LINK WRAY, REST IN PEACE
I was going to write one of my typically self-indulgent "what I've been listening to" posts today but some bad news (that was broken to me by noted bad news breaker Lindsay Hutton this AM as I barely staggered out of the bed and onto my computer---talk about a rude awakening!) has changed all that. Yes, it does look like Link Wray, the king of the guitar, has died at the still-young-for-these-days age of 76, and while details are a bit sketchy at this time that won't stop me from at least writing a little bitta praise in his memory, or at least something that I hope will compliment the halfway-there article I wrote on him that originally appeared in BLACK TO COMM #18 which is hopeless out of print so let that be a lesson to you!
It's a shame that Wray never got to be as "well known" as many of his fellow fifties rockers who have been long-enshrined in the memories of greying "Golden Age of Rock" fogies who kinda remind me of those great, self-indulgent and anal-retentive model car builders who still seem to be 14-years-old fifty years later! Not to take anything away from those fifties rockers who HAVE been deified for ages and deserve every li'l bitta homage they have received for their efforts, but to the vast majority of people who claim total and undying allegiance to rock & roll Wray might as well be one of those never-hit-it types who used to appear on various late-fifties/early-sixties Dick Clark television programs making nary a dent! In fact, I must admit that the first time I (who has led a shelterd life!) recall coming in contact with the Wray name was back in the late-seventies crawling through the record bins and picking up the first Robert Gordon and Link Wray album thinking none other than...there's this guy Robert Gordon and he's being backed by some group called Link Wray...sorta like that CHRISTMAS AND THE BEADS OF SWEAT disc that Laura Nyro did with Labelle! Y'know. maybe Link Wray was some cool band in the early-seventies that I never heard about and now they're making a comeback with this Robert Gordon fellow! When you're a stupid kid you think up weird things like that.
Of course when you're a stupid ADULT you still think up weird things like that fifties rock & roll was all Sha Na Na/HAPPY DAYS fodder not worth your time with all the new sounds emanating from garages world-wide, and it was a long while until I decided to take on fifties rock in the same way I liked sixties garage aesthetics and seventies reshaping of past accomplishments. In fact, I don't really recall "getting into" (to be seventies about it) Wray until the early/mid-eighties, a time where I certainly was starving for something outside of the then-encroaching "alternative" music scene that was supposed to be a switch from the tiresome metal and boring pop caca that had permeated the 18-34 target area I was smack dab inna middle of! I dunno if it was the article in a 1980 ish of TWO-HEADED DOG (an interesting halfway-there crankout) or KICKS #3 from early '84 that totally tilted my head towards the pow'r of Link, but after grabbing hold of the then-available Line records reissue of some seventies Wray collection with all of the hits presented with a nice mid-fidelity I suddenly became an up-front-and-center maniacal fan of the man! There were other catalysts as well, such as the emergence of the Raunch Hands who had obvious Link-connections not to mention a number of sixties garage band compilations with Link or Link-involvement, but either way I thought that Link was thee guy to follow as far as fifties guitar spew is concerned, and given how the man had (unconsciously) led the way for everything from CREEM-sanctioned metallic forays (talkin' the Stooges, early Sabbath and speedthrash...forget the main thrust of weak eighties metal that was all the rage!) to late-sixties teenage head-dom maybe you upstarts better get hold of some Link before you dare traverse anywhere else in order to hone your musical parameters, y'hear?
A good place to start gathering up items for your own personal Link Wray collection would be via the Norton site where I heartily recommend that you buy EVERYTHING Link-related they have to offer. The four-volume MISSING LINKS series (see above graphic for neat-o free plug!) has all of the great indie single and side-project sides recorded throughout the original Wray "Golden Years," but for a really good start get hold of the two-CD collection of Swan-era (1963-1966) tracks which I believe show Link at his gnarliest best and then try latching onto yet another collection, this time the Sundazed set of numbahs laid down for Epic between the years '59 and '62 which prove that Link could be cool even when he was recording fluff like "Clare D'Lune"! Then I'd settle on the aforementioned MISSING LINKS which covers Link with and without his Raymen either as leader or backing up everyone from future country star and fellow Indian Marvin Rainwater to r&b screamer Bunker Hill! This four LP/CD series takes on Link at his obscurest all the way from the very beginning of his solo career ("I Sez Baby," a rough garage mauler that perhaps dates as early as 1954 [!]) to the tracks that made up side two of his '69 YESTERDAY AND TODAY album, a platter that not only was a paen to the new hard rock of the Stooges, MC5, Flamin' Groovies and the other new groups who were influenced by Wray but the last word with regards to the Original High-Energy Wray Era. The post-sixties Wray days ranging from his early-seventies and folky material for Polydor and Virgin to his late-seventies "punk era" albums with Gordon and beyond are pretty much hit-and-miss as far as I'm concerned (yet not without their worth)...if I were you and just starting things out I'd hold off on these until the classic fifties/sixties sides had sunk in quite a bit.
And as for yet another COINCIDENCE CORNER, about three nights ago I was thinkin' about Link and considering pulling out the MISSING LINKS platters for some evening pajama-time musical backing but nixed on that because I had one of my typical Velvets-drone craving and settled for Les Rallizes Denudes, and only LAST NIGHT I was thinking about an article on Wray from an early-seventies issue of PHONOGRAPH RECORD MAGAZINE that mentioned a gig he did at Max's Kansas City with an un-named Egyptian folk singer opening things up for him! Because of this I headed directly for my fave search engine trying to find out some information on...the Egyptian folk singer! Naturally I had no luck (it seems that way when I'm searching for info on obscure acts who've performed at Max's, CBGB and other hip watering holes...you'd think EVERY flopster musical act who played these haunts would have their own websites up by now just so's they's get some satisfaction knowing that at least more'n a few close friends and relatives have access to the fact that they coulda been somebody!), but really, it's kinda scary when I think about some performing artist or public figure of some sort and then find out that the person in question has died! Once I was reading a book on THE LITTLE RASCALS and simulaneously heard on the late news that Spanky had died, and while watching GOMER PYLE USMC on the tube as a teenager my mother told me that she had just read in the papers that Frank Sutton had also hit the carbon cycle...I mean, do I have some weird, uncontrollable psychic ability that dooms people? I better stop thinking about people or the next victim could be YOU...
Sunday, November 20, 2005
LINK WRAY, REST IN PEACE