‘Just Say I’m Gone . . .’

A hint that a reader named Larry left in a comment the other day falls into the category of good ideas I should have thought of a long time ago. I’d mentioned the difficulty of sorting versions of different songs with the same title – in this case, covers of Phil Ochs’ “Changes” – while using the information at All-Music Guide. Larry suggested using the online databases at ASCAP and BMI, the institutions that keep track of such things.

It sounded like a good idea, so I gave it a shot this morning, looking up versions of “Gone, Gone, Gone,” the Everly Brothers’ single that entered the Billboard Hot 100 on October 17, 1964, forty-seven years ago yesterday. I’d already scrummed around a bit at AMG and I’d come across four cover versions of the tune, but I was thinking there might be more. And the AMG listings were crowded with other songs with the same or similar titles, including tunes by Carl Perkins, Chet Atkins, Joe South and the trio of George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward.

But BMI, for whatever reason, lists only three of those four cover versions of “Gone, Gone, Gone.” So I would hope that the four cover versions I found complete the field. First, though, let’s take a look at the original.

“Gone, Gone, Gone” was the Everly Brothers’ next-to-last Top 40 hit, getting to No. 31 in December 1964. (Their last Top 40 hit was “Bowling Green,” which barely made it, sitting for two weeks at No. 40 in 1967.) I wanted to share a video of the single, but the copyright holder evidently doesn’t allow videos of the studio version of the song. I found, however, a live performance of “Gone, Gone, Gone” from a 1964 episode of Shindig!

That performance, I think, took place on October 14, 1964, evidently just as “Gone, Gone, Gone” was released. The brothers performed “Gone, Gone, Gone” twice as part of the Shindig! opening medley – once in the autumn of 1964 and again in June of 1965 – but from what I can tell, the only time they performed the song in its entirety was on the October 14, 1964, telecast.

Now, on to the covers: The first to cover the tune, evidently, were the Ventures, the instrumental group that had twenty-five records in or near the Hot 100, including Top Ten hits in 1960 and 1964 with two versions of “Walk – Don’t Run” and then in 1969 with “Hawaii Five-O.” The Ventures’ version of “Gone, Gone, Gone” showed up as an album track in 1965 on The Ventures Knock Me Out! It’s a typical Ventures track, which means I like it.

The cover version not listed at BMI came next, when the British folk-rock group Fairport Convention performed the tune live on the BBC’s show Top Gear hosted by the famed John Peel. The show aired on August 26, 1968, and the track eventually showed up on the album Heyday, subtitled “BBC Radio Sessions 1968-69.”  I think the duet on the performance is by Sandy Denny and Ian Matthews (before he changed the spelling of his first name), and it’s also one I like very much.

That last statement should, I suppose be annotated: I like very much all five versions of “Gone, Gone, Gone” that I’ve dug up this morning. Do I have a favorite? Yes, and we’ll get to it shortly. First, though, we’ll look at the most unlikely cover I’ve found of the song. In 1970, the Minneapolis group Crow got hold of the Everlys’ song and transformed it from a sprightly pop folk song with rockabilly hints into a lengthy blues-rock jam that slides its way along, stopping for a guitar solo and an odd choral segment backed with an ethereal wordless vocal and some organ chords. By the time the eight-minute track finds an ending, it hardly seems like the same song.

And that brings us to the most recent version of the song (and my favorite cover): Performers Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, along with producer T-Bone Burnett, added a subtitle and included “Gone, Gone Gone (Done Moved On)” on their Grammy-winning 2007 album Raising Sand. Returning the song to its rockabilly roots, Plant and Krauss share the spotlight with drummer Jay Bellerose.

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4 Responses to “‘Just Say I’m Gone . . .’”

  1. Dale Aman says:

    Thanks for this mornings offering.
    I have always wondered why this song never did any better. The Everly Brothers did a great job on it, but it may be a case of too many songs sounding the same for them. (Just a guess)
    But like you, I prefer the Plant/Krauss version. I’ve always said that if ever there were names given to angelic voices, Alison would be one of maybe three or four. (Karen Carpenter being one of the others)
    Great song!

  2. Yah Shure says:

    “By the time the eight-minute track finds an ending, it hardly seems like the same song.”

    I recall Minneapolis’ KQRS playing the Crow cover a ton at the time. But it was so drastically different from the Don ‘n’ Phil original that I never knew it was an Everly tune until noticing the songwriting credit on my college station’s copy of the ‘Crow By Crow’ LP. The track had been marked “No Play” by the music director who’d preceded me, perhaps in an effort to keep listeners from nodding off.

    Great as the Everlys’ 45 was at the time, they were fighting a losing battle in their attempt to stay relevant amidst the onslaught of the British Invasion. They really lost their way as the Warner years wore on, and throwbacks such as “Temptation” and “That’s Old Fashioned” probably did more harm than good if their intent was to remain hip. By disappearing completely from the U.S. singles charts in 1963, the duo had made themselves relics to most American deejays and record buyers.

    The excitement that defined 1964 was all about fresh sounds and new faces. Given that climate and the intense level of competition, it’s a wonder that “Gone, Gone, Gone” even managed to reach as high as number 31. If only it had come along a year earlier…

  3. porky says:

    While I appreciate Plant’s willingness to pair himself with someone like Krauss, their Gone3 is horrid. The video is awful. C’mon people. You don’t have to settle for this sub-standard crap.

    I suggest Walk Right Back: a 2-disc set of the E. Bros Warner Records days that contains many more winners than duds. THEIR “Stick With Me Baby” again slays Plant/Krauss.

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