Archive for March, 2013

Rockabilly Archaeology: Part Two.

March 26, 2013

The conventional wisdom is that when Elvis released Heartbreak Hotel on 27 January 1956 the world surrendered to this new phenomena. And as you would expect, those perps from Rolling Stone are aiding and abetting this fabrication:

In 2004 it was ranked number forty-five on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”,[44] the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included it in its unranked list 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll[45] and in 2005, Uncut magazine ranked the first performance of “Heartbreak Hotel” in 1956 by Presley as the second greatest and most important cultural event of the rock and roll era.

This is hogswash of the first order. Rock and Roll, rockabilly, call it what you like, was well and truly percolating in the major cities in the South prior to this date and via numerous musicians who are now mostly footnotes. The whole idea of placing the first dot on a musical timeline is an idiot’s exercise. Musicians of that period simply didn’t think of themselves as genre artists: that was a retrospective exercise undertaken by both the musicians themselves (at least those that survived) and rock journalists.

Insipid pop, pure country, rock and roll or blues: The South was one massive melting pot of sounds and musicians turned their efforts to song types where they (or more exactly their managers/record companies) thought they could make a buck. Royalties from the sale of vinyl were non-existent: the only way to pay the bills and buy that mandatory pink cadillac and/or bus was really exhaustive touring – bars, roadhouses and high school hops, whitey’s version of the Black America’s chitlin circuit. And Black and White sounds of the day routinely intersected as bands ground out a living on the road. Songs were routinely pilfered, rewritten and sanitised, with Black musicians opting for the more visceral versions.

This abbreviated rant out of the way, let’s turn up the speakers and listen to some major and minor footnotes. Charlie Feathers HERE and HERE always enjoyed pointing out that he held a musicians union ticket well before Elvis.

Prior to his death in 1998, Charlie downsized and turned his family into his backing band. Just think that years later Tarantino (or more correctly longtime associate Robert Rodriguez) included the following in the Kill Bill double bill. (Rodriguez is unquestionably the most interesting sound track creator in decades.)

Interview with Charlie. You’ll need a linguist.

Sorting thru Gene Vincent’s catalogue for song gems is a bit like ploughing thru Rockally Rarities Vols.1 -4: it’s not worth the time or effort. There is just too much dross. Vincent led a pained life (naval injury) which was not helped by his love of bourbon and flick knives. And like Jerry Lee, he had to vacate the US to avoid the demands of the Inland Revenue. However Be Bop-a-Lula is a shining example of all the rockabilly mannerisms.

I think this was the clip used early on in Scorsese’s No Direction Home.
And here’s the same, but with superior sound values.

Vincent’s guitarist Cliff Gallup seriously inspired Beck, Page and others and the guy never left his day job. He was the Director of Maintenance and Transportation for the Chesapeake, Virginia city school system, where he worked for almost 30 years. Wicki
Update. Just realised that I forgot this piece Catman by Gene Vincent, where Gallup’s breaks the mold with guitar playing which precursed The Cramps, The Gun Club etc by decades. And since this is a family friendly site, I leave the Catman signifier to you lecherous imagination.

For the full road house opera, there is little to surpass Lonnie Mack’s Why. Mack, a reverb twang, country and blues sojourner displays his Otis Rush skills here – brass riffs to die for, strong lyrics and incandescent guitar.

Finally, we come to Sleepy La Beef, The Human Jukebox, capable of doing three hour concerts without a break and covering a massive sweep of songs in a variety of genres including gospel. Saw him on two occassions and had my musical parameters seriously extended.

Readers who are interested in guitar porn will have noted the Danelectro on the right, and there are some of you since the The Luthiers Art….post has been read around 2,500 times, which is sort of gratifying.
The final in this series will focus on Train Mythology.

Rockabilly Archaeology: Part One.

March 25, 2013

Been having quite a love affair with rockabilly of late. This is a bit of a scatter shot post as I’m adopting the Eugen Duhring approach (Frederick Engels. Anti-Duhring Translated by Emile Burns from 1894 edition) and discussing everything under the sun and a few things beside. Okay, so I fudged the quote.

Now, before we discuss the means of production utilised in this now-mostly-ignored genre of white boy musical expression, I feel impelled to warn the class against any short cuts to rockabilly knowledge ie hitting up rockabilly on wicki. The wicki entry is undiluted crap, shorn of all socio-cultural context and probably cobbled together by some hacks from Rolling Stone. And if ever there was a case for a fully-fledged Cultural Revolution in the world of music journalism (sic), those bastards would be for the high jump or an extended dip in the village outhouse. They function somewhat like the Vatican continually restating canonical ‘truths”. 100 best LPs, 100 best guitarists, etc. Fucking sickening self-referential problematic****.

