Sunday, April 11, 2010
Buddy Holly is one of my favorites. A unique voice for any time. His music is one of the most complex examples of the 1950's popular genre. He goes down in history as a short-lived, lovable rocker that did it his way, on his own terms....but we can not ignore the others who helped to shape that sound; his band The Crickets, especially drummer Jerry Allison, and his producer, Norman Petty. Holly's original material was fleshed out with experimental percussion, reverb trickery and double-tracked vocals that all went down in a tiny, independent studio in Clovis, New Mexico.
Peggy Sue is one of his best songs, and simplest. The structure is a modal frame, weaving in and around the route A chord with barely any lyrics: mainly consisting of "pretty, pretty Peggy Sue, I love you gal', I want you Peggy Sue." The original title of the song was actually Cindy Lou, but it was changed while recording in the studio at the drummer's request to Peggy Sue, the drummer's girlfriend. Besides the title change, the rhythm also underwent a major change in the studio. It originally had a cha-cha beat, with a Harry Belafonte feel to it. Producer Petty thought this wasn't rocking enough and had drummer Allison come up with the brilliant paradiddles that stays consistent throughout. With the different amounts of reverb added to each drum, the sound is breathtaking. And somehow you can hear the guitarist's pick lick the strings in addition to the usual mic'd amp sound. Very unusual and I'm not sure how they achieved this effect.
Finally, we can not forget Buddy's signature vocal treatment. He switches between, husky Elvis-style crooning, to Buddy's own chipmunk, hiccup method. The song is short, direct and driving. One of the best of the '50's!