Last week marked the anniversary of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly and three others. I'm a fan of Buddy Holly's music, but I'm not a fan of the nostalgia induced stagnation of people and historical events. As the memory of that period continues to fade away, our mental definition of someone like Buddy Holly shrinks and becomes more conceptual. A few images that highlight the thick glasses and goofy, youthful grin, a handful of songs (albeit excellent ones), and some vague notions of unfulfilled promise and rock n roll tragedy are what mostly remain.
Of course, I'm not innocent of participating in storage habits that contribute to the degradation of memory. I had Buddy Holly tucked away in a certain sized file drawer, very content to continue enjoying him in the way I had defined. Pleasurable contentment, but certainly nothing exciting. This is where the power of archives can change things.
Thanks to the archival work done at Universal Music Group and their Hip-O Select imprint, a master collection of Buddy Holly's studio and personal recordings was released last year as Not Fade Away: The Complete Studio Recordings And More. And thanks to the power of Lala I was able to check out the recordings I was unfamiliar with (and purchase some), and really learn something about Buddy Holly. There are a number of cover tunes where you can really hear what his influences were, but also how he picked them apart and reconstituted them into his own sound. Also extremely valuable are the in-between moments of just messing around in the studio and the personal recordings. You hear the creative process, and understand a mind that is playing around with music and sound trying to find some new direction with it.
And even more interestingly, there are just plenty of weird songs. My wife is a knowledgeable fan of 50s-60s rock and soul, but when she heard what I was listening to she had to stop and say, "That guy is whacked out. Who is it?" It was familiar, reliable, stuck-in-time Buddy Holly, stripping away our preconceptions and expressing himself fresh once again.
Check out my playlist on Lala here or in the player below (may need Lala sign-in to listen). (Ack! Lala is no more! Obsolescence strikes again.)
--- Joshua Ranger