Friday, January 28, 2005


"bring along my rockin' shoes"

Wynonie Harris, Good Rockin' Tonight.
Wild Bill Moore, We're Gonna Rock, We're Gonna Roll.

Rock and roll is officially only 50 years old, according to professional nostalgists, but that claim seems a bit ludicrous the more you listen to black musicians of the late '40s. Everything you connote with "rock" is here already in these 1948 "R&B" songs--riffs, a big beat, a simple, repeated chorus. All that's missing, really, is the electric guitar and a slight increase in tempo.

"Good Rockin' Tonight" was written and first recorded by Roy Brown in 1947, but Wynonie Harris' version was the smash a year later. Later recorded by Elvis Presley as the second of his five legendary Sun singles. "Good Rockin'"s lyrics are crammed with a Who's Who of jazz and R&B characters, including Sweet Georgia Brown, Caldonia, and even our old friend Deacon Jones.

Wild Bill Moore's honking "We're Gonna Rock" was a number one R&B hit for a week in the summer of 1948, and then soon faded away--some suggest because his record company had forgotten to make payola payments, or that the primitive sound of the recording turned off listeners. More than 20 years later, Moore would play sax on Marvin Gaye's What's Going On.

And so shuffles off 1948. Hope you enjoyed it.

"Now, unready to die
But already at the stage
When one starts to dislike the young,
I am glad those points in the sky
May also be counted among
The creatures of middle age

W.H. Auden, "A Walk After Dark." 8/48.

fave films of '48

Unfaithfully Yours
. Rex Harrison dreams elaborate murder/suicide scenarios while conducting Rossini and Wagner. The last great effort from Preston Sturges, a comedy black as death.
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. "Can you help a fellow American down on his luck?" A screenplay that could have been written by Joseph Conrad.
Ladri di Biciclette. (Bicycle Thieves)
Blood on the Moon
. Weird noir-Western, in which most of the killing and scheming occurs in such deep shadow that at times you are watching darkness punctuated by gunshots. Bonus: Barbara bel Geddes' and Robt. Mitchum's first meeting, in which they shoot at each other for five minutes.
Letter from an Unknown Woman.
He Walked By Night. It all starts here--Dragnet, Law and Order, Homicide, CSI. A half-century's worth of cop procedurals springs from 90 minutes of B-movie.
Force of Evil.
Four Faces West/3 Godfathers. Variations on home.
The Lady from Shanghai. A colossal mess, with bad dubbing, a baffling plot made worse by sloppy editing, Orson Welles' awful Irish brogue, Harry Cohn's insistence on wedging in a Rita Hayworth musical number and a gonzo trial sequence that rivals the one in Woody Allen's Bananas. But throughout it has the pace and fever of a wild dream, in a way even avant-garde film rarely captured. And then there's the "hall of mirrors" sequence at the end. And Hayworth.

See you in '49.

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