Rolling Stones unreleased: Heartbeat
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Written by: Bob Montgomery/Norman Petty
Recorded: EMI Pathé Marconi Studios, Boulogne Billancourt, Paris, France, Nov. 11-Dec. 19 1982
Although “Heartbeat” barely made the Top Hundred when it was a single in 1958, it’s one of the better-remembered and more celebrated Buddy Holly songs. Many 1950s rock’n’roll songs, by Holly and others, had a Latin influence, and “Heartbeat” is one of the Holly numbers in which the Latin factor is most to the fore. There’s a near-calypso pattern to the beat, but a rock’n’roll brashness to the way the electric guitar rings out the chords in the opening bars. The melody is at once plaintively lilting and memorable. The song is Holly in the persona he so often adopted: playful and confident, yet at the same time betraying a little shyness and uncertainty when hit with the fierceness of his romantic inclinations.
“Heartbeat”‘s a little unusual for a ’50s rock song in how it alternates vocal lines with responsive guitar riffs, muted to sound a little like heartbeats themselves. The guitar solo is superb, creating a sweeping, Hawaiian-like effect with bent sustained notes. There’s similar guitar work in the background of the bridge, playing descending patterns in a Latin-like style, as if mimicking the swoon of Holly’s emotions as he’s falling in love. For a song that was never a huge hit, “Heartbeat”‘s gotten its share of cover versions, including ones by the Knack, the Hollies, Humble Pie, and Herman’s Hermits.
“Heartbeat” was the second to last of Holly’s singles to be released during his lifetime. It was a minor hit in the United States, reaching number 82 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Holly’s single had more chart impact in the UK, reaching number 30 in January 1959 and again upon its reissue in April 1960. In the interim between the two UK chartings of the Holly original, a remake by the Dale Sisters (catalogue number HMV POP 710) reached number 33 in the UK.
“Heartbeat” subsequently reached the UK top 10 twice. Firstly in 1975 for Showaddywaddy, number 7 that September, and again in 1992 when Nick Berry’s version, recorded as the theme to the television series Heartbeat, in which he starred, reached number 2 that June. Tommy Allsup played the lead guitar part on the recording.
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