09 January 2014

Recording the Everlys’ Comeback

In the early 1980s Don and Phil Everly patched up their professional partnership for the sake of their rabid British fans. They had a reunion concert in London and then recorded a couple of albums there. Here’s some of what producer Dave Edmunds said about the struggle of getting the brothers back into the recording studio at the same time:
The band and I would show up at noon and work on the arrangements, as far as we could without Don and Phil’s input and participation. Don would arrive at about 3 p.m., and could be persuaded to sing a guide vocal and discuss arrangements, but would usually prefer to sit in the control room relaying humorous anecdotes from his legendary career, as though deferring the awful moment of commitment.

While I was quite happy listening, enthralled by his stories of the early recordings they had made, the methods they employed, and the impressive musicians they had available to them, along with many hair-raising tales of their early touring years, we were making slow progress in the vocal department.

Phil would arrive at the studio even later than Don, and, both having made prior dinner arrangements, would consequently leave the studio around seven in the evening. It was even more problematic coaxing Phil up to the microphone. At first he suggested that Don should sing his part first, and that he would add his harmony later.

Now, anyone familiar with their music, and who has listened to Don Everly’s solo work, will be aware of the fact that Don sings completely differently on his own, constantly altering his phrasing, and will rarely sing anything the same way twice. It is inconceivable that Phil was not aware of this fact, but insisted that we do it his way. It was like trying to separate yin from yang. We tried this approach once, but I found it to be a miserable experience, with Phil becoming frustrated and throwing the occasional prima-donna fit. Eventually, after some prodding, I persuaded them to share the microphone, with some magnificent results, once they warmed up and became familiar with the songs.
My favorite track on that EB84 album was “You Make It Seem So Easy,” written by Don. Listen to how they put six syllables into “you”—followed by a cascading seven in “easy.”

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