For me rock ‘n’ roll has to be original, wild, and raw. So when this album Rockin’ Memphis, subtitled 1960’s – 1970’s Vol. 1, came up for review I jumped at it. However, it did not turn out to be quite what I expected; let me tell you why. In the days of my ‘miss-spent youth’ I played guitar and sang in rock bands in the early 1960s, just before the Beatles put Liverpool and my part of the world on the map. In those days most of the material for the sound that was to be cloned as ‘Mersey Beat’ was taken from ‘rock’ records that merchant sailors brought back from the U.S.A. All the Merseyside groups did was to take these songs and beef them up with their own arrangements. The rest is history.
Interestingly, although the subtitle says ‘1960’s – 1970’s,’ most of the recordings are from the late ’60s and more into the ’70s, made after the music revolution caused by the Beatles and Co. had rocked the world. I had to smile whilst listening to the second track, the Lennon & McCartney song ‘One After 909’ performed by Terry Manning. Here we have an American performer paying homage to the Mersey Beat sound. This is ironic really, because for years before we Brits had been singing and trying to imitate American accents, and here is an American trying to imitate a ‘scouser’ (someone from Liverpool). The music in itself had produced a mutual appreciation society without really trying.
Rockin’ Memphis is a really great album that can be enjoyed by all ages. As in Liverpool, in the U.S.A., the rock revolution left behind literally hundreds of bands that never made it big. This album is a testament to the fun they had in those heady days making innovative music. The album was born out of work done by a little known record label and a collection of young Memphis players who were more influenced by the English invasion than by what was being recorded at Sun Records or Stax Records at that time in Memphis. Recorded and put out by the Ardent Record label, most of these recordings made little or no impact on the charts at the time, probably due to weak or inexperienced marketing. Terry Manning and John Fry are largely responsible for putting this collection together, having had a hand in performing on, mixing, and producing the original records. Names like Terry Manning, Cargoe, Big Star, The Hot Dogs, The Wolf River Boys (aka The Short Cuts), Rock City, Van Duren, Rocky Hill, Mud Bluff, Martin Mull, Cannon, Thomas Dean Eubanks, Smith Perkins Smith, Briarpatch, and The Goatdancers, will not mean a lot to people on this side of the pond. However, Ardent Records highest charting release was ‘Feeling Alright’ by Cargoe and the most popular band from this stable has become the band Big Star. Their first two albums ‘Record’ and ‘Radio City’ have become cult classics and are very collectable.
In 1974 Terry Manning and John Fry formed Privilege Records and enjoyed a modicum of success in the charts with ‘The Theme from Star Trek’ b/w ‘Para Song I’ by Warp Nine along with ‘Oh Babe’ by Thomas Dean and ‘September Gurls’ by Big Star. All of these rare recordings are on this album. It’s Terry Manning himself who starts the album with the first two tracks ‘Talk Talk’ and ‘The One After 909’. Terry not only sings, but also plays nearly all the other instruments – drums, rhythm guitar, bass, and keyboards – helped by Christopher Bell on lead guitar.
In summary, there are generous 22 tracks on the album that makes it very good value for money. Overall most of the tracks have stood the test of time and the album rocks. There are of course one or two slightly cheesy tracks from the 70’s – but that’s the way the music fashion went for a while. Nevertheless, it’s a damn good album that is worth having. If you have the 1983 double album Mersey Beat (1962-3 recordings) in your collection, then Rockin’ Memphis will settle beside it.
This album will serve as a reference point or a trip down memory lane for old rockers! Seriously, you need this album to play to your grandchildren – just to annoy them! After all, you were there, you’ve got the tee shirt.
(Lucky Seven Records, 2003)