Elvis, Buddy had only one way to go: Rock and Roll."
Source: scottymoore.net

Perceived as a 'golden age' of music, the classic rock'n'roll of the late fifties, especially Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, returned a sense of 'security, authenticity and masculinity' (according to Paul Willis' Profane Culture, 1978) in its celebration —articulated through vocal delivery rather than in its lyrical content— of a tough response to an uncertain and uncaring world. —"Cultural Studies and the Study of Popular Culture" (2010) by John Storey


Buddy Holly’s amazingly prolific body of work represented a kind of punk approach. But there was also an expressly British tinge, related to an emotion more strongly felt in Britain than in the States, where Holly & the Crickets scored only two million sellers (“That’ll Be The Day” and “Peggy Sue”) and where Holly had no hits after “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” (in the USA, 20 Golden Greats aka Buddy Holly Lives made only #55 on Billboard; in UK it went triple platinum). Such devotion would baffle much if it weren’t for the continued instinctive power of the music of Holly & the Crickets. And yet, for all their instinct, songs like “That’ll Be The Day” and “Peggy Sue,” highly experimental though they are, sound as though the musicians playing them know exactly what they are doing. Even when trying out new ideas, new tempi, new approaches, there is something in Holly’s timbre and bearing which implies that he is never going to be at a loss.


“Peggy Sue” seems to have fallen to Earth from outer space, one of those page one pop records from seemingly nowhere which set the tone for everything that comes after it, like “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” I was struck after watching, at a young age, Buddy Holly & the Crickets performing the song on The Ed Sullivan Show — it is still disturbing viewing. Perhaps due to the lack of dimensional perspective afforded by fifties television cameras, Holly, at stage front, looks about twice the size and half the age of the Crickets behind him. With his partially-rimmed spectacles, he gives the impression of a newly-arrived Martian; there is something about the performance which is not quite “real.” And yet the song is about finding a “love so rare and true.”


“Peggy Sue” here is little more than an abstract, a blank template for the listener to complete (“If you knew Peggy Sue”). Behind Holly’s voice are the murkiest, most thunderous drums you have ever heard (it sounds as though coming from the bottom of a well). Holly is spellbound by the grain of those two words, “Peggy” and “Sue”; he rolls them round his tongue and larynx in every conceivable way, experimenting with and being delighted by the different effects, like a jazz musician snaking their way around a standard or a riff; he is clearly exulted and before long, Peggy Sue is superseded by the use of the name as a signifier without anything obvious being signified; if there was ever such a thing as “free rock,” then “Peggy Sue” is its epitome, and maybe also its peak. But if “Peggy Sue” exhibits a childlike joy, Holly’s final, and wholly unexpected, vocal swoop from high to low indicates that this is definitely the work of a grown man.


Holly never stopped experimenting. With “Words Of Love,” he goes as far as to invent psychedelia with its woozy, disorientated vocals and strange syllabic emphases (“feel-AH,” “real-AH,” “hear-AH,” “ear-AH”) which indicate an intoxication of awe. “Everyday” expresses patient expectation using little more than slapped knees and celeste as musical background; Holly’s onomatopoeic arch of anticipation on “ROLL-er-COAST-er” conveys his excitement very effectively (as does his more subdued “Hey? A-hey-hey”). Rather than knee-slapping, the beat on “Not Fade Away” seems to be thrashed out on a cardboard box and Holly’s words now seem to defy reason as deftly as Dylan’s would soon do, missing out whole streams of syntax (“You know my love a-not fade away, A love for real not fade away”). His pent-up sexuality goes from child to man (“A-WAY”) and back again (“How I feel-EE!”). His guitar cuts in halfway like a battleship.


If both “Everyday” and “Not Fade Away” show Holly is up for it, the immediate attack of “Oh Boy” confirms that he is also ready for it; now he growls and shrieks, and even the square backing vocals can’t deter the acidic entry of his guitar solo. You almost want to rush up to him and urge him to be more patient. By not quite “getting” Bo Diddley, he inadvertently invents something else.


