Little Richard

You’ll be glad to know that I’ve reached the halfway point in my proofreading odyssey through The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia. The goal is to get it done by midnight on Sunday. Losing an hour early on Sunday morning won’t help, nor will getting drunk at the Flaming Lips show on Saturday night. But both look inevitable from where I’m standing.

Anyway, the book continues to delight and impress. Here’s a snippet from the entry on Little Richard:


Richard Penniman, the self-styled King of Rock’n’Roll, was born in Macon, Georgia, on December 5, 1932. Such was his explosive impact in late 1955 that many baby boomers remember better where they were when they first heard Little Richard than when they first heard that Kennedy was killed – the assassination of ‘melody’ being more vividly felt.

To comprehend his impact, picture yourself stuck in the mid-1950s as puberty strikes. Life has been drab. The grown-ups talk about ‘before the war’ all the time; it has cast a long shadow over your childhood. In Britain, ration-books have only just disappeared. Few people have TV. School is like the army. Everybody’s house is cold and you must eat up your liver and rice-pudding. Your parents listen to awful, syrupy music on their radiogram by people like Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, who think they’re so smooth and sophisticated and who imagine that these are virtues.


By the time you’re halfway through hearing Little Richard’s first hit, ‘Tutti Frutti’, your mind has been mangled by this mad, wild, delicious gibberish from a human voice like no other, roaring and blathering above a band cranking along like a fire truck running amok in the night. By the time the record finishes, you have glimpsed the possibilities of a whole new universe. All those sophisticats defeated at a stroke. Enter glorious barbarity, chaos and sex.


And don’t forget to check out Michael Gray’s blog, too.

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