the mid-seventies, rock was just about twenty years old. Hardly a generation
had passed since its beginnings, but rock'n'roll already belonged to the
past. Well, this generation included the whole of the sixties, a decade
during which western society was profoundly and very rapidly overshaken,
from the success of rock and the frenesy of its teenage audience at the
end of the fifties and eraly in the decade to the hippy-psychedelic wave
and the social upheavals of 67-68.
Rock was not yet museified towards 70-75, but it was already the subject
of nostalgia. Pioneers like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley or Jerry Lee Lewis
benefitted from the first revival tours and from prestigious recording
sessions, some of them in London with many pop music stars guesting. The
film American graffiti, which more or less launched the retro wave,
was released in 1973 while the Happy days TV series, with Fonzie
notably, was broadcast on French TV from 1976 onwards. Still in France,
Johnny Hallyday and Eddy Mitchell were already polishing up their legends
while looking back on their younger years, that William Sheller (Comme
dans un vieux rock'n'roll, 1976) and Laurent Voulzy (Rockollection,
1977) would soon revisit.
Feeling the mood of the times, and prospective good sales, EMI France,
through its budget label Music For Pleasure, released in France starting
in 1974 a series of four vintage fifties "original recordings"
compilations under the Testament du rock banner. These records,
sold mostly in supermarkets for a little over the price of a single, have
been widely distributed, especially the first two. The first volume in
the series is even a certified gold record in France for sales of over
On these four compilations you find rock, and even one eternal rock classic,
Be-bop-a-lula by Gene Vincent, a woman rocker (Wanda Jackson),
some rhythm'n'blues with Johnny Otis, and even lots of songs by Louis
Prima, who belongs more to the jazz and music-hall worlds, but who was
signed to EMI.
For my part, itn is with the first two volumes in the series that I discovered
old-time rock and roll, my favourite songs being Be-bop-a-lula,
Stupid cupid, Let's have a party and the much less rocking
Buona sera and Over the rainbow.
Today, over thirty years after the release of Testament du rock
vol. 4, rock itself being over fifty years old, Vivonzeureux! Records
is happy to present you with volume 5 of Testament du rock. This
release is made possible by the fact that the tracks from this era are
now more or less in the public domain, depending on the efficiency of
the lobbying of the record industry on both sides of the Atlantic. It
is also made possible by the fact that, although this music is now part
of our heritage, it has never been as present and alive, thanks to multiplying
quality reissues (even cheap ones) and to the labour of love of many sites
and blogs (WFMU, Boogie-Woogie
In Stereo to name but three) who make us discover everyday great songs
that are completely accessible to our 21st century ears, even though one
is sometimes surprised to discover that they were first released on 78
rpm shellac vinyl (which is the case of most of the tracks selected here).
We can rejoice too that a good number of the artists on this record, are
still with us, such as Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Magali Noël and
To compile this volume 5, we have not restricted ourselves to the EMI
catalogue, which must have changed a lot in thirty years. The criterion
chosen to select the songs for this filled-up 20-track vinyl album is
very simple : the songs had to please us, to make us sing inadvertently,
to make us dance, even to make us burst laughing sometimes, without nostalgia
having anything to do with it. It was decided to choose only songs recorded
in 1958 or before and, in order to respect the overall unity of the series,
Gene Vincent, Louis Prima and Johnny Otis are all present. Only Wanda
Jackson is missing among the artists featured on all of the first four
volumes of the collection.
opens with Bear
cat by Rufus Thomas. Like several other tracks on this record,
it is a recording which was originally conceived as a send-up (of Hound
dog by Big Mama Thornton). It seems to me that the exaggerations required
by satire make it easier for these songs to age gracefully. It is only
in the sixties that Rufus Thomas dedicated himself completely to a recording
career, with his classic Walkin' the dog, many other animal-themed
songs like Funky chicken and duets with his daughter Carla, but
to me Bear cat betters any other version of Hound dog ever
recorded, be they by Elvis or others, and this song is realistic enough
to wake up my cat every time I listen to it !
Poor "Sugar boy" Crawford is mostly well-known for being robbed
of the majority of his royalties when Iko iko, completely aping
his Jock-a-mo song of 1954, became an enormous hit for The Dixie
Cups in the sixties. The frenetic Overboard
is the B side of the first recording of Crawford for Chess. It is so loose
and mad maybe just because the session was meant to be an audition for
the label, not specifically intended for release.
by Chuck Berry was released on his second single, but it is one of the
four songs recorded on his first session for Chess in 1955, which also
yielded first single Maybelline. Chuck gives a thirty days ultimatum
for his girl to come back home. Thirty days is already quite a good deal
of time, but Chuck doesn't seem so sure of himself since, after consulting
a gipsy woman, he thinks of getting help from a judge, the FBI and even
the United Nations !
thing, Bo Diddley plays on an eternel theme (Pretty thing, I'd
like to marry you...). The influence of the Bo Diddley beat is felt on
piano player Huey Smith's Free
single and disengaged, another guy who, with his Clowns, didn't
take himself too seriously but whose song he's of a superior quality.
