Remembering The Everly Brothers

I wasn’t going to mark the sad death of Don Everly on Saturday… because I was under the mistaken impression that his brother Phil was still with us. When I realised that Phil had died in 2014 it became clear that they needed a ‘Remembering’.

When you can count The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys and Simon & Garfunkel among the many acts you’ve influenced, then you must have had something special going on. (Keith Richards called Don one of the finest ever rhythm guitarists, while John Lennon and Paul McCartney used to pull girls as teenagers by claiming that they were the ‘British Everly Brothers’.) Their country-ish harmonies were a huge part of the rock ‘n’ roll years – go on, listen to them combine on ‘Cathy’s Clown’ below! Being brothers was a blessing – those harmonies – and a curse – they spend decades not recording, or touring, or even talking to one another…

The duo scored four UK number ones between 1958-’61, and I won’t repeat myself by talking about them again. You can read the original posts here:

‘All I Have to Do Is Dream’

‘Cathy’s Clown’

‘Walk Right Back’ / ‘Ebony Eyes’


Here are some great, non-chart toppers from the brothers… (Because I’m hastily throwing this together, I won’t follow my usual rules of the songs having to have charted in the UK. Let’s be crazy for an evening!)

‘Bye Bye Love’, 1957

Chosen for self-indulgent reasons… This was one of the very first – and very few – songs I mastered on the keyboard as a child. A simple tune (that’s probably why it was book one, song one of ‘Keyboards for Dummies’) beautifully rendered.

Bird Dog’, 1958

The tale of Johnny: who is the funniest, cheekiest, coolest dude in school – making him a bird – but who is also hitting on the singer’s girl – thus a dog. I picked this over the pair’s other, more-famous tale of high school woe, ‘Wake Up Little Susie’ (which is also great) because this one rocks just that bit more.

‘When Will I Be Loved’, 1960

Some good ol’ fashioned rockabilly. I love the heavy, deliberate guitars, and the insistent, almost tribal drums. They re-recorded it when they moved labels, to RCA, but the original was the one released. The newer version is bluesier – here’s a link.

‘Don’t Blame Me’, 1961

The Everlys loved a ballad… ‘Love Hurts’, ‘Let It Be Me’, ‘Crying in the Rain’… But I picked this cover of a ’30s standard for some of their greatest harmonies, the guitar work (not actually from Don or Phil, but Hank Garland), and the bridge where Don really lets loose…

‘I’m Not Angry’, 1962

Not a hit, I don’t think, coming at the end of their glory days. But how filthy and scratchy is the guitar here, in this tale of pettiness? The boys hope that the girl who just dumped them doesn’t get letters, or phone-calls, that her dress rips and her car won’t start, but they’re not angry… just sad. Whatever…


121. ‘Temptation’, by The Everly Brothers

We kick of the next thirty chart-toppers – and a whole New Year! – with the duo that claimed Best Disc from the previous thirty. Since ‘Cathy’s Clown’ the Everly Brothers have really hit their stride in moving away from their country roots, creating a signature sound that blends their gorgeous melodies with meaty drums and beefy, rock ‘n’ roll guitars. ‘Temptation’ is the latest glorious manifestation of this…


Temptation, by The Everly Brothers (their 4th and final #1)

2 weeks, from 20th July  – 3rd August 1961

We start with perhaps one of the most instant intros we’ve heard yet. Frantic drums, guitar licks, yelps from the brothers, and a dirty little bass riff. Yeah Yeah Yeah Ah! You’re hooked from the off. You came, I was alo-one, I should have known, You were temptation… Cast your mind back to the cutesy mooning of ‘All I Have to Do Is Dream’ and then listen to this. Don and Phil have truly grown-up!

Then the best bit of the whole song. They pull the same trick as on ‘Cathy’s Clown’ – after a calm, measured first verse they whip it up a notch or five… It would be… Thrilling! If you were willing… But if it can never be, Then pi-i-i-ty me… They way those lines are sung. That is temptation. It makes me want to kiss my fingers like a chef who has just tasted the perfect Béchamel sauce.

This is a song that was hidden away in the middle of the brothers’ Greatest Hits that I bought in my teens. A song that I’ve always liked but kind of allowed to pass me by whenever it popped up in a playlist. Getting the chance to properly listen to ‘Temptation’ – their fourth and (shock, horror!) final UK #1 – has allowed me to realise just how good it is. Just how good they were. This a full-on rock song: a heavy riff, banging drums and fevered lyrics about a siren leading Don and Phil astray, with the brothers going fairly willingly to their doom.

