~ "Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay"
I turned on my old satellite
radio as I drove home from the Pittsburgh fireworks on Wednesday
night... and randomly dialed up the "1950s Channel."
There I heard a song with a 49 year old prediction! I was entertained
by the song for a variety of reasons: the youthful exuberance,
the only-using-one-microphone-for-four-guys mix, the 16th notes
on the piano, the entire primitive recording actually... But
it was the words that really made me smile.
The song is "Rock And Roll
Is Here To Stay" by Danny & The Juniors.
Here are some sample lyrics:
"Rock and Roll will always
be, I'll dig it to the end
It'll go down in history, just you watch, my friend
Rock and Roll will always be, it'll go down in history
I don't care what people say, Rock and Roll is here to stay."
It was recorded in 1958. Danny
& The Juniors were 17-year-old kids who, like all 17-year-olds,
felt that theirs was the ultimate music and would last forever.
(Of course, the "adults" of the late 1950s hoped it
was a passing fad... just as THEIR parents disapproved of that
wild "Big Band" music of the 1940s.)
It's interesting, though, that
Rock and Roll was not only NOT a passing fad... it's still flourishing
almost 50 years after Danny sang those words! Sure, "Rock
And Roll Is Here To Stay" is a little heavy on the doo-wop
vocals and a little light on the electric guitar, but the chord
structure is the same I-IV-V that we know and love today. Music
is now louder and more complex, and recording techniques have
changed significantly. Stylistically things look and
sound a lot different. But deep down inside, it's still Rock
and Roll. And I like it.
It turns out that Danny was right:
It is here to stay.
I was also amused buy the modulation
in the last two verses of "Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay."
Modulation is an interesting musical trick that adds a touch
of excitement to a song. You're cruising along, enjoying the
tune... lets say it's E-A-B... and then suddenly everything goes
up a half-step to F-Bb-C! It pumps things up!
The first example of repeated
modulation that comes to mind is "My Generation" by
The Who, which modulates THREE times at the end! (Hey, it just
occurred to me that in "My Generation" Pete Townsend
sings, "I hope I die before I get old." I bet he's
glad THAT prediction didn't come true...)
I'm not sure if anyone uses modulation
in rock music anymore... but you still hear it in country tunes.
In fact a few months ago I saw a country singer on TV playing
a song using a capo. When the song modulated he very smoothly
reached down and slid his capo up one fret, and kept playing
the same chords, now in the new key! It was very impressive.
And you could ONLY do that with the fabulous Kyser Capo. Put
it on, take it off, or slide it up a fret, all with one hand!
See you soon,
PS: "Rock And Roll Is Here
To Stay" was written a mere six years after New York DJ
Alan Freed first used the term to describe a new style of music.
The terms "Rock" and "Roll" had been used
for years in R&B music, but generally to referring to activities
other than music, if you know what I mean, if you see where I'm
comin' from, if you catch my drift... like "Good Rocking
Tonight" (1947) by Roy Brown or "All She Wants To Do
Is Rock" (1948) by Wynonie Harris. In 1951, The Dominoes
released a song called "Sixty Minute Man" (again NOT
referring to music!) which contained the lyrics, "I rock
`em, and roll `em all night long, I'm a Sixty Minute Man."
Shortly afterward Alan Freed started to describe up-tempo songs
that combined Gospel, Swing, and Rhythm & Blues as: "Rock
PPS: Oddly a few years ago the
term "Sixty Minute Men" was used in TV football ads.
I don't know if it was just here in Pittsburgh for the Steelers,
or if it was a nationwide campaign... And, yes, I realize that
a football game is sixty minutes long... but still...
PPPS: The hope that Rock And
Roll was a just passing fad lasted for a long time. A few years
ago I interviewed Duke Kramer, who was one of the main guys in
the Gretsch organization during the early 1960s. I asked him
what they thought of George Harrison prominently using Gretsch
guitars. He said that they didn't pay much attention to it. They
were happy for the publicity, but the general feeling in the
company in 1964 was that Rock And Roll would soon pass.
PPPPS: Although Danny Rapp was
the lead singer, it was one of the Juniors, Dave White, who wrote
"Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay" as well as their other
big hit, "At The Hop." When the band broke up
Dave pursued a songwriting career and wrote several other million
selling songs, including "You Don't Own Me" recorded
by Leslie Gore, and "1-2-3" recorded by Len Barry.
PPPPPS: Getting back to modulation,
I can only think of one song that modulates DOWNWARD, the original
version of "I Walk The Line" by Johnny Cash. It has
a strange feel to it. When you modulate up, it gives the impression
that the song is getting faster and more exciting. Modulating
down almost gives the impression that the song is slowing down.
And naturally the vocals get lower and lower. Of course, Johnny
Cash had the right voice for that. I think by the end of the
song he's an octave lower than when he started.
PPPPPPS: Getting back to songs
mentioned in the first PS: The second record ever released by
Elvis Presley was a cover of Roy Brown's "Good Rocking Tonight."
PPPPPPPS: And as long as I've
mentioned Wynonie Harris in the first PS, if you ever get a chance
to pick up any of his recordings, please do. He was a great singer
and put everything he had into his vocals. I've always admired
singers who don't hold back. My favorite Wynonie songs: "Lovin'
Machine", "Good Morning Judge" and "Bloodshot
PPPPPPPPS: Customer web site: