Sunday, 7 February 2016

The History and Origin Rock and Roll

Where did "Rock and roll" originate. "Rock and roll" has not always been a part of the world of music. So the question arises as to where "Rock and roll" actually got its start and become such a dominant force in music cultures around the world. I will attempt to go back in time and discover the history and origin of "Rock and Roll".

It has been probably well over fifty years since the first "Rock and Roll" record was recorded. However, with the help of the historical archives, a lot of information is still available, and hopefully it should not be too difficult to establish the history and origin of "Rock and Roll".

First, there will have to be a reasonable definition of what is "Rock and Roll". How do we distinguish artistic music as either jazz, blues, country, opera or "Rock and Roll". As one US Supreme Court justice said when trying to define pornography "You just know it when you see it". Hopefully, this discussion can be more specific, and when all is said and done we will have a relatively clear definition of "Rock and Roll", and where Rock and Roll originated or evolved.

In this discussion I will, for the most part, base my generalities on the history of "Rock and Roll" (hereafter RR) from entries made in Wikipedia (hereafter WP). Having reviewed numerous articles on the subject, WP is as reliable as any article on the subject. And WP seems to have a concise and accurate summary of the founding RR artist at issue and the history and origin of RR.(All the artist mentioned have their own page on WP to review)

It is well established that the first use of the term "Rock and Roll" in the public forum was made by Alan Freed, a Cleveland,Ohio disc jockey, who later organized and promoted some of the first RR concerts, consisting of a number of early RR groups, along with other rhythm and blues groups of the early 1950's.(See A. Freed WP)

Many assert that the first RR song to have been recorded was done by Big Joe Turner "Roll em Pete", an upbeat jazz song with a boogie piano. (1939) Others consider the Ike Turner recording "Rocket 88" (1951) at Sam Phillip's Sun Records. Even others consider the (1954) recording of Bill Haley and the Comets "Rock Around the Clock", a big band version of rock to be the first RR recording. And others point to Elvis Presley's (1954) recording "That's All Right Mama" to be the first true RR recorded song. And you can not ignore Little Richard's boogie piano of the mid 1950's.

As the son of Paul Burlison (WP), a RR rockabilly pioneer with the Rock and Roll Trio (WP), I have also included some of the trio's recordings (1953 "Your Undecided" and 1956 "Train Kept A Rollin"). The Rock and roll trio, being a good example of how a country group began using a rockabilly style in the early 1950's. The trio's songs having been covered by such groups as The Yardbirds, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelen, The Straycats, Los Lobos, Rod Stewert and even the Beatles, to name a few.. And as an early rockabiller my father conveyed to me a number of facts and stories about those early days of RR that I believe has given me a first hand perspective on the subject.. Having been born in 1951, I have been fortunate enough to spend some time back stage with a number of rock stars over the years through my dad, and in essence, I have had a front row seat on the development of RR over the last 50 plus years.

During the early 1950's, in an around Memphis,Tennessee, the Rock and Roll Trio and other hillbilly bop groups were rotating the local honkytonks on weekend gigs. And many of the early rockabilly artist began to experiment with a new sound while playing at the Saturday Night Jamboree in Memphis, playing at The Goodwyn auditorium and during their Saturday performances in the early 1950's they created what became rockabilly. (See WP- Rockabilly)

The music of the south in the early 1950's was basic jazz, country ballads and for the most part slow moving blues songs. The dance of the day, following the big band World War II era, was the jitterbug. The jitterbug was a fast paced dance that was usually danced to the upbeat tunes of the big band era during the war and continued into the early 1950's. The owners and managers of the honkytonks wanted the patrons to stay and dance as long as possible- (obviously). The only way a small four piece band could keep the patrons dancing was to play country and blues songs with a upbeat version of the songs they knew, and by doing so, this would allow the jitterbug/bop to be performed and keep the patrons/managers happy. And the result was- rockabilly. It is safe to say that even Elvis was influenced by the early Memphis rockabillers (as well as the blues, country and gospel songs of the day). The early rockabillers routinely had jam sessions(including Elvis' future band members Scotty Moore and Bill Black) in and around Humes high school where Elvis attended and in the basement of Lauderdale Courts Apts..where Elvis grew up as an early teenager. (See Rock and Roll Trio-WP)

After reading the materials on the subject and listening to the early rock recordings, I think it will be clear that RR evolved from all forms of music available to the founding artist-including jazz,country, blues, gospel and big band swing music. The one common denominator is a upbeat/uptempo version of music that "rocks". RR makes you move (in your rocking chair or on the dance floor), and to understand RR you have to first look at rock and roll in the context of the dances of the day from the jitterbug to disco dancing. The primary goal was, and still is, to get patrons on the dance floor, and provide the cultural introduction of men and women in a social setting.

The first really uniform presentation of the "Rock N' Roll" band is found in the numerous rockabilly groups that formed in the mid and late 1950's.You can see a unified sound in such rockabilly groups as Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll trio, Chuck Berry (1953-56), followed by such artist as Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, Billy Lee Riley, (1957-1959) and many more.