By the end, they are leaving the singing to their backing vocalists, who are possibly the most old-fashioned aspect of this record. I’m yours, Here is my heart, Take it and say, ‘We’ll never part…’ Shrill voices that we last heard on Eddie Fisher’s prehistoric early number ones. Then we end with the brothers singing about being slaves, before fading out with more frenzied, delirious Yeah Yeah Yeah Ah!s It really does sound like they are being driven mad with temptation. It really is a brilliant disc.


I was shocked – shocked I say – to discover just two minutes ago that this is yet another #1 to have been written decades earlier. ‘Temptation’ sounds so modern, so daring, that I can’t imagine it having been written in 1933 and first recorded by Bing Crosby. But it was. You can listen to the original here – it’s very Arabian Nights, and not without its charms – but it’s a wonderful illustration of how much popular music has changed since the arrival of rock ‘n’ roll.

With that, then, the Everly Brothers take their leave. It seems criminal that they didn’t have at least another couple of chart-toppers… ‘Wake Up Little Susie’? ‘(Till) I Kissed You’? ‘When Will I Be Loved’? All worthy of a shot at the top. In a way, ‘Temptation’ may have hastened their descent from the top. Their manager was opposed to the song’s release, as he didn’t stand to make any money from such an old song’s publishing rights. When the brothers forced the single’s release through, he barred them from working with the songwriters who had helped to create pretty much every one of their hits thus far. So despite, or perhaps because of, the brilliance of ‘Temptation’, the Everly Brothers will only have a couple more British Top 10s following this, and will be a spent-force by the time Merseybeat rolls around. Except. Pretty much every star with a guitar from the sixties and beyond – The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, The Bee Gees, The Hollies and many, many more – will owe Don and Phil a huge debt.

We’ll leave them here, then. Picture them with their guitars slung over their shoulders, harmonising as they stroll into the sunset… (until they have a huge argument and refuse to work together for most of the 1970s… but hey, let’s not spoil the nice image.)

114. ‘Walk Right Back’ / ‘Ebony Eyes’, by The Everly Brothers

The Everly Brothers, clearly working on the ‘if it ain’t broke’ principal of hit-record making, return with their third UK chart-topper. Their second – ‘Cathy’s Clown’ – was so good, so seismically bloody brilliant, that who could blame them for trying to repeat the trick?


Walk Right Back / Ebony Eyes, by The Everly Brothers (their 3rd of four #1s)

3 weeks, from 2nd – 23rd March 1961

And yet ‘Walk Right Back’ is not simply a blow-by-blow remake. The marching rhythm remains – albeit in a much lighter shade – and the drums are every bit as commanding. But this is great little record in its own right.

I want you to tell me why you walked out on me, I’m so lonesome every da-a-ay… I want you to know that since you walked out on me, Nothin’ seems to be the same ol’ way… Are they perhaps pining over Cathy? Has she finally quit toying with them, and moved on to another guy? (Why do I always picture the Everly Brothers dating the same woman…?)

What’s for sure is that they’ve both grown a pair since the days of ‘Cathy’s Clown’. The chorus comes, and they positively demand that she: Walk right back to me this minute, Bring your love to me don’t send it… The harmonies remain strong, this is clearly the Everly’s in mid-season form – their imperious phase – and it stands a cut above most of what we’ve heard recently on this countdown. Take, for example, ‘Poetry in Motion’: a perfectly acceptable, catchy pop song. But it’s a class below this. This is high quality pop music; better than 90% of its contemporaries in a way that’s as undeniable as it is hard to explain.

