Saturday, May 1, 2010

"Everyday" by Buddy Holly (1957)

There is a list waiting to be made of history's best-ever b-sides. While 95% of all singles have filler on the b-side, there is the odd case where a great a-side is accompanied by a great b-side, or where the b-side is actually better than the a-side. Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue" is justifiably famous and iconic, being a simple enough vehicle for Holly's hiccupping overlaid with some of the most amazingly propulsive percussion on a rock-and-roll song and a creative guitar solo. But flip it over, and you get this.

What is this? Well, it's a lullaby, a fragment of a dream. Such a simple and elegant song that it feels like it would shatter to a million pieces if you dropped it. Wistful and filled with memories of a time long gone, but in this case not an artificial-sepia forced recollection of sock hops and ice cream parlours but something more genuine: a simpler time, the innocence of childhood. Or maybe that's just my memories of the movie Stand by Me talking.

There's an acoustic guitar and an upright bass here. But what really matters are the other two musical ingredients: that heavenly celesta, that confidently carries the entire song, building its etherealness on, contradictorily, a steady foundation. It's not the most versatile of instruments, but here it gives the song all the qualities I cherish it for: its dream-state, its gentleness. The 'percussion' is apparently Buddy Holly's drummer slapping his legs. Not artful, certainly, but it suits the song just fine: a heartbeat, a pulse. It keeps the rhythm and does nothing else.

Buddy Holly's lyrics are certainly not very profound. Simple love stuff, witnh a reference to a roller coaster. But his vocal performance is beautiful, entirely fitting the mood, hiccups and all, and carrying a melody that makes perfect sense, flowing with a very particular logic that still doesn't diminish the album's dream-state. A tiny little moment of peace and quiet, one to cherish in the privacy of your own solitude.

(Note: it does bug me that the title of this song proves people have been confusing 'everyday' and 'every day' for half a century now...)

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