Friday, February 27, 2015

forgotten jewels

When you read William Zinsser's book about American Song, Easy To Remember, he writes that George Gershwin's lyricist brother Ira "soaked up everything that rhymed, keeping scrapbooks of favorite poems..."  That was in the 1920s.

Thirty-five years later, a kid in England named Keith Richards

kept notes, too:

---------------------- [excerpt, Richards' autobiography Life] ----------------- I have my sketchbook and notebook of that year.  The date is more or less 1959, the crucial year when I was, mostly, fifteen years old.  ...The pages are divided by columns and headings, and page two (after a crucial page about Boy Scouting, of which more later) is called "Record List.  45 rpm."

The first entry:  "Title:  Peggy Sue Got Married, Artiste(s):  Buddy Holly."  ..."Long Players" are The Buddy Holly Story, A Date with Elvis, Wilde about Marty (Marty Wilde, of course, for those who don't know), the "Chirping" Crickets.

The lists include the usuals -- Ricky Nelson, Eddie Cochran, Everly Brothers, Cliff Richard ("Travellin' Light") -- but also Johnny Restivo ("The Shape I'm In"), which was number three on one of my lists, "The Fickle Chicken" by the Atmospheres, "Always" by Sammy Turner -- forgotten jewels.

These were the record lists of the Awakening -- the birth of rock and roll on UK shores.

Elvis dominated the landscape at this point.

He had a section in the notebook all to himself.

The very first album I bought.  "Mystery Train," "Money Honey," "Blue Suede Shoes," "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone."  The crème de la crème of his Sun stuff....As impressed as I was with Elvis, I was even more impressed by Scotty Moore and the band.

...Inside the cover of the pocket diary are the heavily inked words "Chuck," "Reed," "Diddley."  There you have it.  That was all we listened to at the time.  Just American blues or rhythm and blues or country blues. 

Every waking hour of every day was just sitting in front of the speakers, trying to figure out how these blues were made.  You collapsed on the floor with a guitar in your hands.

...There's something beautifully friendly and elevating about a bunch of guys playing music together.  This wonderful little world that is unassailable. 

It's really teamwork,

one guy supporting the others, and it's all for one purpose, and there's no flies in the ointment, for a while.  And nobody conducting, it's all up to you.  It's really jazz -- that's the big secret.  Rock and roll ain't nothing but jazz with a hard backbeat.

Jimmy Reed was a very big model for us.... ------------------- [end, Life excerpt] ----------


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