The song ends on a fade-out, the brothers bemoaning that they’re so lonesome every day… And that’s that. I apologise for rushing, but we do have the flip side of this disc to get to. A song that’s nowhere near as good; but which will be much more fun to write about. ‘Ebony Eyes’ sounds, before you listen, like pure B-side fodder. And it is. But in the best possible way…


On a weekend pass… (yep, they’re in the army now)… I wouldn’t have had time, To get home and marry, That baby of mine, So I went to the chaplain, And he authorised, Me to send for my ebony eyes… And so, Ebony Eyes hops aboard flight 1203, to Don’s, or Phil’s (or both’s?) army base. In an hour or two, I would whisper ‘I do’, To my beautiful ebony eyes…

This is soppy drivel. We’re back in the realm of ‘All I Have to Do Is Dream’, the Everly’s first chart-topper, which was a world away from the brilliance of their current hits. But… What’s that? In an extended spoken word section, the brothers describe the ensuing events. I kind of want to type it out verbatim, it’s that good – but I’ll refrain. Here are the highlights:

The plane was way overdue, So I went inside to the airlines desk… They probably took off late, or they may have run into some turbulent weather, and had to alter their course… And then – a genuinely harrowing description of a plane-crash from the victims’ families POV: I went back outside and I waited at the gate, and I watched the beacon light from the control tower as it whipped through the dark ebony skies… he has to slow down here, to wait for the backing singers… As. If. It. Were. Searching. For… My eeeeboooony eyes… And then came the announcement over the loudspeaker, That those having relatives or friends on flight 1203…

Yup. Powerful stuff. We’ve got another death-disc here, folks. A Grade-A splatter-platter (brilliant term, that) which got banned from British radio for being a bit too graphic. We’ve had the goofy ‘Running Bear’, the toe-curlingly awful ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’, and now this. And just when you think this heartfelt and very natural sounding spoken word section is about to redeem the genre, and turn it into something with some musical merit about it, they start singing again.

If I ever get, To heaven I bet, The first angel I recognise… Yeah yeah, blah blah, it’s Ebony Eyes. Whatever. It kinda ruins it. But hey. This does what every good double ‘A’-side should do: places a big, proper hit alongside a completely different, slightly left-of-centre ditty. Apparently – and I can’t see why anyone thought this would be a good idea – ‘Walk Right Back’ was originally meant to be the ‘B’-side! Still, it’s always nice to hear from the Everlys, and it’s a bit sad to realise that we’ll only be seeing them once more on this countdown. ‘Till then, Don and Phil, ‘till then…

101. ‘Cathy’s Clown’, by The Everly Brothers

I could write this next post without even listening to the record in question. So well do I know this song, I can play it from start to finish in my head. And yet I will listen to it – not just for completeness’ sake; but because it’s a work of art that I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing for a while.


Cathy’s Clown, by The Everly Brothers (their 2nd of four #1s)

7 weeks, from 5th May – 23rd June 1960

It’s a song in two, intertwining parts. Two parts that contrast, and yet complement. That link perfectly yet offer the listener something completely different. But before all this, though, there’s the intro. That intro. There are songs without intros, there are songs whose intros pass you by, and there are songs with memorable intros. Like this one. An intro that swaggers in, with a beefy bass and drums straight from a military parade – an intro that makes sure you’re ready and listening for the main event.

And what an event. Don’t want your lo-o-o-o-o-ove anymore, Don’t want your ki-i-i-i-i-ses that’s for sure… I’m sure that entire theses have been written on ‘The Harmonies and Vocal Stylings of The Everly Brothers’ and that I have nothing new to offer. But still. Wow. This is where to look if you’re wondering just what all the fuss is about. Phil holds the note and Don does his thing.

I die each time, I hear this sound… Here he co-o-o-o-o-mes, That’s Cathy’s clown… Those dum-ding-ding-dings (that tinny, oh-so-early sixties guitar again) between the first two lines here always gets me. And then…

I gotta stand tall, You know a man can’t crawl… The harmonies are gone. Now it’s a pure rock ‘n’ roll track. The voice growls and spits, like a boxer psyching himself up. And the piano, straight outta honky-tonk, whips us along. For when he knows you’re tellin’ lies, An’ he hears em’ passin’ by, He’s not a man at all…

Then the drums snap back in and we’re harmonising again. Don’t want your love… End chorus. Then pause. Just the voice: When you see me shed a tear… Add piano. Get swinging. Don’t you think it’s kinda sad, That you’re treatin’ me so bad, Or don’t you even care…? Where the first verse is aggressive, the second is rueful. Maybe she really doesn’t care. Maybe the singer really is Cathy’s clown?


It’s been two years since we first met the Everlys, with the wistful, boyish, country-tinged ‘All I Have to Do Is Dream’. This record is clearly by the same two brothers, with the same honeyed voices – but now they’re all grown up. ‘Cathy’s Clown’ was their first disc with Warner Brothers, and I’d assume that the label would have asked their new act for a big first single. A statement of intent. Boy, did they get one. This, in case the preceding paragraphs haven’t made it clear, is perfection. Time-capsule pop.

