In the mid 1950s Rock ‘n’ Roll smashed apart the ice bound cultural climate of America and Britain.
A new generation born in the 1940s had epiphanies in the 50s listening to the icebreakers in chief : Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis.
In Minnesota, Bob Dylan.
In Liverpool, John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
And, their ecstatic immersion into a new world was repeated in hamlets and villages and towns and cities all over the world.
Later, when those Baby Boomers became artists and legends in their own right they always carried within treasured memories of the sparks that had lit their own flames.
That’s why, time after time, when it comes to encores you’ll find the titans of the 60s and 70s returning to the original source to pay homage and rock out for all they are worth!
Now, if you want a mentor, an exemplar, for barn burning, earth shattering, Rock ‘n’ Roll you can’t possibly beat The Killer – Ferriday Louisiana’s very own Jerry Lee Lewis!
If there was ever a man/myth you might chance upon a-peeping from a crawdad hole or grinnin’ down on you from the top of a telephone pole it would have to be Jerry Lee!
In February 1957 Jerry was in Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios for his second session as a recording artist with Cowboy Jack Clement at the desk.
Everyone with a pulse from Mercury to Pluto knows the second track they recorded that day, ‘Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On’ as it became one of the defining records of the Rock ‘n’ Roll era (which is of course still extant).
But, today The Jukebox is celebrating the B Side of that epochal 45, ‘It’ll Be Me’ a masterpiece in its own right and, as we shall see, an inspiration for decades to come.
Well, you can climb to the top of Everest or descend in a diving bell to the deepest darkest depths of the oceans but you still wouldn’t be able to find a truer Rock ‘n’ Roller than Jerry Lee.
I love the leer that’s always in his voice tempered by a sly wink to the audience :
‘Come on you’ve got to admit it you just can’t get enough of Jerry Lee can you’.
And, there’s always that slippin’ and a slidin’ perpetually pumpin’ Piano to keep your heart rate up and out a broad smile on your face.
‘It’ll Be Me’ was written by a popular music renaissance man – Cowboy Jack Clement.
Among the roles Jack assumed were : songwriter, singer, producer, studio owner, talent spotter and world class raconteur!
Of course, as The Jukebox never tires of saying you only have to make one great record to be sure of immortality and with, ‘It’ll Be Me’ Jack most assuredly did that.
Janis Martin was a contemporary of Jerry Lee’s and a rip roaring rocker.
She took a long spell away from the music business yet when lured back by the estimable Rosie Flores for the album, ‘The Blanco Sessions’ in 1995 she showed that she could still set those sparks flying upward.
The Move were one of the least classifiable outfits in the firmament of British Beat Groups of the 1960s.
They were Rock ‘n’ Roll, they were Pop, they were Psychedelic, they were progressive and Retro all at the same time.
In Roy Wood they had a songwriter/performer who overflowed with talent turbo charging the efforts of Bev Bevan (Drums), Carl Wayne (Vocals & Guitar), Trevor Burton (Guitar & Vocals) and Ace Kefford (Bass & Vocals).
Live, they brewed up quite a storm.
Here they are giving, ‘It’ll Be Me’ a no holds barred, eyeballs out, performance for the good old BBC.
Now we turn to a regular on The Jukebox, Richard Thompson, here performing live with his then wife Linda.
Richard Thompson, in contrast to almost all the stellar guitarists of his time, was not a devotee of B. B King, Elmore James or Chuck Berry.
Rather he had a unique set of influences which included traditional Pipers and Fiddle Players alongside Guitarists like Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian and Les Paul.
Which is why he sounds only ever like himself.
And, he can play in almost any emotional register.
He can play with the still tenderness of a mother singing a lullaby to her sick child in the dead of night.
He can play with the ferocity of William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops as they slashed and burned their was from Atlanta to Savannah.
You want someone who can make the line :
‘If you see a rocket ship on its way to Mars’ come alive well look no further than Richard Thompson when he’s in the mood!
Better fasten your seat belt real tight! – you’ll be pulling some serious Gs!
Remember what I said about Encores?
Well, here’s a short, sharp and satisfying one from a Group, Lindisfarne, whom I often saw in their 70s heyday.
Lindisfarne, as their name suggests, were from England’s North East.
Their take on ‘It’ll Be Me’ suggests they may have been tuned in to Chuck Berry rather more closely than they were to Bede!
Pretty sure Bede never played the Harmonica like that!
Look who’s knocking on our door now!
None other than Tom Jones, happily never recovered from his first ecstatic exposure to Jerry Lee.
Sometimes you want music to be pure Fun and that’s exactly what Tom serves up here aided and ably abetted by Jools Holland.
What’s that line about funny faces and comic books?
Let’s conclude with Cowboy Jack himself bringing it all back home.
Well, if you see a new face on your totem pole or if you find a new lump in your sugar bowl, Baby, I have to tell you It’ll Be Me …….