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May 14, 2006

Early Rock at YouTube

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Thanks to Lexington Green and others, who recently alerted me to the fact that there are rock-music riches to be unearthed on YouTube. Some quick searching turned up enough clips to form the basis for a good Early Rock 101 course.

* Tina Turner and Marvin Gaye:

* Buddy Holly:

* Eddie Cochran:

* Smokey Robinson and the Miracles:

* Gene Vincent:

* Bo Diddley:

* Roy Orbison:

* Chuck Berry:

I'll let the Elvis freaks do their own searching.

Not that there's any real reason to pick a favorite, but ... Well, that Bo Diddley clip does put an especially big smile on my face. (Although I always loved the way Chuck Berry wore a cardigan ...) Plus: Imagine being the man reponsible for the "Bo Diddley beat"! Imagine coming up with a name like "Bo Diddley"!!! Sigh: Giants have roamed this earth. Wikipedia tells me that Bo Diddley will turn 80 in just a couple of years. This informative place seems to be the main Bo Diddley site on the web.

Which clip gets your vote?



UPDATE: Hmm, the clips in this posting were showing up fine last night. I wonder what has changed since. Hmmm. I notice that YouTube itself seems to be having trouble, so maybe the problem originates at YouTube, not here. Hmm. Anyway, please check back again later. The clips really are terrific.

UPDATE 2: Workin' fine again.

posted by Michael at May 14, 2006


Bo Diddley had a chick on rhythm guitar and a white guy on bass!

I just looked for the mighty Wolf, and sure enough he's there. I see the Newport show, Shindig, and some TV film I've only seen clips of before. He explains the meaning of the blues in this speech.

Posted by: Brian on May 15, 2006 3:17 PM

Bo Diddley has a song called "Bo's Bounce" which has the most in-the-pocket drumming ever.

The best first line of any song ever may be:

"I walk 47 miles of barbed wire,
I got a cobra snake for a necktie"

("47 miles of barbed wire" would be a good name for a blog, actually.)

Posted by: Lexington Green on May 15, 2006 5:15 PM

Giants indeed -- don't need no stinkin' Elvis.

Definitely, Bo Diddley is my favorite, if only for that krazee guitar. Man, I still love that sound. Mad props to Chuck (or the show) for the crazed caged dancers. Seeing Buddy Holly makes me kind of sad, though.

What I seriously love is how un-self conscious and affectless everyone is. Just playing music, baby.

Posted by: Scott Chaffin on May 15, 2006 7:37 PM

Brian -- Wouldn't it be something if Bo were a politician? Bo's band is the kind of coalition I could get enthusiastic about voting for.

Lex -- Great poetry speaks for itself.

Scott -- "What I seriously love is how un-self conscious and affectless everyone is. Just playing music, baby." That's the key, isn't it? It's interesting, surfing YouTube, to compare the early-rock footage to the late-'60s and '70s stuff. From frenetic, giggly innocence to ponderous, self-serious, industrial-strength baloney, in many cases. Key rock-history question: Whatever became of go-go dancers?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 15, 2006 9:00 PM

Anyone see the Chuck Berry clip? That was greatness. And I would hardly say he was expressing "frenetic, giggly, innocence". Look into his eyes and tell me you would leave him alone with your daughters. That is one bad, wild dude, even if he was expressing it with a playful grin. Reminded me of that great Keith Richards comment: if you needed another name for rock and roll, you could just call it Chuck Berry. That was the clip where all the influences of early rock -- balladry, blues, jazz, country -- were most seamlessly integrated into really powerful rock. You can hear everything from the power of heavy metal guitar to the verbal facility of rap and the playful beat of dance music prefigured in that performance. But all combined with such a light touch!

I wouldn't say that the transition was from giggly innocence to ponderous seriousness, although a few of those clips were kind of giggly. But more that the pioneering greats had the kind of strength that doesn't need to be ponderous or make a big deal of itself, because it is fully self confident and in touch with its origins. When you have the kind of talent that Chuck Berry or Roy Orbison had, you can be light without worrying that anyone will miss your power.

Speaking of Roy Orbison, would have loved to have seen one of the great ballads (Crying, Only the Lonely, Running Scared, etc.) -- next to Elvis he was maybe the greatest balladeer in rock history. In another era he could easily have been a major Italian opera tenor.

Posted by: MQ on May 16, 2006 1:34 AM

That's so true about Chuck Berry. I remember my first time hearing a full-length record of his in the mid-70s. I was poleaxed. A veritable moment of clarity...this is strong juju. Even at 13 or 14, I could vaguely understand why parents were freaking out in the 50s about this rock and roll stuff. I also lost a modicum of respect for the Stones, since to that point, I naturally thought they had generated most of their own licks.

What's great about these guys is that the power of the form they gave us is still there. I see a lot of live music, and a cover of Peggy Sue, or a Bo Diddley shuffle, or a Chuck Berry song of any vintage still makes people move, even the youths who would never cop to knowing who they are.

I could also riff for a few hours on the layerings to this great music that occurred over the years, Michael, because I also remember the power and strength that re-surged when the Ramones stripped it all off and gave us the guitar song back. Of course, by then, capitol-R Rock had split into about 20 different species.

Good stuff. I'm going to go find some more.

Posted by: Scott Chaffin on May 16, 2006 7:52 AM

"Whatever became of go-go dancers?"

The music became undanceable, the women became feminists, civilization inched further into dreariness. However, I did once saw a drunken man do a very "narrative" dance to "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald". A great song, in its way, and a memorable moment.

Posted by: Lexington Green on May 16, 2006 7:53 AM

I gotta second or third that emotion, Chuck was (and still is) the man.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on May 16, 2006 9:50 AM

Chuck rules. I saw him live only once, back in the early '80s. He had a rep at that point for often giving lousy, lazy performances, but the night I saw him (with a pickup band of locals in D.C.) he was beyond-wonderful -- wicked, super-focused, full of sly mischief, and that guitar that's like an extension of his dirty mind. BTW, I was writing too loosely earlier: didn't mean to imply that the music was giggly innocence -- of course it isn't. I was thinking more about the audiences. The energy in the early-rock audiences -- the pleasure, the enthusiasm, etc -- is exuberant, unself-conscious, free. Where the audiences in the clips from the late '60s and '70s are often ponderous, drugged-out, and heavy-man. They often don't dance or even move much, and when they do dance it's in some awful flopping-around "self-expressive" way that's painful to watch. I could watch cute girl go-go dancers for hours, but I find it hard to watch drugged-out rock-festival writhing for more than a few seconds. And the music went from being sweet, hard, crisp, well-formed and snazzily-turned to being pretentious, overlong, too full of itself. Pop culture during its eruption phase was a gas. Once it had taken over the castle and was settling in, though, it seemed to turn into a bad acid trip, don't you think?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 16, 2006 10:22 AM

How did you get the cool MySpace style video boxes on 2 Blowhards? I like the new medium. How can I do it?

Posted by: Murphy on May 16, 2006 10:48 AM

Murphy, YouTube makes it dead simple -- they have little boxes built in that give you the code that you copy into your blog. Click on one of the Share This Video buttons, and you'll see.

Posted by: Scott Chaffin on May 16, 2006 8:23 PM

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