Songs that changed your life, even if only a little. (2) The Beach Boys' Don't Worry Baby

Songs That Changed Your Life, even if only a little : (3) Elvis Presley and Heartbreak Hotel

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Ian Evans in post-Presley, more Dylanesque times, on the beach with fellow students during university days at Aberystwyth, west Wales in the summer of 1965
I did say this series about songs that change lives, even if only a little, would not be restricted to folk music.
And only once have I considered Elvis Presley to have had a place - and one bestowed upon him by others - in folk. Geordie's Penker (or was it Penka, the variation more commonly used in North-eastern dialect for a child's marble ball?) was a Methodist church folk group from my home town of Shildon, Co Durham.
They came up with a song called Iron Road to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Stockton and Darlington railway (the world's first steam-powered, passenger train and it started from Shildon).
The lyrics included this gem of a couplet: 'And who needs Presley when you’ve got Nigel Gresley/ He’ll convert you quicker than old John Wesley'. My good friend Ian Evans remembers Elvis Presley for a different reason as you shall discover below ...
Write to this e-mail address if you'd like to offer a piece on the song that fits the series title for you.

Rock and Roller of the 3rd Age

 

If February 3 1959 is the most unforgettable date in the history of rock and roll, marking the untimely death of Buddy Holly, undoubtedly the most significant date is January 21 1956, the date that RCA released Heartbreak Hotel, Elvis Presley’s first single for that label.

While Elvis’s Sun sessions introduced a rock element into blues and country songs, Heartbreak Hotel was the first and ultimate synthesis of pop, rhythm ’n blues and what was then called country and western music; the latter two being various aspects of contemporary folk music in the USA.

That this was so is attested to by the fact that Heartbreak Hotel was simultaneously number one in the pop and country and western charts and number five in the rhythm ’n blues charts; the first record to be simultaneously in the top five of all the charts.

The line-up of musicians that played on the record have become true and justifiable musical legends, namely Scotty Moore and Chet Atkins on guitar, D J Fontana on drums, Floyd Kramer on piano and Bill Black on base.

The sparse stripped down sound, enhanced by the use of echo, has a compelling atmospheric and instant impact. This coupled with the sheer simplicity of the arrangement means that every note can be heard.

Never  has a bass had such prominence on a record, never has it been so effective, never has it been so well exemplified. The overall sound is unique.

Although  it derived from earlier music it was not imitative of what went before and has never been imitated since.

Many other musicians may lay claim to being the greatest rock and roller, though never the King, such as Fats Domino, Carl Perkins, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly (a personal favourite) but there is no doubt that Elvis Presley was the true progenitor of rock and roll.

This view is based not just on the impact of the rock and roll music of Elvis Presley but also, and in some ways more importantly, on the fact that he was the first rock and roll phenomenon.

This phenomenon was fostered by his pelvic thrusts when singing, his TV appearances and his early films which all created the image of what it was to be a rock and roller.

He turned rock and roll into a social and marketing phenomenon as well as creating a definable musical genre. Growing up as a young teenager I was part of the rock and roll generation.

The music and the social and cultural aspects of rock and roll in those seminal teenage years helped create a perspective on life that remains part of my outlook.

This is music that has influenced me more than just a little. I am indeed a rock and roller of the third age!

Who would have thought in the Fifties, and even later decades, that this could be possible when it was seriously believed that rock and roll was an ephemeral phenomenon?

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