I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Race & Cash & Rock & Roll

Race & Cash & Rock & Roll

George O’Brien
The History of Rock & Roll Vol I, 1920 – 1963, by Ed Ward, Flatiron, 416 pp, £25, ISBN: 978-1250071163 Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination, by Jack Hamilton, Harvard University Press, 352 pp, £22.95, ISBN: 978-0674416598 One thing that endeared my in-laws to me was that they held on to my wife’s collection of 45s – her records, I mean, not her (non-existent) collection of other revolvers. True, they were buried in a box under crumpled high-school decals, spineless paperbacks and ratty college notebooks. But there they were: originals of “Please Mr Postman” on the butter-yellow Tamla label (Tamla 54046), “Johnny B Goode” on sea-blue Chess 1691, the Cadence metronome seemingly swaying to the Everly Brothers, “Blueberry Hill” on inaptly mulberry-coloured Imperial, Buddy Holly on hot-pink Coral, the whole, maybe fifty-strong, collection now and then attaining historic heights, in my goggle eyes, by such finds as Gene Chandler’s “Duke of Early” on rainbow-rimmed VeeJay. Yes, I was a teenage pop, rock, whatever, fetishist; indeed, in that respect, I was a fairly active teenager until I was thirty or more, and the fetishism can still unexpectedly twist again like they did those many summers ago. Absorption in the songs soon led me to wondering if there was any content behind their content. I mean, who exactly did put the bomp …? The music world was a prairie of trivia, and I grazed on it night and day, as though nothing more sustaining was to hand. And here now comes Ed Ward with all my heart desired back then, an enormous fast-food meal consisting of not just staples like labels, writers, producers, DJs and other taste-makers and begetters, but to spice it all up – like so many pickles, hush puppies, slaw, mayo, hot sauce and ketchup – lashings of A&R men, engineers, session-men, talent scouts, club owners, salesmen, back-up singers, chart positions, and pressing plants. And out in the kitchen there’s a large floating population which also lent a hand, members of gospel acts, doo-wop quartets, folk groups, surf-sound combos and touring back-up bands. But is it history? Well, if chronology is anything to go by, the answer has to be yes, even if initially chronology is a sometime thing. Ward’s treatment of the roughly eighty-year prelude leading up to World War II hardly amounts to anything more than tuning-up. He has some interesting comments about…



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