Friday Fun, Songs from Before My Birth, #10

"Rave On" by Buddy Holly and the Crickets (1958)



It took me a while to come around on 50s rock and roll.  When I was a kid, my parents listened to the "Oldies" radio station, which was primarily music of the 60s and some of the 70s.  All I really knew about the music of the 50s was Elvis Presley, and as I mentioned before I think Elvis is vastly over-rated.  My Dad really liked, and likes, Roy Orbison, but the only song that I remember hearing from him was "Pretty Woman" (which is not close to the best Orbison song, i.e. "Crying").  I was well into my adult years when I first got into Buddy Holly.

What is mind-blowing about Buddy Holly is that his career lasted only 34 months (from April 1956 with the release of his first single until his death in the plane crash in February 1959), and that he was 22 when he died.  He did manage to produce three albums in that time, but everything we are hearing from him is his very earliest stuff.  It's basically as if the Beatles died in 1964--"Love Me Do" is pretty great, but we would never have any idea that Rubber Soul or Sgt. Pepper was possible.  It's the same with Holly--who knows what he would have done?  Prior to his death, he had moved to Greenwich Village in New York City and was going to take classes at the Actor's Studio (where, if he has stuck around until the early 60s, he would have been classmates with Al Pacino, among others).  He could have become the Beatles before the Beatles, or Dylan before Dylan, or the next great actor.

All we are left with, though, is the 34 months of his stuff, and it is pretty great on its own terms.  One of the things I like about Holly's music is that it has a chaotic, high-energy quality to it.  A lot of early rock-and-roll feels very restrained and almost over-produced, almost as if they are afraid to scare people with this new sound.  "Rave On" has no such fear--it has this frantic energy right from the jump.  It is a song that communicates an emotion, or perhaps more accurately a mental state--the craziness of falling in love.

It is also really short--maybe two and half minutes.  But I think that falls into the "keep 'em wanting more" school of thought, much like early Beatles songs.  It's a tight, fun, exciting song.  Too bad we didn't get more.

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