Category Archives: Rock’n’Roll

Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode (1957)

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R.I.P. Chuck Berry. Will it be ‘Maybellene’, ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’, ‘Memphis, Tennessee’ or ‘No Particular Place To Go’? No. For the most memorable guitar intro in rock’n’roll, it has to be ‘Johnny B. Goode’ – the song based on the tale of a boy from humble beginnings with a talent for guitar. Have a great week.

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Mink DeVille – Spanish Stroll (1977)

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Willy DeVille

‘Spanish Stroll’ was a single by Mink DeVille off their debut long player Cabretta. The similarities to some of Lou Reed’s work are evident, but there’s more than a touch of Van Morrison – and all to some punky riffs. Bassist Rubén Sigüenza’s “¡Hey Rosita!” is a nice touch too. Willy DeVille never saw much success in his lifetime but worked the circuit right up until his death in 2009.

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Link Wray – Rumble (1958)

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Link Wray

Last week’s close has inspired an instrumental theme this week. Entitled ‘Oddball’ until Phil Everly commented on its rabble-rousing quality, ‘Rumble’ was eventually banned from a number of radio stations for its popularity and glorification of delinquency. That’s right folks, this rock’n’roll instrumental has a sound so dirty and distorted that juveniles could not help themselves but ride motorbikes and throw punches. This was 1958 and Link Wray’s use of distortion and feedback would influence a generation of those that picked up guitars instead. Have a good week.

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Dick Dale And The Deltones – Miserlou (1962)

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Dick Dale

Chopin this is not, my juxtaposed subscribers. ‘Miserlou’ was a Middle Eastern folk tune before Dick Dale had the vision to transform it into something far more dangerous. All that reverb and dirty riff would inspire a series of classic surf rock instrumentals in 1962/3 by the likes of The Chantays, The Surfaris etc. But it would be The Beach Boys that cemented Miserlou’s place in rock history with their version for the 1963 album Surfin’ U.S.A. As we all know now, it would also provide the perfect score for the opening credits for Pulp Fiction. Have a great weekend.

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Bo Diddley – Who Do You Love? (1957)

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Bo Diddley again

“I walked forty-seven miles of barbed wire, use a cobra snake for a neck tie/Got a brand new house on the roadside, made from rattlesnake hide/I got a brand new chimney made on top, made from a human skull/Now come on baby let’s take a little walk, and tell me ‘who do you love?…’. Some hoodoo love and a hard-driving rhythm with no real chord changes – rock’n’roll had changed music forever.

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Fats Domino – Please Don’t Leave Me (1953)

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Fats Domino

Fats Domino was out there. He’d already had success with his New Orleans piano form of early rock’n’roll on ‘The Fat Man’, a hit in the early 1950s. By 1953, his confidence would bring about some of his greatest piano trills on ‘Please Don’t Leave Me’. Fats could do piano rolls with both hands; Jerry Lee Lewis, eat your heart out.

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Buddy Holly – Raining in My Heart (1959)

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Buddy Holly

Undeniably, Buddy Holly hugely influenced the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. However, it is not the Chirping Crickets’ classic sound of ‘Not Fade Away’ or ‘Rave On’ that have stuck with me since those childhood car journeys; instead I find myself regularly humming ‘Raining in My Heart’. Overly orchestrated, it sounds like something the Everly Brothers would have put out – another one of my folks’ faves. It must be the bittersweet sentiment that saves it. Have a great week.

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Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues (1955)

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Johnny Cash Folsom Prison

Folsom Prison got a mention this week and I couldn’t help myself; bring on Johnny Cash. “But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die”. That there is the lyricism of The Man in Black. Johnny Cash would begin his concerts with ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ and never more poignantly than when recording a live album at Folsom Prison itself in 1968. But despite its popularity in the 1960s/70s, the song was first released as a single in 1955 and then featured on his debut album With His Hot and Blue Guitar. The album also included ‘I Walk The Line’. A heavyweight. Have a great weekend.

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Little Richard – Long Tall Sally (1956)

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Little Richard

“This stuff will make you a god damned sexual Tyrannosaurus, just like me.” Okay, for the purposes of this blog I can look beyond the superlative Schwarzenegger movie canon. Nevertheless, this song is a classic. ‘Tutti Frutti’ had already been a hit for Little Richard (Penniman), but it was increased tempo of ‘Long Tall Sally’ that defined his style thereafter. Have a great week.
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Bill Hailey – Rudy’s Rock (1956)

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Bill Hailey

After a weekend of comic relief in Blighty, I thought I would pick a few tunes that make me smile for their comedy as much their quality. First up, Rudy’s Rock by Bill Hailey and Rudy Pompilli. I feature the video of the song as it appeared in the movie Rock Around the Clock. Half way through the instrumental, there’s an event – Al Rex lies on his slap-back bass with sax hero Pompilli playing astride him; and all with a stay-press 1950s family looking on.

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The Kingsmen – Louie Louie (1963)

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To say that ‘Louie Louie’ is a rock ‘n’ roll standard is to undervalue its impact. Originally written by Richard Berry in 1955, The Kingsmen’s version is the best-known – infamous for the FBI investigation into its allegedly obscene lyrics, and celebrated for kicking off a wave of garage rock. Like punk some 10 years plus later, 1960s garage rock didn’t need talented musicians, just a simple, catchy tune, a raw-edged arrangement and a heap of energy. For this reason, the imprecise $52 recording worked to the song’s advantage. A new era was born.

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Bo Diddley – Bo Diddley (1955)

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It’s ‘Bo Diddley’. It was Rock’n’Roll with a twist. Bo Didley’s double-sided monster of a first single (‘I’m A Man’ was on the B-side) combined rock and roll, African rhythms and syncopated guitar chords. The Bo Diddley Beat would be copied by Johnny Otis, Buddy Holly et al.

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Ray Charles – What’d I Say (1959)

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Ray Charles

“Tell your mama, tell you pa, I’m going to send you back to Arkansas!” What’d I say about this song that hasn’t been said before? Influential is putting it mildly. I can hear Van Morrison, I can hear Spencer Davis Group, I can hear JB, I can hear Aretha, I can hear The Doors! It was a new sound and it changed things. The genius that is Ray Charles. Have a great weekend.

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Jackie Brenston – Rocket 88 (1951)

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‘Rocket 88’ by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats on Chess Records is often cited as the first real rock’n’roll record. The song was originally put together by Ike Turner, but Brenston was lucky enough to be his saxophonist and have a voice to boot. Brenston’s version was the smash R&B hit of 1951. But it would be Ike Turner’s piano intro that would find greater eternity 7 years later when used by Little Richard in ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’.

The Trashmen – Surfin’ Bird (1963)

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‘Surfin’ Bird’ was The Trashmen’s biggest hit. Undoubtedly ahead of its time, the song was a sampled combination of two rock’n’roll numbers by The Rivingtons. Not much more than 2 minutes long, the style-over-substance sound set the pace for years of garage rock to follow. 1-2-3, “A-well-a, everybody’s heard about the bird/Bird, bird, bird, b-bird’s the word/A-well-a, bird, bird, bird, the bird is the word…’