Loud, fast, and out of control

11Aug05

Well, I kind of lost control of myself last night, thinking about rockabilly music and then kind of raving about it to my housemate’s boyfriend and his brother.

The thing is, rock and roll was awesome back in the fifties. It was so new and exciting and optimistic. It was, to steal the name of an excellent box set on the subject, loud, fast, and out of control. A lot of the songs were just about how much the singers planned to rock in the future, along with all the places and times at which they planned to rock. And you could come up with any simple idea for a song, and the odds were that it hadn’t been done before. A song about a girl? Cool. A song about a car? Wow! Footwear? Go, cat, go! The 24 hours of the day? Crazy, man, crazy! And once that idea had been done with “Rock Around the Clock”, you could always give it a fresh spin with “Seven Nights to Rock”. “Maybelline” was about a cow, for Pete’s sake, before Chuck Berry was talked out of it.

The whole concept of rock and roll was fluid when it came to the instruments too. No one had settled on the standard power-trio format of guitar/bass/drums. The bass was still the big stand-up double bass that was big enough to be ridden like a horse (and people did just that). Piano and saxophone were still considered important rock and roll instruments on par with the guitar. But you could have any number of instruments in the band — not just as session players, but as full-time members of the combo—plus back-up singers with big smiles and matching dinner jackets. Just as long as it swung.

It all might seem quaint now, but at the time, this music was dangerous. This was music written by and for the first real generation of teenagers as we know them — kids with pockets full of spare cash and hormones and no real idea what to do with either but enough free time to figure it out. It was music by Negroes and hillbillies and skinny, horny punks with grease in their hair and switchblades in their pockets. Who would I want to have my back in a bar fight — Nick Lachey, with his gym-buffed muscles, or Gene Vincent, with his bum leg? I’ll take the guy with the greasy kid stuff in his hair any day over the one with the mousse and the frosted tips. Ol’ Gene would limp on over with a cigarette dangling from his lip and a broken bottle in his hand, cruisin’ to hand out a bruisin’.

Around this point in my rant, I got to speculating how bad-ass rockabilly greasers would have been had they had access to nunchucks, and I got so worked up I needed a jazz cigarette to calm me down.



5 Responses to “Loud, fast, and out of control”

  1. 1 SamuraiFrog

    Yes, yes, yes, motherfucker! Man, now I’m going to have to spend the entire day listening to Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, and the Everly Brothers to work out all the energy your post reminded me of. And that’ll just lead to the Ventures, and then the Beach Boys, and then it’ll be British Invasion, and after that I’ll be pulling “Nuggets” out, and I can’t stop without getting into glam rock, which just goes right to punk, to post-punk, to new wave (from the eighties, not the new shit), and finally I’m listening to New Order and Moby, and then taking a side trip to metal. Damn it, there goes my whole frigging weekend, Pete…

  2. 2 Peter Lynn

    I downloaded the Loud, Fast and Out of Control box, and it is just what the doctor ordered. Of course, I felt compelled to listen to a bit of Nuggets after that too.And don’t forget Bobby Fuller Four! Never to be forgotten!

  3. 3 Sofi

    The ’60s were even better.Gaaaaaraaaaagggge! Fuck yeah.

  4. 4 Peter Lynn

    Well, we did say we liked Nuggets, Sofi. And need I repeat it? Bobby Fucking Fuller! And of course I second the motion on the Beach Boys, but you all know that.Looking back on the last few posts, I’ve noticed a distressing trend of enthusiasm.

  5. 5 SamuraiFrog

    Nothing against the majestic Joe Strummer, but I always liked the Bobby Fuller version of “I Fought the Law” better. They sound so damn smug and proud it just fostered my love of pissing off authority. Oddly, I grew up hearing it on a local station’s ads for “Gunsmoke” reruns…And why has no Beach Boys collection since ever matched “Endless Summer”? I just managed to find it used back in January.


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