SONG: That’ll be the Day
ARTIST: Buddy Holly
Listen to it here:
That’ll Be the Day was written by Buddy Holly and Jerry Allison. Holly first recorded it in 1956 with Buddy Holly and the Three Tunes, but re-recorded it with the Crickets in 1957. This song quickly gained success. It also owns a spot in music history because it was the first song recorded by the skiffle group The Quarrymen, which eventually evolved into the Beatles.
Buddy Holly’s contract with Decca originally prohibited him from re-recording any of the songs he recorded in Nashville with the Three Tunes, so the producer got around this by crediting the Crickets as the recording artists and not mentioning Holly. This started a weird recording contract situation wherein Holly had signed with Brunswick Records, a subsidiary of Decca, AND with Coral Records, another subsidiary. Because of this, recordings under Holly’s name were on Coral, and recordings with the Crickets were on Brunswick, even though there was a ton of crossover between the two.
This recording was made with all musicians performing at the same time, without any additional overdubs. The song went number one, and the record went gold.
For more on Buddy Holly, go read us gush about him in our album review for The Chirpin’ Crickets.
In June of 1956 Holly, Allison, and Sonny Curtis went to see the movie The Searchers, starring John Wayne, in which Wayne repeatedly used the phrase “that’ll be the day.” This became the inspiration for this song.
So a lot of the songs we’ve come across so far I’ve heard a million times but have tried to approach with a critical ear, but for this song I just can’t. Buddy’s voice sounds great and iconic, the band is right, backup vocals are in tune, the levels are good. I can imagine having had to listen to real schlock in the 50s and this song comes out – it rocks a little harder, there’s a new Stratocaster sound – and being totally obsessed. The song is an upbeat little love song with a great catchphrase. But for me it’s the way it shaped my brain into a music obsessed fiend from a very young age and because of that, it is beyond reproach.
Well, we’re right smack-dab in the middle of peak Buddy Holly right here. The Crickets sound great, the guitar playing is iconic, the bass is of course not super apparent, and the drums have the perfect combination of excitement, while still holding back a bit. The background singing is fun and energetic, and of course, above all, Buddy sounds great. His voice is so perfectly matched to the music he sings, and his energy level is great. I know I’m constantly swayed by being brought up on Buddy Holly, but there’s just something undeniably catching about him. This song launches right into the chorus first, tells a short little story, and has a catchy, not overly complicated melody. I mean, it’s really great. That’s it.
Average mark out of 10:
Other notable versions of this song:
The Quarrymen version:
Uh, so apparently Linda Ronstadt covered this song, and it’s kind of unreal:
The Everly Brothers took it in a very Everly direction:
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Link to 1,001 Songs to Hear Before You Die spotify playlist:
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