Friday, January 6, 2012

Song #76 of 9999 - Cathy's Clown by The Everly Brothers

Song #76 of 9999

Title: Cathy's Clown
Artist: The Everly Brothers
Year: 1960
Album: N/A - single release

With fifty years of retrospection, it's often tempting to think The Beatles just appeared out of nowhere, making amazing music like the world had never imagined. The truth is, The Beatles were heavily influenced by American artists whose models not only shaped The Beatles' sound but also their songwriting. The former is well-known and documented: The Beatles learned, performed and re-recorded so many Chuck Berry and Little Richard records from the 1950s and the influence of these artists is clearly heard in the sound of the early Beatles records. But it's the songwriting influence that is less often acknowledged and, although the source is still American, it came from the early 1960s.

There is a recording of John Lennon talking about writing "Please Please Me" where he admits to basically trying to write a song that sounds like Roy Orbison. In the interview, Lennon sings the chorus in the style of Orbison, slowing the tempo and mimicking Orbison's falsetto. It's a very interesting insight not obviously heard in the finished George Martin-produced smash. A more obvious influence on the song (and many more to come) is the close vocal harmony of The Everly Brothers. Think about the opening lines of "Please Please Me" with the high harmony droning over the descending main melody. Then listen to "Cathy's Clown," paying particular attention to the sustained word "love" in the first line. The songs are eerily similar in their approach.

Obviously, The Beatles would go on to master the genre and rightfully deserve the accolades that came with their incredible output. But it is really interesting to look at these American records of the early 1960s and see just how influential they were to John and Paul.

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