Archive | 6:19 pm

The Number Twos: The Everly Brothers – “Problems”

9 Jan

“Problems” by the Everly Brothers hit #2 on December 15, 1958.

If Bobby Day was a well-connected largely one-hit wonder, The Everly Brothers were one of the monsters of pre-Beatles rock-and-roll. While much of what we think of as early rock comes from a blues background, The Everlys, Don and Phil, were country-tinged, and indeed sit in the Country Music Hall of Fame as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They have two pre-Hot 100 #1s, “Wake Up Little Susie,” and “All I Have to Do is Dream,” one Hot 100 #1, “Cathy’s Clown,” and two other pre-Hot 100 #2s, “Bird Dog” and “Bye Bye Love,” but this is the only time we’ll be seeing them here.

“Problems” was written by the married duo of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, who between the two of them, wrote a number of the Everly Brothers’ biggest hits, as well as “Rocky Top” and “Love Hurts.”

The sweet harmonies which mark the Everlys work more generally are apparent here.

A number of simple guitar flourishes between lines really make the song and its shortness keeps it in and out before it’s possible to get tired of.

It’s halfway between country and rock, and the lyrical content fits right in with the country genre. All of the singer’s problems (including with his car, and in class, so likely he’s a teenager) are caused by his inability to know whether his love is true, presumably whether his girl is cheating on him.

The lyrics don’t feel trite despite their simplicity (the word “problems” is repeated 17 times in under two minutes) probably because of the universality and the similar simplicity of the musicality that accompanies them.

“Problems” is sweet and heartfelt, which allows us both to relate to the singer but also consider the problems in their relative teenage context which keeps the song from being too much of a downer. His problems are with his car and teacher, so hopefully he’ll get over it in a couple of weeks.

Rating: 8

I did not know this song particularly well and was impressed though not terribly surprised considering the quality of the rest of the Everly Brothers output. The song is a triumph of simplicity and hits exactly the right amount of melancholy.

What was #1? “To Know Him, is to Love Him” – The Teddy Bears

Was the #2 better? Yes.


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