“Listen To Me” is extraordinary in its effortless elisions from harsh to soft, and back again; the curiously over-exaggerated vocal drops of “LIS-TEN-TO-ME-HEE” pretty much writing the template for Merseybeat before dropping back to a honeyed, spoken whisper from Holly: “Listen, listen, listen to me,” to be followed by an excitable lead guitar and, again, a subtly disorientated vocal. If “Think It Over” might have been designed as Holly’s “Jerry Lee Lewis record,” with a rattling barrelhouse piano solo, its implications are wider: Holly teases his would-be other half as much as pleading with her, at one point asking, “Are you sure I’m not the one?” and then intoning “A lonely heart grows cold and old” (it’s the pause that makes you remember the line).


“It’s So Easy” with its vocal grunts suggesting that actually it’s very difficult, offset by some strange verbal throwaways (“Gosh darn that love,” “doggone easy”), the supreme “Rave On” with its introductory six-syllable “Well” and a propulsion so powerful that it could almost have been made by machines; everything here has been accomplished, and works – and the unworldly “Well… All Right” which more or less spells out what McCartney is going to do with the Beatles but also moves with great naturalism between two different dynamic angles (moderately intense, and slightly more intense) and some long-form cymbal work from Allison that almost breaks the boundaries of tempo.


“Peggy Sue Got Married,” originally cut with the Crickets but here done with a revamped instrumental backing track, is one of Holly’s last great songs; throughout the song he is extremely reluctant to tell the listener what has happened, endlessly putting it off or making excuses, but finally he divulges the titular information, except that he remarks “You recall that girl that’s been in nearly every song” and you realise that actually she only unambiguously appears in one other song, except that all these songs might be about the same, unattainable woman, or idealisation of a woman –Holly as Lubbock’s own Robert Graves, with Peggy Sue his own White Goddess– and Holly’s guitar solo is appropriately melancholy. Peggy Sue is all around us, maybe even part of us. Buddy Holly was a bridge leading from the original rock ‘n’ roll pioneers, look around you, on every Beatles album up to and including Let It Be, on most Dylan. Source: nobilliards.blogspot.com

Peggy Sue Gerron still remembers standing in the audience in 1958 watching a meek, mild-mannered Texas boy electrify a crowd, turning on the charm with his hiccup delivery and his fancy work on his Fender Stratocaster. That night in Sacramento was the first time she had ever heard it witnessing the birth of a new art form: rock 'n' roll. Peaking at No. 3, 'Peggy Sue' was Buddy Holly's second biggest-selling record behind 'That'll Be the Day.'

Peggy Sue was never Buddy Holly's girl. Peggy Sue and Jerry Allison, the Crickets' drummer, were dating, would later marry and ultimately divorce. Gerron describes Holly more as a "soulmate" than anything else. The song "Peggy Sue," in fact, wasn't even originally called "Peggy Sue." According to Bill Griggs, Holly first named it after Cindy, his sister's daughter, and Lou, his sister's middle name. Griggs said it was when Holly and Allison were trying to make the song work better one day when Holly told Allison that paradiddles, a repetitive style of drumming, would help strengthen the song rhythmically. Allison agreed if Holly woud change the name of the song from "Cindy Lou" to "Peggy Sue" so he could "make some points with his girlfriend." 

Peggy Sue said she has always felt humbled for having known someone like Buddy Holly. "He was such a gentleman," she remembered. "He was a little quiet. He never took over a room. I never saw him have a temper. He was quite a young man. He helped take care of his mom and dad and grandmother and I thought that was unusual that someone his age would take on that kind of responsibility." Peggy Sue said she suffered through a long grieving period, a period she said that never really ended, just changed. There is no love lost between Buddy Holly's widow and Peggy Sue. The history between the two includes the threat of a lawsuit by Mrs. Holly because of Peggy Sue's book, "Whatever Happened to Peggy Sue?" Source: www.mrt.com

Waylon Jennings and Buddy Holly in a photo boot at the Grand Central Station, New York, 1959.

