Village of Love

Nathaniel Mayer & The Fabulous Twilights Village of Love b/w I Want a Woman 45 (Fortune, 1962)

Mainstream histories of rock & roll go something like this: First there was Elvis. Okay, actually there were a couple Black people Elvis was influenced by, but, really, Elvis pretty much started rock & roll for real. Then Elvis went into the Army and rock & roll died, until some teenagers from England named the Beatles found rock & roll in the hands of Pat Boone, saved it from obscurity, helped it make the world safe for the likes rockers like Bruce Springstein, U2, and Guns'n'Roses. This is the history of rock & roll as seen by boardrooms full of White PR hacks.

"Oh, Soriano, do you have to bring race into this?" As a matter of fact, I do. The mainstream history of rock & roll is one that tends to ignore race, at least past the WelltherewasthebluesandthenHEYLOOK!!!ELVIS line you always hear. There is this block of time - 1958 to 1963 - that seems to get ignored. That is the time in which Black people ruled rock & roll. It is also the time in which the record companies were trying to figure out a way to market rock & roll to white people safely. By safely I mean without Black people in it. The short of it is that radio charts were shaken up so that music was once again divided into two categories: Pop (including White rock & roll) and R&B (Black rock & roll), R&B being the new way to say Race Music, the previous category reserved for music by Blacks. So on record company rosters, in Billboard, and on radio station play lists, Black rock & roll disappears, making it possible for some White Limeys to "save rock & roll," a notion the Beatles themselves would find absurd.

So what was happening in that 5 year "dead" space? Bo Diddley for one. Gary "US" Bonds, Rosie & the Originals and their great Gimme Love (called the greatest rock & roll song every by John Lennon), Ike & Tina Turner, and much more. With
Nathaniel Mayer & The Fabulous Twilights we have another example of Black rock & roll.

Village of Love was a hit for Nathaniel Mayers, his first one. It was his second of five singles on Fortune before he split from them over money. He disappeared and was doomed to obscurity, until the nearly obscure soul punk band the Detroit Cobras recorded a version of Village in 1996. In 2004, he did an album for Fat Possum, some songs recently released on vinyl on Stardumb.

Village of Love is a great rock & roll songs with some nice screaming vocals. I especially like the "Come on"s followed by the flat backing vocals. But the winner for me is I want a Woman. It seems like your average ballad, even with the near cavemanesque backing vocals that start the song off, and then the guitar solo comes in! What kind of voltage was that cat zapped with? This is one of the greatest, most twisted guitar solos I've ever heard. "Truly Great Music" the record label says and for a dollar I know that they are right.

I love your blog. I mean really love it. With that in mind I hope my comments that follow won't piss you off: They're coming from a place of real admiration. In this latest post you continue with the self-loathing, going out of your way to mention how white folks copped rock and roll. If you insist that rock and roll was made-up one day by some black people living in an orbiting bubble, then try to forget that it's played in 'Western' scales on 'Western' instruments ('Western' being a less-bitter and more-inclusive way of writing 'white European'). There were parts of this country where poor folks (both black and white) mingled and rubbed elbows. From this friction evolved rock and roll. Be nice to yourself- you've got a great blog.
Nah, what you write doesn't piss me off, but I think I've been misunderstood. I've got no self-loathing about being White. Not at all. Nor do I feel I need to explain that rock & roll was a creation of (mainly) poor & working class Whites & Blacks &, while we are taking ethnic stock, Latinos & Philippinos. I think that is evident to anyone who has a set of ears and doesn't trust the History of Rock & Roll as presented by PBS. My entry today simply points out that during a 5 year period of time, one that mainstream rock historians consider a dead period in rock & roll, that Black people were making the music but were not being recognized for it because record company executives saw that they were gonna have a hard time marketing White/Black Mongrel music to middle class White America. How that translates to self-loathing is beyond me. Really, do I need to add a disclaimer to anything I write about race that might be critical about institutional racism that reads "Hello I am White and I looooooove my Whiteness" or perhaps "By the way, White people are A-OK!:)" C'mon, I give my readers the benefit of the doubt that they are smart people and can read my words for what they are.

I could have also mentioned in today's entry that an early 60s American teenage sensation known as surf music is also widely ignored by mainstream rock historians in their attempts to deify all things English and place the Beatles at the Throne of Heaven; however, today's entry was about Black rock & roll, not surf bands. I'll save my rant on why surf bands have been criminally ignored in favor of the Beatles for sometime in the future.

