DAVE EDMUNDS' RECORDING SESSIONS WITH THE EVERLYS
In 1983, the Everly Brothers decided to reunite for one concert at The Albert Hall in London. I was very excited, as there are few singers that have influenced me more, especially Don Everly. It was generally considered that they would never perform together again. I went along to their rehearsals, and ended the day by putting away several pints of beer in a local pub with Don and Albert Lee (one of my top five favourite guitar players.) Although I had known Albert for some years, this was my first meeting with Don, and we got along well. A few weeks later, Don called me at home to tell me that he and Phil were considering getting back together on a permanent basis, and would I care to produce their comeback album?
Hardly able to contain myself, I gratefully accepted the offer. As they had no material prepared, I agreed to begin the search for suitable songs, realizing that only the highest quality would be acceptable to befit their reputation. I decided to call Paul McCartney. It was a harrowing ordeal, dialling the number of history's most prolific and successful songwriter just to ask for a song, and I was hoping dearly that his appreciation for the Everly's heritage would justify my intrusion. Paul answered and, thankfully, was his usual charming self. He sounded quite enthused and readily agreed to come up with something: "Give me two weeks and call me!"
I called him and, true to his word, he sent me a demo he had recorded of a charming song called, "On the Wings of a Nightingale," which sounded perfect for Don and Phil. Mark Knopfler sent me a beautiful song called "Why Worry," and Jeff Lynne chipped in with "The Story of Me," a haunting song consistent with his impressive writing skills. Next, I flew to Nashville to discuss all aspects of the project with Don and Phil, and to sift through the material we had gathered.
Nick Lowe and I had some months earlier recorded a song entitled "I'm Gonna Start Living Again (If It Kills Me)," written by Nick, Carlene and myself. Just about everyone I knew who heard it, was of the opinion that this song would be perfect for the Everly Brothers. While Don, Phil and myself laboriously listened to dozens of songs, I quietly slipped our effort in to the mountain of cassettes. When we reached the song, they listened for a minute, and without saying a word, casually tossed it into the reject pile. I soon detected that, oddly, any song sounding remotely like The Everly Brothers, would be automatically discarded by them. Polygram, their record company, had also tried to persuaded them to record "Here Comes The Weekend," another 'Everly type' song Nick and I had written, which was met with a similar response.
We started recording at Maison Rouge Studios in London, mostly with English musicians, with the exception of the late Larry Londin, a highly experienced Nashville drummer of phenomenal ability. Although this was an ambition realized, the sessions were not without their difficulties. Don and Phil, although getting along extremely well, were strangely reluctant to actually do any work. My preferred hours for recording usually stretch from noon until ten or eleven p.m., and these were the hours we agreed. 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.
In virtually every record the Everly Brothers made, Don can be heard singing a solo passage, usually the middle eight bars, which I have always considered to be the epitome of soulful expression and perfect pitch. Their vocals finally being completed, Don decided that he should re-record all his solo passages over again. He and I alone, spent several days working to that end, and there were moments, listening to him, when I could feel the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I feel compelled to reveal that these were among the most satisfying moments I have ever spent in a recording studio, not just in savouring his magical vocal delivery, but in being chosen to play such a privileged part in it.
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. The album, "EB '84," was released, receiving extensive critical acclaim, and eighteen months later, I was invited to produce their next album, "Born Yesterday." Gratified, I accepted without hesitation, and happily completed the project with few problems that I can recall.
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