Here’s Little Richard
One could probably make a case for saying there was rock and roll before Little Richard. But could you imagine rock and roll without Little Richard?
Specialty Records’ recent reissue of Here’s Little Richard presents a case for Little Richard being one of the strongest of the original rockers, a fifteen-track disc explosively packed with a shrieking, rocking dynamo that must have sounded like transmissions from an alien planet when first issued in 1957.
Sure, the songs you’ve heard all your life like “Tutti Frutti,” “Slippin’ and Slidin’,” and “Long Tall Sally” are on here, and they sound great, but the less-heard rockers like “Rip It Up,” “Jenny Jenny,” and “She’s Got It” are revelations, primal blasts of unleashed id exploding throughout the ’50s. Sure, you can hear the seeds of the Ramones, John Waters, and the Beatles, just to name a few artists enamored by Little Richard’s stripped down craziness, but you can also hear a call to freedom, a freedom where a flamboyantly gay African-American can scream out his trademark “Whooooo” just because that’s the only thing that makes sense at that particular moment. In “Jenny Jenny” particularly, you can hear the recording needles going into the red during his scream, and it sounds as liberating today as it did 50 years ago.
Richard wasn’t afraid to play ballads either, like in “Baby,” or even “Can’t Believe You Want to Leave Me,” which portrays a Fats Domino influence, but still gets some prime Little Richard screeching in there.
As with many innovators from the ’50s, the problem many will face will be overfamiliarity, based on “Tutti Frutti” being almost as overplayed as “Bad to the Bone” or “Born to Be Wild,” where the constant playing of these songs as signifiers robs a bit of their essence each time. Don’t let that stop you. Get this now. And try to find a copy of The Life and Times of Little Richard, one of the craziest autobiographies you will ever read. Play Here’s Little Richard while reading and feel all squareness blast away.