Extended travel of late means I’ve just finished a couple more rock books of note on Sam Phillips and the Replacements!
Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll, by Peter Guralnick
I had just a cursory knowledge of Sun Records and Sam Phillips. If you’re in the same boat, this is a good history lesson on the Memphis scene in the 50s. Guralnick was a friend of Sam’s and relied on him big time for his two Elvis books, so this story line takes most of what Sam says and thinks about the period at face value. Of course there are great stories about Jerry Lee, Cash, Ike Turner, and Elvis, but beyond that are the people, family members and mistresses that surrounded Phillips throughout that golden age and later. It also does a good job explaining how independent labels functioned and the shoe leather (and tire rubber) it took to break artists…and then how the majors would come in and sign the rising star for big money. There’s also vintage gear talk!
“Dad Rock” is a term for all that old ’60s and ’70s music that today’s dads listen to. I’ve seen references to it online, heard my kids mention it, and I’ve even tuned into a radio show called Dad Rock. Understanding the demographic of this site, I think it’s fair to say many of us have Dads that are from the pre-rock era. That’s the case for me, too, but that didn’t mean we didn’t have any rock(ish) records in the family record collection when I was a kid.
My parents were in college when rock and roll emerged, and were graduates when it was only a couple of years old. To them, rock and roll was teen music, utterly beneath them. In the 1950s, the median age for getting married was 20 for women and 23 for men; if you were in your 20s, it’s safe to say you identified as a grown-up.
My dad was an amateur musician and was in charge of entertainment on his army base in Germany, but he never ran into Elvis (who was there at roughly the same time). In 1977, he and my mom were dragged by another couple to go see Elvis on what would be his last tour; they attended ironically and the performance simply confirmed their long-held biases.
But they had been liberal young parents in the ’60s. We had a Pete Seeger record stuck in among the jazz, classical, light opera, and show tunes albums. And they were not completely closed off from the pop culture. Indeed, I think they tried to like rock at some point in the late ’60s or early ’70s, but didn’t get too far.
What rock or pop-rock records did your parents have? Here’s about all we had:
Simon and Garfunkel – the one with Mrs. Robinson (Bookends?)
The Hair soundtrack
Tommy by the Who
I think my dad, despite not really getting rock (I remember one conversation I had with him where he had no clue who Chuck Berry was) respected the Who’s crack at making an opera. He never listened to the album much, but he liked owning it and I believe he went to see the movie version, and possibly the stage show.
Dad turned 80 the other day. We got him tickets to Madame Butterfly.
Let’s try another 1-2 Punch, shall we? Top 10 lists are too much; Top 5 lists invite too many opportunities for throwing in a hipster, obscuro choice to distinguish oneself from the raging masses. What I’d like to know is what TWO (2) songs you would choose from an artist’s catalog to say as much about that artist that you believe represents said artist’s core as possible? In other words, if you could only use TWO (2) songs from an artist’s catalog to explain all that said artist is about to a Venusian, what TWO (2) songs would you pick to represent said artist’s place in rock ‘n roll?
I’ll pose two artists and you—love ’em or leave ’em—give me each artist’s representative 1-2 Punch. Dig? Here goes!
Mention of Jim Ford and Joe South recently reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write something about Dallas Frazier, who is another one of those artists who was adept at blending country and soul. Frazier is the man who wrote “Mohair Sam,” which was a big hit for Charlie Rich.
This is the record that is part of Rock Lore, because the time the Beatles met Elvis, he was obsessed with it and supposedly played it constantly during their visit, even playing along on the bass. I’d never seen this clip before today, but here’s Rich singing it on Shindig in 1965:
He looks so uncomfortable there, but here is singing it again during his ’70s phase.
He was one of the biggest stars in Nashville at that time, and he’s gotten much less stage-shy. Nice shirt.