VERSIONS: “Love Hurts”

‘Love Hurts’ was written by Boudleaux Bryant in the summer of 1960, and it’s a song with quite a fascinating history. Bryant and his wife, Felice, were the main writers for the Everly Brothers during this time and, while they usually wrote together, Boudleaux Bryant was particularly prolific and would often try to write without his wife getting in on the act – they were extremely competitive, never more so than with each other.

Bryant presented the song to Phil and Don Everly, who wanted to record it as a single, but they’d had a falling out with their manager and publisher, Wesley Rose, and he prevented them from using it, despite the fact that it had been written specifically for them. Since the Everlys couldn’t use what everyone knew was a very good song, it passed to Roy Orbison, whose heavily orchestrated, and slightly overblown version, was the B side to his international hit ‘Running Scared’. However, in Australia, the B side picked up so much airplay that the record company, Monument, re-launched it as a double A-side and gained a Top 5 hit in Australia. The Everly Brothers would finally record it for their 1965 album, “Rock ‘n’ Soul”, where they showed just what a good song it was in the hands of the artists it was written for.

In americana circles, the best known version is probably the one performed by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris on the “Grievous Angel” album, recorded in late 1973 and released a few months after Parsons’ death. It has become a song closely associated with the two of them and Emmylou has re-recorded versions on two separate occasions. Unfortunately, the song is probably most widely known for the Nazareth power ballad version that came out as a single in 1974 and gave them a top 10 American hit. It was a big international success, hitting the number 1 spot in 5 different countries, including Norway, where it was on the charts for 61 weeks, 14 of them in the top spot. Oddly, one of the countries where it didn’t do particularly well was the UK, where it only managed to climb to the 41st position on the singles chart, so it was something of a surprise when Jim Capaldi, drummer with well regarded psych rock band Traffic, released a decidedly bouncy pop version of the song and claimed a top 5 hit in the UK. As Rolling Stone magazine observed at the time, his version had “a sense of pain very different from Roy Orbison’s”.

Other versions of the song include ones from Cher, Rod Stewart, Don McLean, Joan Jett, Heart, Jennifer Warnes and many others. Thankfully, we’re restricted to just four, so I’m going to limit it to the ones that I consider to be good versions. It’s a great song that works best when performed by the people it was intended for (even a couple of decades after they first recorded it), though the Parsons/Harris version comes a very close second. Roy Orbison’s version shows that, while it’s beautifully sung, the song really didn’t need quite so much production and, to crown proceedings, The Osborne Brothers give us a bluegrass version that was recorded in 1977 and most recently turned up on the soundtrack of 2018’s ‘Deadpool II’. If you want to hear the other versions, you’ll have to find them for yourselves. Be warned, that way madness lies…

About Rick Bayles 354 Articles
Now living the life of a political émigré in rural France and dreaming of the day I'll be able to sing those Cajun lyrics with an authentic accent!
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