Monday, 24 May 2010

The Rock 'n Roll Outlaw

This week I’ve still been on a Chuck-Berry kick. The more you scratch the surface with this guy the more fascinating he becomes. If you watch this clip of Michael Aspel interviewing Chuck in the 70’s you get a sense of a what a wild character he is . He not only pioneered rock ‘n roll music and rock ‘n roll guitar playing but he was also responsible for creating the template for the rock ‘n roll outlaw. His extensive criminal record includes charges for taking an underage girl across state lines, massive tax evasion (for many years he insisted promoters pay him in cash) and a class settlement for filming girls in the bathroom of his restaurant! In this interview he comes across as very intelligent and charming- and oddly self aware for a guy who later filmed girls on the loo. But something in his cheeky grin suggests there may be more mischief to come...

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Showcase Date Announced

No Particular Place to Go

This week The Milkshakers have been playing Chuck Berry’s song ‘Brown Eyed Handsome Man’. Whilst researching the back story to the song I can accross a great little book titled ‘All Shook Up’; How Rock’n Roll Changed America by Glenn C. Altschuler. Altschuler has some fascinating stuff to say about the song and Berry in general. Basically, Altschuler recons that Chuck Berry, more than any other 1950’s rock ‘ roll star, embodied the threat to white middle class America. He was black, supremely talented and overtly sexual. Just look at the lyrics to ‘No Particular Place to Go’!

Riding along in my calaboose
Still trying to get her belt a-loose
All the way home I held a grudge
For the safety belt that wouldn't budge
Crusin' and playing the radio
With no particular place to go

Altschuler explains that early blues and rock ‘n roll often employed a songwriting technique known as ‘masking’. Singers would sing songs about controversial subjects like sex, prejudice and discrimination and cleverly disguise them as being sweet and innocent. No Particular Place to Go is supposedly about a date that goes wrong due to a malfunctioning safety belt. But it doesn’t take the Marquis De Sade to read a rather ruder subtext. Hell, when you think about it, in this song good old Chuck basically has a girl tied up in the front of his car...maybe Chuck was an early fan of S&M? Then again maybe it’s just a pop song and I’m a dirty bastard.

Buy the book here. ‘All Shook Up’; How Rock’n Roll Changed America. Glenn C. Altschuler sure is one smart cookie!

- JM

Just a 1957 SS Stewart Archtop and Me

This weekend, dear friends, I fell in love. I spotted her from a distance. She stood by the staircase, quietly. As I admired her, it seemed as though she had everything I had been looking for. Style. Grace. Voluptuous curves. A perfectly formed head and neck. A sun-kissed complexion. One question burned above all others- how to get her attention? The guitar-shop owner played matchmaker. He carefully lifted her down from the shelf and placed her into my arms. I noticed a small mark on her body. She’d been treated rough. I would have to be gentle with her; she’d been hurt before. She seemed to say: “touch me, strum me, pluck my strings”. I sat her gently on my knee and together we dissolved in musical unity. The owner of the guitar shop told me she had ‘been around the block’. She’s been around since the 50’s; she’s had many owners. A lot of experience. But somehow that didn’t seem to matter. As I caressed her neck, she sang sweet melodies to me. I couldn’t see a way, in this crazy, mixed-up world, that we could ever be together. But for an hour, in a busy shop on Denmark Street, it was just the two of us. Just a 1957 SS Stewart archtop. And me.

- JM

Welcome to the Milkshakers Blog!

My name is James, frontman for 1950’s rock ‘n roll band The Milkshakers. As a card carrying 1950’s music and Americana obsessive, I have decided to bring you a blog dedicated to a time when boys were boys, gals were gals and parents were getting nervous. On these pages I will be cooking you up lots of tasty morsels of 1950’s style, a side order of saucy rock n roll tales, lashings of American history and politics plus an ice cold glass of fizzy social context to wash it all down with. And finally, for your dessert you'll be treated to a generous dollop of The Milkshakers (all snappy suits, poofy skirts and rollicking rock 'n roll) with pics, videos and stories from our performances across the UK. And hell, if all that doesn't satisfy you, you can send it back to the kitchen...