JOHN PAUL YOUNG
John Paul Young released Yesterday’s Hero in 1975 and it blew my mind. I heard it on my little transistor radio and used to wait all day to hear it again. I was 9 at the time and in Chapter 1 of The Story of Rock and Roll covers it in detail. This song more than anything else set me on the path of a lifetime of chasing down rock and roll.
David Essex had some big hits, he was sort of a teen idol but there was a lot more to him than that. My best friend Mike and I picked up on him on a sound track to the film That’ll Be the Day. He went on to star in Silver Dream Racer and was on Jeff Wayne’s War of the World’s.
This may seen out of place in the timeline but I start with it because in the Introduction to The Story of Rock and Roll I use it to explain just how powerful great music can be and how it can transport you from terrible lows to incredible highs. It’s all about the big chords coming through all that fucking morbidity. When I saw this movie for the first time I got goose bumps , I still get them everytime The Stones fire up ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ which is exactly why this clip is so important. Hilton Bennet who was a great mate and has a bit part in TSORR got me into this movie and I am forever grateful for that
The Beatles were all characters, everyone had their favourite, they were recognisable even by silhouette. As a kid I liked Paul the best but in later years I started to prefer John. George was an early guitar hero of mine and yep, Ringo was a drummer, a fucking drummer. My relationship with fucking drummers is well documented in The Story of Rock and Roll
Simon and Garfunkel were huge in our household, Mum took these records out at the Benoni Library and we would have two weeks to listen to it to death. My best track was Richard Cory, once again in hindsight because it was a bit heavier than the rest of the album.
There was something fantastic about this song. I just loved that simple driving bass line. I first heard it on the radio and it blew me away. Manfred Mann was a South African so we claimed him as our own. He had a massive hit with “The Mighty Quinn” which was a Dylan song and then another with “Blinded By the Light’ which was a Springsteen Song. Most people didn’t realise they were covers and when they eventually heard the original artist they thought they were kak compared to Manfred Mann’s versions. Check out the hilarious bit of video on VH1 Songwriters series where Bruce explains how Manfred got the words wrong and sang ”douche” instead of ”deuce”. Manfred’s version was so popular the pretty much everyone sings douche now.
I explain the importance of the Radio Rats in Chapter 1. They are unsung heroes in my view, they probably had more influence on the SA music scene than most bands. A lot of bands in SA in the 70’s played covers. I was too young to ever see them but they featured often in Music Maker in grainy black and white pictures in grimy Jo’burg pubs full of pissed students. Other than Rabbitt who, image wise were more like teen idols for girls, the Radio Rats were the first SA band I became aware of. Even more exciting for me as a 10 year old was that were an East Rand band which, with a bit of a stretch, made them hometown heroes for me.
The first album I ever bought was 52nd Street which is a bit embarrassing considering the way my music taste was heading. I loved the song ‘Big shot’ and it was enough to get me to part with cash and start a life time of me giving a shit load of money to record companies.
‘Hey Rosalyn’ was track one on the album Pinups, the second album I ever bought. This time I hit a home run and this was an album I could be proud of. Pinups was quickly followed into my record collection by the incredible album The Man Who Sold the World. I was blown away by the energy on Rosalyn, the guitars and drums all seemed very heavy at the time and then at the end there was this amazing guitar slide my Mick Ronson taking them straight into the opening saxophone of track 2 ‘Here Comes the Night’.
Such a special song, those opening Gm F6 Gm Dm7 chords, the bass line, a little laugh and then that unearthly high vocal. The Police took the UK and then the world by storm.
In the book I explain how I happened to find the Boomtown Rats when I was really shopping for the Police. This was probably the most serendipitous moment of my life. ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ was a huge hit for the Boomtown Rats but as far as I was concerned the best tracks were the rest of them. There is no crap track on this album it is fucking perfection.
The Rolling Stones
I got into The Stones a bit late because obviously when they first started making waves I was about 2 years old. The Stones struck a chord with me because they were so much more, for want of a better word, dangerous than the Beatles. They were rebels, antiheroes, bad guys and they appealed to me in a way that The Beatles didn’t. Like Fender vs. Gibson, Martin vs. Taylor, BMW vs. Mercedes you pick sides in life and when it came to The Beatles vs. The Stones there was no contest in my mind, Stones for life.
Dave Cooke (RIP) who was in Standard 8 when I was a newboy at Potch gave me an album by The Who. I am not sure why he gave it to me but I am forever grateful to him for the magnanimous gesture. I think he realised that I would take hold of the flame and write a book and build a website sometime in the future and that the best way to ensure that The Who were adequately represented would be to give me the album.
The book details the importance of Kiss in my life. They were the first band to turn my world upside down. The importance of Kiss in TSORR is immeasurable, without Kiss maybe none of this would have happened. Detroit Rock City was the first song I ever heard by Kiss and nothing would ever be the same.
‘Working for the People’ was on the end of the Kiss Destroyer tape a friend gave me. Like a doos I thought it was Kiss, the detail of that event is explained in The Story of Rock and Roll. It is a fantastic song and gave me a great love for those single note driving bass lines.
Van Halen! Where showmanship meets talent in one giant supernova of brilliance. For me Van Halen took everything to a new level. They had the flash of Zeppelin without all the self indulgence. You cannot listen to Van Halen and be in a shit mood.
Judas Priest will always be the band that I credit with being the fathers of Heavy Metal. I love Sabbath and Zeppelin but to me no-one epitomised Metal like Priest.
I was listening to Queen II from around 1976 and it was just the most perfect album ever. Freddie and Brian in particular were just so good on that album. A Night at the Opera was released in 1975 but I took it to boarding school with me in 1979. ‘Death on Two Legs’ was Freddie in a rare venomous mood and probably the reason why Queen were lumped in as a heavy metal band.