For someone who has spent a lifetime in the grip of rock ‘n’ pop, you’d think that I would know something about its origins, wouldn’t you? But shamefully the answer is more a ‘sort of’ than a ‘yes’. I suppose the problem has been that my assimilation of knowledge has been via first hand experience rather than vicarious study and that I have basically winged it by living through its twists and turns.
So when it comes to a subject such as Rockabilly, I still find it hard to know whether it is angel or devil. What I do know is that it is the earliest form of rock ‘n’ roll, emerging in the early 1950s from a primeval stew of Blues and Hillbilly (Country) and carried into the public ear by the likes of Carl Perkins and Elvis but as a style I’ve never really had much truck with it.
I can almost pin down exactly when it swung into the ‘devil’ category and that was in the early 1980s when the Rockabilly Revival stormed the charts in the form of The Stray Cats and numerous imitators and evolved into the dreaded Shakin’ Stevens. Need I say more? I hated both of them with a vengeance and vowed that Rockabilly or anything even vaguely resembling it would be banished from my collection for all eternity.
However, the door was edged open again in 1992 when Morrissey’s ‘Your Arsenal’ was released. Subsequent to The Smiths’ breakup, Morrissey had offered up 2 solo efforts in ‘Viva Hate’ and ‘Kill Uncle’ but the quality was on the wane and the critics were circling. Luckily for him, ex-Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson took on production duties for ‘Your Arsenal’ and pushed Morrissey’s style into Glam and *gulp*…Rockabilly. And blow me down, it worked and it worked well. Somehow, Morrissey’s ultra-modern muse was enhanced by the muscle of the oldest form of rock known to man and the Devil-Angel-ometer began to waver alarmingly.