Attention, attention: Psychobabble is having a hop tonight, and you and yours are invited. So grease up your D.A. and pull on your boogie shoes. Those soles are gonna get a real work out because we’ve lined up the hottest rockers, hippest jazzbos, and wailingest blues bruisers to make you flip your lid. Get ready to jive and jump to…
100. “Dim, Dim the Lights (I Want Some Atmosphere)” by Bill Haley & His Comets
The party starts now, so let’s get this shack together, Daddy-O! Nail down the furniture, snap the lock off the liquor cabinet, and for christ’s sake, dim, dim those damn lights… I want some atmosphere. Bill Haley eases us in with one of his smoothest unions of rock and swing, but don’t worry, things are about to get crazy, man, crazy.
Seriously crazy, because now that the atmosphere is set, we’re all gonna shimmy out of our drapes and creepers, get out our switch-blades, and strip ourselves right out of our skins so we can let our bones jangle ‘round the room like little Ronnie Dawson wants us to. If you can’t handle that, this ain’t the party for you. Try the church social down the block, Melvin!
98. “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” by Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers
Frankie was just thirteen, but there are decades of wisdom in his plea to understand the absurdity and cruelty of love. Listen to the ache in a voice that was barely even familiar with the absurdity and cruelty of puberty.
97. “Down Bound Train” by Chuck Berry
Now back away from the horrors of love and get on board a vehicle of very different horrors. Zoom down to the hot place on a train populated with miscreants of all varieties. Chuck Berry makes this early example of horror rock a veritable tone poem with a ghostly echo that will chill you to your rockin’ bones. Enjoy it; it’s the last chill you’re going to get for a while, because your sweltering destination lies dead ahead.
96. “Young Man Blues” by Mose Allison
We continue to cool out while we dump the whiskey out of our mugs and fill ’em up with coffee, kick our heels onto the tables, and contemplate the woes of young men everywhere who can’t make a buck while the geezers rake it in with both hands. Mose Allison’s smirking delivery let’s us know it isn’t all bad though…
95. “King Kong” by Big ‘T’ Tyler
…yeah, it could be a lot worse. We could be getting carried up the Empire State Building by a giant, randy ape. Things don’t get much badder and bigger than nasty old King Kong, and Big ‘T’ Tyler pays tribute to the king of beasts with a voice just as bad and big.
94. “(Now and Then There’s) A Fool Such As I” by Elvis Presley
Right before Elvis went into the Army, he cut a few numbers to keep him in the public ear while he was marching up and down Fort Hood and peeling potatoes. Maybe his feelings about his military fate inform a performance ripe with pleading emotion. Maybe he was juts a consummate pro.
93. “Race with the Devil” by Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps
A few spots back on this list, Chuck Berry was ushering a bunch of doomed losers onto a train to Hell. Gene Vincent isn’t going so easily though. He and his Blue Caps pop into their Rock-a-Billy hot rod, slam the gas, and commence a race to out pace Old Scratch. Who wins: Gene or the Devil? I’m not really sure. I just know that we win whenever this rocker blasts its fumes off the turntable.
92. “Little Demon” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
Chuck and Gene aren’t the only ones who know a life of rocking leads to Hell, but how much empathy do they have for the demons who dance down there? Not as much as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, who knows little demons feel pain too and have to blow off steam by turning the sky green, turning the grass red, and putting pretty hair on Grandma’s bald head. I don’t know why that is demonic, but I do know that Jay’s mush-mouthed mumbling sends me into a frenzy.
91. “Blueberry Hill” by Fats Domino
Time to stop drooling with Jay and time to start strolling with Fats. He brings the mood in the room down, but everyone stays riveted around the piano in the presence of a master.
90. “Take Five” by The Dave Brubeck Quartet
Back in the coffee nook, some hep cats are tightening up in 5/4 time and simmering like the French roast everyone in the room is guzzling. Bill Haley wanted to dim the lights and get some atmosphere going. There’s no better way to get atmosphere than putting on “Take Five”…
89. “Milk Cow Blues” by Elvis Presley
…but then Elvis busts in the room, flips on all the lights, and tells us it’s time to get real-real gone. And that he does as he whoops and wails his way through one of his hottest Sun sessions. Milk it!
88. “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” by Jerry Lee Lewis
What’s that rumble under your feet? Feels like the Earth is splitting open beneath those saddle shoes, Elinor Donahue. Naw, that’s just Jerry Lee on top of the keys, pounding with his fists, letting his greasy tendrils sway in front of his eyes like the windshield wipers on a ’57 Chevy. Everything’s shaking, even the chickens in the barn. Who’s barn. What barn? My barn.