One more thing, whenever I get these, "Hey I like your blog but lay off on the race thing" comments it is always from Anonymous. I want to encourage comments but making criticism like the above without a name attached to it is pretty chickenshit.
I want to add one more thing and I think I can since this is my blog.... The history of rock & roll is a history of race. We usually hear about the Black/White origins of rock & roll and little about race afterwards. There is a myth that the beginning of rock & roll was one of racial turmoil. Within the music itself, that is not true. There was harmony between the races with most rock & roll musicians and even a lot of people on the business end. Where there was turmoil was within American society, particularly among the right wing and segrigationists who saw it as a threat to their established order. They were right. They were also able to influence the business people within rock & roll to figure out ways to calm the concern about race. This is usually when mainstream rock historians stop looking at race in regards to rock & roll and accept that rock somehow became White and something called R&B that sounded like rock & roll, especially rock & roll as played by the saviors of rock & roll, the Brits, was Black. Tales by musicians from 1958 on about race and rock are mind boggling, especially when you get to Black musicians that played "White rock" from Hendrix to Thin Lizzy to the Bus Boys trying to get taken seriously by record execs who think that Black belong, commercially at least, in R&B and "urban contemporary." From a historical, political & sociological perspective I think that the subject of race during this time period is fascinating and I am really interested in how rock & roll became White.
Thanks for the nay-dog, dog!
i agree scott, it is a very interesting dicotomy. the marketing edge is, and always has been very race oriented. and if i knew more about it, i might say with a tad more confidence that the same thing occurred with rap music and the white suburban element. but as much as at times i think i can figure out people's listening tastes, music truly transcends all those things, and i think that the rock scene in america in those "dark" pre-invasion post-day the music died days wass far more vibrant and fantastic than people would give it credit, and serviced all races, creeds, etc. the rock historian jive is most always a load of crap. it ignores the fact that music as a pulsating breathing omni-present force is not containable to billboard charts and radio airplay. those people take someone like nathaniel mayer or hasil adkins and say "oh look at the amusing detritus of the rock'n'roll juggernaut" when really their achievements and personal statements are no less valid or in fact LARGE than someone who played ed sullivan and was boob tubed across the world. i guess i'm just basically agreeing with you, in that ignoring race, like gender, or sexuality when it comes to art in general is kind of silly, unless you are sheerly soaking in the aesthetic pleasures of a song. which on a certain level is probably the best way to be, but there's no denying the endless fascination with the pathos that creates and created this great music.
The dead period myth, you've got that right. Great record, the only one I own by Nathaniel Mayer. Of course, I want more but the rest seem much more elusive.

Anyway, I was gonna type out a long thing regarding classic rock radio and how it's segregated rock and roll in the minds of millions but I'll spare you. Let's just say that Wilson Pickett is as rock and roll as it gets and leave it at that.
Mr "Grant" -

"those people take someone like nathaniel mayer or hasil adkins and say "oh look at the amusing detritus of the rock'n'roll juggernaut" when really their achievements and personal statements are no less valid or in fact LARGE than someone who played ed sullivan and was boob tubed across the world."

Yes, but not only that. I'd argue that people like Mayer & Hasil have a more valid claim to rock & roll than much of the stuff that was being marketed as rock & roll during that time: Paul Anka, Neil Sedaka, Sheb Wooley, Ricky Nelson, the Champs, or Fabian. I mean who in the hell would claim, without being a total idiot, that the Royal Teen's Short Shorts is rock & roll and Little Willie John's Leave My Kitten Alone isn't? Oh Billboard, radio charts and rock historians, that's who! I mean if the contrast between "Who's got Short Shorts" and "You better leave (meow) my kitten alone, yeah" isn't as plain as I am wordy, you have no business commenting on rock & roll or anything else for that matter. These wacky minutemen want people to take I am an American tests to prove that they are worthy to live in this country, well, let's make number one question "Which is rock & roll: Purple People Eater by Sheb Wooley or Try Me by James Brown" Give all Americans and "illegals" that test. You pass it, you stay in the country. You don't you go back to your country of origin. If you were born here, you go to Greenland. It's drying out over there, there are vast tracts of open land for malls & driving around, and I am sure it is safe for your children. Don't worry Cary, you can stay here. You've passed the test already.

As has Todd (and if you want proof see his great 45s blog http://itsgreatshakes.blogspot.com/). Todd, I'd argue that classic rock radio is more Bull Conners than Dred Scott. Classic rock radio keeps rock & roll segregated in people's minds. It also reenforces two things: That anything not sounding like classic rock is for freaks (if you were a punk in the late 70s/early 80s, you know what i am referring to) and that rock & roll is for rebels, a completely absurd idea in this age of corporate rock, but one in which many people still cling to.
Scott, maybe you're right. Classic rock radio is probably more a product of the times than it is a leader. When was the last time radio lead anything? So, good point.

You're dead on re Hasil Adkins and Nathaniel Mayer, as well (insert Norton Records plug here). Those guys ARE rock and roll.