Actually, that’s an idea. ‘Time-capsule pop’. Records worthy of being preserved in a titanium container and buried under Big Ben ahead of civilisation’s collapse. Songs that transcend the genre of ‘pop’ – that are catchy without being cheesy, that are cool without trying too hard, clever without going all airy-fairy, sexy without being vulgar… songs that are basically impossible for human beings to dislike. We’ll meet a few more, every so often, but – gazing quickly back down my list – I think ‘Cathy’s Clown’ is the first. (I might make a belated case for ‘Such a Night’, or maybe ‘That’ll Be the Day’, let’s see.)

I’m glad that this is neither the first nor the last time that we hear from The Everly Brothers in this countdown. I’m glad I can just leave it at that, without wandering off into biography or background. Just click the link below and enjoy one of the best songs ever written.

73. ‘All I Have to Do Is Dream’, by The Everly Brothers


All I Have to Do Is Dream, by The Everly Brothers (their 1st of four #1s)

7 weeks, from 4th July – 22nd August 1958 (including 1 week joint with Vic Damone from 4th – 11th July)

We have an opening chord, then a pause… And then those voices. Those harmonious voices. The Everly Brothers certainly could harmonise.

Dre-e-e-eam, Dream, Dream, Dream, Dream…. Dre-e-e-eam, Dream, Dream, Dre-eam….

This is undeniably a classic, and most people will at least be familiar with the dream dream dream refrain. It’s also a very simple song. A song in which a lover, starved of attention from the object of his desires, turns to dreaming about her. All he has to do is dream. When I want you, In my arms, When I want you, And all your charms, Whenever I want you, All I have to do, Is dre-e-e-eam… You know what this song is going to be about just by glancing at the title. Simple. As.

I can make you mine, Taste your lips of wine, Anytime… Night or day… The Everlys sing (Is it Phil? Or Don? Or Both? Those harmonies are so damn tight they sound like the same voice) before delivering the classic line: Only trouble is, Gee Whizz, I’m dreamin’ my life away… Can we have a shout out for that ‘Gee Whizz’! So dorky; yet so appropriate. So ‘All-American-Boy-Next-Door’.

I’m going to go out on a limb here, and make a bold statement. That this record, ‘All I Have to Do Is Dream’, is the perfect fusion of rock and pre-rock. I’ve been continually mentioning that all through 1958 we’ve had a couple of rock ‘n’ roll #1s here, a couple of easy-listening, croony #1s there. Never before, though, have we had both styles melded together in the one record. This is it. This is where the previous seventy chart-topping records have been leading us. We’ve arrived. Bear with me…


Musically, this is rock ‘n’ roll (very gentle, very country-tinged rock ‘n’ roll, but still) sung by a couple of fresh-faced young things. Don Everly was twenty-one when this hit the top spot, Phil was nineteen. But lyrically this is the same kind of schmaltz guys like Al Martino and Eddie Fisher were churning out back in 1952. Take the line: I need you so, That I could die, I love you so, And that is why… Melodramatic or what? I get that it’s trying to convey the helpless passion of a teenage crush; but I much prefer the cocksure swagger that The Crickets brought to ‘That’ll Be the Day’, or the cynical shrug of the shoulders offered by The Teenagers on ‘Why Do Fools Fall in Love’.

How long have I known this song? I’ve no idea. Forever? It’s always been there; though it isn’t a song I’d ever rush to listen to. It’s just a little too much on the cheesy side for me, thanks. Structurally, it is an AABA song which I believe, though I’m no songwriter, is code for ‘a bit basic’. It will, though, always remind me of karaoke sessions from my days teaching in Thailand. Along with Andy Williams and The Carpenters, ‘All I Have to Do Is Dream’ was one of the few English songs that my Thai colleagues knew. That’s quite a good barometer of a song’s fame, isn’t it? ‘It’s popular, but do they sing it at karaoke in Thailand?’

Personally, I see this record as Everly Brothers MK I. They’ve yet to hit their stride. They will be back at the top of the UK charts on three more occasions, each time with a song better than this one. They will return with a slightly harder edge, and with huskier voices. There will be no disputing that they are a rock ‘n’ roll act by then. In fact, the next time we hear from them they will be topping the charts with – hands down – one of the best pop songs ever recorded…