Saturday, May 13, 2017

Buddy Holly: Rave On BBC4

It's sixty years since Buddy Holly and the Crickets burst upon the world with That'll Be The Day. In just 18 months Buddy produced a string of ground breaking and highly influential records that still resonate today. The story of his life and death has been covered many times, so I was sceptical about last night's BBC4 documentary Buddy Holly: Rave On. In fact it was remarkably good, with contributions from just about everyone with a connection to Buddy who is still alive, including his widow Maria Elena, his brother Larry, Jerry Allison, Sonny Curtis and Sonny West, who co-wrote and recorded Rave On and Oh Boy. One of the most telling contributions came from Dion, who turned down the chance of taking the ill fated flight that killed Buddy, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper because of the cost - 36 dollars was a month's rent, he said. After travelling on the tour bus and hearing of the accident Dion went back to the bus to think, surrounded by the trio's possessions, including Buddy's guitar, Ritchie's jacket and the Bopper's hat.
Buddy's rise to fame from Lubbock via an unsuccessful set of recordings for Decca in Nashville and the Crickets' breakthrough relationship with Norman Petty in Clovis was well documented. Buddy's unconventional dampening effect on his Fender Stratocaster which gave his guitar work its unique sound was explained by Brian May. That'll Be The Day, on tri centre Coral, was the seventh record that he bought, he said, as he thumbed through his record box. Buddy's adoption of thick rimmed glasses was encouraged by the Everly Brothers, according to Don Everly, and there were contributions too from Duane Eddy, Paul Anka, Hank Marvin, Bob Harris and Don Mclean, who inevitably spoke about his song about 'The day the music died'. After recording with strings as a solo artist in New York who knows how Buddy's career might have developed. But it seems that financially his relationship with Petty had not gone well which led to him taking part in the Winter Dance Party tour. Maria Elena didn't travel with him as she was pregnant, later losing the baby. The plane crash was a sad end to an extraordinary and all too short career.
Buddy Holly and the Crickets toured the UK in 1958 but I was just a year or two too young to go to any of the shows so I never saw him in person. However I will never forget their appearance live on Sunday Night at the London Palladium, when they performed That'll Be The Day, Peggy Sue and Oh Boy. The first LP I owned was The Buddy Holly Story which I played endlessly. Whenever I hear any of the tracks today my mind still imagines the following one on the LP, so ingrained is it in the memory.
Earlier in the evening, BBC4 showed a compilation of live performances by rock and roll greats recorded at the BBC over the years which included some great ones I hadn't seen before and some I had. Among the best were Bo Diddley singing Bo Diddley is Crazy, Chuck doing Roll Over Beethoven, Dick Dale attacking Miserlou, Dion singing The Wanderer with Jools Holland in 2007 and Ronnie Spector with Don't Worry Baby. Also included were the Stones, the Who, Joan Jett, George Thorogood (a good version of No Particular Place To Go), Paul McCartney with a convincing version of Let's Have A Party, and Oasis. Good to see rock and roll back on the BBC


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