British Rock ‘n’ Roll – extract from Rock Routes – a book on Rock Music by Opher Goodwin.

Everything you need to know about Rock Music!

British Rock ‘n’ Roll

 

Rock ‘n’ Roll was quickly imported into the UK. For the kids it hit the shores like a tidal wave that swept everything before it. The charts were suddenly full of American Rock acts such as Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, Little Richard, Carl Perkins, Eddie Cochran, the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly. Rock was big.

The kids, already fired up on Skiffle, were eager to get into it. The music biz entrepreneurs wanted in. They were geared to the old musical hall, variety halls and family entertainment. Rock was outside their realm of experience. The BBC was also an archaic establishment that was slow to adapt to the concept of teenagers.

Larry Parnes was the impresario who took it on and dominated the whole British Rock scene. It was rather pathetic. At that time Britain was still in the post-war austerity. There was rationing and poverty. There was little money and no cruisin’ down the boulevard in Britain’s equivalent to Sunset trip. It had to be done on the cheap. Britain was no more important to Rock music than Norway. We were a backwater.

Larry’s idea was to put together a stable of artists who he wanted to steer into a safe version of Rock that would cross into family entertainment and get to appear in the variety shows and film. He worked on the image – nice, clean cut, boy next door. He wanted names that reflected this. The first name had to be the boy next door image and the second name something hard and rocky. Hence you got Billy Fury, Marty Wilde, Tommy Steele, Duffy Power, Georgie Fame, Adam Faith, Johnny Gentle, Dickie Pride and Lance Fortune. He also managed Joe Brown who refused to change his name. Supposedly Cliff Richard got it wrong and chose two names from the first list! Who knows?

These carefully tutored artists were covering the type of Rock and R&B that hadn’t filtered through to our shores. It was all pretty watered down and tame. The sound was very Pop orientated. After all you had to get the BBC to accept it and the variety shows to accept the acts. They had to be fairly innocuous.

There was also a complete lack of expertise in the recording industry. Britain did not have the history of recording Country, Blues and R&B. They did not know how to create a Rock sound.

Despite all this pressure to produce Pop there was a number of good Rock tracks that came out of Britain. The best was probably Johnny Kidd and the Pirates with ‘Shakin’ all over’, ‘Please don’t touch’, and ‘Restless. They captured an American sound.

Cliff Richard, before he was persuaded to go Pop, produced a string of quality Rock numbers. These included ‘Move it’, ‘High class baby’, ‘Dynamite’, ‘My feet hit the ground’, ‘Livin’ lovin’ doll’, ‘Mean streak’ and ‘don’t bug me baby’. He also produced a great live (pseudo-live) first album that really rocked. Unfortunately he was seduced into the saccharin of the highly successful ‘Livin’ doll’ and life as wet Pop star.

Billy Fury also started off with a roll of thunder with his excellent ‘Sound of Fury’ album before going down the same teen idol route.

Adam Faith, with his Buddy Holly warble, Marty Wilde and the others missed out the Rock entirely and went straight to Pop.

British Rock was extremely limited and never really got off the ground.

 

Artist Stand out tracks
Cliff Richard Move it

Dynamite

My feet hit the ground

Livin’ Lovin’ Doll

Mean streak

Don’t bug me baby

Move on down the line

Apron strings

High class baby

Twenty flight rock

My babe

Baby I don’t care

Pointed toe shoes

Too much

Whole lot of shakin’ going on

Ready Teddy

High School Confidential

Billy Fury Don’t knock upon my door

Since you’ve been gone

My advice

That’s love

Turn my back on you

Don’t say it’s over

Since you been gone

Its you I need

Don’t you leave me this way

Nothing shakin’ but the leaves on the trees

Don’t jump

Sticks & stones

Tommy Steele Rock with the caveman

Rebel Rock

Doomsday Rock

Elevator Rock

Rock around the town

Marty Wilde Endless sleep

Blue moon of Kentucky

Bad boy

Sea of love

Joe Brown A picture of you

It only took a minute

Johnny Kidd & Pirates Shakin’ all over

Restless

Please don’t touch

Adam Faith High School Confidential

What do you want

Shadows Apache

Everything you ever wanted to know about Rock Music!
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Opher Goodwin

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