Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Asking the Tough Questions About Rock and Roll Music...

I am by no means an end-all, be-all repository of rock and roll knowledge. And armchair rock and roll repartee is rampant with claims of firsts…shit like whether or not Jackie Brenson and His Delta Cats “Rocket 88” from 1951 is the first rock and roll song is purely arbitrary. But collected below are some questions that have been bugging me for awhile (and some that I just made up) that I feel can be answered one way or another. Anyone who can solidly prove or disprove any of these questions as fact is strongly encouraged to post the relevant, fact-checked information in the comments section. Also feel welcome to ask your own questions. Hurry. I may just participate in the comments. This just might be fun.

1) Is Bo Diddley the first performer to reference himself by his full name in his own song? Is Bo Diddley the first performer to use his name as the title for a song?

(I know most of the old bluesmen…Robert Johnson, Blind Willie McTell… refer to themselves in their songs, but I can’t think of a specific example of one using their full name)

2) Is Frank Zappa’s “Freak Out” the first LP packaged in a gatefold sleeve?

(I don’t even own a copy of this record, but I know it came before “Sgt. Pepper’s” which is usually credited with the honor)

3) Is the Beatles “Back in the USSR” the first example of irony in pop music?

(please be thorough and refer to a proper dictionary definition of the word irony. This one will be hard, but I honestly think it’s a pretty important distinction)

4) Is the photo in the gatefold of the Stooges Funhouse LP the first example of ripped jeans in pop music? In popular culture?

(Again, hard to prove, but terribly important)

5) Is the Jarvis Street Revue’s “Mr. Oil Man” the first environmentally-minded LP/song?

(Only other one of remotely the same time period is Marvin’s What’s Goin’ On LP from 1971. JSR is from 1970)

6) Is Ricky Wilson’s four-string guitar the first instance of a guitarist purposefully omitting strings to obtain a specific sound?

(I’m almost certain there’s examples of people doing this just for a recording session…but not so sure that I can name any particulars...can you? But is Wilson the first to do this and stick by it?

7) Is there a band before the Gories whose drummer used no cymbals, no snare drum and no kick drum?

(Uh…if I need be more specific, how about a drummer in a ROCK band)

8) Was Sub Pop’s Singles Club the first 7” subscription club?

(I’m lazy…)

9) Is the White Stripes “Lafayette Blues” single the first double B-side 7”?

(I’m lazy still…)

10) Is Whirlwind Heat’s “Do Rabbits Wonder?” the first album to have all the song titles be the names of colors?

(Everyone always says there’s some jazz record that’s already done this, but no one ever seems to be able to name that jazz record)


Rachel said...

5) I would argue Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" (released Apr. 1970) on "Ladies of the Canyon" is also an environmentally-minded song, although I'm not sure if it's the first.


Anonymous said...

It's by Ken Nordine and it's better than any whirlwind heat record.


Anonymous said...

The first Gatefold LP was "Persuasive Percussion" by Terry Snyder and the All Stars.

The Gatefold Cover was 'invented' by Enoch Light...



And here is one on sale on ebay:

Anonymous said...

/\/\ ..and that came out in 1959..

Anonymous said...

Dirty Water, The Standells (1966)....questions numbered 3 and 5....maybe

Anonymous said...

Question number 3 is a great insight. Would 'America' from "West Side Story" count? Not really a pop song, but part of American Popular music...

Katie said...

I'm so damn happy to finally get to participate in one of these...

Double b-sides previous to 1998:

"Styrafoam/Texas Chainsaw Massacre Boogie" by The Tyla Gang in 1976

"Reasons To Be Miserable/Marvin I Love You" by Marvin, The Paranoid Android in 1981


"Don't Cry Wolf/One Way Love" by The Damn in 1977 was a Double D-Side. ZIng!!

Anonymous said...

Dear West Side Anon,

Whether or not it counts, "America" is a great answer to a thoughtful question.

- Dirty Water Anon

cassdetroit said...

a quick look through the lyrics for "america" from "west side story" reveals very little that could be interpreted as irony.

maybe the last line here is ironic. and i quote...

I like to be in America!
Okay by me in America!
Everything free in America
For a small fee in America

if anything, the rest of the lyrics are moreso a harsh critique of life in puerto rico. of course, by only reading the lyrics (sorry, my original cast recording is JUST out of reach) it's very hard to appropriate the EXACT intent of Rosalia's words. They could very easily be sincere, and Anita's lyrical rebuttals only meant as a humorous coup ferre.


Anonymous said...

In re: America

Rosalia IS sincere, completely ingenous in fact, but Sondheim isn't. Don't you think that the character's quixotic vision of immigrant life in America (esp. in the 50's, in NY, for Puerto Ricans) was designed to make the audience just a smidge uncomfortable, squirmy? That's irony as I understand it. I don't think that the song is simply a polemic camparing a harsh life in PR to an idyllic existence in America, but I could be wrong.

I also looked up the lyrics and was initially shocked to see how completely my tiny brain had misremembered them. Apparently, what I remembered is the re-written version for the film soundtrack, where the coup fourre' is far more in-your-facey.

Colin said...

To question 1:

"You tell 'em it was Huddie Ledbetter/He's done been here and gone"

Colin said...

For question 3:

Would this count as irony?

"Pastoral scene of the gallant south/The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth"

from "Strange Fruit" (written by Lewis Allan - i.e. Abel Meeropol) and performed by Billie Holiday from 1939

Anonymous said...

new question: first gatefold 45 sleeve?

adam g fayers iii said...

gatefold sleeve.

Sinatra Plus is in a gatefold sleeve. Dissapointingly although the recordings are all very early it wasn't released until 1961.

Porgy and Bess soundtrack released in 1959 but...

I've got a triple 78 set by Max Miller which is in a fold-out sleeve*. Don't know when it was released but it was recorded in 1938 and would have probably been released not too long after and it would certainly be pre-1959.

*I suppose you could argue that it's not really a gatefold sleeve as it's constructed as if it's three seperate 78 sleeves bound together so they open out like a three-page book. If it was only two records then yes it's a gate-fold sleeve but three? Hmm, I'm not sure. It's a gatefold sleeve with an extra bit in the middle.

Colin said...

Re: gatefold sleeves

This book suggests that gatefold sleeves on LPs and singles began with children's records. Early examples cited there are Johnny Appleseed (2x45, fold-out paper sleeve, RCA Records, 1949) and Little Johnny Strikeout (2x45, gatefold sleeve, Capitol Records, 1949). There are some images of the Little Johnny Strikeout record available - front, inside

(NB The book, "45 RPM" by Jim Dawson and Steve Propes, is available on Amazon here)

Kim Hill said...

Number 10

There was a record in 1956 called Frank Sinatra Conducts Tone Poems of Color which had all the song names as colors. That may be the "jazz" one everyone talks about.