Now that that itch has been scratched, lets look at rockabilly’s basic means of production.
Hit the images link below for the Gretsch Chet Atkins in all their sunburst glory.…0.0…1ac.1.7.img.hZHkNsOz8kw
More specifically, the Gretsch G6120 Double Cutaway which will kill your bank account.
Next on the shopping list is a valve-driven Fender Tweed Bassman.
Finally, a very elemental drum kit and a double bass.

Kimchibilly: Trust the Koreans to go genre excessive. Died laughing with one.

Kimchibilly: Trust the Koreans to go genre excessive. Died laughing with this one.

You have spent a fortune so far, but the mandatory sneer and greasy pompadour are gratis.

The concept of problematic coined by Louis Althusser to describe the regularities in the way problems are formulated and the types of answers consequently sought. Althusser tpoints out that ” …. a word or concept cannot be considered in isolation; it only exists in the theoretical or ideological framework in which it is used”. Equally importantly, ” …it is centred on the absence or problems and concepts within the problematic as much as their presence;…”. Furthermore, it is not the vision or recognitional capacities of subject (musical) historians who establish the framework of questions, answers, modes of proof: the field of vision of the problematic establishes this explanatory framework. @ KT

Historical Revisionism and the Surf Aesthetic: Part One

March 2, 2013

Lets begin with an IQ test.

What were the seminal events of the 1960s?

1. JFKs (aka The Haircut, 60 Second Jack for James Ellroy fans) inauguaral speech in January 20 1961:

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

2. The photos of US troops landing at Da Nang (shades of Mogadishu), South Vietnam in 1965, the first of (some 40 plus) imperial ventures to be reported as a visual television event.


3. The first man on the moon.

The Canned Heat version

The Canned Heat version

4 How about Charlie Manson and/or The Stones when they croaked the Sixties Dream at Altamont Speedway?

Okay, so I cheated, since the seminal event of this watershed epoch was the invention of this contraption.

Farfisa organ manufactured in Osimo, Italy.

Farfisa organ manufactured in Osimo, Italy.

Now, if you were the last member to join your local garage band and really hoped to pull hot babes after the gig, chances are that you got the following instruction: “go buy a Farfisa and perfect the two hand-two finger technique of playing a simple melody, and if you can play in time, you’ve joined the band”.
However, this wasn’t the complete story, since there were other intructions.
Your were told to be well dressed, even if the drummer looked like an escapee from a hog farm. Furthermore, there were those choreography instructions. Remain relatively immobile, no fucking jumping round, since all posturing, scowling and stage leering was the sole property of the singer and guitarist. With the exception of Sly Stone, these simple advices to organ players persist to this day.

Technology is nothing without human imput, namely Bobby, the Franks and Roberto aka Question Mark and the Mysterians.

96 Tears exemplifies my above remarks as well as being one of the seminal moments in the formation of Garage Band Culture, not to forget a royality stream to die for.
The Young Rascals were brilliant understudies with organ melody lines which set the bar, until the appearance of Prog Rock in the late Sixties, when the whole organ sound turned to shit. (See my negative views on Prog Rock via Musicology (One Of Three) – archived 19.6.2012).

There is no logical leap here, but I’m concluding with some Japanese surf tracks which recently caught my attention.
We have already noted that Japan embraced the surf band sound soon after The Ventures toured in 1962 and 1965.
Love the classic two finger melody line in this 1967 track by Takesha Teriuche and the Bunnys.

Terry meets the fan club.

Despite its industrial transformation since WW11, Japan remains very much a traditional society, so it isn’t surprising that the Japanese surf twang persists into this new century.
Chicche covering Pipeline in 2005

A few years later, Chicchi as a teenager. Note the classic organ players stance left side… neatly dressed, little body movement etc.

Now, if you’ve followed this nonsense thus far, you will also have noted that Ms Chicchi plays a Mosrite, so she is not a complete traditionalist as most surf reverb artists rely upon Fenders: Strats, Jaguars and Jazzmasters, and here I refer you to the highly specialised site and this particular post which gives you all the technical information you need to form your own band.

Look, if I continue in this vein, I’ll need counselling.

And, a warm welcome to the recent Japanese readers.