Words of Love

In my book Sidereal Days, the fictional Sparrows, to a man, are fans of Buddy Holly. The common bond that unites all of them when they make their first tentative efforts to form a band is that they all love Holly’s song Words of Love. I also think this very early Holly song is one of the greatest songs in rock & roll’s repertoire.

In the novel, the Sparrows perform a version of the song but it’s described as being a less jangley, twangy version of the song than the one Buddy Holly recorded and released with his band, the Crickets.The fictional version of the song, as described in the book, is actually based on the version recorded and released by another band a bit later, too late for the Sparrows, in the sequence of the novel, to have heard or been aware of. The other band members were also, to a man, huge Buddy Holly fans.

It was October 18, 1964. In a residential suburb in London located near the northwest corner of Regents Park, the Beatles had already recorded I Feel Fine and Chuck Berry’s Rock & Roll Music and a number of other songs. John Lennon and George Harrison were playing 12 string Rickenbacker guitars, Paul was playing his Hofner bass and Ringo was playing on a guitar case. They were finishing up the days work at close to midnight.

The Beatles had played Words of Love as part of their live performances since 1958. Holly had sung both lines of the song’s two-part harmony on his recording, double tracking his voice, an innovation developed by the venerable Les Paul. When the Beatles performed the song in their live appearances, the harmonized vocals were shared by John and George. On this night, three Beatles, John, Paul and George, gathered around a single microphone in Abbey Road Studio number 2 and in three takes finished off the only Buddy Holly song they ever formally recorded and released. The 12 string guitars created much more of a chiming rendition than Buddy Holly’s gritty west Texas version and the Beatles, with John’s dominant, breathy voice, produced a much more romantic and more “mature” version than Holly’s, if that’s the right word for a song that’s more sensual, soaring and romantic. More like the version that the fictional Sparrows perform in concert. Such a coincidence!

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