Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Rock And Roll, Speak Thy Name


I have always been somewhat fascinated with songs (records) in which the lyrics are composed of either titles of other songs (records) or maybe lyrics of other records. In either my junior year or senior year of high school in my English class, I wrote and made up a fictitious story that was at least two pages long. I remember for whatever reason, my teacher gave me an average grade on it. I then told her that the story was made up of current records which were being played on the radio or had recently been dropped from airplay.  She re-read it and gave me a higher grade on it. I am trying to find it and will email it to you to get your opinion on it. Hopefully, you will give me a higher grade. (lol)

Remembering this. I got out a record that came out in 1961 on Imperial Records, DEDICATED (TO THE SONGS I LOVE).  To me, this record says it all.

Larry Neal

It is SO weird to get this letter from you now … your timing is unintentionally perfect!  (Just listen to the number of other song titles used in this track, itself already a take-off of the hit “Dedicated To The One I Love.”)

I mentioned recently that I have been making my way thru “The Evolution Of Rock,” a Canadian radio special that ran in the late 1970’s.  It’s a chronological listing of rock and roll’s biggest milestones … events, artists, music and pop culture … adult reaction to the phenomenon and more.  I’m up to 1961 right now (which I believe is Chapter 20) and have been noticing how, early on, the lyrics to SO many popular tunes referenced OTHER tunes that were being scooped up by the teenage record buying audience at the time.

It was as if this new “fad” wasn’t just an expression of music made expressly for this new record-buying audience, but it spoke its own language that this generation (and only this generation) understood.  As such, ANY kid growing up during this era knew exactly who Johnny B. Goode, Good Golly Miss Molly and Peggy Sue were … and so their names came up often in other songs because they provided an immediate connection and familiarity to the listener … something they could relate to (and, quite honestly, a means to help sell their new song.)

Even Bobby Darin, in his first two hit records, “Splish Splash” and “Queen Of The Hop,” mentions Lollipop (twice), Peggy Sue (twice), Good Golly Miss Molly (twice), Mary Lou, Sweet Little Sixteen, Short Shorts, Rock And Roll Shoes, Yellow Dog Blues, Sugartime, Bandstand and The Stroll … which, in hindsight, is almost overkill (!!!) … but it worked.

The latest dance crazes were mentioned often in multiple songs (along with “The Stroll,” Darin mentions “The Bop” in both of his first hits, too) … ANYTHING to make a connection with their audience.  Sometimes the names of other artists are even incorporated into the lyrics … and one REALLY bold example of taking this over the top was The Four Preps actually doing impressions of some of their competition in their “More Money For You And Me” medley.  (Along the way, they sang … and sounded just like The Fleetwoods, Dion and the Belmonts, The Platters, The Hollywood Argyles and The Kingston Trio, doing mockery versions of big hits by these other artists.  Chubby Checker would do a similar thing in his first hit record, “The Class,” offering imitations of everybody from Elvis Presley to Fats Domino to The Coasters to The Chipmunks!!!)  And then you had guys like Buchanan and Goodman using actual parts of these other records in their novelty hits … no doubt about it, rock and roll was using itself to promote itself!  (Think about how many times the term "rock and roll" was used in songs, once it had been defined for what it was!)

It was a different time and rock was new … and fighting to survive at a time when the older generation were doing anything within their power to try and stamp it out.  But when Danny and the Juniors sang “Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay,” they weren’t lyin’ … it has been music’s lifeforce for eight decades now!  (kk)