Hello there! Our song this week is Love Hurts, a pop song with a very interesting history. We will review the original 1957 version by The Everly Brothers. We will also discuss covers by The Who, and by Nazareth.
The Everly Brothers, Love Hurts:
For some time, I wanted to write a blog post on Love Hurts as performed by the group Nazareth. A few months ago, I was surprised to hear that Roy Orbison had released an earlier version of that song.
So I thought “OK, I’ll write a blog post on the original song by Roy Orbison, and the cover version by Nazareth.” Well, when I did some research for this post, I was stunned to realize that Orbison’s version was not the original, and that the first version was by the Everly Brothers!
Over the years, the song Love Hurts has been recorded roughly 100 times. The first hit single was the version by Roy Orbison, who issued his cover in 1961 as the B side to Running Scared. In most countries, little attention was paid to Orbison’s version of Love Hurts; however the song was a big hit in Australia.
As we will see, the big international best-seller was recorded by the group Nazareth in 1975. Other versions of the song have been released by Jim Capaldi, Cher, Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons, Don McLean, Rod Stewart, Joan Jett, Sinead O’Connor and Pat Boone.
In this post, we will begin with the original version of Love Hurts by the Everly Brothers. We have previously discussed the Everly Brothers, for their cover of Buddy Holly’s That’ll Be The Day; and their song When Will I Be Loved. So here we will provide a brief review of the career of the Everly Brothers.
Don and Phil Everly were brothers who grew up in Shenandoah, Iowa. As young children, they began performing with their parents’ Everly Family singers as “Little Donnie and Baby Boy Phil.” The legendary close harmony singing for which they became famous was a result of years of performing together.
Below is a photo of the Everly Brothers Don (L) and Phil (R) circa 1955, flanking the bandleader and early rock ‘n roll impresario Johnny Otis.
When the brothers were in high school, the family moved to Tennessee where Don and Phil were hired as songwriters by Acuff-Rose music publishers. The duo had their first big hit in 1957 with Bye Bye Love. That song was written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, and was notable because it had been rejected by 30 other groups before the Everlys took it on.
Bye Bye Love became a smash cross-over hit. It reached #1 on the Country charts, #2 on the pop listings and #5 in the R&B category! With Don singing the baritone lead and Phil tenor harmony, the pair’s exceptional melodies, delivered in diatonic thirds, seemed irresistible.
Between the period 1957-1962, the Everly Brothers charted 26 top-40 singles. They were an inspiration to an entire generation of rock groups that followed them.
The Beach Boys and Simon & Garfunkel developed their early styles by performing Everly covers. The Bee Gees, the Hollies, and other rock ‘n’ roll groups that feature harmony singing were also influenced.
The Beatles were also big fans, performing Everly Brothers covers early in their career, and at one time referring to themselves as “the English Everly Brothers.” The Beatles based their arrangement of Please Please Me after the Everlys’ Cathy’s Clown.
The Everly Brothers formed a profitable association with the husband-and-wife songwriting duo Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. The Bryants wrote over a score of songs that Don and Phil turned into hits.
Don and Phil also formed a close relationship with Buddy Holly and the Crickets. The two groups toured together in 1957 and 1958. Each band had started out in country music before hitting the big time as country-pop crossovers.
The song Love Hurts was yet another of the Felice/Boudleaux Bryant songs recorded by the Everly Brothers. The song was part of their album A Date With The Everly Brothers, that was released by Warner Brothers Records in 1961. That album made it to #9 on the Billboard album charts.
The lyrics to Love Hurts are quite straightforward. The singer catalogs a number of the terrible things love can do to you, if you are not sufficiently strong to withstand the pain. He also suggests that references to love as joyful and comforting are simply untrue.
Love hurts, love scars
Love wounds and mars
Any heart not tough
Nor strong enough
To take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain
Love is like a cloud, holds a lot of rain.
… Some fools rave of happiness
Some fools fool themselves, I guess
But they’re not fooling me.
I know it isn’t true, know it isn’t true
Love is just a lie made to make you blue.
Here is the audio of the Everly Brothers singing Love Hurts.
