rockin’ alone

My morning walks with our resident record reviewer frequently involve a brief visit to a house a block from ours. It is home to a pair of huskies that are at all times outside in a fenced-in yard. OK, on the coldest nights — e.g., the last few — the dogs are brought inside. Otherwise, these siblings are all about outdoor living.

When he’s in the mood, Snorri will trudge through the snow, whining his way to the fence that separates him from his would-be pals. Both dogs can be counted on to mosey over to check him out. One routinely whines in response; the other feigns disdain over the whole rather pathetic situation

One day, the thought occasionally occurs to me, there will be but one husky to greet us. Such is our mortal existence. I cannot help but wonder what losing that lifelong companion will do to the survivor. Companions since birth, separated by inevitable consequence. I hope that day will not come for a while.We were reminded this week of the natural friend-and-foe reality that is the sibling relationship in the twin worlds of rock and roll, as word reached us of the potential for a Kinks reunion in the coming months. After all, the Telegraph reported, 2014 marks “50 years since the band first formed.” It isn’t, exactly. The group first performed as a band 52 years ago; though, it seems likely the original quartet did not bill itself as The Kinks until February 1964. So, in one sense, the story checks out.

In another, though, it can be argued The Kinks have been a unit since the 1947 birth of David Russell Gordon Davies, younger brother to Raymond Douglas. For The Kinks were and are a tale of two brothers, whose love/hate relationship defined the group through a series of personnel changes that ultimately found the once-mighty British band petering out sometime in the mid-1990s with only Dave and Ray remaining from that original hopeful quartet. Since then, Pete Quaife, bassist during the band’s greatest period, has passed away. Drummer Mick Avory, meanwhile, has whiled away the years playing in a group rightly billed as The Kast Off Kinks and awaiting a call from Ray or Dave to return to the fold.

That call has likely come many times. From Ray. In recent years it has become something of an inside joke to Kinks fans — and a characteristically cruel one — that Ray will tell the world of plans for a reunion. For a few days, long-suffering fans like this one revisit those golden late-’60s albums and singles, dreaming of Dave and Ray’s return, only to have those dreams scuppered by a bitter response from Dave that usually includes a few puzzled comments aimed at his brother, along the lines of, “This is the first I’ve hear of it.”

This year’s annual reunion rumour came particularly early. Moreover, it appears to have come from Dave, rather than Ray. By all accounts the brothers are in agreement that, in Dave’s words, “It’d be a great shame if we don’t try and do something” to mark the occasion. In the same breath, mind you, Dave compares the famously feuding brothers to Cain and Abel.

We shall see.

It’s not difficult to understand how relationships between brothers of the road can become strained. Some, like brothers Randy and Tim Bachman or Tommy and Bob Stinson fall out over matters of substance abuse. Some, like the notorious Gallagher brothers, appear to not need much prompting to draw daggers — only the example, perhaps, of idols Dave and Ray. Partings between brother rockers are rarely sweet — ask John Fogerty or Brian Wilson. Reunions can be bitter.

Some years ago, after receiving word that The Everly Brothers were to perform at the National Arts Centre, I put in a request for an interview with Don or Phil. “Allan,” the publicist told me wearily, “not only are they not talking to media, they are not talking to each other.”

Such, seemingly, was the day-to-day existence of two of rock and roll’s most influential figures — likely for over 50 years, dating back to a nervous breakdown that forced Don to abandon a 1962 tour, leaving Phil to complete it as the lone performing Everly. At the time, they had already been a professional team for nearly 20 years. They would limp on for another 11, before calling it quits in spectacular fashion, midway through a live performance. A decade later, in 1983, the Everlys returned, harmonizing gloriously onstage, if not offstage.

I caught them only once, with my mom, at Lansdowne Park. Ticket sales for the show had been sufficiently sluggish that Blue Rodeo had been a late addition to the bill. Messers Keelor and Cuddy, no strangers to the Everlys’ exquisite harmonies, were suitably humble and appreciative during their opening set. Don and Phil, meanwhile, sounded magnificent — though, as was the case with all their later shows, an excess of truncated medleys of hits tarnished the glory of those songs.

And what songs they were. Cathy’s Clown (written by Don and Phil). The Price of Love. So Sad. Let It Be Me. All I Have to Do is Dream. Gone Gone Gone. Crying in the Rain. Bye Bye Love. I could go on. And no, I can’t blame them for resorting to the occasional medley. The Everlys had too many great songs to fit into a single concert. And let’s face it, they weren’t getting any younger.

A sincere tribute to one of the Everlys’ greatest works came only recently, with the release of Billie Joe + Norah’s reverent Foreverly album, a collection of 12 songs culled from the brothers’ own nostalgic Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. The timeless quality of traditional material like Roving Gambler and Barbara Allen brought out the best in the Green Day frontman and Norah Jones, as it did in Don and Phil some 56 years ago. The Everlys, who grew up singing folk standards on their family’s radio show and infused early rock and roll nuggets with the feel of what would come to be called Americana, had an immeasurable impact on popular music. Just as they served as an influence on all subsequent musical siblings — for better and worse. Fated to accept that their appeal depended on a show of togetherness, the reluctant partners could not help but harmonize through music. I am thankful that they did.

This year, should Dave and Ray join forces, they will do so — like John and Paul or Mick and Keith or Greg and Jim before them — to try to channel some of the spirit of Don and Phil. Here’s hoping they take a moment to appreciate it, as I like to think Don and Phil did. Thanks, Phil, for injecting a little beauty into the lives. We can never know what it was like to be the siblings whose harmonies melted hearts for nigh on six decades, but I can tell you we on the other side of the fence are thankful for the moments we shared with you. I like to think Don is too.

I also like to think those huskies are keeping each other warm tonight. And that they continue to put their differences behind them.

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