In the later fifties rockabilly had run its course. A lot of the problems with rockabilly was the fact that many parents objected to the suggestive language of the new sound and many radio stations had problems playing some of these rockabilly artist's works, even though they are considered RR classics today.

I honestly believe that the untimely death of Buddy Holly had a major contribution to the demise of rockabilly. It was during the mid-fifties that the teenager was expressing their independence and rebellion to authority more than ever. Just view the James Dean classic movie "Rebel Without A Cause". With rockabilly the teens had their own music, and with all the rebellious overtones throughout. As Don McClean recorded in "American Pie", both insightful and poetic, in referring to the untimely death of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, in the tragic plane crash of 1959, it was "the day the music died".

When these three young rockabilly stars suddenly passing away all at once, and with bad publicity surrounding a number of the rockabilly stars, I'm sure it put a damper on the teen's new music of rebellion. Many adults had asserted that RR was the devil's music and now with the death of these stars, the teens of the day probably took a step back in their new found music and rebellion, at least until the British invasion.

In the early 1960's there was the emergence of the teen ballad. Such artist as Bobby Vinton, Paul Anka, Franky Avalon and Johnny Burnette( of the trio fame) produced some classic and very popular teen ballads consisting of backup accompaniments of violins, back up singers and the big band orchestras familiar with the styles of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Perry Como, Tony Bennet and a host of early balladiers.

During the early 1960's the garage band was taking root, especially in England. And in the mid-1960's there was the British invasion, lead by the Beatles. Followed by many,many other British groups-including The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and so forth.

The interesting fact about the British groups is that all of them for the most part found their roots in Southern Rockabilly and Mississippi Delta Blues. And these British rock groups modeled their music on the early rockabilly/blues sounds and lyrics of the 1940's and 1950's. (See WP on the artist mentioned) Obviously, following the British invasion of the 1960's, and from the mid 1960's to today, there has been tens of thousands of rock groups to make the music scene.

What made rockabilly so appealing to the 1960's rockers was that a small group-A rhythm guitar singer, a bass player, an electric lead guitar and a drummer could find a garage and make music. There was no need for the extravagant backup of singers, violins or a full piece orchestra. They could create a catchy sound that they could play at the local club, get people dancing and make a little spending money.

After all said, what was the first Rock and Roll song. If I have to vote, I would have to agree with the Rolling Stones Magazine and vote for "That's All Right Mama" (1954) by Elvis. This song, more than all the other songs mentioned, had the greatest immediate impact and influence on rock and roll. (However, all the songs mentioned have had an impact). Before "That's All Right Mama" RR was beginning to show its face in big band swing music, rhythm and blues boogie and hillbilly bop. However, with the unique and novel sound of the Elvis recording in 1954 a new genre of music was alive and well- (Rock and Roll-a song of which to dance, listen and enjoy)

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Aerosmith Just Keeps On Rockin’

For over three decades, Aerosmith have been one of rock's most revered and popular bands, crafting classic songs full of raw guitar runs and intensely energetic vocals. The band first reached fame in the 1970’s with a string of hits including "Dream On," "Sweet Emotion" and "Walk This Way." During this period, Aerosmith's music defied easy categorization, falling somewhere between hard rock/blues and early punk, with occasional power ballads here and there. The band enjoyed major popularity throughout the 1970's, but a split from 1979-84, and the serious substance abuse and drug addictions that contributed to their decline, would nearly relegate them to the annals of history. However, in 1984, Aerosmith was born again. They went on to enjoy resurgence in popularity that has made them one of the top-selling and most popular rock bands in the world today.

Throughout their rough and rocky history, Aerosmith defied failure and even defied mediocrity in a fast-paced rock-and-roll world abundant in tragedy and also-rans. Aerosmith signed with Columbia in 1972 and debuted their first album simply titled Aerosmith, which included a hit single, "Dream On". After constant touring, the band released Get Your Wings in 1974, which did quite well on the charts, but it was Toys in the Attic in 1975 that established Aerosmith as international superstars. Originally pegged as Rolling Stones clones, Toys in the Attic showed that Aerosmith was a unique and original talent in their own right. Part heavy metal, part glam rock, and part punk, Toys in the Attic was an immense success, starting with the single "Sweet Emotion", then a successful re-release of "Dream On", and a new song from the album, "Walk This Way". Both of the band's previous albums re-charted as a result. Aerosmith's next album, Rocks, went platinum swiftly and featured two hits, "Back in the Saddle" and "Last Child".

Their next album, Draw the Line, was not nearly as successful, though the title track proved to be a minor hit. While continuing to tour and record into the late 1970’s, Aerosmith acted in the movie version of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, covering the Beatles hit "Come Together." As their popularity waned and drug abuse began affecting their output, Joe Perry left the band in 1979 during the recording of their sixth studio album Night in the Ruts and formed The Joe Perry Project. Perry’s role in Aerosmith was initially taken by longtime friend and songwriter Richie Supa and then later by guitarist Jimmy Crespo who recorded the remainder of the album.

