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May 04

THE EVERLY BROTHERS – “Cathy’s Clown”

Popular16 comments • 2,406 views

#101, 7th May 1960

Fuck all the kisses, they didn’t mean jack. But, of course, they did, or we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Humiliation is a rarity this high up the charts – when you find it, you find it tempered with sweetness; in this case Don and Phil’s lovely falling harmonies. Their rueful descent and the relentless march-band drumming make it unpleasantly clear that the public agony will continue. By the end the pleas are pitiably feeble – “Don’t you think it’s kind of sad?” Cathy and the clown are both lying, and they’re both lying to the same person, and neither seem likely to stop.

7

Comments

  1. 1

    = 7 June

    (hmmm on ILM i calculated i wz a TWO-CLIFF BABY viz = conception AND birth but either i used a non-canonic chart OR i confused release date w.week got to #1)

  2. 2
    Tom on 27 Sep 2006 #

    I think Everyhit’s chart dates (which for consistency’s sake I have been using) are slightly different to everyone else’s, for reasons I have zero idea about!

  3. 3
    Doctor Mod on 16 Oct 2006 #

    Cringe! Cring! Most of us have felt this way–the rage against the love object who makes a fool of us!!! How to avenge such humiliation??? Tell them we DON’T want them, we DON’T need them. (But oh, we do, we do, we do.) But how to save face when everyone knows the truth?

    “Don’t you think it’s kind of sad?”

    WELCOME TO THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR!

    So much drama that so many know all too well, all underscored by the ferocity of the drums and plaintive lyrics. And no one could deliver the (soap) operatics quite so deftly (indeed, even beautifully) as the Nashville rockabilly set.

    This is one of the first records that I remember with absolute clarity, hearing it while riding in the back seat of the car my sister Kate (sometimes known as “Kathy”) had just bought. I loved the music and the singing–I wasn’t quite clear about what the words meant–at least not then.

    Oh, the adolescent drama! And some of us never grow out of it!

  4. 4
    Marcello Carlin on 16 Oct 2006 #

    Gilbert O’Sullivan uses this as an example of how he doesn’t mind other people mishearing or misinterpreting his lyrics. For years he thought Phil and Don were singing about this guy called Cathis Clown… (?????!!!!????)

  5. 5
    wichita lineman on 14 May 2008 #

    It’s an over-familiar tune, but if you listen to Cathy’s Clown rather than just hear it on the radio, it is quite extraordinary: the metallic drum roll following the condemned man on the chorus morphs into the lurching rinky-tink of the verse as Don Everly drowns his sorrows, even slurring his delivery. This was the first time Don had the time and facilities to truly *produce* an Everlys record. Even Phil Spector and Joe Meek, in early 1960, were learning their craft, and here was one of the most bankable pop stars in the world, stealing a march. An early pop aesthete, his arrangement for Cathy’s Clown was inspired by Andre Kostelanetz’s Grand Canyon Suite. Warners also saw the Everlys as film stars, real actors. They had the looks, and hadn’t blotted their copy book by ogling Jayne Mansfield in a rocksploitation movie. Number one, Hollywood calling, what could go wrong? Incredibly, they were off the map in just two years.

  6. 6
    jeff w registered on 28 Apr 2009 #

    My score:10 for more robust reasons. Nearly gave it to “Dream”/”Claudette”, but this was a step up. I really don’t ever want to feel this way, to have to react this way.

  7. 7
    crag on 13 Apr 2011 #

    DESERT ISLAND DISCS WATCH:

    Anita Dobson, actress (1988).

  8. 8
    Patrick Mexico on 20 Oct 2013 #

    Very impressed by this one. Really, really promising stuff. 7 is spot on, as the chorus is a bit like coming back to sausages after you’ve had a luxury banquet in the verses. (But still a local butchers’ finest sausages, herbed and spiced lovingly, without, er, making a pig’s ear out of it – literally.)

    Unlike 99.9% of what we’ve heard so far it’s all hands on deck to make iconic pop, AND not attention-seeking or playing off a gimmick (exotica, daft accents etc.) CC is a long way from naïve teenage bubblegum, but just as remote from middle-aged Quality Street crooner fare, and it’s starting to herald the classic Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards pop duopolies.