Not long after Lee Hazlewood headed to Phoenix, Waylon Jennings settled in at KCKY following the death of his former bandmate Buddy Holly. The small station served as an incubator, but it was in Phoenix that Hazlewood, Eddy, and Jennings found solid artistic footing. The roots of that sound stretch further south, to a small cotton town called Coolidge, Arizona. Following his discharge from the military, Hazlewood worked at KCKY, where he met a Coolidge high schooler named Duane Eddy, who provided on-air performances on his guitar.


"The Fool" (original 1956 version) sung by Sanford Clark, a baby-faced kid stationed at Luke Air Force Base; the song was written and produced by local DJ Lee Hazlewood and blessed with the thwacking leads of guitarist Al Casey. It was recorded at Floyd Ramsey's Audio Recorders studio on Seventh Street and Weldon Avenue and released on a small Phoenix label, MCI Records. From there it bloomed, picked up by Dot Records and distributed nationally.

By the end of 1957, "The Fool" had sold more than 800,000 copies and set the blueprint for the "Phoenix sound," an echoing, reverb-drenched take on rockabilly that would propel guitarist Duane Eddy to fame, inspire Phil Spector's Wall of Sound, and lay the groundwork for the outlaw country stardom of Waylon Jennings. Fittingly, the recording of "The Fool" appears near the beginning of author Jim West's The Phoenix Sound: A History of Twang & Rockabilly Music in Arizona. Source: www.phoenixnewtimes.com

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Hank Williams' Biopic 'I Saw the Light' (Official Trailer), Buddy Holly's 'Not Fade Away'

Tom Hiddleston takes on the role of a lifetime in the upcoming biopic I Saw the Light. After the first look photo released back in August, Sony Pictures Classics, via Entertainment Weekly, has released the first trailer. I Saw the Light is set for a limited release on March 25, 2016. I Saw the Light tells the story of the legendary country western singer Hank Williams, who in his brief life created one of the greatest bodies of work in American music. The film chronicles his meteoric rise to fame and its ultimately tragic effect on his health and personal life. The beloved singer died at the age of 29 in 1953, but not before leaving a legacy of hit songs such as "Your Cheatin' Heart", "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and "Hey Good Lookin." When Tom Hiddleston signed on to star last June, it was revealed that the actor will actually be singing Hank Williams' iconic songs himself.

The producers struck a deal with Sony ATV for the rights to Hank Williams' entire music catalog for use in the film. The supporting cast includes Elizabeth Olsen, Bradley Whitford, David Krumholtz and Cherry Jones. Written and directed by Marc Abraham (Flash of Genius), I Saw the Light is based on Colin Escott's award-winning biography. Notable director of photography Dante Spinotti was the cinematographer for the film. Hank Williams' final days were chronicled in the 2012 drama The Last Ride, starring Henry Thomas, but this biopic will chronicle his incredible rise to stardom.


Take a look at the first trailer for I Saw the LightSource: movieweb.com

From Hank Williams first, then the Chicago bluesmen and finally Elvis, Buddy Holly had learned that words were less important than what one put into them. Buddy wrote about what his peers expected him to – falling for girls, pursuing girls, winning girls, losing girls and feeling blue; his lyrics were always accomplished, phrased with the neatness of the one-time amateur journalist, adding up with the logic and precision of the draughtsman he had almost become. For a creative muse Buddy could not draw on the nervy, neon excitement of Chuck Berry’s Chicago nor Leiber and Stoller’s view down Broadway: only horizonless wheat and cotton fields, the lawns and churches of Lubbock, the archetypal young American’s life-cycle of high school, dating, movies and driveins. It was when he stopped pretending otherwise, when he found the nerve, the encouragement and the space to be himself, that raw talent suddenly blossomed into fully-finished brilliance.


