Sunday 5 January 2014



 Showbiz gets short shrift round here; no holy fans, here,  to shrieve the unGodly bastards; all of them, of my generation, silent as the grave about Jimmy Saville and Gary Glitter,  people like Plant and Page noncing on a jetplane  across continents, little bald fatso, Reg Dwight, drugging and arsefucking  senseless both himself and his screeching, oily entourage; David Bowie, the Danny le Rue de nos jours,  Liberace on smack;  Mick an' Keef buggering a generation of vulnerable idiotgirls,  counting the fatalities at their concerts as though they were Oscars, robbing their best-ever guitarist, Mick Taylor, of all his royalties.  Filthsters. Fuck 'em, all of 'em, sooner they're painfully dead the better.

Phil Everly, though, what can you say about him that doesn't echo  Brian Badger-May's Big Book of Mutual Admiration or Mark Knopfler's or Lady Sir Paul Skinflint McCartney's? These people, they are incapable of framing a eulogy which doesn't swiftly degenerate into narcissism,  Badgerman insisting that one can hear the Everlys throughout Queen's trashy, repetitive bombast. 'Sthat right, Dr May?  Coulda fooled me.

When I was a  tiny kid,  thanks to my big brother and bigger sister, our linoleumed semi-detached rang to the sound of Bird Dog, Bye Bye Love and  Claudette;  thumping, steel-string riffs, doubtless devised by Chet Atkins, bashed out of those big Gibson acoustics as the Everly Brothers made harmony look natural, piss-easy; something about it, though, Phil's high parts and Don's complex lead vocals made me cry, still does, never fails.  Don't know why that is but it just is.  And I have never tired of that sound.
 If you listen closely to early Beatles' songs, maybe on headphones or, as I do, on little computer speakers, you can hear their harmonies quite clearly; unusual, then, in British pop music, quite hard to maintain, I guess, for unlettered musos like them -  Love Me Do, This Boy,  Things We Said Today,  they are actually very, very good, created in the days when George Martin was still producing them instead of indulging them with tripe like Fixing A Hole but they quite understandably lack the sweet vocal dexterity  of Don and Phil Everly, sons of pushy showbiz parents, singing onstage from infancy.   Nobody has ever come near to them;  the big, tantruming drama queen, Art  Garfunkel  and the poison dwarf,  Simon, for all their financial success and the adulation  pouring from the global bed-sit,  they just never had what the Everlys had; the mad-drunk BeachBoys, the Eagles, The Hollies, the Byrds were at times as tight as tight could be but they weren't the Everlys, either. Crosby, Stills and Nash, churning-out sickly sweet drivel, destined, rightly, to become  advertising jingles,  they could stand, adored, before tens of thousands of dumb potheads and never create a  Devoted To You. After the Everlys, the UK's Searchers, singing Jackie de Shannon songs, probably  made the best fist ever of close harmony pop music and in folk music only the French-Canadian sisters, Kate and Anna McGarrigle connected to that arcing, familial short-circuit,  regulated it  and made it shine.

Only got to see the Everlys the once,   in the mid-eighties - they were actually before  my time -  in that awful NEC piss corner;  we took two daughters, then Brossing and George Michaeling themselves into teeny wetness;  they thought the Everly Brothers were ZimmerFrame rubbish.  And, though it's hard to tell, it's hard to tell, so they were; clapped-out, Phil couldn't reach the high notes and Don was out of it, one way or another.  My late friend, Dick, loved it but  in his early sixties he'd waste good  money going to see Don McLean and Bruce Springsteen, it was the event, the reverence,  the obeisance that mattered to him, not the music. I think that motivation is commonplace.  Why on Earth would anyone go to see Bob Dylan, croaking and farting and dribbling when they can watch Don't Look Back on their home cinemas?

The Everlys, anyway, they managed to just about carry-off the mid-eighties reunion concert at the Albert Hall but by the time they'd got to the NEC they had become, like so many, their own tribute band. I wish I had never gone.

Their music now lives in that magic place, before before,  the place where Phil Spector wasn't a crazy murderer,  Elvis Presley wasn't a bloated, over-indulged paedophile,  where Buddy Holly's  silver sounds chimed the hours and weeks of our lives,  a land devoid of the likes of, just for instance,   the repulsive Pete Townshend, singing his endless gaysong about boys -  I'm a Boy, Pictures of Lily, My Generation, Substitute, Pinball Wizard, vile, mad, ranting  old cunt.

And in that magic place, a rockabilly Narnia, part Grand Ole Opry, part Eisenhower's blossoming military-industrial complex, Don and Phil Everly do merit some respect  and have earned a great deal of affection, mine included.

There is no tragedy, here.  A heavy smoker - and reportedly a user of other poisons - living to  be 74 is a small miracle, one to be celebrated.  Adored around the globe, wealthy and comfortable and - not that it now matters to him - immortalised in his own songs, sung with his own brother.  Christ,we should all be so lucky.


Mike said...

Although slightly before my time, I don't rate the Everly bros. Whiney and adenoidal, and the famed harmony wasn't that crash hot. Plus, I have a downer on American shit.

Caratacus said...

If you listen to Simon & Garfunkel singing 'Bye Bye Love' on 'Trouble Over Bridgwater' (as we refer to it in the SW) and then listen to the proper version, your point is made with crystal clarity, Mr.I.

One of the best singists of all time for me was Matt Monro. Superb voice, and breath control too - something few bother with these days.

call me ishmael said...

I always thought them more Oirish than American, mr mike, more hillbilly than Tin Pan Alley.

Simon used them on Gracelands, your majesty, but only, as he put it, on the parts he thought they could manage, the hard bits he had to sing himself, bless.

Not quite my cup of tea, Monroe, but he was vastly superior to almost any other British singer of the time and certainly in a different league to contemporary Sinatraistas like Robbie Williams. His records still sell and rightly so.

Alphons said...

I have always thought that singing spoilt good music and hid/disguised bad.
Much of the pop world seemed to be bad singists with naff accompanyment.
But of course my taste and views are so peculiar that in the late 40s I actually went to see Doris Day twice!!!!

Alphons said...

I do hope your prolonged absence from here does not indicate anything unpleasant has happened to you, Mr Ishmael.

Anonymous said...

You OK?


Moley said...

I second that last comment. Moley

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr Ishmael,

I miss your posts, but just a couple of lines to let us know you're ok?

I know you've had a few health probs, please post to say you're ok.


Woman on a Raft said...

Yes, Matt Monro - my favourite.

A fan has put together interesting archive clips for the anthem We're gonna change the world(1970)

DtP said...

Hope all's well Mr Smith. Nothing much to report from this side of the border - glad I don't live in Somerset and it's been flooded too! Ho ho hmm. All the best

Anonymous said...

All right mate? Missing your wordsmithery, hope all well in Ishmaelia.

Dr Yllek said...

Greetings from Flanders fields. Hope you are not drowning in EU-sponsored 'water resettlement project'...;-)

Anonymous said...

Your insight into the ways of the world is missed Mr Ishmael. Hope your health is sound and not causing you problems