Thursday, September 5, 2013

Buddy Holly: That’ll Be The Day

Buddy Holly: That’ll Be The Day

A few days ago, I had a Skype video call with my daughter, who, as I mentioned in my last post, will be spending the year studying in Barcelona. All is going well in the first days, and she seems happy in her home-stay apartment, The call cut off a few times, due to Internet issues, and I was struck by the fact that we have reached a point where we get upset when our free video call with our daughter in Spain doesn’t work perfectly. It made me think about when I traveled in Europe during college, and had to go to some special call center to pay money to call my parents, probably to ask for money. Which reminds me that I was also upset that our attempts to arrange for Internet transfers of funds between my bank account and my daughter’s also didn’t go completely smoothly.

This, of course, has nothing to do with Buddy Holly, except that in my mind, Buddy Holly, who died in 1959, and my daughter, who was born in 1993, will always be linked. When she was 6 years old, we went to England for a week, and wanted to find a play on the West End that would interest her and her older brother. We got tickets for Buddy—The Buddy Holly Story. Considered to be the first “jukebox musical,” it was great (and more accurate than the Gary Busey-starring movie). My daughter fell in love with Holly’s music, and it is hard to blame her—he was a genius, whose unfortunately limited musical output still mostly stands up after all of these years. If you want to argue that the Beatles were the most influential musicians in rock music, that is fair, but it is no coincidence that the first song that The Quarrymen (the proto-Beatles) ever recorded was “That’ll Be The Day.” Or that their name was a tribute to Holly’s band, The Crickets.

At the time, my daughter’s school had an enrichment program called “Challenge,” and all of the students were required to do a research project for presentation at the “Creativity Fair.” You know, lots of smart, serious little kids, standing in front of trifold posterboard displays in the gym answering questions from earnest, well-meaning parents. My daughter decided to do hers about Buddy Holly. She immersed herself in his music, read some age-appropriate books and articles about him, and became an expert. Yours truly trolled eBay for cheap Buddy Holly memorabilia to add to her display.

Part of the project required the students to do an interview, which in this case seemed a bit difficult, when fate intervened. I found out that a lawyer I knew had become friendly with Dion DiMucci (of “Runaround Sue” fame). Dion had been a friend of Holly’s, and, in fact, turned down a seat on the ill-fated plane on that icy Iowa night, because it was too expensive. My contact convinced Dion to be interviewed, in writing, by my daughter, and he handwrote responses to the questions that she had come up with. Apparently, Holly loved the pizza in DiMucci’s native Bronx, because he couldn’t get anything like it back home in Lubbock. And, as I previously wrote, my daughter did a karaoke version of “That’ll Be The Day,” at a friend’s wedding.

Since then, my daughter’s musical tastes have predictably changed, but every once in a while, I know that she returns to Holly’s pure pop music.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Buddy Holly: (You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care

Buddy Holly: Baby, I Don’t Care

It was September 7th of 1936 when Christian Hardin Holley was born in Lubbock, Texas. How could a kid go wrong growing up with the music of Hank Williams and Bill Monroe, as well as the blues and Tex-Mex in his area? With friend Bob Montgomery, his first band “Buddy and Bob” pretty much sums up his approach to music: Western and Bop.

Beginning his career as a country singer, his first session (for Decca) wasn’t a big success. He had already dropped the “e” from his last name, but the 1956 session with some Nashville sidemen was a little too slick for his Texas rockabilly approach. They should’ve featured Holly with his own band, The Crickets.

Given Holly’s importance in the history of country and rock & roll before his untimely death in 1959, it’s nice to find a cool song from him that alludes to the music and lifestyle of teenagers in the fifties. I chose one that says something about Buddy Holly’s style.

“(You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care” is sung to a girlfriend who doesn’t like crazy music, rockin’ bands, hot rod racing or drivin’ late at night. Not to mention the fact that she doesn’t know any dance steps either. Fortunately, she does like going to movies, holding hands, and parking where it’s nice and dark. The song (from 1957) wasn’t written by Buddy, but it sure lives on as a classic from the fifties, a golden decade for a whole lotta "crazy music" from the likes of Buddy Holly.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Buddy Holly: I'm Gonna Love You Too

He was nerdy. He was hot. And he was dead. But in 1978 Buddy Holly was one of the most popular rock and roll artists of the day. Gary Busey earned an Oscar nomination for portraying Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story. Elvis Costello, borrowing Buddy's look, was touring the US of A to promote This Year's Model. And Chrysalis Records picked Blondie's glossy cover of his "I'm Gonna Love You Too" as the first single on what would be the band's breakthrough Platinum album Parallel Lines. (Well, at least the single went Top 10 in Italy).

Buddy's version, credited to Joe B. Mauldin, Niki Sullivan and Norman Petty, was the lead off track on his 1957 sophmore album Buddy Holly.

I also like the Terry Jacks cover, which appeared on his hit 1974 Season in the Sun album and went Top 10 in Canada.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Buddy Holly: Peggy Sue

I was alive the day the music died, but I didn’t start listening to the kind of music that Frank Sinatra called “the most brutal, ugly, degenerate, vicious form of expression it has been my displeasure to hear.” Sinatra was referring to the kind of music that Buddy Holly played. I was listening to that kind of music when Don MacLean came up with American Pie.

Although Buddy Holly didn’t single-handedly invent rock and roll, there are many, many musicians who credit him with being one of the most influential people in shaping rock and roll. One of his bandmates recalls that from the day after they opened for Elvis, they transformed their musical style from country to rock. When Holly’s band, the Crickets, chose their name, apparently bugs were in fashion for band names and there were a lot of crickets in the part of Texas they came from. One source says that they considered “the Beetles” but passed on that choice.

Peggy Sue was originally titled Cindy Lou for two of the women in Buddy’s life, but the name was changed following a bet with drummer Jerry Allison, whose girlfriend was named Peggy Sue. The Crickets were one of the first bands to have 2 guitars, a bass player (Joe Mauldin) and drums. In this clip, they are down to three: in fact, rhythm guitarist Niki Sullivan left the band after a year or so.