87. “Fujiyama Mama” by Wanda Jackson
We just averted natural disaster, but we’re not in the clear yet, because Wanda Jackson is a one-woman volcano, and when she starts erupting, no one’s gonna make her stop. She’s clearly out of control, so maybe we could forgive the total insensitivity of “Fujiyama Mama” (“I’ve been to Nagasaki, Hiroshima too. The same I did to them, baby, I can do to you”… oof). Maybe not. One thing’s for sure; you do not want to mess with Wanda.
86. “Charlie Brown” by The Coasters
Speaking of messes, there isn’t anyone on this list messier than class lummox Charlie Brown. He’s the goon always occupying the back chair in detention, always in dutch with the English teacher for calling him “Daddy-O.” Poor Charlie doesn’t even understand why he’s always in trouble. His loss is everyone else’s gain as we swing around the room to that stomping beat and yakety sax.
85. “She Said Yeah” by Larry Williams
Charlie Brown can’t get a break, but Larry Williams is lucky to the marrow. He spots the girl of his dreams and tells her he wants to make love to her. Does she slap him across the kisser? Nope. She says, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I wanna make love to you too!” Everything’s coming up shamrocks. The fact that this song moved the Stones to record the greatest cover of their career is extra lucky.
84. “Bird Dog” by The Everly Brothers
A lot of people associate The Everly Brothers with angelic harmonies rather than Larry Williams-style raunch. Those people need to get their minds off of “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and onto “Bird Dog”. Phil and Don sneer and drawl and whip their acoustics into a maelstrom that certainly swept Pete Townshend’s imagination into its thrall.
83. “Chicken Grabber” by The Nite Hawks
But how about one from the bird dog’s pov? Think about your response, because you may not be ready for this filthy thing from The Nite Hawks, a track that manages to be as dirty as a stag flick with nothing more than the grunts of “Here chick chick” and the sounds of an agitated hen. Word from the bird.
82. “Rockin’ in the Graveyard” by Jackie Morningstar
From the porno hen house to the graveyard: a host of cackling ghosts come vividly rising from the ground over Jackie Morningstar’s mid-paced chug. A lot of fifties parents were scared of Rock & Roll. I’m sure “Rockin’ in the Graveyard” would have scared them in a totally different way.
81. “Rebel-Rouser” by Duanne Eddy
If “Rockin’ in the Graveyard” is a Rock & Roll horror movie then “Rebel-Rouser” is a Western for greasers and J.D.s. Duanne Eddy’s ropey twang—so low, lots of people mistook him for a bass player—is a lasso wrapping around asses and dragging them to the dance floor.
80. “Red Hot” by Billy Riley & His Little Green Men
The sentiment and haranguing tone of playground taunts make “Red Hot” a big thumb in the eye of any cat who thinks his gal is the most. Apparently, she ain’t doodly squat, because Billy Riley’s possesses such special traits as the ability to walk all night and talk all day. Considering the fifties tendency to subordinate women, one must admire Billy for celebrating the fact that his woman will always have her way, but the fact that he also digs how she spreads his personal business all over town reveals a real masochistic streak.
79. “Breathless” by Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis makes a two-syllable word into a three-syllable one, and I can’t imagine anyone saying “breathless” the old way ever again. He really sounds like he has ants in his pleated pants on this one.
78. “Wake Up Little Susie” by The Everly Brothers
Parents were terrified that the libidinous drive of Rock & Roll was going to transform their sweet little Larry Talbots into a pack of drooling, fornicating Wolf Men (and, of course, Wolf Women). Poor Susie and her beau knew this all too well, because when they woke up after a long night of conversing, the kids knew what everyone would think. Phil and Don sweat out the kids’ plight over a tune catchy as crabs and rolling as a game of back seat bingo.
77. “Blue Rondo a La Turk” by The Dave Brubeck Quartet
When we last left The Dave Brubeck Quartet, they were lounging around and sipping coffee. But now the caffeine has kicked in, and they skitter all over the rhythm. “Blue Rondo a La Turk” seesaws between jittery riffs and the lazy lounge of “Take Five”. It’s the best of both jazzy worlds.
76. “Please, Please, Please” by James Brown
Now everyone clears the dance floor, because you’ll only look like a fool when the king of shimmying does his thing. Not that James Brown is going to be in the mood to shimmy when he starts begging, pleading, and falling to his knees, screaming “please, please, please don’t go.” Just toss a cape over his shoulders. He’ll be fine.
75. “Sea of Love” by Phil Philips
Some fairly angry-sounding bass “bom-bomming” leads into Phil Phillips crooning the words every love struck teen wants to hear (well, maybe not the thing about being his pet. That’s a little insulting). “Sea of Love” swoons and sways likes the woozy waves on the sea.
74. “Money (That’s What I Want)” by Barrett Strong
We all know that this is where Motown began, but is it also the beginning of heavy metal? Just imagine John Bonham pounding out that beat. Imagine Jimmy Page and John Paul John slamming that riff in unison. Imagine Robert Plant wailing that rather anti-romantic message about raking in the long green. On second thought, fuck that. All you have to do is hear Barrett Strong and the Motown crew do it as it is and “Money” is already heavy as a handful of anvils.
