“Tchaikovsky and Bach is Cadillac music.We play down-to-earth Ford music.”
That quote from Bill Halley,front man for Bill Halley and the comets resonates profound doh with me.Why yes,car metaphors are not my preferred literary device,but I get Bills sentiments.Not long before “Rock around theClock”,Bill Halley was still styling himself The Ramblin ” Yodeller or performing with his Western swing band the Saddlemen.But,realising that R n Bs high energy could be wedded to. Ountry and western,he moved speedily ,recording “Rocket 88” in 195@,and remodelling husband as the Comets.The first single that could genuinely be called rock n roll was their release ‘crazy Man. Crazy’-‘Rock Around the Clock’,released later ,didn’t do half as well,but got a second lease of life in the movieThe Blackbird Jungld,going on to sell a million copies ( mainly ,quaintly ,on 78 s).Suddenly teenagers,two of which were my sisters and most of their peer group,were on fire,but when the lights went up they found Haley’s kiss curl chubbies not quite the rebel they’d expected-he’d never pretended otherwise-and moved on to Elvis.Yet Bill Haley had shown the way,and the yodeller’s echo reverberated on.
Bill Halley ,the unlikely Genesis of Rock and Roll put his glad rags on and gave birth to a whole industry that truth be told ,the music industry still has a big place in its heart for even now.Admittedly,my sisters with the flock of teenagers back then would move onto Elvis,Embracing him to their bosoms ,living inside his musical pelvic pulses.But Bill didn’t have a colonel Parker to guide or control him like Presley,but his roots were in the Country and Western sounds and it was his great vision that fused different styles into what we with a very broad brush call ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’.
As the decades have past,other artists of the popular music scene have also realised the value of fusing genres,influences into the sonic pot to produce tunes that set the heart strings going,or the heart racing.As a child who drove the Cadillac of Bach and Tchaikovsky and Bach,I also took my Ford Mustang out for a spin regularity in a music sense that is.Listen to the Carpentars ,the girl could have sung the phone book and it would have sounded brilliant,and you will hear a slide guitar,the influence of harmony,Bach even if you know music.Why,what Billy probably didn’t give himself credit for,because he was steeped in the swing band tradition and a grass roots musician,that musicians would become icons,produced to replace the emotions that their fans couldn’t really express.
Sometimes ,we are oft to be too cynical about the affect of the early Rock and Roll guys,almost as if their raw sound is too fertile ,too basic for us more sophisticated listeners.Well,listen if you will,to those young people today who adore stripped back music,acoustics sets and the like and you will realise that the fertile pulse is still beating strong,loud and strong.
So Bill,I love your glad rags,because you brought people away from leaning on the back wall of the village halls,and made the shy boys hop,hop,hop.