There’s a great story behind every great Rock & Roll act. The Everly Brothers were one of the greatest, certainly among the very best half-dozen artists of the genre’s first era. The brotherly discord behind their beautiful music began a tradition that would continue with the similarly combative kin in The Beach Boys, Kinks, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and many family acts to follow. However, George Scott’s recent BBC documentary The Everly Brothers: Harmonies from Heaven is really mainly concerned with that beautiful music.
A clutch of talking heads that include rock writers, music executives, and artists such as Keith Richards, Graham Nash, and Art Garfunkel spend most of the film’s hour analyzing the duo’s unique harmonies, Don Everly’s aggressive guitar rhythms, their songs and arrangements. Don is on hand to give new firsthand details on his music, while his late brother Phil appears in relatively recent footage from 2010. Even in a music-focused film, it would be dishonest, and frankly, kind of boring to only discuss the music, and the brothers’ fall out is addressed, Don basically chalking it up to his being a democrat and Phil being a republican.
It is not Scott’s OK documentary that makes Eagle Vision’s new blu-ray of the film a must own. It is the bonus DVD containing a live performance from Sydney, Australia, in 1968. Those talking heads can talk about how great The Everlys are all they want to, but there is no better proof than that club date in which the guys not only showed off their unimpeachable harmonies and rocked with total abandon with the assistance of a sharp blues trio called The Tabernacle Three, but also flaunted their significant comedic gifts. This is as much of a stand-up gig as it is a Rock & Roll one with Don delivering really funny shtick between songs while Phil plays the silent straight man. This is one of the most thoroughly entertaining performances I’ve ever seen, and the roughness of the footage isn’t much of an issue except in one small stretch with several missing frames. Unfortunately, this means we lose a few beats from “Wake Up, Little Susie” and Don’s comedy riff on another Don’s hit song about smoking banana peels.