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Listen to Julian Casablancas cover Buddy Holly's song 'Rave On'


At first glance, it doesn’t appear as though there are any connectors between rock and roll legend Buddy Holly and indie rock icon Julian Casablancas. Holly died in rock’s most famous plane crash all the way back in 1959, when Casablancas was exactly negative 19-years-old. Casablancas took after the rugged sounds of late 1960s art-rock like The Velvet Underground, so it appears as though he almost completely skipped over the rockabilly stage of rock history.

As it turns out, Casablancas had enough admiration for Holly’s particular brand of early rock and roll to contribute a cover to the Holly tribute album Rave On Buddy Holly. He was amongst a star-studded lineup of artists, including Paul McCartney, The Black Keys, Graham Nash, Cee-Lo Green, Fiona Apple, Nick Lowe, Florence + the Machine, and even Kid Rock. Casablacas’ own hero Lou Reed contributed a cover of ‘Peggy Sue’, but it’s Casablancas who managed to nab the album’s title track.

‘Rave On’ is one of the trickier Holly compositions to take on. Not for any particular musical difficulty: the song is three chords, in classic old school rock and roll fashion. No, the reason why ‘Rave On’ is so difficult to reproduce is that it’s pure Holly: from the frantic opening hiccup to the wild energy that he brings to the track, Holly remains one of the only people who could make the act of saying goodnight sound horny as hell.

Casablancas’ signature brand of detached iciness doesn’t really seem suited for the full-throated bleat of ‘Rave On’, so Casablancas decides to turn the song into a wonky electronic experimental project á-la his Strokes side project The Voids. While retaining the song’s central melody, Casablancas layers trippy keyboards and wild guitar effects over the top of Holly’s fairly basic song.

Most importantly, though, Casablancas keys into what’s important in Holly’s music – its immediacy. Few of Holly’s songs ever broke the three-minute mark; in fact, two minutes was the ideal length for Holly, with some of his biggest songs actually clocking in at under the two-minute mark. Casablancas recognises that ‘Rave On’ only has its power if it comes and goes before the listener even has time to process it, so he graciously steps out at the 1:58 mark, just a few seconds longer than Holly’s original.

Check out Julian Casablanca’s cover of ‘Rave On’ down below.