photo manipulation by nacrowe
HARMONIES FROM HEAVEN (BBC, 2016) is a BRITISH documentary released a few years after the passing of PHIL EVERLY from LUNG DISEASE and basically follows the highlights and chart success from roughly 1957-1962 of THE EVERLY BROTHERS.
its interested hearing from a bunch of musicians and record execs i've never heard of (notable exceptions being brief supplemental commentary by the likes of ART GARFUNKEL, GRAHAM NASH, KEITH RICHARDS and JACK BUGG) explaining to me the importance of one of the most seminal AMERICAN pop acs of the 20th century, but i have to say they did a pretty decent job. the documentary gets into how ROCK N ROLL was a fusion of WHITE and BLACK musician traditions, namely BLUEGRASS and BLUES, and that THE EVERLY BROTHERS were early pioneers of that style, influencing THE BRITISH INVASION of the early 1960s. part of their appeal were songs tailored to the perspectives of teenagers, a growing demographic in the postwar period who also represented a new emerging economic power driving AMERICAN popular culture. songs that lightly touched on juvenile delinquency like "WAKE UP SUSIE" had a hint of subversion to them that resonated with their fans, even though now compared to modern pop provocateurs like NIKKI MINAJ or CARDI B this stuff is beyond tame, even adorably so.
i was taken aback by their downfall which was caused by their publisher. they had signed a deal with the newly constructed WARNER BROS and left CADENCE RECORDS. at the time they left their old management as well. their publisher, who was aligned with their management, held the rights to their old songs as well as managed their key songwriters, husband and wife team FELICE and BOUDLEAUX BRYANT. effectively that shut the valve on new songs as well as their old songs. today this kind of thing would be unimaginable and would result in intense litigation and negotiation. back in the 1950s it effectively killed their career, opening the door to the next generation which turned out to be BRITISH INVASION bands like THE BEATLES, THE KINKS and THE ROLLING STONES. you really get the sense, although it is never uttered, that THE EVERLY BROTHERS were the victims of a growing power struggle between NASHVILLE and the greater entertainment industry. its not like the AMERICAN SOUTH is known for being recalcitrant, tribal, stubborn, petty and downright cruel... hmmmmm.
another thing i didn't realize was how different the two brothers were, PHIL being a staunch conservative and his brother DON being a leftist. i can only imagine during that period, which included the HUAC TRIALS and MCCARTHYISM how intense that must have been. after their demise in the early 1960s, the two brothers didn't speak for 10 years. i wish they'd dive into that a bit more, but i guess with this being an authorized documentary such a thing wouldnt be explored out of respect.
interesting yet slightly underwhelming documentary about probably the greatest harmonizers in music history. a good introduction but nothing revelatory revealed.