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 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.
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.
"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.
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".
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.
Love these song as well. Thanks.
Love Red Lobster's assessment of Clear Channel as well.