Jeez, 25 minutes? A little on the short side, wouldn’t you say? Anyways, this is a great album, and one of the most important records for the future of rock as a whole.
The songs are simple. No flair, no solos, no extravagance. Just basic, stripped down love/rejection songs—the longest of which is only two and a half minutes—with a simple message and catchy melodies. The Crickets certainly knew what they were doing, and in this case the simplicity really benefits the album. “Not Fade Away” is probably my favorite track, with a great stop-and-start structure filled with a strong feeling of restrained energy. “An Empty Cup (And a Broken Date)” is another highlight, and a rather sad one too, with a slow tempo and some pretty depressing lyrics. Buddy Holly is a great singer, able to sing thoughtful ballads and energetic rock songs with equal mastery, and the backup vocals accompany the music with a country-like harmony. The instrumentation isn’t complex, usually only utilizing the standard guitar/bass/drum combo, but I find that the music’s simplicity is really its strongpoint. It really works well for the music that they play: flashiness is unneeded, only good ol’ catchiness and rhythm.
A shadow of tragedy looms over some albums, and sadly this one is no different. The Crickets would only make two albums before Buddy Holly left the band to pursue a solo career. One year later, while touring with fellow musicians Ritchie Valens and Jiles “The Big Bopper” Richardson, the airplane they were aboard lost control in the wintry conditions and crashed, killing the three of them plus Roger Peterson, their pilot. The tragedy may have become known in later years as “The Day the Music Died”, but their music truly did live on, having a massive impact on the course of music history for decades to come. I would highly recommend the album Chantilly Lace by The Big Bopper, and Self-Titled by Ritchie Valens is an absolute must-listen (the fact that it isn’t featured in this book is seriously a crime). Listen to these albums, and keep their memory alive.
Next Up: The Atomic Mr. Basie by Count Basie (1957)