Anything about Elvis
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Thu Nov 03, 2005 2:07 am

To think of Ricky Nelson as a pioneer is a little too much. No doubt he was good but at the beginning he was a Hollywood representation of rock and roll .
Last edited by Juan Luis on Thu Nov 03, 2005 6:22 am, edited 1 time in total.

Thu Nov 03, 2005 2:47 am

Almost every text and reference on the subject has included Motown and soul as part of the rock universe. If there was not a natural evolution towards things like strings then what happened with "Sgt. Pepper" and "Abbey Road". The performers that did these type of songs defined themselves rock and roll artists, they were defined in the print of the time as rock and roll artists. Again it can't stay 1956 forever and most musicians do not want to do the same things over the course of a 10-20 year career. It's a natural process to adjust and adapt the music. I don't understand this need to strait jacket the performers and a musical style. To go by arbitrary standards, Patsy Cline was not a country performer, Bobby Bland was not a blues singer.

I personally have preferred Dave Marsh's approach which is the more inclusive rock and soul so as to avoid making arbitrary judgments between what is rock, what is rock and roll and what is soul. Because logically the difference does not exist.

The idea that strings were foisted on the music is fantasy. Leiber and Stoller did not put strings on "There Goes My Baby" because of ASCAP. It was their song (a co-write with Ben E. King) on an INDEPENDENT record label. There was no pressure. After almost ten years of making conventional rock and roll, they wanted to try something new. Nobody foisted strings on their protege' Phil Spector who fancied a "Wagnerian" approach to his songs.

Colin has argued on a previous thread the acts that were popular in this era were melodic and little lighter than the '50s artists. That separates them from the Beatles how?

As for Ricky Nelson, who was in the second class of inductees, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His place in the music's history is secure. He was the first performer to promote his new tunes on a weekly TV show. He was essentially the model for future teen idols from the Monkees on down and like it or not most teen idols played a version of rock and roll. He was also important in establishing the two guitars, bass, drums and singer line up that became the standard in the music. He was not the first (that was Elvis) but he was committed to the format and helped to make it popular. He was also the first- before Eddie Cochran- Northern rockabilly singer. He was virtually the only rockabilly singer in the mainstream after 1958. As I pointed out, Nelson's admirers include Fogerty (who never misses a chance to sing Nelson's praises) and Dylan.

His guitarist- James Burton- was one of the most hugely influential pickers in rock and roll with his bent note technique. Nelson's records are the backbone of Burton's reputation. That's where Elvis knew most of his work. Later on Nelson's country rock experiments, particularly at the Troubadour Club in Los Angeles, provided a model for the almost entire California country rock scene. It's a scene I don't care for but he was its progenitor. Future Eagle Randy Meisner was a member of that band and Eagle Leaders Don Henley and Glenn Frey were often in attendance at Nelson's shows. Most of all though the tacit endorsement of rock by Nelson's TV show gave rock an air of respectability at a time when its reputation was most under attack. If Ozzie and Harriet had no objection to their son not only enjoying rock and roll but performing every week on TV it couldn't be that bad.

That's a pretty strong legacy.

Of course, he's short of Keith Richards, Elvis etc. But so is 98 percent of the rock universe. You can be an important performer and not be the greatest of all time.

Thu Nov 03, 2005 2:59 am


You wrote:
Colin has argued on a previous thread the acts that were popular in this era were melodic and little lighter than the '50s artists.
That separates them from the Beatles how?

I didn't mention The Beatles.

When I wrote of 'syrupy strings' I wasn't thinking of groups like The Drifters but rather Bobby Vee & his ilk.

Thu Nov 03, 2005 3:35 am

I was actually referring to a thread from ages ago.

On here I mentioned the Beatles. I mention them because like many of the acts of rock's second era (lots of whom the Beatles greatly admired) they were lighter and more melodic than the early rockers.

I understand your point about how strings served to dilute some tracks but I think overall it was an expansion of sound. The thing is that it's not an era where you can apply simple formulas. Many things happened contrary to conventional wisdom.