Howlin' Wolf, like Elmore James, is generally considered as a blues artist,
but there are no stylistic borders in music. Moanin'
at midnight is produced by Sam Phillips, head of Sun Records and
the guy who launched Elvis Presley, while on Rock
my baby right, the piano player is Ike Turner, creator of Rocket
88, a song released on a record by Jackie Brenston which is very officiously
meant to be the "first" rock'n'roll single.
Andre Williams and Louis Prima are great showmen. After Bacon fat,
Williams makes wonders talking dirty on The
greasy chicken, over the music of The Five Dollars. Beep-Beep
by Louis Prima was recorded in 1956 but only released in 1957 : maybe
because in the meantime an engine named Sputnik had started to send beep-beeps
from above... Louis Prima is present indirectly a second time on this
record with the very delicate cover of Buona
sera by Marino Marini and his quartette. It is the original version
of this song which opened the first volume in theTestament du rock
series. The Italian band sings Buona mostly in French, meaning
it's actually a cover of the 1958 cover by Line Renaud (!), with french
lyrics by her husband Loulou Gasté, one of the first to adapt rock
and roll into French.
Well I heard John say, "Man, she's my gal" I heard another
say, "Man, she my pal" (...) Well, the lights went on, then
went off John got slapped tryin' to hold his own Well, who-who, Who
slapped John?" That's the scene depicted by Gene Vincent
on a single and album track from1956. To have the answer to this question
and identify the culprit you have, still in 1956 but across the Atlantic,
to listen to Magali Noël explain to us about this Johnny : "He
got on my nerves, so I slapped him and I shouted fiercely, Hurt
me bad Johnny Johnny Johnny". Boris Vian thought that tock
in French could only be conceived as burlesque but, after more than fifty
years, what matters is that his song, sung by by Magali Noël, has
The same can be said of Elvis Presley's Heartbreak
Hotel as parodied by comic Stan Freberg, also from 1956. Proof
that you could make fun of rock and roll and forebode The Cramps
only a few months after The King had first burst on the scene.
Fats Domino, like Chuck Berry, is a living legend. He - barely - survived
Katrina and next year will be the 60th birthday of the release of his
first single, The fat man. The
big beat is a simple tribute to the rock'n'roll beat, able to
make everyone stand up and move, including elderly and crippled people.
On side 2, four successive tracks are more or less of the doo-wop genre.
Say it by
The "5" Royales surprises with its proeminent electric guitar.
After the fact, some have even branded it pre-Hendryxian, by a mile since
this song is from 1957. A
lover's question is more typical of the genre, but it's an excellent
hit by the founder of The Drifters. Bad
motorcycle had been released in 1957 under the Twinkles monitor
and sunk without a trace. Reissued in the same version under the name
of The Storey Sisters, the single fared much better. It would have been
a pity if we had not had the chance to hear the sisters going "Vroom
vroom vroom" so perfectly. Phil Spector must have been eavedropping
on this record... I'm
living OK sounds like a very good but more normal doo-wop title
too, also withn electric guitar. Except that, released in 1950 (the oldest
recording on this album), it reveals itself to be one of the earliest
crowning achievements of its kind. Moreover, The Robins being backed by
The Johnny Otis Orchestra, it allows us to feature on this record an artist
that is also present on the first four volumes in the series.
Country ? Rock ? Rock ? Country ? We don't care about pigeonholes and
neither did Johnny Cash.
I walk the line is a great love song and a certified classic,
even without drums ("prohibited" then on country recordings)
advantageously replaced here by a piece of paper slipped between Cash's
Since I bought nearly a year ago a Four Knights EP containing this cover
no) Sin, I have had the opportunity to listen to two 1951 hit
versions of this song, the original by The Four Aces and the cover by
Eddy Howard, my favourite remains the Four Knights one, a very pure sketch
with just an electric guitar and the four voices of the singers. It allows
us to finish off this compilation very quietly, in the same manner that
Over the rainbow by Gene Vincent did with the first volume in the
Dodu, august 2008.
notes for the first volume in the Testament du rock series by Frank Lipsik,