If the Moody Blues last evening were a bit less than “cool”, then Mr. Cool in the late 50s was surely Link Wray.
Popular enough at the time, cited by so many from Elvis to current musicians as a pioneer, the musician’s musician, it did not translate into record sales past the early 60s and he’s more a cult figure now, not unlike James Dean and Duane Eddy.
This was the one which really did it for him:
# He was cool before cool was cool.
# Wish I could still chew gum, I’m diabetic and even the sugarless stuff make my sugar go up.
# Rockett 88 story is that on the way to record it, the guitar players amp fell off the car and it damaged the speaker. But when he plugged it in, it had this marvelous distorted sound and they loved it. So, many guitar players started to slice their amp speaker cones to get that tone.
# Almost Hendrix-like tone. Total badassery right there.
# One of the few very rare, real, genuine, authentic, purebred, thoroughbred rockers and he recorded this masterpiece way back in 1958. How could anyone possibly come up with such a thing in ancient times?
A rare interview [starts about a minute in]:
I saw a criticism of Sgt. Peppers that when rock wanted to become respectable and longwinded, when it started taking itself too seriously, that was when it departed from true rock and the authenticity. There are many people today who miss just that – the authenticity.
Not all Link Wray’s output was distorted guitar – he did some singing, did some standard numbers [as standard as he could do them of course]. Smell the testosterone here:
Oozing with James Deanery.
I love in this next one how the kids react when they know the camera’s on them. Incidentally, Rumble was the first [and possibly only] instrumental song which was banned from radio due to its potential to incite kids to violence.
With Link Wray, it’s not so much his catalogue itself but his influence, his style, his badassery which the British invasion lacked. While Buddy Holly has rightly gone on to immortality, being far more accessible, ditto with Chuck Berry and of course – Elvis, Link represents the wrong side of the tracks. He’s the Tonya Harding to the mainstream’s Nancy Kerrigan.
This was very much part of the menacing tradition:
As I grew up, I was always more Stones than Beatles, more Bonneville than Vesper [Vespa]. And this tradition comes out in more modern bands like Wire:
Link Wray lives on … but not with respectable people.
One last snippet – he covered Apache, which is interesting because he’s native American, the writer was British.