121. ‘Temptation’, by The Everly Brothers

We kick of the next thirty chart-toppers – and a whole New Year! – with the duo that claimed Best Disc from the previous thirty. Since ‘Cathy’s Clown’ the Everly Brothers have really hit their stride in moving away from their country roots, creating a signature sound that blends their gorgeous melodies with meaty drums and beefy, rock ‘n’ roll guitars. ‘Temptation’ is the latest glorious manifestation of this…

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Temptation, by The Everly Brothers (their 4th and final #1)

2 weeks, from 20th July  – 3rd August 1961

We start with perhaps one of the most instant intros we’ve heard yet. Frantic drums, guitar licks, yelps from the brothers, and a dirty little bass riff. Yeah Yeah Yeah Ah! You’re hooked from the off. You came, I was alo-one, I should have known, You were temptation… Cast your mind back to the cutesy mooning of ‘All I Have to Do Is Dream’ and then listen to this. Don and Phil have truly grown-up!

Then the best bit of the whole song. They pull the same trick as on ‘Cathy’s Clown’ – after a calm, measured first verse they whip it up a notch or five… It would be… Thrilling! If you were willing… But if it can never be, Then pi-i-i-ty me… They way those lines are sung. That is temptation. It makes me want to kiss my fingers like a chef who has just tasted the perfect Béchamel sauce.

This is a song that was hidden away in the middle of the brothers’ Greatest Hits that I bought in my teens. A song that I’ve always liked but kind of allowed to pass me by whenever it popped up in a playlist. Getting the chance to properly listen to ‘Temptation’ – their fourth and (shock, horror!) final UK #1 – has allowed me to realise just how good it is. Just how good they were. This a full-on rock song: a heavy riff, banging drums and fevered lyrics about a siren leading Don and Phil astray, with the brothers going fairly willingly to their doom.

By the end, they are leaving the singing to their backing vocalists, who are possibly the most old-fashioned aspect of this record. I’m yours, Here is my heart, Take it and say, ‘We’ll never part…’ Shrill voices that we last heard on Eddie Fisher’s prehistoric early number ones. Then we end with the brothers singing about being slaves, before fading out with more frenzied, delirious Yeah Yeah Yeah Ah!s It really does sound like they are being driven mad with temptation. It really is a brilliant disc.

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I was shocked – shocked I say – to discover just two minutes ago that this is yet another #1 to have been written decades earlier. ‘Temptation’ sounds so modern, so daring, that I can’t imagine it having been written in 1933 and first recorded by Bing Crosby. But it was. You can listen to the original here – it’s very Arabian Nights, and not without its charms – but it’s a wonderful illustration of how much popular music has changed since the arrival of rock ‘n’ roll.

With that, then, the Everly Brothers take their leave. It seems criminal that they didn’t have at least another couple of chart-toppers… ‘Wake Up Little Susie’? ‘(Till) I Kissed You’? ‘When Will I Be Loved’? All worthy of a shot at the top. In a way, ‘Temptation’ may have hastened their descent from the top. Their manager was opposed to the song’s release, as he didn’t stand to make any money from such an old song’s publishing rights. When the brothers forced the single’s release through, he barred them from working with the songwriters who had helped to create pretty much every one of their hits thus far. So despite, or perhaps because of, the brilliance of ‘Temptation’, the Everly Brothers will only have a couple more British Top 10s following this, and will be a spent-force by the time Merseybeat rolls around. Except. Pretty much every star with a guitar from the sixties and beyond – The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, The Bee Gees, The Hollies and many, many more – will owe Don and Phil a huge debt.

We’ll leave them here, then. Picture them with their guitars slung over their shoulders, harmonising as they stroll into the sunset… (until they have a huge argument and refuse to work together for most of the 1970s… but hey, let’s not spoil the nice image.)

15 thoughts on “121. ‘Temptation’, by The Everly Brothers

  1. badfinger20

    Some managers would spend a buck to save a penny. He couldn’t see that doing that would hurt him also…It is a shame because they could have fit right in with the Mersey group sound.
    They could have sung the phonebook…and it would have been at least listenable.

  2. Yeah, well… It’s always some kind of BS with the manager. So did they really have a huge argument? I heard that the Smothers Brothers had a big fight and didn’t speak for years! Imagine that… Anyway, I guess I haven’t done my homework like I wish I could say I did because I don’t even know this song. And the worst part is it’s the fourth track on Disc One of the collection I have. Right in front of me. I will definitely have to study that whole collection again after reading these posts! 😀

    1. It’s a song that always kind of passed me by too… But it’s great, and quite a bit rockier than most of their stuff! Yeah I think they weren’t on speaking terms for most of the seventies – or at least they weren’t working together. But then, are there any brothers alive that could stand working together for that long without wanting to kill one another eventually??

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