Adam Zero's ramblings and rants on popular music, culture, politics, folklore, religion and related skullduggery.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Let's All Get Dixie-Fried

I visit a Beatles Forum on a regular basis. There's a core (or should I say, hardcore) membership who discuss all things beatle-ana.

There's usually a poll of some sort. Most are good-natured conversation starters, but sometimes they can get a little ugly.

Needless to say, if you make any comments in any way, shape or form derogatory toward the Fab Four or any part of their legacy, you can expect to get a serious flaming.

These are Beatles fans, after all. The band has been out of commission for 35 years, but the faithful still meet to discuss the relative merits of the Phil Spector version of the album "Let it Be" with the Glyn Johns mixes with the recently released "Let it Be . . . Naked" "authorized by" the the Beatles and estates.

Recently there was a poll on the Greatest Decade of Rock'n'Roll. The choices were the '50s to the 90s. (The 00s weren't considered.)

Of course the poll was won by the 60s, hands down. This is a Beatles forum. But what was interesting was the number of votes for the 70s.

Many fine albums were produced in the 70s. The singer-songwriter form matured, punk happened, new wave made waves--not bad unless you remember about disco, progressive rock, "Taking It to the Streets," The Eagles in all their incarnations . . . .

What makes the 60s so interesting is that critical and commercial acclaim seemed to coincide. The Beatles, the Stones, Dylan, the Byrd, the Kinks, the Beach Boys--they all sold alot of records but were brilliant and innovative. The climax may have been Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" hitting #2 on the Billboard charts. Of course, you also had plenty of garbage Sonny and Cher and the Turtles and Sgt. Barry Sadler, but on the whole, the best pop-rock music of the decade was the most popular.

So I agree, the 60s were the greatest decade of rock. But I think you have to call the 50s a very close second. The 50s rockers were the Homers--they created their genre (pulling from blues, country, r&b, gospel and anything else that was at hand) . But they also defined the rock image as well as the music. Elvis' sneer, Chuck's duckwalk--these almost unconscious gestures helped to shape the look and feel of rock almost as much as the music itself.

50s rock was small time, small town, underground. A guy like Carl Perkins could come into Memphis from Jackson, TN, record a few songs he'd written down at Sun Records and the next thing you know his "Blues Suede Shoes" is on radio all across the country.

While Elvis gets the place of King of Rock, Carl deserves a place nearby. Carl not only wrote, but he played guitar and sang--created his own sound. (A young George Harrison was listening.)

Carl wrote so many monumental songs: "Blues Suede Shoes," "Dixie-Fried," "Movie Magg," "Honey Don't" (covered by the Beatles, sung with aplomb by Ringo), "Bopping the Blues," "Your True Love," Matchbox" (an old blues song given a definite rockabilly reading) and "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby (also covered by the Beatles, this time George).

Carl was lost in the 60s. Played guitar for the Johnny Cash band after Luther Perkins (no relation) died. He did a helluva job on "Boy Named Sue"--holding together an incredibly tight backup band.

I've got a bootleg of sessions from the late 60s/early 70s of Dylan in Nashville singing standards with Johnny Cash. Carl's on guitar, playing those forceful, yet tasteful leads that are his signature. His playing is never too jazzy, but not simpleminded either. Johnny is generous to Carl, pulling solo after solo out of him.

But when Dylan and Johnny do "Matchbox" it makes you want to cry. Johnny has to feed Dylan the lines which Dylan recites in the weird fruity Nashville skyline I-gave-my-love-a-cherry voice (or should I call it, the hey-ma-I-can-sing-purty voice?). You're just begging for Johnny to call out, "Hey, Carl, you sing one!" but it never happens.

I've almost worn out that tape. Hoping that maybe the next time, the vintage Carl will step in, sing a couple verses, hotlick it on his guitar and steal the show while Johnny whoops it up in the background.