As you can see, the Everly Brothers version of this song is soft and smooth. It’s quite a beautiful performance, with Don and Phil showing off their trademark close harmony singing.
Love Hurts was never released as a single, so it appeared only on the album. In the Everlys original version, the song reproduces the pathos of lost love; but as we will see, it is not as raw and biting as the version popularized by the hard-rock group Nazareth.
I was frustrated that I could not find video of the Everly Brothers performing Love Hurts live. This is particularly sad because the boys were so good in live performance. So here is “bonus video” of the Everly Brothers live in concert, performing two of their big hits, Dream and Cathy’s Clown.
This performance took place during the Everly Brothers tour of the U.K. in 1960. As an interesting note, their backup band is The Crickets, Buddy Holly’s band. This concert took place just a year after Buddy Holly’s tragic death in a plane crash in Feb. 1959.
In this video clip, the Everly Brothers display those beautiful, tight harmonies that they were known for. All that duo singing over many years produced the tremendous chemistry that characterized their performances.
Unfortunately, after 1962 the hits dried up for the duo. A controversy cut the boys off from songwriters with the Acuff-Rose publishers, and that included Felice and Boudleaux Bryant.
Their situation was exacerbated by the fact that both brothers had become addicted to speed, and brother Don also developed a dependency on Ritalin. For a time, Don was hospitalized in an attempt to cure his addiction.
In 1973 during a live performance, Phil became frustrated when Don arrived drunk and unable to perform. Phil smashed his guitar and left the stage. After that, the brothers broke up and began solo careers, until they re-united in 1983.
When Neil Young introduced the Everlys at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the inaugural class of 1986, he
observed that every musical group he belonged to had tried and failed to copy the Everly Brothers’ harmonies.
In January, 2014, Phil Everly died of lung disease. After Phil’s death, Paul Simon issued a statement that said
“Phil and Don were the most beautiful sounding duo I ever heard. Both voices pristine and soulful. The Everlys were there at the crossroads of country and R&B. They witnessed and were part of the birth of rock and roll.”
The Who, Love Hurts:
The Who are one of the greatest hard-rock bands of all time. I saw them perform live in England in fall 1965, and they made a lasting impression on me. The showmanship from the group was simply mind-boggling.
Below is a photo of The Who circa 1966. From L: guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend; drummer Keith Moon; lead vocalist Roger Daltrey; and bassist John Entwistle.
During a performance, vocalist Roger Daltrey would throw his mic high into the air and catch it. Drummer Keith Moon nearly always appeared to be incapacitated, yet he never seemed to miss a beat.
Lead guitarist Pete Townshend seemed positively hyperactive. He would leap around the stage, show off his “windmill” technique, and would frequently destroy his guitar at the end of a performance. John Entwistle was comparatively restrained, yet he would produce some incredible riffs on the bass guitar, often playing the bass as a solo instrument.
Another novel feature of The Who was the wallpaper-peeling volume. The sound they produced was truly ear-splitting, and was doubly impressive when combined with the extreme distortion from the feedback.
Only recently did I realize that the Who more or less invented the massive Marshall stacks amplifiers that transformed live rock music. Furthermore, both Entwistle and Townshend were pioneers in using feedback for dramatic effect.
My initial impression of The Who was that they were a bunch of crude, boorish louts, big on aggression and showy displays but short on talent. I saw them as primarily a novelty act and thought they would rapidly burn out.
Well, 50 years later I realize I was completely mistaken. Not only have they carried on, but The Who have had an absolutely outstanding career. Their accomplishments, which include the rock opera Tommy, exceptional songs like Baba O’Riley and the song cycle in Quadrophenia, are far beyond what I would ever have guessed.
As a general rule, all the songs that The Who performed in concert were written by Pete Townshend, except for their cover of Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues.
But in their earliest days, The Who performed hard-rock covers of songs by artists who inspired them. So here is a live video of The Who performing Love Hurts. This took place at a concert in July, 1989 in East Rutherford, NJ.
This was part of the group’s reunion tour in 1989. On the playlist for that tour, The Who included a couple of songs from their earliest days as a band.
