The Everly Brothers' harmonies and string of classic singles influenced countless bands, including The Beatles, The Hollies and Simon and Garfunkel, yet offstage, their feud became equally legendary, with the brothers ultimately breaking up for ten years. Originally broadcast on BBC4, a new documentary, The Everly Brothers - Harmonies From Heaven, takes a look at the pair's brilliant, yet troubled, career.
The documentary features new interviews with Don Everly and archival interviews from his late brother Phil. In addition, several musicians, including Keith Richards, Graham Nash, Tim Rice, Art Garfunkel, Waddy Watchel all express their admiration for the pair.
The Everly's father, Ike, was a coal miner, but also a musician. The duo's story begins in the 1950s, with Phil and Don appearing on their father's radio show as Little Donnie and Baby Boy Phil. After the brothers moved to Nashville, they met up with famed guitarist Chet Atkins, who liked the group. It is through Atkins that the duo met Wesley Rose of Acuff-Rose music publishers. Rose gave the Everlys a record deal and signed them on as Acuff-Rose songwriters, a move that would later bite the pair. At first, however, the deal was a massive success, with the group getting hooked up with the songwriting team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, who wrote several of their hits including "Bye Bye, Love" and Wake Up, Little Suzie." Felice Bryant is interviewed for the documentary via archival footage.
After a successful move to Warner Brothers where the group scored a huge hit with the self-penned "Cathy's Clown," they had a falling out with Wesley Rose. As a result, they couldn't record any Acuff-Rose-published music, meaning not only no new songs from the Bryants, but also none of their own material as well as they were contracted to Acuff-Rose too. This, along with the arrival of the British Invasion, quickly sealed the fate of The Everly Brothers on the U.S. charts, though the pair did well overseas. The frustration of not being able to record the Bryant's music, as well as their own, was still evident in the interviews with both brothers and Felice Bryant.
The Everly Brothers are famous for their feuding, and while that is mentioned in the documentary, particularly the part where Phil Everly left his brother on stage midway during a 1973 concert, it is somewhat glossed over as well. While the filmmakers, or perhaps Don Everly, probably didn't want to dig up bad memories, it is still part of their history. The group didn't perform together again until their famed 1983 reunion at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Dave Edmunds, who produced the group's reunion album in 1984, says you couldn't find two more different people than Don and Phil Everly and that he didn't know many people who could be friends with both of them. To that end, Don Everly makes a point of saying Phil was a Republican and that he was a Democrat. That's about the extent of the dirt given in the film, however.
The video is presented in 16:9 Widescreen and looks great. The archival footage is decent quality for what it is. Audio options include Dolby Digital: 5.1 Surround, Stereo and DTS Surround Sound. Bonus features include extra interviews and two acoustic performances of Everly Brothers songs by Jake Bugg. Disc two is the real gem, however, as it is a concert from Chequers Nightclub in Sydney, Australia from 1968. This black and white performance includes killer renditions of "Let It Be Me" and "Kentucky," among others. What's really notable is how powerful Phil's voice was as, even a couple feet from the microphone, his harmonies came through loud and clear.
The Everly Brothers hold a rightful place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their remarkable harmonies influenced countless bands and their hits remain treasures of the rock era. While more could have been included about their feuding years, there is still a lot to like about The Everly Brothers - Harmonies From Heaven.