Song 105: The Everly Brothers, “Claudette” (1958)

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It’s amazing what a little harmony can do.

I’d probably like “Claudette” if it wasn’t sung by the Everly Brothers, but I don’t think I would love it. Those two voices, so reedy but so subtantial, give the song an electric energy that I can’t imagine another artist providing. Roy Orbison wrote the song, and as much as I love Roy Orbison, I’m glad he passed it on to the Everlys. His voice is far too beautiful for this song, which only requires accuracy.

I could have picked many Everly Brothers songs, because they had so many great ones: “Cathy’s Clown,” “When Will I Be Loved,” and, of course, “Bye Bye Love.” But the intro of “Claudette” gives it the edge. That rapid-fire acoustic guitar always takes me by surprise, and the fact that it’s followed only a second or two later by the Everlys’ tight harmony makes it even more unnerving. It’s one of those songs that seems to power itself, to capture momentum from thin air.

Bob Dylan referred to his own aesthetic as “that thin, that wild mercury sound,” and I think that term could apply to the Everlys as well. As bold as their sound is, there’s also something skittish about it, as if it’s about to run away from them. It’s a sound that apparently seemed appealing to everybody they influenced, from the Beatles to Simon and Garfunkel (who covered “Bye Bye Love” at a reunion show in Central Park). But the Everly Brothers owned it, and they still do.

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