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Will it last six more months?
January 30, 2009 2:00 PM   Subscribe

It's been 50 years (on Tuesday) since Buddy Holly died. He still has some rabid fans who will be celebrating his life and work, but should the rest of us still care?

His new collection in part consists of demos recorded in Winter of 1958 and January 1959 in an apartment in New York now stripped of the atrocious overdubbing done just after his death by Norman Petty, the same producer who badgered him on his early records into adding sweetening strings and cheesy backup vocals to his tracks, then claimed songwriting credits so his family never got the full benefit of royalties (a bitter irony for one of the first singer-songwriters who would rather play his own music than revamp covers of blues or country songs.) Some examples:

Crying, Waiting, Hoping (Demo)
Crying Waiting Hoping (Single Version)
That'll Be The Day (Early Version )
That'll Be The Day (Later Version)
Learning the Game (demo version)
Learning the Game (overdubbed version)
That´s What they Say (Demo Version)
That´s What They Say (1960)
That´s What they Say (Slightly better 1963 Version)


Caught between Petty's bossiness and a label dispute (taped phone call with the president of Decca) Buddy, broke and disillusioned, went on the badly planned and underfunded Midwestern tour that killed him. Graphic Footage of Crashsite

Buddy Holly remains a reminder of the high price that a musician pays for being an iconoclast in a business that rarely rewards real originality.

More overdubs and rarities:
Peggy Sue Got Married (Demo)
Peggy Sue Got Married (Album)
Words Of Love (Demo)
Words Of Love (LP version)
Slippin' and slidin' (Slow Version)
Slippin' and slidin' (Fast Version) (overdubbed in the 60s)
Down The Line (Demo #1)
I'm Gonna Put My Foot Down (overdubbed in 1983)
Love Is Strange (Demo)
Buddy Holly And The Three Tunes - Rock Around With Ollie Vee (pre-Crickets)
Wait Till The Sun Shines Nellie (Demo recorded in January, 1959)
Buddy at 14 years old doing Two Timin Woman
posted by Potomac Avenue (38 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, I've only just glanced at some of your links so far, but I can tell this is a great post. Good on ya for making it, PA, and thanks.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:04 PM on January 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's gotta mean something when so many of these clips come not from a fellow Texan, but from a fan in Hamburg, and a detail-oriented fan at that.

If we forget Buddy Holly, what will our point of reference be for that Rivers Cuomo look?
posted by filthy light thief at 2:20 PM on January 30, 2009


You can follow @buddyholly on twitter. The tweets come from on of the people who worked on the project you link to in you "rabid fans" link.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:22 PM on January 30, 2009


The Civil Aeronautics Board report on the crash. The non-instrument-rated pilot had to rely on this back-ass artificial horizon.
posted by exogenous at 2:23 PM on January 30, 2009


I always love Rock Around with Ollie Vee. What a great song. Too bad he died so young.
posted by caddis at 2:25 PM on January 30, 2009


Oh crud I forgot also:

Previously 1
Previously 2
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:26 PM on January 30, 2009


I was completely unaware of his struggles with his label, and I'm happy to see comparable tracks placed side by side here. Fascinating stuff.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:32 PM on January 30, 2009


but should the rest of us still care?

I wonder about the artists whose musical style he copied -- like the Ink Blots, the Penguins, the Orioles, the original black artists who didn't get the hagiography treatment and who died in obscurity. Did they care much about Holly?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 2:40 PM on January 30, 2009


Waylon Jennings was supposed to be on that flight. I believe that he was also staying at that same NYC apartment with Buddy when he recorded those demos.
posted by cell divide at 2:41 PM on January 30, 2009


Nothing to add of any value other than to say that I love Buddy Holly's music.

so many of these clips come not from a fellow Texan, but from a fan in Hamburg, and a detail-oriented fan at that.

Sadly, I think a lot of Texans (and Americans) take Buddy Holly for granted.
posted by pineapple at 2:47 PM on January 30, 2009


When I was in high school and very rabid and opinionated about music, we would say things like:

"Iggy is God"

"Elvis (Costello) is God"

"Jeff Beck is God"

Even typing that out feels kind of silly, I'm glad I outgrew that.

Buddy Holly is God
posted by marxchivist at 2:49 PM on January 30, 2009


Apparently the apartment is still there. I think I may take a trip up to new york to knock on the door this weekend and see what happens.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:50 PM on January 30, 2009


Waylon Jennings was supposed to be on that flight. I believe that he was also staying at that same NYC apartment with Buddy when he recorded those demos.

Jennings also told Holly "I hope your damn plane crashes" before the fateful flight, after Holly joked "I hope your old bus breaks down."
posted by xmutex at 2:50 PM on January 30, 2009


"He was signed to Decca's Nashville division and recorded three sessions, produced by Owen Bradley, during 1956. He wasn't happy with the results..."

Too bad he didn't like 'em, because those sessions are pure, textbook rockabilly. They are core sample rockabilly. They bounce around just right. Compare the Decca version of "That'll be the Day" with the later, Norman Petty version. The latter just plods. I'm not saying anything bad about later Buddy, but early Buddy played like a real hillbilly cat.
posted by shambles at 2:52 PM on January 30, 2009


I choose to believe that Six String Samurai contains the truest depiction of Buddy Holly's life: a katana wielding musician crossing the remnants of the United States after the brutal nuclear exchange with Russia in 1957 left large sections of it a wasteland, he finds himself making his way to Nevada, fighting cannibal and astronauts, all to take his place as the King of Las Vegas after the death of the previous regent; Elvis Presley.