Look at Dion for instance. Dion was an artist his record label tried to create as a conventional pretty pop idol. They put him in the studio with an anonymous middle aged group and had him record ready made pop fodder. The records flopped. So, Dion convinced the suits to let him go out and get some friends and make the records that he wanted to hear. The result was the classic hit "I Wonder Why". Later, Dion split with the Belmonts and went solo. Again the label thought this was be a good chance to push him in the Bobby Vee mode. Again a string of flops. Again Dion convinced them to let him make records his own way and he embarked on a string of hits including "Runaround Sue" and "The Wanderer". He switched to the Columbia label who saw him as a kind of a kind cabaret Orbison. Dion threw his new found weight around and got them to release his song- a remake of the Drifters' "Ruby Baby" which became a smash hit. After his first album on the label, the label gave up on the Jr. Roy Orbison bit.

If Dion's story tells you anything it's that it's hard to pull a scam over on the market and to foist your tastes upon a unpredictable mass audience. When he made the records, he wanted to make- the rock and roll type of stuff- he was a fabulous success. When he abided the company line- a flop.

Rick Nelson

Thu Nov 03, 2005 5:29 am

Rick Nelson was a huge influence on many artists - John Fogerty, Marshall Crenshaw, the Eagles, Chris Isaak, among others. I don't think it's a stretch to say (as Mike Nesmith did) that records like 'Hello Mary Lou' were the beginnings of that whole California country rock thing. Had one of the best pickers in his band, James Burton (and we all know who he played with in the 70's), great songwriters (the Burnettes, Baker Knight, Jerry Fuller), even wrote some good songs himself in the later years (Easy to Be Free, Garden Party). Elvis was a Nelson fan, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, even Sam Phillips have praised him. Enough said!

Thu Nov 03, 2005 6:12 am

For the record the majority of the classic 50's rock & roll tunes were written by New York based Brill building styled tunesmiths such as Leiber & Stoller; Otis Blackwell; Aaron Shroeder; Claude Demetrius.

There was a general softening in the early 60's, but there was still quite a bit of edgy stuff. Yes there were the Fabians and the Bobbys and the Frankies, but there was also Dion, Roy Orbison, Ricky Nelson, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, and Fats Domino, Chubby Checker, Gary U.S. Bonds. And isn't "Shout" from the early 60's?

Even Elvis continued to offer up some stuff that rocked hard enough - albeit with a pop sheen in keeping with the time period: Stuck On You; A Mess of Blues; I Gotta Know; Make Me Know It; Dirty, Dirty Feelin'; Such A Night; I Feel So Bad; Little Sister; His Latest Flame; I Want You With Me; Put The Blame On Me; Gonna Get Back Home Somehow; Night Rider; Return To Sender; King of the Whole Wide World; Devil In Disguise; Witchcraft; Slowly But Surely; Blue River; Long Lonely Highway; What'd I Say; C'mon Everybody; If You Think I Don't Need You; Memphis.

Thu Nov 03, 2005 6:17 am

I read somewhere that James Burton lived with the Nelsons for two years. Ozzie Nelson and Harriet Hilliad were musicians from the former generation (big band?), I do believe. So Ricky Nelson did come from solid musical stock.

Thu Nov 03, 2005 7:18 pm

I've had the notion that the early sixties were a "weak" period
for rock for a long time and this thread is an eye-opener
as I continue to come around. You're all making some terrific

My own mother was a record buyer with diverse but popular tastes
from almost the late '40s (really by
early '50s right up through the '90s and some of this decade.
I already notice that I can
barely pay attention to today's pop.

Will popular music ever again have such talent and everyday currency?
We've been compartmentalized and offered so many "choices" that
the "center" (read: a real "top ten") hasn't held. Certainly the
melodious "yearning" that LTB mentions has become rare.

Maybe I'm being too nostalgic but I feel like music doesn't matter
like it once did to the public -although many would argue that
the i-Pod earbuds on everyone's ears argue against that.

