Monday, 7 January 2013

1964 Jerry Lee Lewis - Live At The Star-Club, Hamburg

Jerry Lee Lewis, Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On, 1964

Info: Ranked at #4 in the album charts for 1964 on, Jerry Lee Lewis' live album at the Star-Club in Hamburg is an explosion of rock n' roll energy that is sure to have the hairs standing on the back of your neck the whole way through. Lewis, aka, 'The Killer', was born in September, 1935, the son of Elmo and Mamie Lewis, in Ferriday, Louisiana. Though his parents were very poor, they decided to mortgage their farm in order to buy a piano for their home which Jerry took to like a duck to water from the age of ten. Over the following years Lewis learned the boogie-woogie playing style from his older cousin, Carl McVoy, coupled with time spent in his uncle's black only juke-joint across the tracks in Ferriday (Haney's Big House), he was well on his way to developing his own style, a mix of blues, gospel, country and rock n' roll. Both of Lewis' parents were Pentecostalists and his mother enrolled him in the Southwest Bible Institute in Waxahachie, Texas, hoping he would concentrate on gospel singing, however, not long after joining, he was expelled for playing boogie-woogie (African-American style of piano-blues) during hymn recitals, opening up the alternative route his musical career would follow. 

It was at the age of 21 that Lewis arrived at Sun Records studio following unsuccessful attempts to get a record deal from any of the Nashville companies. Even at such a young age he had experienced difficulties in his personal life, including two failed marriages and a spell in jail, but nothing compared to the scandal that erupted when, at the age of 22, he married his 13-year-old first cousin once-removed, Myra Gale Brown. The scandal resulted in a cancelled UK tour and Lewis being shunned by record companies and radio stations back in his homeland. This followed the beginning of a very successful career and three huge hits in succession, 'Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On' (banned on some radio stations for Lewis' sexually suggestive moves on tv), 'Great Balls of Fire' and 'Breathless' between 1957-58. It would be a long time before he would rebuild his career and reputation, amid struggles with alcoholism and pill addiction. Live At The Star Club in Hamburg was recorded during this exile, and it wasn't until the late 60's, when attitudes had become more open and through the hard work of his agent, that he would be accepted back into the mainstream on the back of a foray into country-western music. 

To the album itself, described by David Hutcheon of Mojo magazine as 'rock as it was meant to be: faster, more breathless and more possessed than anything the world would pay money to hear'. This is reflected in the anarchic performance of Lewis, it seems as if the band are constantly playing catch-up and trying to second-guess him as he rips through his set which includes many rock classics such as Little Richard's 'Long Tall Sally', Ray Charles' 'What'd I Say' as you've never heard it before, 'Hound Dog', 'Great Balls of Fire', 'Good Golly Miss Molly' and for me, finishing on the best performance on the album, 'Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On' which I have posted above (although the performance is from 1964, I don't think it's from the Hamburg show). The performance is all the more remarkable considering that, as far as Jerry Lee was concerned, his career was dead back home, and although his live shows were always full of energy, maybe he was losing himself through the piano and histrionics. If you are in the mood for some good old fifties rockabilly all in one place, this is the perfect album, and in some ways gives me the same feeling I had when I was small and saw Marty McFly play 'Johnny B. Goode' at the Enchantment Under The Sea dance for the first time, but that's just me. One other notable track is 'Money (That's What I Want)' which only a couple of months earlier was covered by The Beatles on their second album, With the Beatles.

Track Listing:

1. Mean Woman Blues
2. High School Confidential
3. Money (That's What I Want)
4. Matchbox
5. What'd I Say, pt.1
6. What'd I Say, pt.2
7. Great Balls of Fire
8. Good Golly Miss Molly
9. Lewis' Boogie
10. Your Cheatin' Heart
11. Hound Dog
12. Long Tall Sally
13. Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On

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