Regarding "Short Shorts", you gotta flip that one over to get to the real winner, namely "Planet Rock". The Royal Teens weren't complete losers after all. Ricky Nelson had some good 'uns too. Check out the great "Milk Cow Blues" for starters, much better than "Hello Mary Lou".
Will no one speak up for the poor radio programmers, those misunderstood heroes from Clear Channel who make sure that Americans can hear 'exactly' what they think they want to hear without a moment's deviation from the script that was written for them? After all, a radio play list is the scientific result of thousands of hours of work conducting listener's push polls, to determine precisesely what a key demographic 'wants' to hear. "Would you like to hear Springsteen or Prince? Check. How about ELO or Commodores? Check. And, finally, Elvis or this crazed negro screaming about your sister? HA HA, trick question, you were getting Elvis no matter what, thank you for participating! Your gift certificate to Red Lobster is in the mail!"

It it wasn't for our advertisers knowing for certain WHO they were advertising to, why, the whole economy would collapse and we would be eating each other within days. Everyone says capitalism is about competition, WRONG. It is about reMOVEing competition, absorbing it, and establishing monopolies that have fixed, continuous profit levels that make banks happy. That is the real 'history' of rock 'n roll.

The major labels got out of the talent-scouting business over 25 years ago, they leave that chore to the indies now and snap up the winners. Except for the artificial groups they create out of paid fashion models...real bands may be more difficult but their rebelliousness is what makes the units shift and justifies the hassle.

i think classic rock radio is another perfect example of musical segregation... bruce springsteen, van halen, led zeppelin - maybe a little jimi hendrix, cause he's one of them rock gods or something, and then a bunch of other music of varying quality, 95% played by white dudes. james brown is just as rock and fucking roll as hendrix, but he doesn't get a cut at the frat/power hour classic rock dynamic. nor does funkadelic - who have a better chance at mainstream radio acceptance than say, LOVE, who were always clearly true freaks. the whole idea of classic rock is silly, despite the racial slant, it doesn't like disco or anything leaning in that direction, and will play a dumb wasted song like "should i stay or should i go" by the clash but never touch something with a true sneer like "career opportunities"... and sense when did classic rock mean "seventies"??? my two classic rock stations barely play pre-abbey road beatles, and will play a bit of cream and hendrix, but the sixties are almost totally skipped over? and if you want true classic rock then they're entirely missing the elvis/chuck berry years, secluding themselves to the pud farm bong hit 70s which, dont get me wrong aint terrible, but it gets purdy damn old. just thought i'd toss another 10 cents in...
Great post, and spot on, too.

Love these song as well. Thanks.

Love Red Lobster's assessment of Clear Channel as well.
Thanks, I never heard the flipside to this one! You're largely right saying "black people ruled R&R between '58 and '63", but I would rather substitute "black people" for "small labels", as those were responsible for releasing most cool R&R in that period, be it black, white or both! And while we're on that track: the guitar player on "I want a woman" sounds a lot like the guy playing on Nolan Strong's "Mind over matter", some white guy who supposedly joined Rare Earth later on!
Niels - I think it might be Nolan Stong, as Nolan was on the same label as Mayer (and according to one referece, has played with him recently). For more on Strong: http://www.answers.com/topic/nolan-strong
if anybody needs proof that "Black America" was rocking WAY harder than any east/west coast Yanks or any Brits or Europeans were in 1967-1975, all you have to do is track down the "CHAINS & BLACK EXHAUST" (semi-legit)bootleg CD from a couple years back. it compiles obscure, home-made/private press 45's of nothing but "Black" bands that ROCK HARD, but arent necessarily playing hard rock. its even further proof that Hendrix & Funkadelic WERE NOT anomalies, but just a part of a continually evolving scene that had no access/ability to grow beyond their local areas & therefore sank without a trace...most(almost all) of the bands/artists on this comp were from the northern mid-west states; further proof that if you aint from either coast, youre invalid in the eyes of any corporate weenbag with the power to be "calling the shots". combine that with being a cultural "minority" and its any wonder how these slabs were ever "discovered", if you know what i mean...
and,yeah, IT TOTALLY KICKS A$$ throughout...
elvis rules.
Rap is the closest thing to original r n r. it's the same shit just better and louder and more BALLLLLLLLLLIN!!!!!!!!
The guitar player on "Village of Love" and "I Want A Woman" is today only recalled by Mayer as someone known as "Flukey." However, the guitarist on the follow-up to "Village," a rocker titled "Leave Me Alone," was indeed a white guy named Chuck Chittenden who later joined Johnny & the Hurricanes for a time. Chittenden's Rare Earth connection has been cited by Mayer but is unsubstantiated. Chittenden DID also play guitar on Nolan Strong & the Diablos' "Mind Over Matter" in late '62... there's a killer riff in that one that seems to have been cribbed and modified by Keith Richards for the Stones' "Start Me Up."
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