Buddy Holly‘s influence on The Beatles is widespread and well-known. Some of its most fertile seeds were sown on 20 June 1957, when the rock ‘n’ roll pioneer released ‘Words Of Love.’ Buddy’s admirably subtle and heartfelt composition clearly inspired those young men across the Atlantic. But it also became an immediate US hit for a Canadian doo-wop band.
Holly’s original of ‘Words Of Love,’ produced as usual by Norman Petty, featured the singer’s own harmonies. It was an atmospheric feature achieved in Petty’s studio by recording Buddy’s voice on separate tracks and layering them onto the master. Taped on 8 April, it became a single on Coral just two months later. By then, the hit was about to be secured by Canadian outfit the Diamonds.
The Toronto quartet had also recorded for Coral, but were now on Mercury. They were just coming off their biggest hit with their own rock ‘n’ roll classic, ‘Little Darlin’.’ Surely one of the unluckiest non-No. 1s in US chart history, it spent eight weeks in runner-up spot. ‘Words Of Love’ hit the pre-Hot 100 countdown in the very week that Holly’s version came out. It went on to reach No. 13.
The Beatles performed the song live in their Cavern Club era in 1961 and ’62. In thise days, the vocals were shared by John Lennon and George Harrison. They then recorded it for Beatles For Sale, their fourth UK album, released at the end of 1964. Now, John harmonised with Paul McCartney. It was another six months before that cut appeared in the US on the Beatles VI album of June 1965.
1964 also brought a version of ‘Words Of Love’ by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, soon after their biggest single success with the American No. 1 ‘Sugar Shack.’ Later covers included takes by former Brinsley Schwarz member Ian Gomm and the Pete Best Band. They were, of course, fronted by the original Beatles drummer who had played it with them back at the Cavern.
In 2011, when Holly would have turned 75, not one but two tribute albums of remakes were released, both including ‘Words Of Love.’ Jeff Lynne did it for Listen To Me: Buddy Holly while Patti Smith interpreted it for Rave On Buddy Holly.
Buddy Holly’s original of ‘Words Of Love’ is on the Gold compilation, which can be bought here.