By Richie Unterberger

Issued at the beginning of 1965, Gone, Gone, Gone kicked off the second half of the 1960s for the Everly Brothers, after a half-decade of work for Warner Brothers that had seen their albums go through some strange twists and turns. Their longplayers had started in a straightforward and highly successful fashion with 1960's Top Ten LPs It's Everly Time and A Date with the Everly Brothers, both of them offering diverse new material that nonetheless all fell into the umbrella of rock'n'roll. For the next four years, however, the Everlys seemed incapable of concocting anything so conventional when it came time to issuing albums. Their two 1961 efforts, Both Sides of an Evening and Instant Party, were ersatz concept albums of sorts that leaned heavily on non-rock pop standards and film/Broadway tunes, while 1963's Sing Great Country Hits was entirely devoted to covers of popular country songs. There was also a Christmas album and two hits compilations, one of which actually contained some re-recordings of numbers they'd first done for Cadence Records before joining the Warners roster. Gone, Gone, Gone was a return, at last, to the relatively standard format albums were supposed to offer: new material, in the pop-rock style the brothers were known for, with a hit single or two.

    Or was it? For although it was anchored by the Everlys' first Top Forty hit single in two-and-a-half years, and although much of it had been cut in Nashville in 1964, in truth it was a rather patchwork assembly of tracks that had been recorded at various points over previous four of five years, some of them dating back as far as 1960. "Donna Donna" had first appeared way back on 1960's A Date with the Everly Brothers, though perhaps Warners' curious decision to put it on a B-side in the mid-'60s (coupled with another cut from A Date with the Everly Brothers) played a part in getting it on Gone, Gone, Gone -- as the opening song, no less. "Lonely Island" and "Radio and TV" had also been recorded in 1960, though they were left unreleased at the time. Meanwhile, four of the twelve songs had already seen release as singles in 1964: not just "Gone, Gone, Gone," but also its B-side, "Torture," as well as "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby" and "The Ferris Wheel."

    For all its rather haphazard selection, however, Gone, Gone, Gone delivered much of what Everly Brothers fans had been thirsting for since 1961: an album of bona fide rock'n'roll, the detours into hardcore country songs and adult pop tunes banished for the time being. Moreover it also marked, at long last, a new crop of Everlys interpretations of compositions by Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, the husband-wife team who'd been responsible for penning many of their best hit singles and album tracks in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Everlys' access to material by the Bryants had been cut off after their first two Warners LPs, when Don and Phil Everly had fired their manager and publisher, Wesley Rose. As the Bryants were part of Rose's Acuff Rose publishing stable, none of their songs were made available for the Everlys to record for quite some time, which partially explained why they opted to record country and non-rock pop on much of their 1961-64 albums. In 1964, however, channels were once again opened between Boudleaux, Felice, and the brothers, not only for brand new material ("Honolulu," "Love Is All I Need"), but also for the vault retrieval of "Lonely Island" and "Radio and TV," both of which bore songwriting credits by one or both of the Bryants.

    The highlight of the album was the pounding title track, composed jointly by Don and Phil, which found them rocking harder than they had in about four years (or, indeed, ever). The song melded the rhythms and structures of Chuck Berry classics like "Memphis, Tennessee" with their peerless close harmonies, and became their next-to-last Top Forty hit in the United States, peaking at #31. Its quality would be recognized a few years later by Fairport Convention, who did their own fine version in 1968 for the BBC; Fairport must have been major Everlys fans, as they excavated another under-recognized Everlys classic, "Some Sweet Day" (from It's Everly Time), for the BBC that year as well.

    Another song on Gone, Gone, Gone that found modest chart success was the brooding "The Ferris Wheel," which crawled to #72, though it did better in Britain, where it peaked at #22. Oddly, the Everlys themselves didn't like the song much, though in one of the first book-length histories of rock'n'roll, Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom, Nik Cohn begged to differ: "I thought it was among their finest ever, a miraculous careering melody above a deepdown throbbing rhythm, a kind of Spanish-Moorish chant turned into pop terms." Elsewhere on the album, the brothers dabbled in pseudo-Hawaiian balladry ("Lonely Island" and "Honolulu"); made a welcome return to the pure blues/R&B covers that had dotted their early work with Jimmy Reed's "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby"; and did a couple of songs by renowned country-pop songwriter John D. Loudermilk (who'd penned their 1961 hit "Ebony Eyes"), the ballad "Torture" and the aptly titled "It's Been a Long Dry Spell."

    In retrospect, however, the surest indications of where the Everlys were heading were found in their original material. "Gone, Gone, Gone" itself had boasted a tougher and more modern sound than the singles that had preceded it, perhaps influenced by the raging British Invasion. The two solo Don Everly compositions on the album, "The Facts of Life" and the surprisingly (for the Everlys) aggressive "The Drop Out," if anything went even further in this direction, with their assertive guitars, horns, and clattering drumbeats. Unlike most of the original 1950s rock'n'roll giants, the Everly Brothers were adapting to the changing times, and would continue to do so, albeit with more artistic than commercial success, throughout the rest of the 1960s. At its best the Gone, Gone, Gone album, for all its thrown-together nature, was the beginning of that renaissance. -- Richie Unterberger

contents copyright Richie Unterberger , 2000-2010
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