Like Hank Williams, whose “I Saw the Light” is one of his finest recordings, the influence of the Lord and Jesus, as well as the sound of gospel, would influence Buddy’s music. Unfortunately, Buddy’s initial forays into professionalism —the Thompson tour at the beginning of January 1956 and the Nashville recording session at the end of the month— were out-and-out disasters. The Country & Western establishment had been thrown into panic by the sudden ascendancy of rock ’n’ roll and Buddy caught the full impact of the hillbilly backlash. The old guard resisted rock ’n’ roll with all its might; eventually country music would be split down the middle, RCA and at least half of the C&W establishment fleeing to rockabilly and the other half remaining straight country singers. The rockabillies adopted Elvis’s style and mannerisms. The traditionalists took their lead from Hank Williams. Decca’s Paul Cohen and Owen Bradley, instead of recognizing Buddy Holly as as a potential rockabilly star, tried to force him into a C&W mold, completely disregarding his wish to sing rock ’n’ roll. Buddy resisted, and Cohen got nasty, sniping, “You don’t have the voice to be a singer. You should forget about a musical career.”


Buddy Holly - Not Fade Away (1957)

In late January 1959 all the members of the ill-fated “Winter Dance Party” —Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper, Dion and the Belmonts, Frankie Sardo, Waylon Jennings— met in Chicago and checked into their hotel. It was the beginning of rock’s most famous tragedy. As Tommy Allsup revealed at the 1979 convention of the Buddy Holly Memorial Society, Buddy seemed upset. Tommy assumed it was because the tour marked the first time that Buddy and his bride had been separated. It was obvious that Buddy missed the comfortable home he’d established with Maria Elena.

While Buddy Holly’s rise had been slow and torturous, Ritchie Valens’s was meteoric. Their meeting proved opportune for both. Ritchie, the new rock star, looked on Buddy as an experienced headliner who could give him much-needed guidance, while Buddy was always on the lookout for new talent to produce. Everyone was crammed into what appeared to Dion to be a “converted school bus.” When they felt like going to bed, “we slept where we were sitting.” Shivering and miserable, the performers realized too late that the tour was a “third-class operation,” Dion recalled. Buddy was homesick, yearning to return to his bride. All the musicians on the bus generously shared their musical expertise with each other. They sang and picked continually, mostly as a way to keep their minds off the cold. Everyone sang a Hank Williams song. Like Buddy, Dion had studied Hank Williams’s “bent notes” and learned to emulate the “plaintive catch in his throat,” he wrote in The Wanderer. Maria Elena divulged in 1993 that she and Buddy spoke “every day, maybe twice, depending on how much time he had, usually in the evening before he performed.”

Buddy introduced Edwardian fashions to rock ’n’ roll during this tour, years before they became popular in the sixties. He wore an ascot and a greatcoat with a fur collar, displaying a style that was radical, even unthinkable, in an era of Brooks Brothers sack suits and buttondown collars. Tasteful and vaguely aristocratic, Buddy had repeatedly reinvented himself until finally achieving a sort of beauty. Duane Eddy, whose twangy guitar made him rock’s # 1 instrumentalist, saw Buddy at this time and described him, in Reminiscing magazine, as an impressive sight—tall, powerful, and strikingly handsome. As Rolling Stone’s Robert Palmer would write from the perspective of 1990, “It is a measure of fifties rock’s genuine revolutionary potential (as opposed to the revolution-as-corporate-marketing-ploy so characteristic of the sixties) that while sixties rock eventually calmed down, was co-opted or snuffed itself out in heedless excess, fifties rock ’n’ roll was stopped. Cold.” Buddy had founded rock’s avantgarde. —"Rave On: The Biography of Buddy Holly" (2014) by Philip Norman