I was writing a blogpost this week about my favourite hard rock songs (what's that granddad?). And then I thought, nah, better to trace the development of hard rock, heavy rock and punk in just five 60's records. As you do. And so, blushed with Battersea Art Centre's cheapest white wine, discounted 10% because I'm a member, here is my list of the five stepping stones to heavy rock.
And of course, by selecting five early 60's records, one doesn't deny the journey up to this point. Muddy Waters riffing like a bastard. Little Richard amping up the vocals. Chuck Berry giving every subsequent guitarist a rock blueprint. And Elvis. Of course Elvis. But, where to start? As I've written before, you can trace rock back to Beethoven's thunderous riffs, Vivaldi's repeated motifs. But I'll restrict myself to the first half of the 60's else I will disappear up my own arse (again).
So what am I looking for? Anger. Loud overdriven guitars. A sense of musical anarchy barely held in check. Riffs. Screaming singers.
The Beatles - Twist and Shout (Feb 1963)
Yeah, everyone knows this song and The Beatles version. One of the Beatles best ever covers (up with Long Tall Sally, Dizzy Miss Lizzie, Bad Boy, Money). But what propels this song forward is John Lennon. After a full day recording the Please Please Me album, he literally shreds his vocal chords as he provides one of rock's greatest vocals ever. The instrumentation is so-so, standard early sixties sound. It's the singing, the call and response, the AH-AH-AH-AH-WOOO bit that makes this song special. Compare the muscular and aggressive Beatles' version against The Isley Brothers' original. No contest. Lennon pisses on them and starts heavy rock.
The Kingsmen - Louie Louie (April 1963)
When researching this (seriously Tim?) I found that Louie Louie was recorded after The Beatles' Twist & Shout by two months. Who knew? Who cares? Massive hit in the 60's. Revived in the 70's for the film Animal House. What can one say about this? An absolute shocker of a recording, slapdash, careless, badly recorded. A total fuck up. But in that carefree, shouty, riff heavy style, we have the embryo hard rock and punk. It was recorded in just one take for $50. with singer Jack Ely yelling as loud as he could at a mike lodged above his head just to be heard above the instruments. A million pub rock bands heard this and learnt the way forward. Inspiring.
The Rolling Stones - I Wanna Be Your Man (Nov 1963)
It's not often The Beatles and The Stones went head to head. But - song hustling - John and Paul gave the Stones this song to get the London boys into the charts (number 12). The Beatles went on to record I Wanna Be Your Man themselves for the With The Beatles Album. Now, whilst The Beatles version is polished and lively, The Stones go straight for the balls. Or more to say, Brian Jones does. The ferocity and aggression he gives to his slide guitar lead is a wonder to behold. He did it one take. Bizarrely, not heard much these days. First time I heard it, way after other Stones stuff - as it's not on an album nor on most Greatest Hits compilations - I was blown away with Jones' wall of noise. 1963? Are you sure? But it is step three onto heavy rock.
The Kinks - You Really Got Me (1964)
Riff heaven. Taking up the baton from the Kingsmen and amping up the power. Guitarist Dave Davis creates this song's dynamic. He cut his amp with a razor blade to create the fuzzy, 'heavy' sound. He then throws out a volley of notes in the solo; mad, nonsensical but the inspiration for many a guitarist's solo (I include myself here!). Long rumoured to be played by session man and pre Led Zep Jimmy Page, it was in fact Dave Davis. The first song you can really head bang to. And air guitar.
The Who - My Generation (1965)
The song where it all comes together! Riffs, heavy guitar sound, fucking mental rhythm section, powerful singer. Feedback. Anarchy. Power. Driven by The Ox and Moonie; their powerful backing gives Townsend the space to riff away and Daltrey to stutter like a pilled up prick chucked in front of mike at closing time shouting out his story. The final minute where Moon goes mad, Daltrey screams and Townsend and Entwhistle lock together is one - one - of rock's finest moments. It is this that points to the future - not least The Who's own guitar smashing versions of this very song. And leads them down the path that ends with rock's finest moment - 'Won't Get Fooled Again.'.
And then. And then. What came next? To follow. In another post... Well I hope so! I've written it and it's ready to go so; to follow, the best hard rock tracks ever!!