Most of the songs I play in the Rock and Roll Riot were recorded before I was born.
Most rock and roll oldie radio shows are presented in a way that borrows from the tagline of American Graffiti…”Where were you in ’62?”
I was being born in Manchester, England to parents who regarded Elvis as the man who pushed big bands to the sidelines and replaced crooners like Bing Crosby. Screaming and shouting and guitars were in, great musicians and real singers were out.
Well, that was their opinion.
I spent my teenage years listening to solo Beatles, Elton John, Deep Purple and Pink Floyd. When I was in college, my favourite band was Iron Maiden (saw them in concert five times) and I was a metal fan. Ozzy, The Scorpions, Judas Priest, Motorhead…loved ’em all and I still do.
The Beatles broke up when I was 8 years old but they became, and remain, my all-time favourite group, and they are the link to my appreciation of early rock and roll. They idolized Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. They called themselves The Beatles as a tribute to Holly’s band, The Crickets.
In 1964, The Fab Four played the Hollywood Bowl (check out that live album if you want to feel the full force of Beatlemania) and Paul McCartney introduced one tune as “an old Little Richard number.” Perhaps the thousands of screaming teenage girls were familiar with Long Tall Sally but it didn’t matter. Their new idols were singing it and that made it cool.
Chances are somewhere tonight…in Toronto, New York, London, Tokyo or Sydney…a bar band is playing Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B Goode.” A tune Berry recorded over 50 years ago. And chances are the audience is loving it and dancing to it.
I have listeners who were teens in the ’50s and relive memories of malt shops, hot rods and drive-ins like the one frequented by Toad and Debbie, Steve and Laurie, and Big John Milner in American Graffiti.
But I also have fans in their 20s who discovered Wanda Jackson, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent decades after those artists cut their first records so for them, and for me, it’s a fabulous journey through the music that inspired The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and generations of rockers.
They’re not oldies if you’re hearing them for the first time.