Sunday, 30 October 2011

Ray Sharpe, Gene Simmons, Reggie Perkins - rock 'n' roll-era classics I've only just discovered

I thought I was pretty knowledgeable when it came to rock music of the late 1950s, but given the number of absolute classics I unearthed on a recent trrawl of YouTube, I’d probably have scored a miserable three or four answering questions on the subject on Mastermind. (For instance, I was unaware that Paul James and Jimmy Short had cut a rockabilly track called “Your Big Beaver” – available on several compilation CDs, but sadly unavailable on YouTube.)

I thought I’d share ten of the best with you.

We started  “Linda Lu” (see above). Now, I’ve known the Johnny Kidd version since I was a kid, but Ray’s Sharpe’s 1959 original is simply stunning.

I recently did a post about booze songs, but that was before I’d heard that great rocker Dwight “Whitey” Pullen’s wonderful “Moonshine Liquor”, which was never released as a single. (Poor Dwight died at the age of 26 in 1961).

While we’re featuring hard-driving rock ‘n’ roll, here’s Reggie Perkins’s compelling 1959 rocker, “High School Caesar”:

We’ll slow it down now for one of the “best country story songs featuring psychopathic violence” I’ve ever heard – Loy Clingman’s haunting “It’s Nothing to Me” (the recording’s a bit manky).

Otis Blackwell, a pianist, songwriter and recording artist probably hasn’t received the recognition owed him. His compositions include “All Shook Up”, “Don’t Be Cruel”, “Fever”, “Handy Man”, “Great Balls of Fire” and “Return to Sender”. Not too dusty! Here he is performing the bluesy “Let the Daddy Hold You”.

I’ve been a fan for years of BR-549’s cover of the great Moon Mullican’s politically incorrect 1951 hit, “Cherokee Boogie” – but it turns out to have been a note-for-note reconstruction of Johnny Horton’s quite brilliant take on the number:

For fans of Hillbilly Bop – the musical style that grew alongside Rock ‘n’ Roll and fed into Rockabilly – here’s The Miller Brothers’ in fine form on “Hey Pretty Baby” back in 1956.

And here’s an example of what Hillbilly Bop grew into – Jumpin’ Gene Simmons’s “Peroxide Blonde and a Hopped-Up Model Ford”, a Sun Records classic which was never released as a single. Gosh, Jumpin’ Gene was good! But I have no idea why he was jumpin’:

The next track is “Lead Guitar Man” by Sammy Julian. Not exactly a classic, but if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Johnny Cash must have been flattered into an absolute rage by hearing it!

Number Ten on the list is rockabilly giant, Bob Luman’s wonderful 1959 “Buttercup” – the one track on this list which I’ve owned for years:

Oh hell, I might as well go for a round dozen. Here’s what sounds like the backing track to Gary US Bonds’ “Quarter to Three”. It’s called “Night With Daddy G” and, unsurprisingly, it’s by Gary’s band, the Church Street Five:

I’m not a huge fan of modern Rockabilly – that sound Dave Edmunds created while producing the Stray Cats back in the 1970s now appears to be ubiquitous – and, apart from Wanda Jackson, I’m not that keen on female rockabilly singers, but I do have a penchant for Irish singer, Imelda May, who has done a brilliant version of the old Gloria Jones/Soft Cell number “Tainted Love”. Sassy!

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