Friday, December 03, 2010

Compare and Contrast: That High Lonesome Sound

As noted yesterday, Weekend Listomania is on hiatus for December. its stead, from the should-be-way-better-known 1966 album Two Yanks in London here's The Everly Brothers and the proto-powerpop "Don't Run and Hide."

And from the same year, and the B-side to their immortal "Bus Stop," here's the song's composers The Hollies and a sort of Who-ish version, featuring spectacular drumming by their great Bobby Elliott.

The Hollies' Clark-Hicks-Nash songwriting team contributed eight tunes to the Everlys album, including the gorgeous "Signs That Will Never Change," their version of which eventually surfaced a year later as the B-side to "Carrie-Anne." Supposedly, the Hollies provide the most of the instrumental backing for the album as well, although to my ears that's dubious -- this sounds like the usual bunch of Brit session pros (including Jimmy Page, who's supposed to be in there somewhere) to me, especially compared to the kick-ass Hollies track above.

Don and Phil, of course, acquit themselves as if they'd been genetically bred to cover Hollies tunes. Or maybe the Hollies sound as if they'd been genetically bred to sing like the Everly Brothers. Whatever. In either case, this is a criminally underrated album.


Faze said...

In either case, this is a criminally underrated album.

I respectfully disagree. The album is brilliant in concept, but limp in execution. The Everlys never really grasped the British invasion, despite being one of its inspirations. Unlike, say, Del Shannon, they never saw it coming.

They were well into their post-teenpop trajectory by 1964, and headed into the third-act of their careers, which, in the conventional narrative, should have seen them becoming an easy listening act, a sort of harmonizing pair of Andy Williamses, or hillbilly Lettermen. They weren't prepared for the challenge of the British Invasion, which confronted them with their own harmonies, amplified, toughened up, and riding tight hooky songs stripped of countrypolitan fluff.

"Two Yanks" sees them going through the motions, mouthing the songs, not really understanding how this music, for all its similarity to their own, was drastically different. Their vocals are weak on "Two Yanks". Defensive. Compared to the diamond-hard harmonies of the Hollies, the Everlys execute without confidence or conviction on this album.

The Brothers went on to record many great songs in the years to come, but I get the impression that these country boys never got that whole "British" thing. Although McCartney's "Wings of a Nightingale" revived their career, I don't think Don and Phil themselves actually liked the song.

Dave Edmunds produced some sessions with them years later, and from what he's said about the experience, it appears they didn't grasp what he brought to the table, or see the value of post-British Invasion, new-wave pop. They still had a chip on their shoulder against these Englishers for depriving them of the post-rock, Eddy Arnold-type of easy listening career they seemed to think they deserved.

steve simels said...

Faze: You may be right about the Everlys being somewhat reactionary; I remember some disparaging remarks Don made in 1968 about, of all people, Jefferson Airplane ("Where's the songs?" he sniffed).

I still think this one works though, by and large. Doesn't sound forced to me at all.

Faze said...

It's definately worth hearing -- the answer to one of those great "What if?" questions.

billy b said...

As noted yesterday, Weekend Listomania is on hiatus for December.

simels is just faxing it in...


Anonymous said...

Is it me, or were the Hollies ultra musical hipsters? What a great song/track/performance.

The Everlys' version seems like it could have been a come-back hit for them state-side.

RE Faze and Steve's exchange interesting. Given that they missed out on the Brit Invasion effect, how did they also miss out on any/all of the following: folk rock, country rock, pub rock, etc. Maybe the lack of original songs, which proved an impenetrable barrier for other bands (thinking of The Searchers) AP

Faze said...

Anonymous -- I think you're right. Like Elvis, they were tied to some crooked deal that restricted the publishers from whose catalogues they could choose their songs. (Not that they didn't get some great ones, even after the Archie Bleyer era: Cathy's Clown, That's Old Fashioned, Crying in the Rain, Let it Be Me. I get chills just thinking about 'em.

NYMary said...

Terrific! I like 'em both (though prefer the Hollies, though that's no real surprise to anyone).