Column #26 - published October 5, 1999
!! TIME TO RECLAIM "THE ROCK" !!
When I grew up it was easy to know what was what: we all knew that Perry Como and Frank Sinatra were "pop", as well as we knew that Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Bill Haley were "Rock"!
We knew it was Rock, because, well, it might have had something to do with the name of the songs they sang: "Jailhouse Rock", "Dixieland Rock", "Rock Around The Clock", "Don't Knock The Rock", "R-O-C-K", "Rock A Beatin' Boogie", "Mambo Rock" and countless others!
ELVIS from JAILHOUSE ROCK: nobody has to explain to Elvis Presley what "ROCK" is/was/will be!!
Or maybe we knew what "Rock" meant because it was nothing but an abbreviation of Rock'n'Roll, and we didn't have too much difficulty in identifying what Rock'n'Roll was: it was basically a mixture of Rhythm & Blues with Country & Western augmented by a stompin' driving Big Beat. Some Rock'n'Roll had more Hillbilly influences (Carl Perkins), some had more New Orleans Jazz influences (Fats Domino), some may have had Gospel music input (Little Richard), but one thing which was common to almost all Rock'n'Roll was the Big Beat, the high energy, the soulful emotional vocal acrobatics, and the close connection to the roots of America.
Most Rock'n'Roll Legends originated from the South (including Texas), and although we could find very soulful Doo Wop groups coming out of the streets of Brooklyn, Philly, Los Angeles, etc., nevertheless it was THE SOUTH which set the standards.
In our Rock'n'Roll the African American experience was coming through very strong with Jazz, Boogie Woogie, The Blues, Gospel Music, Swing, etc. The Cowboy influence was also there, not only through Country & Western Music, but also sartorially with the Western Wear favored by many of the rockabilly artists, and the celebration of blue-jeans in countless Rock'n'Roll songs.
Kay Wheeler, and Johnny Carroll, and these kids, know for sure what ROCK is!!
Many people have a tendency to think all Rock'n'Roll is fast. Most of it is fast, but a solid minority of Rock'n'Roll songs are slow. When I was a kid in Italy we called them "slow-Rock".
"Slow Rock" or "Rock-a-Ballads" are very DIFFERENT from slow pop songs!!! Just listen to "Love Me" by Elvis, or "Only You" by the Platters, or "Unchained Melody" by Gene Vincent, and compare those to any pop song by Sinatra or Streisand, and the difference is day and night. The "Rock'n'Roll edge," the "Rock'n'Roll soul" is always prominent in all the "slow rock" songs.
After the mid-Sixties the term Rock'n'Roll got so bastardized, that it was used to even label pathetic whiny stuff like Jackson Browne, Rush, what not!! In other words, the total opposite of Rock'n'Roll!!
Many of my friends on the Rockabilly mailing list are willing to use the term "Rock'n'Roll" in its true meaning, but have abandoned the term "Rock" to the Hippie Media to be used for the likes of Led Zeppelin, Marilyn Manson, Jefferson Airplane, etc.
I disagree!!! To me "Rock" is synonymous to "Rock'n'Roll" and it means The Real Thing, and I will never accept the meaning given to it by Rolling Stone magazine!!
I strongly suggest to my fellow hep cats and rockabilly rebels that they start thinking along these lines: NEVER surrender the sacred name of your beloved music to the 1960s/1970s Woodstock Generation types with their Billion Dollar Record Industry propaganda machine!! Might doesn't make right!
They stole our language, but we can reclaim it!! We MUST reclaim it!
Jacko Buddin of THE ORIGINAL COMETS knew exactly what "ROCK" is when he designed this craaaazy license plate!!
A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step!
I have taken it, will you join me??
DON'T KNOCK THE ROCK!!!
ROCK'N'ROLL WILL STAND!!!!!
Always Rollin' The Rock,
Rockin' Ronny Weiser,
The Rockabilly Rebel Westerner from Las Vegas, The Wildest West Possible