Harmony, melancholy and the Everly Brothers’ indelible influence

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From Neil Young to Keith Richards, a generation of musicians revered Phil and Don’s haunting music

US music star Don Everly dies aged 84

Among the hundreds of hours of outtakes from the recording sessions that eventually became the Beatles’ Let It Be album, there is a version of Two of Us, taped on 25 January 1969. As John Lennon and Paul McCartney harmonise, the latter says to the former: “Take it, Phil”, a reference to Phil and Don Everly, the duo upon whom the pair had originally attempted to model themselves. On an early holiday, Lennon and McCartney attempted to impress local girls by telling them they had a band back home and they were “the British Everly Brothers”.

Shortly afterwards, the pair temporarily stopped working on the song entirely and began performing a ragged cover of Bye Bye Love instead. It’s both oddly sweet – a fleeting moment where the ill-tempered sessions actually achieved their aim of returning the Beatles to their roots – and oddly telling. At the end of a decade in which they had done more than anyone to alter rock music entirely, shifting its parameters until it was occasionally unrecognisable from the state in which it had started the 60s – and rendering the likes of Don and Phil Everly old news in the process – John Lennon and Paul McCartney still wanted to sound like the Everly Brothers. Throughout it all, McCartney later wrote, “their music echoed through my mind”.

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