This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
This column was originally called "Songs About Rock and Roll", but Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, suggested the title above, based on the final song today.
The column might appeal only to people of a certain age and that age is round about mine. I was 10 years old when rock and roll blasted on to the entertainment scene, and that age is critical. It's like Pavlov's dogs; it imprinted on my brain and stayed there for all those many decades since.
I have done columns on rock and roll in one form or another, this one though is songs about rock and roll. These are not from that seminal era, well mostly not.
KEVIN JOHNSON wrote and recorded the best song ever about rock and roll.
This is somewhat unusual as Kevin is an Australian singer/songwriter whose songs tend towards the folkie end of the scale, albeit with more instruments than is usual in that genre. This song was a mega-hit for him, it was one of those once in a lifetime songs that probably set him up for the rest of his life.
Those who know his name will know that I'm referring to Rock & Roll I Gave You the Best Years of My Life.
Even when rock and roll was a new phenomenon there were already songs about it, tributes indeed. I have a couple today, starting with DANNY AND THE JUNIORS.
They were a fine DooWop and rock and roll group and even during that era they were writing songs about it. In this case it was Rock And Roll is Here to Stay. They certainly got that right.
The column today was inspired by The A.M. and my watching a concert by the Righteous Brothers, one of the A.M.'s faves (and I like them too). They performed a couple of songs that would fit today, one of which was a cover of BOB SEGER's Old Time Rock and Roll.
Rock and Roll Heaven was also originally in the mix but didn't make the final cut. So, here's Bob rather than Bill and Bobby with Old Time Rock and Roll.
Back in 1977 MUDDY WATERS' career had pretty much ground to a halt – his record company had dropped him and he attracted fewer people to his concerts.
Johnny Winter, who was a huge fan (well, who isn't?), got him a recording contract with Blue Sky Records and produced the record himself, as well as playing on it. It became one of Muddy's biggest selling albums and his career went into overdrive.
From that album comes The Blues Had a Baby and They Named It Rock & Roll.
The A.M. thought we should have Starship's We built This City on Rock and Roll because it offered a contrast to the other songs. While I agree with her reasoning, I really didn't go for the eighties' drum machines and synthesizers, so I over-ruled her. In its place I decided on LONNIE MACK, for this spot.
Lonnie was a guitar hero before the category was invented. His guitar playing influenced several generations of pickers. Alas, he died last year, but his musical legacy lives on, in today's case with the song Rock And Roll Like We Used To.
THE SHOWMEN were from Virginia, but they all moved to New Orleans to record there.
They weren't stupid – they managed to get the great Allen Toussaint as their record producer. In spite of the many songs they recorded, only one really made a dent on the charts and it's this one: It Will Stand. It's another from the time when the music was still young, but they were already singing about it.
Australians universally know the next song as It's a Long Way to the Shop if You Want a Sausage Roll, by ACKER DACKER.
Okay, translating for those not conversant with Oz-speak, that's AC-DC performing It's A Long Way To The Top If Ya Wanna Rock And Roll. This is the rockiest song today, and as an added bonus there are bagpipes.
I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock 'n' Roll) was written by Nick Lowe. He was in a really good group called Rockpile in the seventies with DAVE EDMUNDS.
Nick did a fine version of the song, but Dave's version really captures the essence of the song and it's his we have today.
There must be something in the water here in Australia that causes the local singer/songwriters, who are mostly folkies, to write songs about rock and roll. It's probably because of our small population that musicians of any stripe have to be versatile and be able to play music in any genre so they can earn a living.
Also, some of them started out as rockers. MIKE MCCLELLAN would be a super-star if he lived in a bigger country. Well, he is here in Oz.
Mike's song is Rock ’n Roll Lady. Rick Nelson was really taken by the song and recorded it. Alas, that was shortly before he died so he didn't get a chance to perform it widely. Here is Mike's version.
There is really only one way to end this column, and that's with CHUCK WILLIS.
Chuck was a great song craftsman who honed and polished his songs before he'd record them, or let anyone else do so either. His is another song from the rock and roll era because he died in 1958, at the peak of his career, from peritonitis while he was undergoing surgery. I Don't Want to Hang up my Rock and Roll Shoes.