    Apparently the Everleys inspired Francis Rossi to pick up a guitar, though I can’t exactly hear it in what I know of Status Quo (though of course I was born three years AFTER even :gulp: 1+9+8+2 (I try and listen to all TPL albums on Spotify thoroughly when reading Marcello’s reviews, but this was too distressing to progress beyond the fifth track..)

  9. 9
    Mark G on 21 Oct 2013 #

    Did I mention I have this on 78rpm?

  10. 10
    Lazarus on 4 Jan 2014 #

    RIP Phil Everly …

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-25601185

    Just listening to Sounds of the Sixties, although as that’s pre-recorded there won’t be any mention of course.

  11. 11
    wichitalineman on 4 Jan 2014 #

    Bye bye Phil. Here’s an excellent blog piece on what the Everlys did next in the 60s.

    https://agoldfishcalledregret.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/tales-from-burbank/

    Virtually all of their sixties records are worth hearing. Their lack of success, in spite of greatness and innovation (hello country rock), makes you wonder if Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran would have been similarly sidelined had they lived.

  12. 12
    Rob M on 4 Jan 2014 #

    Thank you for linking to my blog. It’s been a long time since I was on Popular – six years? Thank you!

  13. 13
    wichitalineman on 6 Jan 2014 #

    Re 12: We must have just missed each other! I came across Popular in 2008.

  14. 14
    hectorthebat on 24 Feb 2014 #

    Critic watch: This song appears on the following “best-of” lists:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Blender (USA) – Standout Tracks from the 500 CDs You Must Own (2003)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 30
    Dave Marsh (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) 521
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004) 149
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Updated 2010) 150
    San Antonio Express-News (USA) – Rock ‘n’ roll timeline (2004)
    Colin Larkin (UK) – The All-Time Top 100 Singles (2000) 39
    Guinness Book of Hits of the ’60s (UK, 1984) – Jo Rice’s Top 10 Songs
    Guinness Book of Hits of the ’60s (UK, 1984) – Tim Rice’s Top 10 Songs
    Mojo (UK) – The 100 Greatest Singles of All Time (1997) 44
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 100 Singles of All Time (1976) 88
    Berlin Media (Germany) – The 100 Best Singles of All Time (1998) 57
    Rolling Stone (Germany) – The Best Singles of 5 Decades (1997)
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Hervé Bourhis (France) – Le Petit Livre Rock: The Juke Box Singles 1950-2009
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  15. 15
    swanstep on 22 May 2014 #

    A deserved classic this one. I wonder whether the Everleys ever extended it live to 5, 6, 7… increasingly venemous and twisted verses, with more and more fanciful rhymes (esp. internally to the third line of each verse)? At any rate, I think that’s the natural way to develop things, and in effect, everyone from Dylan to Stephin Merritt took the hint.

    The chorus intrigues. Is the clown the miserable dumpee or Cathy’s latest beau (i.e., whom the miserable, lied-to dumpee consoles himself Cathy will surely make a fool of soon enough)? I guess I’ve always thought the former (perhaps under anachronistic Smokie Robinson tutelage) but now I’m not so sure, because what then is the ‘sound’ on that interpretation? Cathy’s lying voice? Maybe. At any rate, Tom seems to assume the other, clown-as-new-beau reading which feels wrong to me in that the song then points away from the hurt, dumpee and towards the new guy about whom we know nothing.

    A third possibility: the song’s just unstable between the two basic readings of the clown, perhaps thereby expressing the awfulness and strangeness, near-out-of-body-ness that can accompany such situations. Anyhow, for me C’sC is an:
    8

  16. 16
    lonepilgrim on 23 Jun 2014 #

    these Everly Brothers’ hits are deceptively simple in their construction yet manage to hark back to their Country roots as well as forward to both the harmonies of the Beatles and the greater lyrical openness of Dylan and subsequent singer-songwriters.
    ‘Cathy’s Clown’ finds another, more sophisticated, response to romantic betrayal than similar songs. In ‘His Latest Flame’ Elvis nurses his heartache in stoic privacy, while in ‘Tower of Strength’ Frankie Vaughan bursts with grief. Here the betrayal is public knowledge and the focus is on the split between public and private perception of the experience. It’s a great record.

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