Tuesday 22 January 2013

I am the coolest man on earth for the next twenty minutes

The other day I had a Twitter discussion with a friend of mine who accidentally lives in China. They were bemoaning the fact that they felt a bit culturally isolated, especially in terms of music. It's hard to know what all the kids are listening to when you wake up every day in a country where the kids are listening to Gangnam Style and then six hours of enriching lectures by Deng Xiao-Ping.

By way of demonstrating that it is quite possible to live in the very crucible of cutting edge music and yet still not have a clue what is going on, I said that, in all truth I'd just been listening to old 1950s rockabilly records all morning. Imagine my jaw-dropping amazement when I subsequently discovered that, in a lot of the very coolest places, old 1950s rockabilly records are what the kids are listening to.

I'm quite excited. Not least because if you are as relentlessly uncool and blinkered you're bound to eventually intersect with what is trendy now and again, and this is now my moment to shine. Weeks of explaining that I'm not a hipster, I'm just that uncool, is worth it for my month in the sunlight of acceptance. Just like how paedos are enjoying basking in the reflected glow of Jimmy Saville. But I'm mainly excited because it shows that there may yet be hope for civilisation yet.

Me, yesterday.

Because modern music is shit. A homogenised trough of beige slurry. Every single note, be it produced by a vocal cord or by an instrument, has been artificially auto-tuned into the soulless oblivion of perfection. It's an abortion. I can completely understand why the Youth are rediscovering 1950s rockabilly records. Usually recorded in one take by a bloke with a $10 guitar and a $5 hat, backed up by a rabble just out of prison that morning on a tea-chest bass and a drum that first saw use during the Civil War, the recordings are ramshackle affairs of bum notes, dropped notes and missed beats. They are vital, flawed and completely human. You can hear the sweat, feel the hunger and smell the B.O., where the majority of modern releases sound like they've been made in a hermetically-sealed laboratory. The result is that sixty-year old songs now sound fresher than something Louis Walsh farted out just twenty minutes ago.

I commend the Youth. There is hope for us all. I hope they will all join us in pulling up a plate of roadkill and a glass of moonshine to enjoy my current favourite 10 rockabilly songs. And then fuck their own sister and shoot a raccoon in the face.


Another thing which sets rockabilly records apart from their contemporary distant cousins is that they deal with subjects that Jessie J or One Direction steer clear of. Would One Direction ever say that they'd rather see you dead than see you with another man? Probably not, even if they're thinking it. If there's anything to be said for modern popular music it's that it makes an effort to couch its fundamental sexual aggression behind more benign language. But it comes up desperately short in every other area, as demonstrated here.


Cadillacs are pretty much the official car of rockabilly. Vince Taylor's was brand new, and this made it particularly awesome. It still is, although I imagine the car itself is now a shagged-out rusty heap. Unforgettably covered by Joe Strummer on London Calling by The Clash.

CAST IRON ARM - Peanuts Wilson

Don't mess with Peanuts Wilson. He's got a cast iron arm. It's probably just for the best not to mess with anyone whose name is a legume, regardless of whether or not they have a cast iron arm.


The titular redhead of the song is dangerous because she is beautiful but unavailable, having already got another man. It's perhaps worth pointing out at this point that seeing a woman who is attractive is by no means a rapist's charter. However, after Jerry Raines got duffed up for putting some moves on this redhead, he reaches the conclusion that you should never chat up redheads. This is reasoning is specious in the extreme, but the song has an irresistible shuffle to it so I'll let it slide.

GET RHYTHM - Johnny Cash

It's perhaps not the most cutting edge and socially-relevant of Johnny Cash's lyrics - it basically concerns learning how a shoeshine boy gets through the day without sticking someone in their stupid eye - but it's as good an example of Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Three's unique driving rhythmical sound and there's some killer guitar licks from Luther Perkins. The more I think about the history of American music, the more I feel like Johnny Cash was, is and ever shall be, it.

HONEY DON'T - Carl Perkins

The founding father of the whole rockabilly movement, Carl Perkins is currently the coolest of the cool cats. He always was anyway, of course. Lest we forget that he wrote Blue Suede Shoes. But this is my favourite Carl Perkins song. There's a bloody wonderful cover version of it, too, on Beatles For Sale.



LEROY - Jack Scott

Leroy is a bad man. He's always being sent to jail. It's not quite clear what it is that Leroy is doing, but I'm of a mind to trust the law enforcers over his friends, who seem to think there's some sort of conspiracy against him. The problem is that this conspiratorial thinking has got far superior rhythm.

MAYBELLENE - Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry is probably the most underrated pioneer ever to walk the earth. This could possibly relate to his unfortunate habit of putting CCTV cameras in ladies toilets. Because otherwise I'm completely stumped as to why his name seems to slip people's minds when they are compiling lists of the greatest artists in the history of popular music.

THAT'S ALL RIGHT - Elvis Presley

When the history of popular music comes to be written, possibly by aliens who have superceded it by listening to recordings of autotuned dog barks, That's All Right by Elvis Presley will be its Big Bang. Simple.

1 comment:

alicestronaut said...

Brilliant post! I'm off to listen to all these now.

It's nice that you are cool (I always think you are cool anyway)



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