In 1961, deprived of Acuff-Rose songs and looking towards a family audience, they recorded an album of standards, Both Sides Of An Evening, but despite a beautiful version of Don’t Blame Me, the material (Little Old Lady, My Mammy) was suspect. Still, they must have felt okay about it because the fourth Warners album, Instant Party!, was more of the same. Neither album had the resonance or significance of their 1958 album, Songs Our Daddy Taught Us.
The Everly Brothers’ salvation should have come in 1962 when they allied themselves to the Screen Gems’ writers and gathered strong material from the hippest writers of the day – Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. To my ears, Crying In The Rain is the best record they ever made and No One Can Make My Sunshine Smile isn’t far behind. They were the first to record Chains, but their version, unissued at the time and with percussive effects, did not capture the song’s potential, and despite 36 takes, no one thought I Can’t Say Goodbye To You was worth releasing. Similarly, the Everlys failed to spot the possibilities of the devastatingly good Love Her, from Mann/Weil. Don comments, somewhat uncharitably, “They didn’t give us You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ unfortunately. That would have been good for us.”
Don was taking drugs and as a result, became obsessed with perfection. He wanted to record Nancy’s Minuet over and over again and even a novelty like Roger Miller’s Burma Shave took endless takes. The Everly Brothers came to the UK in October 1962 and the British press said Don was forced to abandon the tour because of “food poisoning”. In the informative Bear Family book by Andrew Sandoval, we learn that he was “drugged out” and had attempted suicide. Phil Everly completed the tour as a solo artist and it is a shame that none of the performances were recorded. It was hardly surprising that their album, Christmas With The Everly Brothers And The Boys Town Choir, was a missed opportunity to do something distinctive with seasonal material. It was intriguing to read that the formation of the choir was the subject of the 1938 film, Boys Town, starring Spencer Tracy.
When Don recovered, they had trouble regaining their momentum. It’s hard to generalise from one outtake but you can hear them falling apart on Baby Bye-Oh and I’m not surprised as it’s Jackie DeShannon’s worst-ever song. In June 1963 they upped the ante with The Everly Brothers Sing Great Country Hits, backed by Glen Campbell, Sonny Curtis and Leon Russell. Nothing startling here but lovely, sorrowful versions of I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry and Born To Lose. The Everlys returned to the UK and toured with the Stones and Bo Diddley, before recreating their Cadence hits for The Very Best Of The Everly Brothers. Okay, but directionless.