I wonder. :shock: :D

Rock and roll

Thu Nov 03, 2005 10:28 pm

I play in a group that covers songs by the Beatles, Elvis, the Rolling Stones, Rick Nelson, the Kinks, Chuck Berry, the Kinks, Jerry Lee Lewis, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Fats Domino, the Lovin' Spoonful, etc. One day several years ago the bass player raised my eyebrows when he said "we're not a rock band". The response of myself and the drummer was "WHAT?????" and the bass player reiterated "we're not a rock band". I said "then what are we, country and western? jazz? muzak?" This lead into a discussion of "The Beatles aren't rock, the Beach Boys aren't rock, the Rolling Stones are sort of rock..." So what are they? "They're rock and roll". Hmm..okay, so what's a rock band? "The Scorpions, Van Halen, Boston, Journey"

Fri Nov 04, 2005 5:20 am

Gregory Nolan Jr. wrote:I've had the notion that the early sixties were a "weak" period
for rock for a long time and this thread is an eye-opener
as I continue to come around.

Greg -
The reason you've been under this impression is because the history of rock & roll was documented by the rock-oriented school of music criticism that sprang up in the late 60's as exemplified by Rolling Stone. There was a tendency (that continues to this day) to judge an artists worth according to the standards set by the sacred cows of 60's rock (Beatles, Dylan, Stones, ect). Because of this artists who didn't write their own material or weren't proficient on an instrument or didn't push the boundaries were viewed as second class citizens artistically speaking.

Fri Nov 04, 2005 7:21 am

As I have pointed out Pete some of these artists did push the boundaries however according to the late '60s rock school of criticism, the wrong boundaries or as in the case of Shep and the Limelites they were ignored.

Some important ideas that came from this school of thought that are demonstrably false are:

1. The Beatles were the first artists to write their own material. The majority of the early rock stars wrote their own stuff- Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Dion, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and many others. And others at least contributed some of their hits like Ben E. King or Shirley Alston of the Shirelles. There was room at this time for the non-composing singer and the non-singing songwriter. What happened after the Beatles and Dylan is that a phony standard was established that made both types of artists irrelevant which led to the overreach of singers writing who can't write and writers who can't sing singing.

A similar false standard was set up to belittle the single in favor of the album.

2. Sergeant Pepper was the first concept album. Concept albums had been a staple of pop and jazz music since the introduction of the format. Rock and roll artists had been at least dabbling with the idea since the Flamingos Serenade in 1959 and Bo Diddley is Gunslinger in 1960.

3. The Kinks' "Arthur" or "Tommy" was the first rock opera. The first rock opera was done over a series of 45s by James "Shep" Sheppard between and 1956 and 1966 with two different groups. Sheppard catalogued the tale of two young lovers from their first meeting all the way through marriage and divorce.

There is also the idea that the late '60s artists had more artistic integrity. They had more freedom but that was granted by their audience. The '50s stars all pretty much had say in what happened to their records. There were examples where the producers were the stars but that never changed.

Also, the Four Seaons and the Beach Boys had been expanding the musical and lyrical parameters of the music before the Beatles landed. However, for the self-absorbed generation that wrote this criticism the world began with that moment and any look back was cursory.

Fri Nov 04, 2005 8:00 pm

Those are some great points that I've barely heard before, LTB.
I'd also add Frank Sinatra's "In the Wee Small Hours" (1954) and "Only the Lonely" (1958) which are surely
"lost love" / depression "concept albums by any definition. Another might
be the similar "No One Cares" from '59. Or any number
of jazz albums like Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" in '59. Surely
there are others. What of "Elvis" (his 2nd) of '56? Or
"Elvis Is Back" in '60?
But alas, they weren't rock like "Sgt. Pepper's.." of '67. :roll:

Pete, I know of what you speak but even when you "de-program"
yourself about ROLLING STONE (and I used to read it regularly
but also found myself yelling at it), the baby-boomer "but 60's rock was
profound and revolutionary"
school still lingers in my mind..!

Fri Nov 04, 2005 8:13 pm

Keeps us who were there and heard a great many of the artists and acts in the charts in those days entertained.

There was about five dance halls in our vicinity playing all the hits of the day. Man we were rockin and jiving in those years. Right up to The Beatles. They were seen by my generation as quite good:-)

We can only speak for our own locality but Manchester and Dublin are fair sized cities....not far from Liverpool.

We did notice Rock n Roll was losing its teeth:-(

Fri Nov 04, 2005 8:18 pm

That John Waters' movie "Hairspray" (to cite one example) seems
to show how music and dancing still mattered to American youth
(in this case, Baltimore)... And it deals with the way rock
changed ideas about race. Hardly a total turn back to 1953, I'd say.