Buddy Holly‘s influence on The Beatles is widespread and well-known, and some of its most fertile seeds were sown on 20 June 1957. That was the day that the great rock ‘n’ roll pioneer released the single ‘Words Of Love.’ His admirably subtle and heartfelt composition not only inspired those young men across the Atlantic, but 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, 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, but by then the hit was about to be secured by Canadian outfit the Diamonds.
The Toronto quartet, who had also recorded for Coral, but were now on Mercury, were just coming off the biggest hit of their career 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, and went on to reach No. 13.
The Beatles performed the song live in their Cavern Club era in 1961 and ’62, when 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, with John now harmonising with Paul McCartney. It was six months further on before that cut appeared in the US on the Beatles VI album, released in 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, fronted by the original Beatles drummer who had played it with them back at the Cavern.
In 2011, the year in which 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.
Purchase Buddy Holly’s original of ‘Words Of Love’ on the Gold compilation here.