11 January 2014

The Everlys Apart

On Thursday I quoted record producer Dave Edmunds on working with the Everly Brothers as they tentatively recorded again after a decade apart. Edmunds also noted:
Something that struck me about Don and Phil was, that I have never before encountered such a disparity of personalities and opposing values in two brothers. You get on well with one, at the cost of not getting on well with the other. I never met anyone who was close to both. While Don and I hit it off so well, I never managed to unravel Phil, and vice versa.
On the other hand, Joel Selvin found Phil more congenial, as he wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle this week:
These two brothers could fight. They refused to do joint interviews and only posed for photographs together by appointment. Their contract not only called for separate dressing rooms, but separate stage entrances. “I don’t know,” Phil Everly once told me. “You’re up there nose-to-nose at the microphone and pretty soon, he starts breathing your air.”

It was a Biblical torture. Two brothers forced together, unable to make their separate ways in the world, dependent and resentful of one another the whole way. . . .

The two brothers couldn't have been more dissimilar. When they were out on the road together, Don was a raucous, outgoing, life-of-the-party type, while his brother was a quiet, cordial and soft-spoken gentleman.

A mutual friend, songwriter Sharon Sheeley, sent me to meet Phil Everly backstage at a show at the Circle Star Theater in the late ’80s. A loud party spilled out of one dressing room into the hallway. A bunch of biker-types and their ladies crowded into the room, drinking bourbon out of Styrofoam cups. In the center of the throng was Don Everly.

Down the hall, at the far end of the corridor, in another dressing room, sitting on an upended suitcase and looking at a magazine all by himself was Phil Everly. He was glad to have company.
I have a couple of compilations of the brothers’ solo recordings from the 1970s and early ’80s. Many of the tracks sound incomplete, like their demos. Every so often one pops out because of the double-tracked harmonies.

As All Music said about one collection, “Don, freed of the brotherly harmonies, usually likes to sing solo lead against backup choruses, while Phil often re-creates brother-like duo vocals.” As hard as the Everlys found it to work together, that was when they were truly the best.

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