John Sieger
Sieger on Songs

“Everybody” Is Pure Pleasure

Tommy Roe’s well-crafted 1963 hit runs under two minutes but stands the test of time.

By - Mar 11th, 2016 02:46 pm
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Tommy Roe. Image is in the public domain.

Tommy Roe. Image is in the public domain.

There is a corner of the music world where Bubble Gum Avenue intersects with Muscle Shoals Boulevard. Really. It was at this musical intersection that Tommy Roe, a rocker who vacillated between annoying ear candy merchant and serious pretender to the Buddy Holly throne, cut a song called “Everybody.” This song drives me crazy. It so good and so catchy I want it to be the theme song for every TV show.

It’s closest cousin would be the slightly better known “Hey Baby,” by Bruce Channel, (pronounced like the perfume). They are both rave-ups that appeared during the lull at the end of the 50’s, when a lot of the original rockers all seemed to be on hiatus, before a whole new era inspired by The Beatles arrived. Calling this a lull would be understatement; it was more like an extended funeral after the death of Buddy. With the exception of Girl Groups and the occasional crossover from the R&B Charts, it was a sad-ass time for rock. Adults were in control, ringing up big sales by foisting less than authentic teen idols like Fabian, a true no-talent, and Frankie Avalon, a completely de-sexed robot with perfect hair who could barely sing, upon unsuspecting American youth.

Tommy Roe was a many-hit-wonder and he failed all kinds of cool tests. When he was bubble-gummy, it was painful. Songs like “Dizzy,” or “Hooray For Hazel,” could make your teeth actually hurt from the high treacle content.

But he had an ear for hooks and an eye on the charts. Coming before the self-conscious era of rock criticism, there were fewer poses to strike and boxes to check. He may have viewed all his material as the same, but a couple stood out for their clear vision and clean execution.

His first hit, “Sheila,” which was written on the heels of that terrible plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa, was released in 1960. But it failed to chart. Re-released in 1962, it went to #1 and stayed there a few weeks. It was a perfect Holly imitation. More specifically, 99 percent of its DNA came directly from “Peggy Sue.” The strumming pattern, the rolling tom-toms, the hiccuping falsetto, even the key, which happened to be A, showed he had been seriously stalking the Lubbock rocker. But it worked like a charm, introducing a new artist with a familiar and proven sound.

“Everybody,” a hit one year later, was something else. Roe took a break from his one-man Holly tribute and wrote a smart rocker that played with key change in a simple and effective way — the verse and the chorus were a half step apart. That’s the smallest interval in western music, but it might as well have been a country mile for the way it ratcheted up the excitement as it switched back and forth. Some things are so simple they’re genius. This song was Apple in a field of PCs.

One other very important stat: This song clocks in at 1:54. Coming a few years before songs started to be admired for their length, it’s very succinct and tart. I’ve forgotten a lot of the acid jams that really did seem to require that chemical lift to make them memorable; along with a lot of bands who mined that vein with endless tedium, they’ve completely vaporized in my memory. This song is almost exactly as long as The Beatles “It’s Only Love.” Both are recalled easily and pleasantly.

If you took out all the repeated words and phrases, this song would be too short to go on the Giant Slide:

Everybody, everybody, everybody’s, had a broken heart now
Everybody, everybody, everybody’s, had the blues

Everybody, everybody, everybody’s, blue when they’re lonesome
Everybody, everybody, everybody’s, had the blues
One time or other everybody listen to me, you lose somebody you love
But that’s no reason for you to break down and cry

I said a hey, everybody, everybody, everybody’s, had a lonely moment
Everybody, everybody, everybody’s, had the blues

One time or other everybody listen to me, you lose somebody you love
That’s no reason for you to break down and cry

I said a hey, everybody, everybody, everybody’s, had a lonely moment
Everybody, everybody, everybody’s, had the blues

I said a hey, everybody, everybody
Everybody’s, blue when they’re lonesome
Everybody, everybody, everybody’s, had the blues

© Tommy Roe

OMG, there is nothing to this lyric! It get’s an F in pretension, but an A for letting the song breathe and entertain. Everything this guy did was well crafted — even when I didn’t like him, he took care of that part of his job. “Everybody” plays like an anthem for the United States of Heartbreak, one that makes suffering sound like some kind of exquisitely tortured fun. Hey everybody, let’s run out and get our hearts broken!

This song is sung with soul and conviction and played by the pros at FAME Studios with relaxed precision. How Roe got there I don’t know. Whether he recorded there more than once is also a mystery. But it was a moment, or should I say a moment and fifty four. We could use more of those.

2 thoughts on “Sieger on Songs: “Everybody” Is Pure Pleasure”

  1. 2fs says:

    “Dizzy” might be treacly – but it’s an extraordinarily clever chord sequence, which gives the effect of constantly modulating upward throughout the song even though it always comes back to the same place…

  2. Christina Zawadiwsky says:

    So I went to YouTube to find this song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zU5OD2xRgl8) – and found many comments there – everyone loves Everybody! I hear a similarity to Tommy James And The Shondels here, although Everybody is definitely from an earlier era.

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