‘Not Fade Away’: The Rolling Stones’ Homage To Buddy Holly

The Rolling Stones’ classic cover of Buddy Holly’s ‘Not Fade Away’ was the group’s third UK single and their first to be released in America.

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The Rolling Stones
Photo: Fiona Adams/Redferns

In the last few days of January 1964, The Rolling Stones recorded the final version of what became their third UK single. It was called “Not Fade Away” and, like everything else The Rolling Stones had so far recorded for release, it was a cover, but not a straightforward blues or R&B tune. Buddy Holly, along with The Crickets, originally recorded the song in 1957, in Clovis, New Mexico. What made the song appealing – as well as acceptable – to the Stones was its rhythmical pattern, which is based on Bo Diddley’s trademark beat.

On Friday, February 21, Decca released “Not Fade Away” as The Rolling Stones’ third UK single. During the 1 minute and 42 seconds of this classic pop-rock record, Mick really starts to sound like Mick for the first time. Two weeks later, London Records released the song, with “I Wanna Be Your Man” on the B-side, as the Stones’ first US single. It eventually claimed to No.48 on the Billboard chart during the band’s first trip to America, in June 1964.

Not Fade Away (Mono)

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At the beginning of March, “Not Fade Away” jumped 16 places to No.11. On the edition of Top Of The Pops that aired on March 4, the band were filmed live in the BBC’s Manchester studio. By the end of the month, the single had climbed to No.3 on the UK chart, thanks in no small part to their appearances on the iconic TV show.

In the UK, the B-side was “Little By Little,” a pastiche of a Jimmy Reed song that has the unusual writing credit of Phelge and Spector. Nanker Phelge was the collective name for a group composition by The Rolling Stones, used during the first two years of their existence. It was Brian that suggested they use the name – Phelge comes from Jimmy Phelge, a guy that the band knew when they lived in Edith Grove in 1962, while a “nanker” was a revolting face that Brian was fond of pulling.

Phil Spector is the legendary record producer who the Stones’ manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, revered for his Wall Of Sound production technique. The Stones recorded “Not Fade Away” on February 4th, at Regent Sound Studio; not only does Spector get a writing credit but he also played maracas, while American singer Gene Pitney, who visited the studio with Spector, plays piano.

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  1. Charles Smedley

    February 21, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Loved this track as a young teenager, still do. Love this version too from ‘Stripped’ –

    • uDiscover

      February 21, 2016 at 12:08 pm

      The Stripped version is a classic…

  2. james Hurst

    February 27, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    The Not Fade Away arrangement was not an A side in Buddy Holly’s cannon but the Stones made it their own with that Bo Diddley beat. Significantly they re-paid a debt in part to Bo by backing him on a radio programme following their first national tour. I stood alongside Bill and Brian in the wings during his Birmingham Odeon set. To think that a cast including the Evs and Bo along with the Stones was not enough of a draw, they had to engage Little Richard to beef up the bill running order. Lets not forget that another TV show of the time helped promote the Stones, ie Thank Your Lucky Stars from Birmingham.

  3. Thomas Rednour

    February 24, 2021 at 1:18 pm

    “Not Fade Away” was not the Stones first US single. That would be London 9641 “I Wanna Be Your Man” / “Stoned.” It was withdrawn shortly after being released in Feb 64. Check out 45cat for a complete list of Stones singles.

  4. lee

    February 24, 2021 at 7:18 pm

    Interestingly the Stones recorded it on FEB 4TH. Close to that plane crash isn’t it?

  5. j

    April 3, 2022 at 10:42 pm

    rest in peace charlie!!

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