Saturday, March 6, 2010

Gone Gone Gone, Everly Brothers (1964)

Heaven. I'm in heaven. There's actually a connection between Gone Gone Gone and Richard Thompson.  Just one of the many reasons I love doing this blog.  More on that later.

I never knew much about these boys; their greatest success had largely occurred before I became cognizant of rock & roll.  But their hits were always played on the radio, so they were certainly part of the sonic backdrop of my teen years. I was vaguely aware that they'd had a long period after the 60s where they'd stopped speaking to each other, although they've long since gone into détente. What I didn't know was how influential they were in the overall scheme of things and how many later artists - from Barry Gibb to Keith Richards - freely paid homage to their talents. 

So maybe I shouldn't be surprised that they were in the first class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, inducted in 1986 by Neil Young, who made no bones about the fact that it was pretty impossible to duplicate the Everlys' harmonies, though many had tried, in his experience. And in the fall of 1964, they were tapped to be on the first episode of Shindig!, which was must-see TV for baby boomers. 

(Just for grins, I searched Twitter before writing this post, to see what, if any, profile they have today in the cyber-conversation. I expected nothing; I got page after page of tweets just covering the past few days.)

This appears to be another case of the talent being in the DNA. Don and Phil Everly were the sons of a Kentucky coal miner who, along with his brothers, perfected a thumbpicking guitar style that became all the rage in their county.  When the family moved to Chicago, the elder Everly brothers continued to ply their trade in the city's honky-tonks. Don Everly grew up thinking that families singing together was just what you did.

Moving further midwest where Ike Everly got the itch to forge a radio career, the sons soon were singing on their parents' live program on station KMA in Shenandoah, Iowa. Ike had taught them to play guitar and they apparently had naturally appealing singing voices. As records began to supplant live shows, the family continued its nomadic existence, landing in Knoxville, Tennessee. 

This put them within striking distance of Nashville and, when they got old enough, they went out on their own, hired by Roy Acuff's publishing company as songwriters. They were befriended by Chet Atkins, who found them enthralling and took them under his wing.  In 1957, songwriters Felice and Boudleaux Bryant gave them Bye Bye Love, a song at which dozens of other acts had turned up their noses.  And they were off ... marrying their splendiferous close harmonies with their rollicking guitar licks into a rockabilly-style musical form that pleased crowds across the land.

Gone, Gone, Gone, co-written by Don and Phil, was a relatively rare (for them) full-out rocker, and they did a bang-up job at it.  It was one of the last songs they recorded that did reasonably well on the charts. I love watching them performing this (and so did the near-crazed go-go dancers in that video!); it reflects the best of them in their heyday. They radiated such joy, cocking their pompadoured heads toward and away from the shared mike, in constant motion from start to finish as they reveled in what their voices could do.  Of course now I realize that they were knee-high to a grasshopper when they learned how to be entertainers, and they were experts at it. 

Gone Gone Gone is a song that has enchanted others, most recently Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, who were bestowed with a Grammy for their efforts (I saw them perform this in concert and, honestly, it was the song I liked the least in their storied collaboration, but whatever ... ).  Circling back to Richard Thompson, though - Fairport Convention loved the song, too, and performed their cover of it for Heyday: the BBC Radio Sessions 1968-69. You can hear 30 seconds of it on Amazon.  I might just have to buy it.      


Wade said...

I hear a bit of the Beatles' "Run For Your Life" in that song. Before I clicked on the Amazon link, as soon as you said Richard Thompson did the song I could totally hear him doing it. "Tear Stained Letter" comes from the same mojo, I think.

Holly A Hughes said...

Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds were huge Everlys fans, back in the Rockpile days. They even did an tribute EP of them covering some Everlys classics. I have to say, their harmonies were eerily close to Don and Phil's. Delicious stuff!