Keith Skues knows his rock’n’roll. His career began in armed forces radio, broadcasting from Kenya and Kuwait, and then shifted to the pirate radio ships moored outside of British waters, before he became one of the first voices heard on BBC Radio 1 after its launch in 1967. He’s still broadcasting today, with a Sunday evening show on BBC Radio Norfolk.
Rock’n’roll musical Dreamboats & Petticoats is here in Norwich this week, so Keith dug around in his collection (of over 300,000 records), and picked us out a few of his favourite hits that defined the era.
Rock Around The Clock – Bill Haley and the Comets
With this faced-paced blast of toe-tapping musical energy, the rock’n’roll era was born.
Of course, it’s not as simple as that (rock’n’roll has its roots in the gospel and soul music of the American South), but this Bill Haley classic is as good a contender as any for the title of the first ever rock’n’roll hit.
Bye Bye Love – Everly Brothers
Isaac and Phillip Everly combined country and rock’n’roll influences to come up with their signature sound. Their recording of Bye Bye Love (which they picked up after it was rejected by thirty other artists) shot to number two in the charts, launching a career which spanned decades and influenced the likes of the Beatles and Rolling Stones.
All Shook Up – Elvis Presley
No-one personifies the rock’n’roll era better than the King himself – Elvis Presley. 1953 single All Shook Up would become Elvis’ second-biggest hit, spending eight weeks atop the Billboard charts (beaten only by 1956’s Don’t Be Cruel/Hound Dog).
All Shook Up also gave its title to an Elvis jukebox musical, based on the plot of Twelfth Night, which opened on Broadway in 2005.
Blue Suede Shoes – Carl Perkins
You might know this one as more of an Elvis joint, too – but Carl Perkins wrote Blue Suede Shoes back in 1955.
It was inspired by fellow Sun Records star Johnny Cash, who suggested that Perkins write a song about the footwear worn by US airmen at the time. When Perkins saw a young man complaining about the scuff marks that his dance partner had left on his shoes, inspiration hit. The song would go on to be covered by Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran, as well as Elvis himself.
Oh, Pretty Woman – Roy Orbison
The unmistakeable sound of Roy Orbison shows up in Dreamboats And Petticoats – and Oh, Pretty Woman is unmistakeably Roy Orbison.
This is probably Orbison’s best-known hit, not hurt by its inclusion in the 1990 film Pretty Woman, starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.
Good Golly Miss Molly – Little Richard
One of the great forefathers of rock’n’roll, Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti changed the face of music forever. His dynamic music and charismatic showmanship made him a star, and helped usher in the rock’n’roll era.
Good Golly Miss Molly was recorded during Richard’s most commercially-successful period, when he scored 18 top-ten records over the course of three years. It has since been covered by everyone from Creedence Clearwater Revival to Def Leppard.
Good Vibrations – The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys are still touring today (albeit in two very separate incarnations – the brothers haven’t spoken in years), and the intricate harmonies and sunny sounds of this 1966 song explain exactly why the crowds still turn out.
Recorded across four separate studios, with multiple instrumental and vocal tracks layered over each other, Good Vibrations was the most costly song ever recorded at the time of its release.
I Want To Hold Your Hand – The Beatles
Rock’n’roll was born in the American South – but then Beatlemania hit. It was the start of Britain’s role in the rock’n’roll boom, putting us back on the map for the bands that would come later; the likes of The Dave Clark Five and The Kinks. Speaking of…
Glad All Over – Dave Clark Five
Following in the Beatles’ footstep, the Dave Clark Five were only the second British band ever to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, following John, Paul, George and Ringo’s star-making performance. This single, Glad All Over, was the one that finally knocked I Want To Hold Your Hand off the number one spot, ending its seven-week reign.
Its call-and-response style has made it a favourite of football fans everywhere from Crystal Palace to Pontypridd. In fact, fans of Rangers FC (paying tribute to striker Joe Garner) attempted to get it to get it to the Christmas number one slot in 2016 – unfortunately, the song stalled at number 31.
You Really Got Me – The Kinks
Our story is set in 1961, towards the end of the first flush of rock’n’roll. That was the decade that saw the shift towards rock music, and no-one better embodies that than the Kinks.
They straddled the divide between the two camps, pivoting to an increasingly hard rock sound as the years went by. Their first ever single was a cover of Little Richard’s Long Tall Sally; by the time of 1970’s Lola Versus Powerman, the rock’n’roll era was well and truly over, and T Rex and David Bowie were ascending to stardom.
Thanks to Keith for picking these out for us!
Dreamboats and Petticoats is here from 7-12 August. Buy tickets at Norwich Theatre Royal.