HepCat Matt is an old friend of mine, from back when we were both at school playing our respective instruments together (his is guitar). Since the good old days we’ve both been at uni discovering all sorts of music and he’s become quite the connoisseur of Rock & Roll. So much so that he runs two nights down in Brighton playing said style of music. By all accounts there’s hair gel, tweed and crazy dance crazes wherever you look. Anyway, he’s been kind enough to tell us about a few of the songs he most enjoys playing and listening to, so here they are…
Screamin’ Joe Neal – Rock & Roll Deacon (Shippings, 1959)
OOOOOWWWW! This guy makes Little Richard sound like Cliff Richard… According to St. Louis guitarist Billy Peak, “He got his name from crawlin’ around the audience on his knees – he would creep up on women and scream at ’em! Scare the shit outta them!” Play very loud.
Noble ‘Thin Man’ Watts – Hot Tamales (Baton, 1959)
One of many sax-driven tunes with Mexican-themed outbursts that emerged in the wake of the Champs’ classic “Tequila”. This one is a personal favourite of mine and rarely leaves my set. Love the bit where it kicks back in after the breakdown.
La Lupe – Fever (Fania, 1968)
Everyone knows this song, written & first performed by R&B artist Little Willie John in 1956 and since covered by countless others from across the musical spectrum, but this version has to be one of the greatest and certainly one of the wildest. Released at the height of the Boogaloo era (when Cuban and Puerto Rican immigrants in New York began fusing Latin sounds with US soul music), La Lupe kicks off with a mad laugh and doesn’t look back. Spicy.
Yma Sumac – Taki Rari (Capitol, 1954)
Yma Sumac was one of the key artists associated with the Exotica movement in the 50s, the inspiration for my Paradiso nights. She was supposedly an Incan Princess directly descended from Atahualpa, the last Emperor of pre-Spanish Peru, despite rumours that she was actually a Brooklyn housewife called Amy Camus (her name back to front!) Whilst many of her recordings are much calmer affairs, her tellingly-titled “Mambo!” album features frantic Latin-flavoured percussion and powerful brass. Here we hear her giving her unusual yet amazing 5-octave vocal range a full workout.
Young Jessie – Big Chief (King Of Love) (Mercury, 1962)
This is a record I don’t own, but is at the top of my “wants” list! There were many American Indian-themed releases in the late 50s/early 60s but for me this is the cream of the crop: a hard-hitting, grunting R&B dancer with a killer vocal and a sound that’s raw and sophisticated all at once.