BEAT FROM BADSVILLE
: Volume 3
The people who inhabit the parallel universe that is Badsville are in many cases willfully obscure, running under pseudonyms, or just plain difficult to track down – proper no hit wonders. That said, some of Lux and Ivy’s favourites carved the very cornerstones of rock music. The inventor of shock rock, with stage props and wild screams, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins needs no introduction and Richard Berry wrote ‘Louie Louie’ so, without whom, etc.
However, the rest of our cast remains in the strange netherworld that combines tragedy and bad career decisions. Jape Richardson, more commonly known as The Big Bopper, perished along with Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens on the day the music died, while Vince Taylor, a British rock ‘n’ roller inspired by Gene Vincent and Elvis was said to have been the inspiration for David Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’. Another Vincent devotee, Sparkle Moore toured with the man, mimicked him and wore men’s clothing but recorded just a handful of tunes before retiring in 1957 to start a family. Allegedly, Oklahoma’s own Wanda Jackson penned a string of her own songs but after hearing Gene Vincent she insisted that her recordings from there on in should share the same raunchiness. She also dated the King.
And, talking of raunch, Bunker Hill’s efforts here are exemplary. A former member of Gospel outfit the Mighty Clouds Of Joy and a reasonably successful heavyweight boxer, Hill’s career in rock ‘n’ roll was brief. Acclaimed for taking the “Little Richard aesthetic one step further”, he recorded six songs backed by Link Wray And The Raymen, before returning sporadically to his gospel roots.
In Badsville, other moments in the spotlight were even shorter lived. Ralph Nielsen had several bands when he was at school in New Jersey, and by 1962 he’d formed The Chancellors. The four piece recorded ‘Scream’ in one take in a basement studio in Princeton. Released in September the band split up two months later. In the same year, The Playboys’ ‘Jungle Fever’, which comes in at just over a minute, was their only recording to see the light of day, while the similarly jungle obsessed Buddy Bow’s ‘Twistin' In The Jungle’, which offers the controversial morsel of wisdom that “Cubby Checker is the king” was his only claim to fame.
Others made a tougher fist of it and stuck around. The Bobbettes ‘s big hit was 1959’s ‘Mr Lee’ but their close four-piece harmonies were prolific and ‘I Don't Like It Like That part 1 & 2’, an answer song to Chris Kenner from 1961 bridged the gap between early Motown and The Shangri-Las, with a maniacal piano tinkling throughout. The four-piece lasted till 1974, beaten only by Fabian, who moved into the movies and was still getting roles at the end of the ‘90s. A well-groomed teen idol from the ‘60s, Fabian had 11 hit singles on the Billboard 100, the most successful being ‘Tiger’ which reached number three. Note; he famously testified to congress during the payola scandal of the ‘60s that his voice had been “electronically” altered on his recordings. Like Fabian, Annette was a pin up and household name. One of the original Mouseketeers from the Mickey Mouse Club, a Disney TV series that would eventually beget Christina Aguilera and Britney, back in the 1960s she released a string of exploitation albums before acting in The Monkees’ legendary Head movie. It doesn’t get better than that.
Of course, many of the artists on this collection were much further from the spotlight. Jimmy Witter was a radio DJ from Charlotte, NC, during the birth of rock ‘n’ roll who recorded a few wild rockabilly 45s before succumbing to a drug overdose in the ‘70s. Ron Thompson had teamed up with Nebraska band The Broughams for the bruising ‘Switchblade’, one of two singles that gained them national recognition before cult status loomed. Ditto Glenn Reeves, who is probably most famous for being the man who recorded the original demo of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’.
The Charts’ most famous doo-wop side was ‘Desiree’ from 1957, they split a year later and the mindless ‘Ooba Gooba’ sneaked out posthumously in 1959. Similarly odd in the lyric department, The Loafers’ ‘Crazy Talk’ from the same year was a classic screwball moment. By contrast, also from ’59, Charlie Baker’s ‘You Crack Me Up’ became a popcorn RnB classic, original copies of which now go for $40.
From the south side of Chicago, The Moroccos formed in 1952, releasing their biggest hit, their version of (Somewhere) Over The Rainbow’ three years later. In the same year, the gritty ‘Red Hots And Chili Mac’ provided a far less romantic view of the world. Much further west, Lord Luther hailed from Salinas, south of San Francisco. A former member of The Four Deuces, he produced a string of crazy rock ‘ n’ roll sides for a selection of labels, the novelty ‘(I Was A) Teenage Creature’ undoubtedly being the zaniest.
Teddy Rich And The Rockets played supper clubs around Pennsylvania in the late ‘50s, with Kenny Hodge on vocals, their ‘Put A Nickel In The Jukebox (A Rock ‘n’ Roll Rhapsody)’ is the a great cash-in 45, grabbing at the blue suede tailcoat of a new phenomena. And, it’s a fair bet that Stormy Gayle’s ‘Flipsville’ was a similar exercise but it came out as a surreal slice of beatnik rockabilly with a brooding staccato riff and a fleeting wail of steel guitar lurking behind the mysterious vocalist. In their effort to tick every box, they created a sound that’s like nothing else.
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01. Bunker Hill : Red Ridin' Hood and the Wolf
02. Ralph Nielsen : Scream
03. Ron Thompson His Rowdy Guitar And The Brougham's : Switchblade
04. Vince Taylor & Ses Play-Boys : Peppermint Twist, Pt. 2
05. Screamin' Jay Hawkins : I Put a Spell On You
06. Lord Luther And The King's Men : Teenage Creature
07. Teddy Rich and the Rockets, vocal by Kenny Hodge : Put A Nickel In The Juke Box
08. Fabian : Tiger
09.The Moroccos : Red Hots And Chili Mac
10. Richard Berry And Group : The Big Break
11. Jimmy Witter And The Shadows : What Are Little Girls Made Of
12. Charlie Baker : You Crack Me Up
13. Buddy Bow : Twistin' In The Jungle
14. Glenn Reeves : Tarzan
15. The Playboys : Jungle Fever
16. Jape Richards And The Echoes : Monkey Song (You Made A Monkey Out Of Me)
17. The Loafers : Crazy Talk
18. The Charts : Ooba Gooba
19. The Bobbettes : I Don't Like It Like That part 1 & 2
20. Wanda Jackson : Mean, Mean Man
21. Annette : Jo Jo The Dog Faced Boy
22. Sparkle Moore : Skull And Cross Bones
23. Stormy Gayle : Flipsville
24. The Storey Sisters : Bad Motorcycle