Extraordinary that he's been dead more than twice as long as he was ever alive, and how important he remains. He more or less created the rock group. And with such snazzy lead guitar, such songwriting, so intimate a voice.I remember not hearing the news of his death but just knowing about it soon afterwards, and thinking about it a great deal, sitting alone in the front seat on the top deck of a green Crosville bus in Heswall bus station on the Wirral, waiting for it to start, and then it pulling out past the other buses and bus-stops, while I was hearing ‘It Doesn't Matter Anymore' in my head. I wasn't thinking “Oh that's ironic"; I was just subsumed by the sadness of his being dead and its perfection as a record: those shivering stings, the panache of its sprightly pace and that rich and vulnerable voice.
I was 13. That year, 1959, turned out to have that rarity in Britain, a long hot summer. (There wouldn't be another like it until 1976.)
My friend Peter, who loved Buddy Holly above all others, had all the singles he could get hold of, and we'd play them over and over, mostly at his house rather than mine, on more or less every Saturday of our early teenage lives, interspersed with mysterious 45s he'd somehow acquired like ‘You Talk Too Much' by Joe Jones & His Orchestra (we'd laugh at its forlorn monotony) and Slim Harpo's ‘Rainin' In My Heart' - not the same song as on the B-side of ‘It Doesn't Matter Anymore'.
We had no problem with Buddy deserting the Crickets and singing with an orchestra on tracks like these and ‘True Love Ways'. Nor with the posthumous overdubs on records that started being released soon after his death, though enormous debate centred around which versions were best, the undubbed or the dubbed - hampered, as we were, by their being drip-fed to us by the record company. (Undubbed wasn't always best.)
We liked everything: the raw and tinny brashness of early work like ‘Midnight Shift' and ‘Rock Around With Ollie Vee'; the big hitters like ‘Rave On', ‘Oh Boy' and ‘That'll Be The Day'; those beautiful quiet tracks like ‘What To Do' and ‘That's What They Say', in which he invoked a tender nostalgia at the time, let alone in retrospect; and the weird ones - all weird in different ways, too: ‘Fool's Paradise', ‘Reminiscin''; ‘Wait Till The Sun Shines, Nellie' (so bizarrely old-fashioned a girl's name in the early 1960s). So many.
Yet unlike with Elvis, or Van Morrison or Bob, with Buddy Holly I can say what my absolutely favourite track is. He didn't write it, and it was a B-side (to ‘Words Of Love'). It's this: