From big band tracks to jazz standards, until midway through the 20th century, music was a resolutely parent-friendly zone. But then everything changed. Elvis had flustered teenagers all shook up, while the likes of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and the like were destroying the old safety nets with a virile, passionate new sound.
Here are the top tracks from the decade that that sparked a musical revolution. Since its release its rickety power has been harnessed by ex-Thin Lizzy guitarist Gary Moore, blues supergroup The Yardbirds and that man Dion again. He undermines his destitution with zany voices and jaunty rolling blues, and the song found a place in cinema posterity, popping up in 80s Brat Pack movies Diner and The Lost Boys. Elizabeth Cotten got her belated break in at the grand old age of 62 when her shimmering guitar playing talents were finally spotted by the Seeger family.
Still, his salsa-tinged instrumental lives on, a cheeky soundtrack to shenanigans the world over. It later became a standard, providing teen idol David Cassidy with a bit of emotional heft and giving Crystal Gayle a country chart No. The walking bass and skipping keys found favour with the late 80s jazz vampires who sent it top 5 in the UK. Chunky Jiles Perry Richardson went down in the same plane crash that killed Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, but not before releasing this twisting paean to a cute girlfriend.
Yes, the UK had its very own Elvis, for a time at least, and sent his debut single straight to No. King and — well — how much time have you got? Written and arranged by one Ike Turner, who turns in the rolling piano too, it was released on Chicago blues label Chess with singer Jackie Brenston taking all the glory and publishing cash.
Turner eventually disputed and won. Dad of cult funk artist Shuggie, Johnny Otis was a bandleader and multi-instrumentalist who spent as much time discovering and nurturing new talent — Etta James for one — as making his own records.
Recorded when the remarkable Anka — who also managed to co-write it — was only 15, this perky slice of doo-wop turned into one of the biggest selling singles of all time, apparently shifting nine million units. Almost from the get-go it established the Canadian Anka as a mainstream crooner who continues to record and perform into his 70s. The comically named Spaniels formed at school in and clocked their biggest with this evergreen doo-wop number two years later.
It peaked at a modest 59 on the Billboard chart but registered , sales. You can credit or, occasionally, blame? The Shirelles for the invention of the girl group. They would score their signature No. His spry take on the song, released six months before his death from heart failure, remains definitive but well-known versions have been cut by Fats Domino and MOR legends The Carpenters.
Parping sax and handclaps drove a kinetic track that earned a reputation as a crucial bridge between black music and white audiences, and it remains the calling card of a band that endures with Speedoo Carroll still upfront. Patti Page, the biggest-selling female artist of the decade, did the honours.
An ancient 29 — and appearing years older — Haley nevertheless led a well-drilled band and he and his Comets toured incessantly to establish themselves as unexpected trailblazers.
Eddie Cochran lived fast and died young in classic teen rebellion style but left a beautiful body of work to show for his two short years in the business.
Chess brothers Leonard and Phil also helmed this Chuck Berry number, a riffing, jangling template that Berry would habitually plunder as he struggled to maintain his later career. As introductions go, this was hard to beat. The track also led Cash to perform an entire set at Folsom Prison, which was recorded for a successful live album. It was a beautiful duality. A simple blues-rockabilly shake-down which was enlivened by sprawling axe work from future guitar legend James Burton.
Hugely influential in the way it shaped the sound of the nascent rock and roll sound, the rudimentary blues contained within would later be appropriated by The Velvet Underground who covered the track early in their career. This was the second song Robert Johnson ever recorded, but its creation has also been attributed to Elmore James.
Nice woodblocks too. It sounded like a puffy white cloud floating in the sky. Holly was inspired to write the track after his cinematic hero John Wayne repeatedly used the phrase in a film and it ended up a chart-topper on both sides of the pond.
Appropriately the rugged anthem was full of bolshy swagger and teenage ballsiness. His first commercial release was recorded in an impromptu jam featuring guitars, upright bass and no drums. The rest is, as you know, history. A bar blues jaunt that was unlike no other. The filthiest thing to be released in all of The smooth, daytime jazz waltz became one of his trademark tracks.
But his delivery belied the lyrics, which rather unsettlingly suggested the creeping sense of an inescapable obsession. An air of otherworldly mystery hangs about this bluesy stomp. Brown was never more energized than during this early period of his career when his Gospel roots collided with the passionate blues of his Famous Flames band. This track was famously used as a key part of his gig routine, when a handler came out, covered Brown in a cape and escorted a seemingly overwrought Brown off-stage.
It made his legend. Written as a pledge of marital devotion and penned as a ballad, it was producer Sam Phillips who suggested the breezy, arrangement. It also meant that it was just a matter of time before songs were written about them. This was the first version, and inspired no less than six covers within a month of its release. Where the sound of street doo-wop met rock and roll, the precocious Harlem teen Lymon and his vocal harmony group The Teenagers sang with the type of honesty about teenage love angst which that only a then 15 year old could have known about.
Sonia also did a version in , but the less said about that the better. Originally written for the film Dames , before being covered by Peggy Lee, the definitive version of this track was by the vocal harmony group The Flamingos.
A gentle waltz that relied heaving on a mountainous orchestration, it showcased the vocal talents of doo-wop quintet. However, Fats did it best, and it remained his biggest track. Vladimir Putin attempted it live last year — every time someone watches that rendition, a cat is tortured somewhere on the globe. Few songs come spring-loaded with the amount of energy this tune packs. A brilliantly constructed couple of minutes it weaves frenetic harmonies, time signature changes and varied dynamics to irresistible effect. Not bad for a tune about footwear.
An early work of rock genius. Holly And The Crickets created a penetrating slab of early, guitar driven blues. The rolling rumble of bass and drums and the lo-fi guitar sound would influence everyone from The Beatles to Girls, while the simplicity of its chord structure provided that the most infectious tracks often came in seemingly basic packages — the effect of which would be seen until this day.
As legend would have it, this track was penned by Williams about his first wife, but dictated to his second wife, whilst he was driving. The cad! Released after his death, it would typify a sort of ageless, heart-sore balladeering form that Williams helped inaugurate. Being broke never sounded so good. Sometimes the best songs are the most simple. A sweet love letter to his darling full of earnest sentiment and unashamed admiration, this beautiful track saw Cooke shift from his gospel roots to a more soulful direction.
Subsequently revived by all manner of crooners, from Michael Bolton questionable to Aretha worth a listen. From Jerry Lee to Goose and Maverick, this irrepresible dose of raw rock energy and serious piano abuse has been a stone cold classic for nearly 60 years. A cover of the bluesy Big Mama Thornton track, Elvis changed the track into hip-swiveling pound of rolling drums and grinding guitars that set teenage girls alight and made parents blush.
After years of prom-friendly sweetness, here was a track that finally soundtrack the rampant, fiery nature of spurned love. What else could it be, really? Covered hundreds of times, from B. King to Back To The Future , it was included on the Voyager Golden Record, a selection of discs sent into space to demonstrate the cultural capacity of life on earth. Makes you proud to be human. Sign in. Log into your account. Forgot your password? Password recovery.
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