So, you know, it's kind of a dull historical drama, but still pretty good.
posted by quin at 2:53 PM on January 30, 2009


great post. so much great music in such a short time, it's hard to comprehend. You can have your Elvis, Holly wrote the songs and sang them and they are still great.
posted by cogneuro at 2:54 PM on January 30, 2009


but should the rest of us still care?

n... no? is that the right answer?
posted by shmegegge at 3:15 PM on January 30, 2009


n... no? is that the right answer?

No.
posted by brennen at 3:25 PM on January 30, 2009


Buddy Holly means a lot to me and to music. Bob Dylan does not. In fact Bob Dylan is overblown and I'd wager meaningless to my generation, whereas Buddy Holly is still salient.
posted by plexi at 3:27 PM on January 30, 2009


n... no? is that the right answer?

No.


oh thank god. I was really afraid I was wrong for still caring. damn those trick questions!
posted by shmegegge at 3:30 PM on January 30, 2009


It's been 50 years (on Tuesday) since Buddy Holly died.

Just for clarification -- this coming Tuesday (Feb. 2) and not two days ago.
posted by ericb at 3:39 PM on January 30, 2009


A long, long time ago...
I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And, maybe, they’d be happy for a while.

But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver.
Bad news on the doorstep;
I couldn’t take one more step.

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died....
posted by ericb at 3:41 PM on January 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Err ... three days ago.
posted by ericb at 3:41 PM on January 30, 2009


My favorite Buddy demo:
You're the One
(With Waylon doing the hand claps - segues into later overdubbed versions)
posted by squalor at 3:44 PM on January 30, 2009


should the rest of us still care?

I, for one, don't care 'bout that.
posted by notswedish at 4:33 PM on January 30, 2009


Wow. Stonking post. Thank you so much.
posted by motty at 5:22 PM on January 30, 2009


Great post. I've always liked what I'd heard of Holly, but never actually had any. The difference between the demos and the syrup is pretty stunning. I think I'll try to pick up the collection if I get a chance. Thanks.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:29 PM on January 30, 2009


I love Buddy Holly. "True Love Ways" was the song my wife and I (well, mostly I) chose for the first dance at our wedding.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:16 PM on January 30, 2009


plexi writes: Buddy Holly means a lot to me and to music. Bob Dylan does not. In fact Bob Dylan is overblown and I'd wager meaningless to my generation

How unfortunate for your generation. But I'd wager that you don't necessarily speak for your generation, whatever that generation may be. And, anyway, even if you do, I'd still wager that some fine day, when your *generation* reaches a point where they can appreciate the work of one of the finest songwriters America has ever produced, he will no longer be "meaningless" to them. Cause there's plenty of "meaning" to be found in the extraordinary body of work the man has created throughout his long and fruitful career.

At any rate, comparing Bob Dylan to Buddy Holly (who was also great, but for entirely different reasons) seems an absurd thing to do. Like, say, comparing Leonard Cohen to Elvis Presley.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:40 PM on January 30, 2009


Explanation/speculation on American Pie.
posted by ecorrocio at 8:41 PM on January 30, 2009


quin: thanks for that. In a similar vein, there's Buddy Holly Is Alive and Well in Ganymede.

I was bought up on Buddy Holly, and I realise that the ones that die young are forever untarnished, but I do wonder just what he would have accomplished had he lived. I like to believe he would have struck out in new directions, as the Beatles did a decade later, rather than going down Elvis' schmaltzy/Vegas path. His death may just have robbed us of a completely new genre of popular music.
posted by Leon at 11:34 PM on January 30, 2009


Another before/after example, and my favourite track from the apartment tapes: Smokey Joe's Cafe.

The demo is deft and sly, while the overdubbed version sounds like he being held at gunpoint by the goddamn Coasters. Oh well, it made sense at the time, I suppose. We prefer geeks-with-guitars to doo-wop these days.
posted by Leon at 11:49 PM on January 30, 2009


"Peggy Sue" live on Arthur Murray Dance Party, 1957.
Weezer, "Buddy Holly" live.

Trailer for The Buddy Holly Story.

His last name was actually spelled "Holley," but Decca spelled it wrong on his contract so he went with it so the checks would clear.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:43 AM on January 31, 2009


I'm fortunate enough to have a color repro (at least, I think its a repro) of the 1959 "Winter Dance Party" poster from the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, IA - Feb 2, 1959, Buddy's last performance.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:17 PM on January 31, 2009


NPR on the aviation aspects of the accident.

However, I think he made a minor error (in this context) regarding the back-ass attitude indicator (artificial horizon): he said it had an an opposite indication for turns, but I think the turns were indicated correctly and the pitch had an opposite indication (see links in my other comment).
posted by exogenous at 5:41 AM on February 4, 2009


All week long all over the tv and radio it's been Buddy Holly this and Richie Valens that, but how come I haven't heard Chantilly Lace once?
posted by Pollomacho at 5:49 AM on February 4, 2009


Well, not that absurd.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddy_Holly#Influence
posted by device55 at 7:29 AM on February 4, 2009


Coverville has done a Buddy Holly Cover Story.
posted by geekyguy at 9:47 AM on February 6, 2009


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