Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Shakin' Stevens: If Only Elvis Had Been British, And From The '80s

Americans may have invented '50s rock 'n' roll, but we seem to have gotten over it. For some reason, Great Britain has romanticized and venerated the genre with a passion has been directly inverse to the size of its original contribution. Maybe music that, for us, seems quaint and passe, seems exotic and glamorous to our Transatlantic cousins. I guess it wasn't that unusual in the late '50s to like rock 'n' roll in America, but it was sort of a whole statement of personal identity in England. Still, how do you explain Shakin' Stevens?

Shakin' Stevens was a relatively straightforward rockabilly revivalist who performed competent cover versions of slightly obscure oldies. He wasn't a New Wave artist. He didn't do anything surprising, or offer much of a modern twist on the genre, or even write much of his own material. And he had four UK #1 hits.

"This Ole House," originally a hit for Rosemary Clooney in 1954, was obviously not inspired by the long-running Bob Vila home improvement show of the same name.

"Green Door" was originally a US #1 hit for Jim Lowe in 1956. According to Wikipedia, "An oft-repeated urban legend has developed saying the song refers to London's first lesbian club (1930-1985) which was in Bramerton Street in Chelsea." If Shakin' Stevens was aware of this interpretation, he certainly didn't show it.

The zydeco-flavored "Oh Julie," which I find somewhat more inventive and a little less derivative than his other material, was a number Stevens actually wrote himself. See, if only Stevens had realized earlier on that he needed to be the "rockabilly/cajun revivalist," he might have made it over here.

Or maybe he could have given Paul McCartney a run for his money in the synth-rockabilly Christmas market. "Wonderful Christmastime" or "Merry Christmas Everyone"? Pick your holiday poison.

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