Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Rock & Roll! - A Brown Eyed, Handsome Man

I got the idea for today's 50s Rocker-A-Day post while perusing the streaming movies that Netflix was offering. I settled on The Buddy Holly story, which I remember having seen on TV when I was a kid and really liking it quite a bit. I only got to watch a bit, and I look forward to watching the rest tonight. The pleasant thing about this whole experiences is that once again it hit me just how great Buddy Holly is.

I guess I tend to forget about the fact that he's one of my favorites. I think that much of this is due to the fact that his career was so short-lived, and I only have one 20-song compilation of his. He doesn't have such a sizeable body of work like some of my other favorites like The Beatles, Pearl Jam, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and The Who. Basically what happens is that every now and then I pull out that CD and give it a listen, and since that's the only one I have, I don't have another to listen to when I'm all done. With a band like The Beatles, I'll listen to Revolver and then think to myself, "Hey! Beatles for Sale is really great too! I should listen to that next!" No such equivalent with Buddy, unfortunately. (However, I just did an Amazon.com search and apparently there is a ton of other stuff out there. I need to look into it some more before I consider buying it. Is it stuff that was left on the cutting room floor - and therefore belonged there? Or is it like Jimi Hendrix's cutting-room floor stuff that's still pretty damned awesome?)

I think that a lot of people from my generation don't necessarily realize just how important Buddy Holly was. Sure, his career was short-lived due to that tragic plane crash, but he went on to influence the entire next generation of musicians. It's no coincidence that one of the best tracks on Beatles for Sale is "Words of Love" - a Buddy Holly tune.

I think that part of the problem is that many people of my generation (and subsequent ones) don't realize is how revolutionary and downright dangerous rock and roll was back then. Fifties rock has become such a part of our collective unconscious that we associate it with what you hear in the grocery store and jingles for commercials. We rarely just listen to it and consider its merits - especially within its historical context.

One of the smartest CD purchases I ever made was a boxed set called Loud, Fast, and Out of Control. It's a compilation of 50s rock, and it's all the stuff that upset conservatives and convinced parents that their children would be hellbound if they continued to listen to it. You won't find mushy "Mr. Sandman" stuff on this set - just the good stuff - the stuff that's raw and aggressive. Of course, Buddy Holly makes the cut with "Brown Eyed Handsome Man", which is an excellent song.

Holly's music is one of those things that always makes me feel good whenever I hear it. Most notable are songs like "Everyday" and "Well...All Right". Still, when I listen to that 20 song compilation, I'm entertained the whole way through. The only bad thing is that it gets me to wonder what could have been. Would he still be making relevant music in the 60s and 70s, or would he have become a parody of himself like Elvis did?

And don't get mad, Elvis fans. I'm probably a bigger fan of the King. However, if we're to take an honest look at the entirety of Presley's and Holly's body of work and measure the percentage of quality to crap - Holly wins, hands-down. Maybe Elvis is a bit more of a contender if you only count his stuff from the 1950s (which is really all that I like with a few exceptions). One way or the other, the world is probably poorer for Holly's loss, as I'm sure that he must have had at least a few more good songs in him.

Oh, and yes, I have visited the Buddy Holly statue in Lubbock, Texas. No, I didn't go there for that reason, but there was no way that I wasn't going to see it.


Ingrid said...

My favorite is "Well... All Right" the backround singers are great. Have you seen the movie "La Bamba" finally?

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Yes, but it was ages ago.