Thursday, September 12, 2013

BUDDY HOLLY: Well . . . All Right

Buddy Holly: "Well . . . All Right"

I think one of the most incredible things about Buddy Holly is not that he influenced so many other musicians, or that he wrote so many songs that have withstood the test of time and have been re-recorded by so many other bands and singers, but that he did it all at such a young age and in such a short span of time. Holly had his first hit with the Crickets in May of 1957, at the age of 20, and he died in the infamous plane crash in February 1959, at the tender age of 22. Just a little over a year and a half, but what an impact he had in that short time! He was really just a kid through all of it, but he still runs strong in the blood of rock and roll.

Choosing a song to feature here was a tough choice, as there are so many great options. I considered the ones that The Beatles and The Rolling Stones chose to record early in their careers, acknowledging their debt to Holly -- "Words of Love" and "Not Fade Away," respectively -- and "Rave On," which I think could arguably be pointed to as one of the earliest forms of punk and power pop.

But I finally settled on "Well . . . All Right," the flip side to Holly's 1958 single, "Heartbeat." I find the song to be remarkably mature in its melancholy sound and confidently defiant lyrics. The message is actually quite an upbeat one, but there seems to be some element of wisdom beyond his years running through it. The acoustic instrumentation is also something rarely heard in pop music of that time, hinting at Holly's country influences but staying firmly within the bounds of a pop song. It's a sound that the Beatles fleshed out years later with Rubber Soul, an album heralded for its maturity very much thanks to that type of song, but its roots can most definitely be found here.

"Well . . . All Right" was covered quite well by Blind Faith (Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Ric Grech) on their one and only album in 1969, but it was much more forceful and lost the quiet fortitude of Holly's original. Listen here to Holly's original for a song truly ahead of its time.

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