Tuesday, June 05, 2007

10 Records That Changed The World Part 1

The June issue of Mojo magazine featured a list of 100 Records That Changed The World.

Inspired by this Testify presents, in two parts, 10 records NOT included in the Mojo list that, nontheless, changed the world.

Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys – Ida Red

No list of influential records is complete without reference to Bob Wills. Together with Milton Brown, Wills was a founding member of the Fort Worth Doughboys and their sole recording, Sunbonnet Sue/ Nancy Jane in February 1932, provided the blueprint for a hybrid form of dance music that became known as Western Swing.

Incorporating elements of Big Band music, old time fiddle music and the blues Western Swing was a raucous sound that caught the ear of, amongst others, Chuck Berry.

Berry’s audition tape for the Chess brothers featured his take on an old traditional number called Ida Red.

As Berry recalled in his 1987 autobiography: “I’d heard it (Ida Red) sung long before when I was a teenager and thought it was rhythmic and amusing to hear. I’d sung it in the yard gatherings and parties around home when I was first learning to strum the guitar in my high-school days.”

Probably the earliest recording of this song was by Fiddlin' Powers & Family on August 19, 1924 (issued December 1924). Bob Wills' first recording of Ida Red, and the one which provided the inspiration for Berry, was in November 29, 1938 in Dallas, although it wasn’t issued until October the following year. Wills cut another, souped up, version in 1950 called Ida Red Likes The Boogie.

Leonard Chess suggested Berry write new lyrics for Ida Red and speed it up a bit and thus the rock ‘n’ roll staple Maybellene was born.

Also listening to Bob Wills was Elvis Presley whose 1954 Sun recording of Milk Cow Blues grafted verses from Wills’ 1946 recording Brain Cloudy Blues onto Kokomo Arnold’s original.

Bill Haley and his Comets - Rock Around The Clock

Prior to 1951 Haley had recorded Western Swing inflected country songs.

Then, in 1951, Bill Haley and the Saddlemen cut a version of Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats kickin’ R&B track Rocket 88.

The following year he changed the band personnel and christened them the Comets and, in 1953, with Crazy Man Crazy, recorded the first white rock hit.

On the strength of this they were signed to Decca in 1954 and (We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock was released in May of that year. It was a flop.

Until, that is, the movie Blackboard Jungle was released in 1955. Intended as an examination of delinquency in America’s city schools Blackboard Jungle was the first film to use a rock ‘n’ roll song as part of its soundtrack.

It pitted solid decent English teacher Rick Dadier (Glen Ford) against North Manual High Schools teenage rabble,as the opening credits faded (We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock blared out over images of general juvenile delinquency. By the time the movies chief juvenile delinquent, Artie West (Vic Morrow), was seen trashing the beloved jazz records of a liberal maths teacher the link between rock ‘n’ roll and a kind of violent nihilism had been forged. By the end of 1955 (We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock had sold six million copies.

Johnny Ace – Pledging My Love

Recorded with the Johnny Otis Orchestra Pledging My Love was Johnny Ace’s seventh record and was released in the first week of 1955. It reached number 1 in the R&B charts immediately and hit the pop top twenty in February.

It was also rock ’n’ roll’s first posthumous hit. On December 24th 1954 backstage at the Houston City Auditorium Johnny Ace became the founding member of what Kurt Cobain’s mother called “that stupid club”, apparently whilst playing Russian roulette. He was only 25 years of age.

Hound Dog chanteuse Big Mama Thornton, who witnessed the event, recalled: “that kinky hair of his shot straight out like porcupine quills”. (whilst Johnny Otis noted: “He was used to playing a kind of controlled Russian roulette, but this time he made a fatal mistake because the hammer fell on a loaded chamber” Well, duh!).

Elvis Presley was a fan and had Johnny Ace’s 1955 single in his record collection.

In June 1977 when RCA issued the single Way Down, as a taster for the Moody Blue album nobody could have known it would be the last single released during Elvis Presley’s lifetime. On its flipside was Elvis’ cover of Pledging My Love.

Carl Perkins – Blue Suede Shoes

Carl Perkins was an aspiring musician playing a tough Hank Williams inspired brand of honky tonk in the bars of Jackson, Tennessee in 1954, when his wife first heard Presley’s recording That’s All Right (Mama). She was moved to comment “Carl, that sounds just like y’all”

When Perkins found out that it was recorded in Memphis, a short drive away from Jackson, he went to Sun studios and waited and waited until Sam Phillips, the labels founder and Elvis’ first mentor, agreed to see him.

Perkins classic was inspired by a real incident. As Perkins recalled on the 706 ReUnion album:
“I heard a boy tell a girl, he said ‘Uh- Uh don’t step on my suede’s, I was playing a little club in Jackson, Tennessee.”

The song was recorded on December 19th 1955 and was issued in January the following year with Honey Don’t on the flip side.

Blue Suede Shoes went to number 1 in the Country charts, number 2 in the Pop charts and then on March 17th 1956 Carl Perkins made history, and sold over a million records in the process, when he became the first country artist to reach the national Rhythm and Blues chart.

Wanda Jackson – Honey Bop

Following the success of (We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock and Blue Suede Shoes the floodgates opened.

Former country singer Jackson became the first girl singer, inspired by Presley’s example, to cut an out and out rock ’n’ roll record.

Having already dabbled with rock ‘n’ roll with I Gotta Know, a song which featured as much country as it did rock ‘n’ roll, Wanda went the whole hog in September 1956 with Honey Bop which, incidentally, was co-written by Mae Axton, who had also co- written Heartbreak Hotel. Although by no means Jackson’s finest work and not particularly commercially successful it nevertheless blazed the trail that other women would follow.

It is a disgrace that the Rock ‘n ‘ Roll Hall Of Fame is yet to recognise Jackson’s pioneering contribution to the music it purports to support.

Regular readers of Testify (ho-ho) already know what a fan of Wanda Jackson I am and it only remains for me to remind you of Wanda Weekend at The Luminaire next month.
You can read the rest of this list here.

The picture accompanying this post shows Wanda Jackson and Bob Wills at the Showboat in Las Vegas in 1959, some show eh?

1 comment:

Richard Gibson said...

That's an excellent list. I look forward to part two.