Saturday, June 10, 2006

Well Be Bop A Lula she's my baby

When I joined the first rock band I played with, things were, well, a bit different. To start with, it was '63, and the music business was much simpler. And musicians were in many ways more open, as well as naive.

Although certain songs were always associated with specific artists, it had been common practice for some time for artists to freely record songs by other artists, especially if the song had been a hit. While that still occurs today, it was much more common "back in the day." Even the first 2 Beatles albums were largely 'cover' tunes, many of which were common in bands' repertoires. Often, competing versions of the same song were on the chart at or near the same time with some clearly awkward juxtapositions. Witness Chubby Checker singing "The Twist" shortly after Hank Ballard & The Midnighters recorded it. Or in probably the most egregious example, Pat Boone having a hit with Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally".

Gene Vincent was an early 'rockabilly' star, long before that word even was coined. He will always be associated with the song "Be-Bop-A-Lula", and his career, and life, sadly were not as long as they might have been. Many people to this day do not know that he had a badly injured leg and often wore a metal brace which was hidden in most publicity shots. During my years working at Capitol Studios, I daily walked by a picture in the hall of him posing with his band in Studio B, one leg hidden behind one of the other players.

Here's Gene Vincent performing Long Tall Sally in Brussels, 1963. His crutches can be seen while he walks out onto the stage:

For the techie geeks among you, one of the amps onstage is a Vox AC30. While starting to become common in Europe at the time, they were unheard of in the US, leading me to speculate that it was "hired" for the show. Also, the lead guitarist and bassist appear to be playing Burns guitars, for which the same caveat applies. Burns pickups are the heart of the sound of Brian May's "Red Special".

Here's a site that has hundreds of pics of Vincent: