Gotta admit that I never used to be a big fan of the rockabilly format despite all beliefs to the contrary (y'know, "That Chris is so hepcat to what's up-and-front that ya just know he'd be a fan and follower of the slappin' bass heavy droolin' sounds of that greasy Southern Fried bop-a-roo!"). Heck, even I would think I'd be a rockabilly fanatic if I could somehow split myself into two separate beings a la Duo Damsel and meet myself face-to-face, and I do recall back when I was breakin' into the double digits being a fan and fancier of that late-fifties rock & rollin' music which I thought hit me between the ears so neatly especially when compared to such "relevant" pre-teen wonders of the day as "Bless the Beasts and Children" not to mention that all-time weeper "Things Get a Little Easier (Once You Understand)," but frankly, the stuff never really did drill a hole through my brain like other forms of sound patterns have o'er the years. If I were to analyze myself to find out why this is so I'd probably blame it on the oversaturation of hyped-up, overblown fifties nostalgia that made classmates do Fonzie impressions just like they were doing W. C. Fields only a year earlier. Not to mention the reams of lame rockabilly bar bands that started cropping up in the eighties while the real deal had fight it out with makeup-caked pseudo glam bands for precious stage space at the local watering holes. Lez just say that with all the Velvets-rock and six-oh reissues that I was immersing myself in at the time (before I became a bit more discriminating with regards to my personal tastes), who had time for fifties rock anyway?
Well, Bill Shute shamed me into it, but I started listening to rockabilly in the middle of the eighties and guess what? I gotta admit that I liked its primitive clang just as much as I liked that same primitivism that went into some 1959 garage band's living-room single or the cheap gutter feel that made those mid-seventies demos by a whole slew of punk upstarts just as mesmeric as I thought it would be. So yeah, rockabilly was in fact A LOT MORE than just a buncha guys primming and preening in front of the mirror as they put their mascara on, and it took a buncha basement-level, low-fidelity, rural-recorded disques recorded by some tooth-rotting teenage rebels to PROVE TO ME THE ERROR OF MY WAY!!!
Anyway, Norton's just released two shiny disques fulla the rockabilly sound and even a guy like myself who can get "eh!" about such things is amazed as just how much these mini-platters continue to zap me outta the everyday doldrums as much as the hard-proof stuff and I don't necessarily mean Jack Daniels! As everyone with a gourd knows, Billy Miller and Miriam Linna (not only the rec biz moguls behind Norton but the powers-that-be what created KICKS, perhaps the only fanzine outside of BLACK TO COMM and maybe FORCED EXPOSURE to fly in the face of the prevalent eighties winds of happyhappy sameness and post-hippie confusion) have been championing these wild and raw crazed rockabilly sounds while everyone else out there was more content studying Freddie Mercury's eyeliner technique, and you can bet that by the time ol' Fred discovered rockabilly and milked it to the hilt via "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," Billy and Miriam were MILES AHEAD OF EVERYBODY listening to, buying up, categorizing and generally osmosing the whole wild fifties scene that all of us heard about but few really delved into.
WILDCAT JAMBOREE's but one platter that just bust outta the Norton stable that's bound to offend Stray Cats fans at fifty paces! (At least those guys were better off playing Roxy Music riffs in the Bloodless Pharoahs, which is where Setzer and Company shoulda stayed if you ask me!) Anyway, the rarities that make up the recordings on this brand-spanking-new release come from a radio show that eminated from Corinth Mississippi called THE DIXIELAND JAMBOREE and amongst the country fiddlers and cowboy yodelers you'd expect on such a program came a whole slewwa unknown (until now) rockabillers doing everything from their own hiccuppy originals to snat takes of the hits of the day. You may wanna hear such "artists" as Curtis Hoback and the Stardusters rock 'n' roll up "Tom Dooley" and maybe you don't (and if not, why are you reading this in the first place other'n you were looking for WRETCHED ANAL NEWS AND VIEWS and came across this 'un by mistake), but whatever you may think about it all I gotta 'fess up to enjoying this late-fifties Deep South rockin' record (er, CEE-DEE) more than I woulda thought had I heard it two throbbin' decades back. The live announcements and ads that make up a hefty portion of this shiny tea coaster only add to the class feeling of it all, giving you the mind-warping impression that it's once again the late-fifties which you hope will NEVER end, and heck, even the rockers get to perform some actual commercial jingles as well. You certainly wouldn't want to miss Wayne Pratt and the Rockers singin' about the 1959 Rambler, would ya? (Believe me, the song is better than the car!) As for me, for added impact I pretended that I was a teenager listenin' to this being broadcast "live" in some murky Mississippi bedroom wishin' I could be front and center for it all and it "worked out fine," just like it "works" when I watch LEAVE IT TO BEAVER or a Monogram film on tee-vee and pretend I'm watching it on some UHF station way back in the sainted early-sixties! And maybe it works BETTER because there aren't any Vagisil ads to shock you back to the present day, and besides the reception is soooooo good...
KICKSVILLE VOL. 3 is also pretty rockasnatable even though it doesn't have that big book insert to lure you in like JAMBOREE has. I guess Billy and Miriam were hoping that the pic of Mamie Van Doren and some toothless chimp onna cover would reel in the suckers, er, rockabilly fans in so why bother (as for me, I can take or leave Mamie, but that chimpanzee...). Still, B&M must be commended for gathering up this set of previously unissued rockabilly demos taken from the original rare acetates featuring tuneage from such better-known (at least in such circles) "practitioners of the form" as Benny Joy and Ral Donner not to mention the such soon-NOT-to-be obscurities as Jimmy Reagan and Ronnie Clark who do the hillybilly thing even rawer than anyone but the standard Norton Catalog maniac would have believed. Big surprise here's the inclusion of the first ever recording that future surf magnate Gary Usher made, he doing the primitive rock thing long before his discovery of baggies! Best of all, this ain't the well-crafted and molded rockabilly music that seemed to represent the form for the more "adventerous" of the new wave gang back in 1982 but the hard-edged, rough-sounding real deal that for some strange reasons made the heavy-makeup girls of the day who caked more of the pancake on'n Tina Louise does go "ewwwwwwwww!" Great spazz (bordering on early garage/punk secretions dating from about the same stratum) abounds here, and personally I wouldn't be surprised if a good deal of you readers end up shunning the sound because it wobbles a crazy line worse than Ken Shimamoto on an all-night bender! But I can sure take it because it appeals to me and on more'n the usual ten levels of music awareness that always grabbed my gullet o'er the past few decades! 'n what more can I say'n it's great southern country-cool rockin' mania with a swagger so neat that I'm sure Gene Vincent himself woulda approved, and why not considering Johnny Clark's on-target version of "Be-Bop-A-Lula!"
Pretty good rockabillin' you got there B&M...hope you keep up the good work until the well really runs dry!
Friday, May 27, 2005