“Searching for the Perfect Buddy Holly Collection, Thinking Tenuously That I’ve Got it Pinned down to 20 Golden Greats: Buddy Holly Lives.”

Do you ever get in a Pavement mood, not in a pretentious, Pitchfork-coddling sort of way, but in a genuine tizzy where you really want to hear their music? Earlier tonight I found myself in the latter category, or so I hope… I wanted something a little faster and more sonically robust than the albeit great Jicks album from Sparkle Hard this year, something a little less juvenile than Slanted & Enchanted, not Terror Twilight ’cause that was my Sunday album on this blog and not Wowee Zowee or Brighten the Corners ’cause I’ve listened to both of those albums over 100 times. This left Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, which would usually be a finely peppered slab of indie pop fit for man or beast.
Something, though, tonight in me, generated a certain compunction before this particular musical expedition, and that is that the first song, “Silence Kid,” is basically a complete rip off of “Everyday,” what I consider the best Buddy Holly song by a considerable margin [1]. So it was done: I had to listen to Buddy Holly instead of Pavement, although in my experience such a practice has been hazardous to say the least, for mainly just the snag of nobody having whittled his catalogue (which isn’t really that vast, at the end of the day) down to the absolute choice cuts.
The first amusing thing I found about Holly when looking him up on Wikipedia was that while boasting all of three studio albums in his career (he was killed in a plane crash in ’59 about five years after becoming a professional musician), he or those representing him can name 29 different compilations albums (meaning greatest hits packages and rarities collections, et. al.) pumping out his music. I’d be very surprised if any other artist in history could boast such a startling ratio of those two entities.
My search then got really puzzling as I found one of the early featured comps, The Buddy Holly Story, on Spotify to actually be comprised of these RENDITIONS of his songs, versions which had apparently landed in some musical. Just thinking back to some CD I have which was a greatest hits type thing I got the idea to maybe just check out one of his studio albums so I went for 1958’s Buddy Holly, which had my main squeeze “Everyday” on it. This was a big mistake, as said album also contained “I’m Gonna Love You Too.” I’ll explain later, if I get around to it.
The next appealing-looking best-of down the line on Wikipedia was what they just called 20 Golden Greats. I’m a huge fan of Chuck Berry’s The Great Twenty-Eight, so this one won some points right off the bat for its similarity to that one in title. In scrolling through the track list, I found that it didn’t contain “I’m Gonna Love You Too.” This is a feather in its cap. I mean what is this guy, like a porn star?
Everybody knows the opener “That’ll Be the Day”… I find it a little bit corny as an ’80s baby, not to mention sort of depressing for its complete male subservience to woman in relationships, but certainly listenable and pleasing enough in this setting for sentimentality purposes, anyway. “Peggy Sue” takes off in slot two with its surf style guitar and the song moves along buoyantly enough, one perk of it being its chord progression which gave birth to the one in The Clash’s “Jimmy Jazz.” I’d actually never heard that exact change by any other band before, but I’d notice that it would surface in “Everyday,” too. Intriguingly as how on 20 Golden Greats Holly actually covers Bo Diddley’s namesake song, this set of chords could easily then be dubbed the “Buddy Holly Chord Progression.”
Then, after the classic “Not Fade away” which would be picked up by the Stones in the ’60s and the Dead in the ‘70s (though yes written by Holly and his band the Crickets) you get “Oh Boy!,” which obviously just sounds hopelessly cheesy like something some kid on The Sandlot would say but actually ends up being a decently passable virile rawker about wanting to make out. I thought the album dragged a little bit with “Maybe Baby” there (although I give him credit for stylishly pulling off this phonetic juxtaposition as if it were completely natural there), miring somewhat in the doo-wop territory sort of static both in subject matter (romance) and structure (proto-Motown pop), so I thought I’d skip ahead to side b and “True Love Ways,” which reminded me of a song by Radiohead “True Love Waits.” This song was listenable enough. The next tune, “Peggy Sue Got Married,” is interesting again in terms of Chuck Berry because he did the same thing with “Johnny B. Goode”: wrote a song about one of his subjects which chronicles the subject’s exploits later in life, his particular installment being the tale of going off to college known as “Bye Bye Johnny.” For the record, I’d give the edge to Holly here, if we were to pit these two songs against each other.
As I alluded to before, the end of the album was pretty interesting: it’s got that Bo Diddley cover which was awesome, with some snakelike guitar work, and then a Chuck Berry cover of “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” which I didn’t really care for though which should garner accolades for just spreading the rock and roll love in general. “Wishing,” then, the closeur, might be my second favorite Buddy Holly song to “Everyday,” and what’s more, tense, jazzy and nowhere near as corny as you’d expect a Buddy Holly album finale to be. There, I got through almost a whole Buddy Holly album I can stand, and I didn’t even do it as a way of being a sort of uber Weezer fan. No, I swear.
[1] Although the grammarians out there will dutifully point out that the correct phrasing is actually “every day,” when you’re talking about a collection of days and not an item that’s commonplace and understandable.

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