Alongside powerhouse peers like Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, Buddy Holly laid the foundations for the pop music of the latter half of the 20th century over his brief career in the 1950s. Holly’s style drew from the conformities of gospel, country and blues music, merging them together in a beautiful harmony that would inform The Beatles and most of their British invasion buddies in the ’60s.
Holly’s passion for music spilled over into concerted career aspirations in 1955 after he graduated from high school, further encouraged after bearing witness to Elvis Presley performing live in his hometown of Lubbock, Texas. Later that year, Holly found himself opening for Presley at a couple of his local shows. In the tailwind of The King, it wouldn’t take long for his personal touch on rock ‘n’ roll to reach hearts across the globe.
Holly recorded his earliest material as ‘Buddy Holly and the Two Tones’ under a Decca recording contract. However, uninspired by the label’s management decisions, Holly broke away and formed The Crickets in 1957 under new contracts with label subsidiaries Brunswick and Coral Records.
Alongside The Crickets, Holly recorded his most memorable material, including ‘Everyday’, ‘Rave On’, ‘Peggy Sue’ and his chart-topping sensation, ‘That’ll Be the Day’. Between 1957 and his tragic death on February 3rd, 1959, Holly released three studio albums that changed the face of music forever.
The tragically limited years of Holly’s career were so impactful that February 3rd is widely remembered as ‘The Day That Music Died’, thanks to Don McLean’s 1971 hit ‘American Pie’. Countless musicians over the subsequent decades have taken their turn to pay musical debts to the sorely missed rock ‘n’ roll pioneer in the form of covers.
Today we’re taking a look at ‘Peggy Sue’, one of Holly’s most enduring classics, which has been covered by some of the biggest names in pop music. Below, we reveal the five greatest covers of the ’50s staple.
Five best covers of Buddy Holly song ‘Peggy Sue’
It’s no well-kept secret that The Beatles started out with their feet firmly planted on the shoulders of the American rock ‘n’ roll pioneers of the 1950s. Before their time basking in the glory that the swinging ’60s had to offer, The Beatles’ gigs were no stranger to a Buddy Holly cover. The Beatles even included a version of Holly’s ‘Words of Love’ on their 1964 album, Beatles for Sale.
The Beatles never took ‘Peggy Sue’ to the studio, but this was wrong was righted in a solo mission by John Lennon in 1975 with the release of Rock’ n’ Rollan album dedicated to covers of 1950s and early ’60s pop-rock classics.
Lennon once said of Holly: “He was a great and innovative musician. He was a ‘master’. His influence continues, I often wonder what his music would be like now, had he lived…”
The Beach Boys
The Wilson brothers and a couple of their West Coast buddies formed a garage rock band in 1961 and developed their upbeat sound with characteristic vocal harmonies to reflect the California lifestyle. Over the 1960s, they pioneered to become one of the most important rock groups of the time and, alongside The Monkees, were a notable transatlantic contender to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
After their peak success in the mid-’60s, likely capped by their 1966 masterpiece Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys soldiered on through the 1970s as a major touring act with dwindling success in their new material. In 1978, they released their 22nd studio effort, MIU Albumwhich was highlighted by its lead single, a cover of ‘Peggy Sue’.
The cantankerous yet eminently creative frontman of The Velvet Underground wasn’t known for paying tribute to his peers (unless they were bandmates) or those who came before him. Reed was a prolific and unique songwriter; during his partnership with John Cale in the 1960s and again for a marble-less moment in the mid-70s (yes, I’m referring to Metal Machine Music), he was decidedly progressive.
Against the odds of Reed’s demeanor and innovative approach, he paid his respects to Buddy Holly, one of his salient formative influences. In 2011, Reed submitted a cover of ‘Peggy Sue’ for the compilation covers album, Rave On Buddy Holly, alongside contributions from Paul McCartney, Graham Nash and The Black Keys. I can’t help thinking Reed missed a trick in neglecting to title this cover: ‘Peggy Lou’.
It would seem a shame not to mention The Hollies in this list since their obsession with the late rock icon was such that they named themselves after him. Fortunately, The Hollies recorded a cover of Buddy Holly’s ‘Peggy Sue’ in 1980, undoubtedly making the grade.
The Hollies released their cover of ‘Peggy Sue’ alongside an arsenal of Buddy Holly covers in their aptly named 1980 album, Buddy Holly. The album also saw new life breathed into ‘Think It Over’, ‘Take Your Time’ and ‘Heartbeat’. Buddy Holly was by no means a blinding success upon its release, but it’s certainly a pleasant listen for any budding Holly enthusiasts.
Chas & Dave
Britain’s much-loved pop-rock duo Chas & Dave began blessing us with their light-hearted wit in the form of Cockney pub rock – AKA ‘Rockney’ – in 1972. Amongst their nine charting albums, Chas & Dave also contributed humorous music in support of their beloved Tottenham Hotspur FC, as well as several classic TV theme tunes.
One of the greatest renditions of ‘Peggy Sue’ came in the form of a brilliant Chas & Dave medley on their 1985 mash-up album, Chas & Dave’s Jamboree Bag Number 3. The album flows through over 100 rock ‘n’ roll standards over two LPs. Holly’s ‘Peggy Sue’ appears sandwiched between covers of Elvis Presley’s ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and ‘Don’t Be Cruel’.