Aerosmith released its mammoth-selling Greatest Hits album in 1980, and in 1981 the band suffered another loss with the departure of Brad Whitford. Rick Dufay replaced Whitford and the band recorded their seventh album, Rock in a Hard Place. The album was considered a relative failure. The tour that followed this release is notable for Steven Tyler’s collapse onstage during a 1983 performance.

On Valentine's Day 1984, Perry and Whitford went to see Aerosmith play. They officially rejoined the ranks of Aerosmith once more in April of that year. Steven Tyler recalls, "You should have felt the buzz the moment all five of us got together in the same room for the first time again. We all started laughing - it was like the five years had never passed. We knew we'd made the right move."

Aerosmith embarked on a lucrative reunion tour entitled "Back in the Saddle", which produced the live album Classics Live II. Their problems were still not behind them when the group signed with Geffen Records and began working on a comeback.

1985 saw the release of Done with Mirrors, their first studio album since the highly publicized reunion. It fared relatively well commercially, but it did not produce a hit single or generate much hope for their comeback. By the time the record was released, Tyler and Perry had exited drug rehabilitation. The group appeared on Run D.M.C.'s incredibly successful cover of "Walk This Way", blending rock and roll and hip-hop and successfully beginning Aerosmith's comeback. The group's next release was Permanent Vacation (1987), which included the hits "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)", "Rag Doll", and "Angel". Their next album, Pump, was received even better; Pump featured four Top Ten singles: "Janie's Got a Gun", "What It Takes", "Love in an Elevator", and "The Other Side". Aerosmith was definitely in the midst of a major resurgence.

Despite significant shifts in mainstream music at the beginning of the 1990’s, the band's 1993 follow-up to Pump, Get a Grip, was just as successful commercially. Though many critics were unimpressed by the focus on power-ballads in promoting the album, three songs ("Cryin' ", "Crazy" and "Amazing") proved to be huge successes on radio and MTV.  The music videos featured then fresh up-and-coming actress Alicia Silverstone; her provocative performances earned her the title of "the Aerosmith chick" for half a decade. Steven Tyler's daughter, Liv Tyler, was also featured in the "Crazy" video. Aerosmith signed with Columbia Records again in the early 1990’s, but they had to complete two contractual albums for Geffen before recording for the new label.

The next album, Nine Lives, was plagued with personnel problems, including the firing of manager Tim Collins. Reviews were generally mixed, and Nine Lives initially fell on charts, although it had a long chart life and sold double platinum in the US alone. It was followed by a series of late '90’s releases, mostly earlier material that was live or retrospective. The albums sold relatively well, but also marked a second decline in popularity and critical respect for the band.

Aerosmith's biggest hit of the '90’s, and its only #1 single to date, was the love theme from the film Armageddon, "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing". This song was conceived by Joe Perry and Diane Warren, although Warren alone received songwriting credit. Steven Tyler's daughter Liv was featured in the movie. In 1999, they were in the Disney-MGM Studios ride (and later in the Walt Disney Studios Park ride), Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.  Aerosmith provided the soundtrack and theme for the ride, which is based on their recording session and following concert.

The band started its next decade with the release in 2001 of Just Push Play, which charted well. They were also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Later that year, the band appeared as part of the United We Stand concert in Washington D.C. for 9/11 victims and their families. Stubbornly, the band flew back to Indianapolis for a show the same night, refusing to interrupt their Just Push Play tour schedule.

In 2002, Aerosmith released the 2-disc compilation O Yeah! Ultimate Aerosmith Hits and embarked on the Girls of Summer tour with opening acts Kid Rock and Run-DMC. In 2003, Aerosmith co-headlined with Kiss on the Rocksimus Maximus tour. Their long-promised blues album, Honkin' on Bobo, was released in 2004. The Album continues to be a success, helping to inspire the resurgence of blues and roots music across the US and Europe. A live DVD, You Gotta Move, followed it in December 2004. The band also lent its well-known "Dream On" to an advertising campaign for Buick in 2004, targeting their audience, which is now composed largely of people who were teenagers when the song first charted.

In 2005, guitarist Joe Perry released his eponymous solo album. Many claim that it is in many ways truer to the Aerosmith of the '70’s than any of their recent output. This is mostly due to its raw energy and lack of song doctoring. In October 2005, Aerosmith released a CD/DVD named Rockin' the Joint. The band hit the road for the Rockin' The Joint tour on October 30th with Lenny Kravitz and is still touring.

They expect to be on the road until some time around Spring 2006. Rumor has it that they will begin work on a new album at that time. It was announced in January that the band will embark on a 5-week tour with Cheap Trick in the spring. Rumors of a tour started a week before the announcement when Cheap Trick front man Robin Zander joined the band onstage for "Come Together" during a concert in Tampa, Florida. Early reports also indicate that the band plans to resume touring in the fall of 2006, most likely in support of the new album. According to insiders, an upcoming tour may see them alongside Motley Crue.