Column #24 - published August 5, 1999
!! BILL HALEY'S ORIGINAL COMETS
RECORD AT ROLLIN' ROCK !!
It was a beautiful July summer day in the Italian beach resort town of Focette, near Viareggio. The year was 1957, and it just happened to be my birthday.
For my birthday present my mother gave me two 78 rpm records of Bill Haley & The Comets. She also gave me my first pair of blue-jeans. They were too long, so my mother told me to turn the cuffs up like the teenagers in America do. And those teenagers got the idea from the Texas cowboys they saw in the movies.
I only remember three of the songs on those 78's: "Rock Around The Clock", "Thirteen Women" and "Mambo Rock". (The fourth song might have been "Birth Of The Boogie", or "Razzle Dazzle").
In Focette we were staying at a "pensione" (an Inn that is), and in the dining room area they kept a record player on which they played songs by Perry Como, Claudio Villa, Frank Sinatra, etc. Nice stuff, but no big deal. But as soon as I spinned those Haley waxies, my jaw dropped, my hair stood up straight, and the pulsating Big Beat took over my body and soul!
Rock'n'Roll had arrived!!! Things would never be the same again!!
Blue-jeans & Rock'n'Roll: I had now become truly AMERICAN, even though I had never set foot in the States yet!
The sound on those Bill Haley records was unique: it was really joyous, with a prominent slappin' bass, and the rimshots on the drums augmented that swingin' beat to the ultimate rockin' ecstasy!
Little would I know that 42, yes, FORTY TWO years later, these same talented guys who played on those early Bill Haley records, would be standing in my office/studio recording those same songs for ROLLIN' ROCK RECORDS!!
Before the session started I was a bit nervous because I did not want the "Rollin' Rock Sound" to take away from, or interfere with, "The Comets' Sound", but I feel things worked out well!
Indeed the "Rollin' Rock Sound" is flexible enough to accomodate different styles, whether it's Narvel Felts, Rip Carson, Mack Stevens, Dragstrip77 or The Comets: they all have their own individual styles, and yet, there is a common excitement, a common exhuberance, there is The Big Beat with a lot of Soul....
We re-recorded "Rock Around The Clock", the biggest-selling record of all time (over 200 million copies sold!)
And what's so astounding is that, after having heard these songs already a thousand times over the last forty years, they still sound as fresh and as exciting today, as they did 42 years ago. The guys still have all the energy, all the freshness and all the spark they had half a century ago!
As I write this, we are half way through our recording enterprise, so this column may get additional material in the next few days ...
The guys are: JOEY AMBROSE, Saxophone
FRANNY BEECHER. Guitar
JOHNNY GRANDE, Piano
MARSHALL LYTLE, Bass
DICK RICHARDS, Drums
and also MAX DAFFNER (ex-Jodimars) drumming on a few numbers,
and JOCKO BUDDIN taking on the Bill Haley vocals.
Update August 10th:
So here we are at the end of this amazing event: in just three afternoons BILL HALEY'S ORIGINAL 1955 COMETS recorded 25 hot sizzlin' tunes, covering Bill Haley classics such as "Birth Of The Boogie" all the way to the Jodimars' scorching "Eat Your Heart Out Annie". They even did a number with vocals strongly reminiscent of Louis Armstrong!
In addition to being Rock'n'Roll super-Legends, The Comets are the friendliest and most enthusiastic cats you'll ever meet.
Their youthful exhuberance and enthusiasm was evident all throughout their recording session: you could see how much fun they were having, and how excited they were about this whole thing, almost like they were kids in a candy store!!
I guess this positive gung-ho attitude must be one of the secrets of their success, perennial teenagers perhaps!
My wife Laurie found the whole experience extremely uplifting, and so did I!
It's astounding to see men in their sixties and seventies rock harder and kick more ass than 90% of the young bands out there! As Marshall Lytle would say "YOU'RE NEVER TOO OLD TO ROCK"! Indeed!!!