Today’s song is in tribute to Phil Everly who died yesterday, six days short of his 75th birthday. I have to confess that I was never a fan of the Everly Brothers—which is not to say I disliked them, just that their heyday had come and gone by the time I started listening to music in a serious, collecting fashion. My “retrospect” pretty much stopped at the British Invasion, 1964, when I was 5. Anything before that was too retro for me to get into much. And anyway, I didn’t need to listen to the Everlys that much because I got them filtered through The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel, who leaned on them quite a bit. So hearing the Everly Brothers was always fun, and perhaps no song more than “Wake Up, Little Susie” (1957), which is probably the song I most readily associate with them. Into my teens if someone asked “who were the Everly Brothers?” I would’ve answered, “they did ‘Wake Up, Little Susie.’” That’s about all I knew for sure.
|Phil and Don Everly|
My choice of “Bye Bye Love” (1957) has to do with my mood, sure (this entire exercise of a “song of the day” is nothing if not based on whim), but it also has to do with the way that song has come down to me: through the very spirited cover of it on Simon & Garfunkel’s epic Bridge Over Troubled Water LP (1970)—the first version of the song I heard, and still the one I know best. And through the use of the song, very memorably (as “Bye Bye Life”), at the close of Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz (1979). In other words, both those sources update the song into “my era,” and so I have stronger associations with this song than any other Everly Brothers hit.
Even when I first heard it, by Simon & Garfunkel, the song sounded dated but in that refreshing way in which “the Fifties” were being rehabilitated in the early Seventies. It was the first talk—in that ersatz, media buzz way—of “nostalgia” that I can remember. The Fifties were gone because the people who made the Fifties the Fifites were all middle-aged. Like the Eighties now. There’s always a tripartite division in these things: 1) the people who are influential in a given period but who grew up in a different period, with heroes long gone by the time they make the scene; 2) then the people growing up hearing the newly influential people, who will forever associate those people with the era—like the Everly Brothers for the Fifties, or The Beatles for the Sixties, or Michael Jackson for the Eighties; 3) then the people who find, as they come of age, some charm in a period they might have been alive in (as infants), or just missed: like people my age felt about the Fifties when we became teens. So, “Bye Bye Love” comes filtered to me by guys—Paul Simon, Bob Fosse—who probably went on dates to its strains, and, while it didn’t send me off to court the byways of Fifties’ pop sensations, they certainly passed along how great the song is.
“There goes my baby / With someone new / She sure looks happy / I sure am blue / She was my baby / Til he stepped in / Goodbye to romance / That might have been.” Does it get any more concise than that? In love there’s always a winner and a loser. But, in all our fields of endeavor, there’s always “someone new”—and “she” is inevitably stepping out with “him,” to our lasting consternation. Daddies often feel this way about their daughter’s boyfriends, for instance, and certainly we—as jealous producers and or consumers of things—can feel that way when “the new kid in town” (or “on the block,” if you wish) comes along and knocks some “king” off his perch. Paul Simon put this all into a nutshell with: “every generation throws a hero up the pop charts.” And he should know.
The thing about this infectious little nugget is that, in bidding adieu to “love,” it makes the case that, as they say, “rock’n’roll can never die.” “I’m through with romance,” sure, but I’m gonna bop about it: “and here’s the reason that I’m so free / My lovin’ baby is through with me.” So…whatcha doin’ tonight?
If pop music taught us anything it was that there was always another song, another favorite, another hit, another hitmaker, another pop hero, another femme fatale, another leader of the pack to pick up where the old one left off. “Hello emptiness, I feel like I could die, bye bye, my love, goodbye.” This has to be one of the catchiest lovelorn apologias ever. It’s a gauntlet thrown, alright. Spawning who knows how many chipper, get-over-it ditties. Hey yeah, daddy-o, it’s the cat’s meow.