Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"It Doesn't Matter Anymore" (1959)

60. Buddy Holly, "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" (March 9, 1959, #13)

I have long held the theory that learning to sing with this, note for note, hiccup for hiccup, and with every nuance preserved of the eccentric Texan accent that keeps poking through, is better than any séance for raising the spirit of Buddy Holly. You think I'm joking. Ask the people who have assigned this their primary focus over the last 50 years for mourning Holly and his shocking and untimely death, starting from its posthumous release and subsequent entry into the charts only weeks after (at only 22). Yeah, there you go, the painful sad irony of the title and the lyrical preoccupations here—there was a reason this song made people sad. And it goes well beyond the usual "hear my train a-comin'" folderol. Those strings, which predated even the Brill Building era recordings of the Drifters, mark an innovation in rock 'n' roll studio work that, though it would also go on to suffer great abuses at the hands of others, nonetheless accomplishes what it's meant to here, sweetening the sound, classing up the joint, and implying a tremendous amount of unfulfilled promise. Like salting watermelon, those strings provide an ideal and unexpected balancing element between Holly's nerdy affect and his Texas twang. At the same time, there's not actually anything sad here in this at all except, pro forma, the lyrics and, ipso facto, the context of its release. In fact, the sound is positively exuberant—help me thesaurus, animated, bouncy, brash, buoyant, ebullient, effervescent, life-affirming—thrusting itself into the world wholly unapologetic, with the strings zooming up and down and all over, going pizzicato and then all swirly, while the music and lyrics remain eternally and perfectly intended for one another. A genius product of poetry and melody, a glorious and happy accident to counter the unfortunate one that preceded it, and a really great note on which to go out.

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