Roger Daltrey introduces the song by relating that The Who once played covers of Roy Orbison songs. One gets a vivid visual image of The Who “smashing guitars to [Orbison’s song] In Dreams.” The group performs Love Hurts as an homage to Orbison, who had died the previous year.
The first verse features Daltrey accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. After that, Pete Townshend also enters on guitar, and the arrangement shifts more towards The Who’s classic-rock genre. As we will see, the version by The Who is just about half-way between the original Everly Brothers style and that of Nazareth.
Pete Townshend’s songwriting was initially rather simple, but became progressively more complex. After becoming interested in the teachings of Indian spiritual master Meher Baba, Townshend wrote the rock opera Tommy and dedicated it to Baba. Similarly, Townshend’s song Baba O’Riley is also dedicated to Meher Baba.
A major shock to the group was the death of their drummer Keith Moon in 1978. The Who found a replacement drummer, but they disbanded in 1982 after Townshend grew tired of touring.
The Who then re-united for special occasions and one or two tours before re-forming in 1999. However, they again stopped touring in 2002, following the death of bass player John Entwistle.
Since 2006, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend have been touring and releasing records. Recently, it seems that each tour is described as the duo’s final appearance, but at present they are still performing.
We welcome seeing Daltrey and Townshend, as long as they still wish to perform in public. What a long, wonderful trip it has been!
Nazareth, Love Hurts:
The group Nazareth was a hard-rock band from Scotland. They were inspired to form a band after the success of the British Invasion. However, they took their name from the reference to Nazareth, Pennsylvania in the song The Weight by The Band (“I pulled into Nazareth, I was feelin’ ‘bout half past dead”).
Below is a photo of Nazareth performing in 1974. From L: lead singer Dan McCafferty; guitarist Manny Charlton; drummer Darrell Sweet; and bassist Pete Agnew.
From the period 1971-1975, the group had a number of modest hits in the U.K., but no dramatic success and nothing in the U.S. However, in 1975 the group released an album titled Hair of the Dog that was produced by guitarist Manny Charlton.
The album Hair of the Dog contained the group’s two big hits. The first was the title track from the album. However, that song is frequently referred to as “Son of a Bitch,” for two reasons. First, the song’s title does not appear in the lyrics; and second, the chorus of that song repeats the phrase “now you’re messin’ with a son of a bitch” four times.
However, Nazareth’s biggest international hit was the song Love Hurts. That song hit #8 on the Billboard pop charts, and went to #1 in many other countries. For example, the Nazareth version of Love Hurts became the biggest-selling single ever in Norway – go figure!
Over time, the Nazareth song Love Hurts has become a classic-rock staple. It is a great power-pop anthem. Here is Nazareth “performing” their version of Love Hurts.
Although the video clip is touted as being “live,” I am convinced that the group is simply lip-synching their record. However, note lead singer’s Dan McCafferty’s terrific, searing vocals. The song is set off perfectly by Manny Charlton’s soaring guitar solo. And the audio quality is really great on this video.
This is the version of Love Hurts that you would play over and over and over again, if you got dumped by your lover. It is raw and biting, and the pain felt by the singer is palpable. The lines “I know it isn’t true … love is just a lie, made to make you blue” will resonate with anyone mourning a love affair gone bad.
Next, here is the group Nazareth, live in concert in Texas from 1982.
This is quite enjoyable. Dan McCafferty has a great voice for rock ‘n roll, and the song is very effective.
Well, the album Hair of the Dog was more or less it for Nazareth, at least in the U.S. and U.K. The group had some additional success in Europe, particularly in Germany.
The original band did remain intact until 1990, which is roughly a century in “rock-band years.” However, the group has undergone a number of personnel changes since then. The only member from the original band is bassist Pete Agnew. And original drummer Darrell Sweet died in 1999.
But you can still catch the Nazareth version of Love Hurts on classic-rock radio stations. And if your one true love walks out on you, this is the song you will want to hear! Did she rip out your heart, throw it on the ground, and then stomp on it? Right, then let’s listen to Love Hurts from Nazareth, followed by Layla, Reason to Believe and The First Cut is the Deepest!