Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Not My Buddy: It's So Easy

Buddy Holly only had two Top 5 hits, “That’ll Be The Day” with the Crickets at #1 and his solo “Peggy Sue” which peaked at #2. The only other Top 5 Holly related record was Linda Ronstadt’s cover of “It’s So Easy.” Released in 1977 from her “Simple Dreams” album, “It’s So Easy” was Ronstadt’s second Buddy Holly hit. Her 1976 version of “That’ll Be The Day” charted at #11 – not bad for a couple of songs’ second lives.

While The Crickets released “It’s So Easy” as a single in 1958 and supported the record with a performance on American Bandstand, their version failed to chart. The song is credited to Holly and his producer/manager Norman Petty. Petty’s contribution to Holly’s songs where he received writing credit has always been suspect. A case in point is “That’ll Be The Day.” Nearly a year before meeting Petty, Holly recorded the song for Decca; however, Petty was credited on the hit version of the song by The Crickets as a writing collaborator along with Jerry Allison and Holly.

On the original Decca recording, only Allison and Holly are credited as writers. It was not unusual for producers, managers, and artists to demand payment in kind via credit and in the process picking up a percentage of the songwriting royalties.

The arrangement may have been conditional upon his contract with Petty, Holly may have been ignorant of the nebulous world of song royalties, or it may be a situation of Holly willing to take a smaller percentage over something that would bring him greater fame and money in the long run. In other words, 50% of something is better than 100% of nothing.

In addition, Petty would also cash in on a share of the publishing royalties; the song was originally published by NorVaJak music – a company owned by Norman Petty (Nor), Violet Ann Petty (Va), and Jack Vaughn (Jak) who were members of the Norman Petty Trio. Paul McCartney’s MPL Communications purchased NorVaJak’s entire catalog of songs in 1975.

Since that time, McCartney has been earning the publishing royalties on many, if not all, of Holly’s songs including “It’s So Easy” and “That’ll Be The Day.” This was the case when Ronstadt recorded the songs and McCartney received mechanical royalties from the sale of the albums, cassettes, and singles. He also earned performance royalties for when Ronstadt's version played on radio and TV and when she sang it in concert. In other words, Sir Paul’s investment was a sound one – and he is still earning royalties from these recordings.

As for Ronstadt’s version, “It’s So Easy” and “Simple Dreams’” other hit single, Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou,” helped propel the album to the number one slot for five weeks. At the time, Ronstadt was the first artist to have two simultaneous Top 5 records since The Beatles and the first female vocalist to perform this feat. And now you know.

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