Monday, 6 January 2014

Britain is a country where old men say "Goodbye" to a singer called Phil Everly and remember his lessons in teenage love

 As post Second World War baby boomer who became a teenager in 1960, I looked around and listened out in those prepubescent years, for information and guidance as to that thing called 'love', which seemed to absorb adults for much of the time and I had reason to believe would also, before long, affect me.

Phil Everly, who has died aged 74 and with his brother Don, formed a vocal partnerships, which affected me, along with millions of other teenagers on both sides of the Atlantic in the late 1950s and early '60s. What I didn't know then was that, before their breakthrough hit and million seller "Bye, Bye Love" released in 1957 when I was 11 years old, they had been chipping away at the country music scene in Nashville, Tennessee, with limited success.

Eight years before I was born in London, Phil was born in Chicago in 1939 and two years before The USA entered the Second World War and his parents, Ike and Margaret, had a popular country singing act in the 1940s. He was brought up with his older brother Don as if he was a twin, shared birthday parties and were dressed in the same clothes,

The boys attended high school at Shenandoah, Iowa, where their parents had a radio breakfast show, on which they sang from childhood and when the family had moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, the brothers met the guitarist and producer Chet Atkins and other figures on the local music scene. They were briefly signed up to Columbia, for which they made their first record, "Keep a-Lovin’ Me" in 1956 when, on the other side of the Atlantic, I was 9 years old. It but made little impact. It was in the following year that they became the first successful pop act to come out of Nashville. In that year at the age of 11 in 1957, I joined this huge South East London School, Eltham Green Comprehensive with its 2,500 pupils. After my Junior School for Boys, there were, for the first time in my school life, plenty of girls around and some of them were very pretty.
What I no doubt learnt from the 18 and 20 year old Everley Brothers from their "Bye, Bye Love"
was that, if I managed to get a girl, I would probably lose her to another lad because :
"There goes my baby with-a someone new,
She sure looks happy, I sure am blue.
She was my baby till he stepped in,
Goodbye to romance that might have been."

Graham Nash, later of the 'Hollies' and 'Crosby Stills and Nash', was a 15 year old living in Salford and recalled the effect the song had on him when he heard it at a school dance : "It was like the opening of a giant door in my soul, the striking of a chord from which I've never recovered. From the time when I first heard the Everly Brothers, I knew I wanted to make music that affected people the way the Everlys affected me."

In the same year, I also learnt that when I got my first girl and kissed her on the lips, they would taste like wine and no doubt wondeed if it would it be my Dad's homemade 'blackbeery and apple wine' ? Also, my school work would probably suffer because I would spend so much time dreaming about her because in :
"All I have to do is Dream "
"I can make you mine,
Taste your lips of wine,
Anytime night or day.
Only trouble is,
Gee whiz,
I'm dreamin' my life away."

I probably liked the American "Gee whiz" and used it conversations with my mates.

In 1959, when I was 12, they reinforced the power of kissing and the effect it would have on me in :
"Till I Kissed You"
"You don't realize what you do to me,
And I didn't realize what a kiss could be.
Mmm, ya got a way about ya,
Now I can't live without ya.
Never knew what I missed 'til I kissed ya, uh-huh,
I kissed ya, oh yeah."

In the same year I got my first indication that my 'girl to be' might not be that perfect creature, might tell lies and I would have to take it like a man :
 "Cathy's Clown"
"I've got to stand tall, you know a man can't crawl,
For when he knows you're telling lies.
And he hears them passing by,
He's not a man at all."

I also learnt that it might take some time to get real love because after being lied to, I'd also be pushed around as in :
"When Will I Be loved"
"I've been made blue, I've been lied to,
When will I be loved.
I've been turned down, I've been pushed 'round,
When will I be loved."

Here I am at the age of 14, in 1961, second in on the left and standing in front of a tall Bernard Barker. It was our school party at Victoria Station, London and about the embark on our journey to Cold War frozen Czechoslovakia. I think I had a crush on the girl on the far left. I'd already learnt that if we had a love affair and she broke my heart, there was a good chance that I'd end up crying and if I did, I'd have to keep my tears from her by "Crying in the Rain"
"If I wait for cloudy skies ,
You won't know the rain from the tears in my eyes.
You'll never know that I still love you so,
Though the heartaches remain,
I'll do my crying in the rain."

It was in 1961 that Phil and Don joined the Marines, served for about six months and then embarked on a European tour. Unbeknownst to any of us, it was while they were performing in London that Don’s addiction to amphetamines first began seriously to affect his career. Twice in 12 hours he was carted off to hospital, unconscious and then flown back to the USA, amid stories in the press that he had been struck down by food poisoning or a nervous breakdown. Phil had to finish the tour alone.

Three years later in 1964, at the age of 17, I had, by that time, learnt that gin was bitter. That blue eyed girl of mine, Heather, who lived in Halesworth Road in Lewisham, hadn't left me yet and I wouldn't see her face in every crowd until the following year as in :
"The Price of Love"
"Wine is sweet and gin is bitter
You drink all you can but you won´t forget her
You talk too much, you laugh too loud
You see her face in every crowd"

1964 was the year of arrival of the raunchier, rockier Beatles and the Rolling Stones and British invasion of the US when the suddenly the brothers' mix of pop and country was outmoded, even if their influence was glaringly obvious in a Beatles song such as 'Please Please Me', closely modelled on 'Cathy's Clown'.

Nvertheless, I still had a loyalty and when I was 18 in 1965 and had loved and lost my girl, I had to agree that :
"Love is Strange"
"Love, love is strange,
A lot of people take it for a game.
Once you get it you're in an awful fix,
After you've had  you'll never wanna quit."

'Twas true. In the years to follow, I'd never want to quit.

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