Monday, July 3, 2017

The Underrated and Overlooked: The Everly Brothers

I realized recently that I had very little Everly Brothers in the Vinyl Voyage library. After all, I could only name a few songs of theirs off the top of my head.  So it didn't seem to me to be much of a deficit.  I had "Wake Up Little Susie" and "Bye Bye Love" and "All I Have to Do Is Dream."

What else was I missing?

Two days ago, I stumbled upon a 1963 greatest hits album of the Everly Brothers entitled, 15 Everly Hits.

I gave the album a nice cleaning and put it on the turntable. Almost immediately, I recognized that my library was woefully deficient.

The Everly Brothers had amazing vocal harmonies, and reminded me of a Simon and Garfunkel prototype, singing folk infused, acoustic guitar tunes before it was a thing some 10 years later. Indeed, Paul Simon often referred to the Everly Brothers as his "heroes."

"Wake Up Little Susie," of course, is pure rock and roll. Risque, no doubt for the times, but hitting on the themes that built rock and roll. "Bye Bye Love" and "('Til) I Kissed You" are pop gold.

"Bird Dog" is a fun tune, in the vein of Chuck Berry or the Big Bopper. I knew "When Will I Be Loved" first from the Linda Ronstadt version, forgetting that it was an original Everly Brothers tune.

And then there's "Let It Be Me."

Although not written by the brothers, "Let It Be Me" was undeniably performed with an Everly Brothers style when recorded by them in 1960. It was originally a French tune from 1955, adapted into English by songwriter Manny Curtis and given to the Everly Brothers.

What can I say? The song is sublime.

I've heard the song performed many times by many other artists (the first time was probably the Petula Clark version, played often in my childhood). Even though I have heard the Everly Brothers version many times before, this time the song really struck me.

It reminded me of "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys--perhaps the greatest pop song ever

And here are the Everly Brothers, a full six years before Brian Wilson penned "God Only Knows" with what seems to be the forerunner to that song.  Not just the themes, but the harmonies, the use of strings, the structure and the sentiment are very similar. Musical relatives, actually.

One has to wonder if Brian Wilson would have ever written "God Only Knows" in that way if it had not been for "Let it Be Me."

Take a listen below. "Let It Be Me" is the upcoming Song of the Week.

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