Buddy Holly
The "Chirping" Crickets
(Universal Chronicles/Geffen 61351)

Buddy Holly is probably the only artist I listened to as a kid whom I did not at any point later dismiss as ridiculous. I went through adolescent phases deriding most of my formative idols – CCR, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, The Monkees, and yes, those goddamn Beatles – but not Buddy Holly. His still irreplaceable coolness shines through for me now as then; he is the very nexus of the power-pop Tigris & Euphrates, from which our entire civilization of horny white-boy pop originated. Um, pardon the convoluted metaphor and probable historical inaccuracy.

Though I've since reclaimed my early favorite bands, the original joy I had listening to, like, Beatles 8-tracks is forever marred by subsequent years of increasing ambivalence, thanks to things like Paul McCartney's seemingly daily press releases about everything he does. It's hard to believe in God when God behaves like Steve Urkel.

To Buddy's credit, he's not around to make an embarrassment of himself, so what we have is just a great bunch of records and a legacy so genuinely captivating that it even helped make a star of Gary Busey! (Though, come to think of it, Mr. McCartney's admiration for Buddy – like, remember that year Paul dressed up as Buddy? Did I dream that?! – almost amounts to guilt by association.)

See, I can't go five minutes without making lovingly backhanded remarks about Uncle Paul. Anyway, growing up, I could never find good Buddy Holly records, except for a couple of shoddily packaged best-ofs or overpriced box sets that would have cost me 5 weeks' allowance. I had the 20 Golden Greats LP (the one with the rather uncool graffiti "BUDDY HOLLY LIVES" spraypainted on a brick wall … so punk!), and later upgraded to the From the Original Master Tapes CD – both of these were terrific, "all killer, no filler."

There are plenty of comps like those on the market today, but I find myself much more curious about Buddy's actual records now that they've finally made an appearance on CD. It's a nice way to reconnect to that original joy, since the tracklists mix the hits I know with secondary tracks I've never heard. Given that I don't particularly want to hear "That'll Be the Day" again at any given time, it's actually preferable to have some lesser songs around to remind me why that song stood out in the first place.

The "Chirping" Crickets has been frequently name-checked (in lip-service form only) by critics looking to include a Buddy Holly record on their "Top 100 Rock & Roll Albums of All Time" lists, but this fact only made me not want to go out of my way for it. If, like, Greil Marcus likes something, chances are, I'm poking around elsewhere simply by default. But I have to say, it's a great record – certainly full of brilliantly crafted songs and full of Buddy Holly's passionate nerdiness.

The Crickets were a cool band, though their background vocals didn't do anyone a favor; if anything, it's those "Ba, ba, ba ba" type shenanigans that turn people off to what is otherwise still fresh-sounding music. It's all over this album, but the cool thing is, the sound has been remastered to such a noticeable sparkle that you start hearing it in a new way … the guys don't sound obtrusive anymore. Also, you can hear the guitars twang and the drums pounce – it's pretty damn forward-thinking music.

"Oh Boy" is pretty corny, but it always was. "That'll Be the Day" is quite hostile, if you listen close. "I'm Looking For Someone to Love" is downright self-destructive … check out this lyric: "Drunk man – street car / Foot slip – there you are." That's almost as nihilistic as early Ramones!

"Tell Me How" and "Maybe Baby" are the true classics here, especially the latter, which is certainly one of the best pop songs of the rock & roll era. I've never cared for "Not Fade Away," but if nothing else, it gave us The Grateful Dead!

Several also-ran tracks fill things out, mostly more forgettable variations on the hits ("It's Too Late," "Send Me Some Lovin'," "You've Got Love" … give me 100 more listens to the CD and I'll be able to hum you some of those), with four bonus tracks tacked on so the album would be more than 5 minutes long. Of these, "Think it Over" is the coolest – still my favorite Buddy Holly song, hands down. "Fool's Paradise" has an atypical piano solo in it; "Lonesome Tears" sounds like a TV theme; "It's So Easy" is surprisingly untarnished by 200 years of use in, like, Ziploc™ commercials.

Overall, I'm not convinced that anyone needs anything more than a Buddy Holly greatest-hits, but certainly it's the original albums that I'd rather listen to now … much fresher. It's made me rekindle my awe of the man … I mean, without Buddy there'd have been no Beatles, and therefore no Ram! We needed Buddy Holly so that 50s rock & roll could be more than just stompin' around singing slurry lyrics over boneheaded guitar riffs – had he never come along, the biggest artist of the 80s might have been George Thorogood! YUCK!

Review by Wimpempy Tarlisle