73. “Hippy Hippy Shake” by Chan Romero
If “Money” is proto-metal, then “Hippy Hippy Shake” must be proto-Mersey Beat, and it’s no wonder why The Beatles jumped on its mop-top shaking boogie in their early sets. But even the Fabs didn’t sound as giddy as Chan Romero when he whoo-ed and giggled his way through the original.
72. “Willie and the Hand Jive” by The Johnny Otis Show
Johnny Otis borrows that Diddley beat and no one can resist clapping, shaking, and jiving along to a heap of nonsense about the viral desire to dance with one’s hands.
71. “Claudette” by The Everly Brothers
Roy Orbison brings the tune and The Everly Brothers supply the voices and guitars. Somehow The Everlys’ tight harmonies manage to keep up with those manic acoustic guitars.
70. “Jim Dandy” by LaVern Baker
Let the squares have Superman. When you’re really in trouble, it’s Jim Dandy to the rescue, though the real heroes are mighty belter LaVern Baker and sax-blower Sam “The Man” Taylor.
69. “Diddley Daddy” by Bo Diddley
Bo Diddley didn’t do anything better than telling you how boss Bo Diddley is and proving it with the funkiest groove this side of the Mississip. On “Diddley Daddy” he loses his trademark Afro-Cuban beat for a slick shuffle but does not lose an iota of his powers to awe.
68. “My Blue Heaven” by Fats Domino
Over in N.O., Fats Domino is propping up an ancient standard from atop his thumping piano bench. Gene Austin was the first to have a smash with Donaldson and Whiting’s chestnut, but Fats is the man who made it roll out of control.
67. “Down the Line” by Buddy Holly
This demo was one of the earliest things Buddy Holly recorded, but it didn’t get in shape until The Fireballs dubbed on the full arrangement in 1964. Had they done so in ’54 it might have still gone unreleased because it was just so, so wild. The sweet-faced pop craftsman never sounded so punk.
66. “Rock Billy Boogie” by Johnny Burnette
Man, did Johnny Burnette sound mean. His meanness can be heard in his grungy guitar plucking even before his threatening voice enters. All he’s singing about is doing a dance, but his song feels more like a punch in the face followed by another punch in the face.
65. “The Happy Organ” by Dave “Baby” Cortez
Dave “Baby” Cortez sounds almost as out of control as Johnny Burnette, but Dave’s crazy on happy. Try eating four dozen pixie sticks before taking a ride on the Tea Cups at Disneyland. That would be the most accurate physical approximation of the sound of “The Happy Organ”… at least before the vomiting starts.
64. “Ooby Dooby” by Roy Orbison & The Teen Kings
Before he was pulling teens’ hearts out right through their throats, Roy Orbison was getting downright goofy, doing the ooby dooby in his impenetrable shades all over the dance floor. This isn’t your typical Roy-O, but you cannot deny the man could Rock and Roll.
63. “Harbor Lights” by Elvis Presley
OK, we’ve been having a real good time, but it’s time to get off those boogie shoes and take a breather outside. Watch the ships roll in on the darkened sea. See the lights just barely detectable in the distance…certainly not close enough to disturb the perfect peace or darkness of Elvis’s croon. Beautiful and cool as an ocean breeze.
62. “Raw-Hide” by Link Wray & The Wraymen
That’s enough sitting around. It’s time to get nuts again, and there won’t be a single ass on a seat when Link Wray’s guitar rips through the fabric of our brains. Spontaneous head banging ensues. Good thing “Raw Hide” is only two minutes because you’d be libel to get whiplash if it went on another second.
61. “Rockin’ This Joint To-Nite” by Kid Thomas
Jesus…even Link doesn’t get this crazy. The plaster rains off the walls and ceiling of our party shack as Kid Thomas drives it home at speeds Buck Baker never dared take. A lot of the songs on this list could be called proto-punk, but “Rockin’ This Joint To-Nite” is the only one that could be called proto-hardcore.
60. “Heartbeat” by Buddy Holly
But if speed and insanity are not your thing, feel free to cozy up to your gal or guy and let your hearts do the pounding. They surely will when you give yourself over to the Latin rhythms Buddy Holly swirls out on “Heartbeat”. That tremelo bend that begins the simple yet perfecto guitar solo sounds the way my knees feel when I hear this song.
59. “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck” by Elvis Presley
Elvis had lost the brutality of his great Sun singles by the time he cut this track in 1958. He’d replaced his roughness with good humor, and he sounds like he’s having some damn good fun on “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck”. That climbing bass line in the intro is a real wise ass too.
58. “Almost Grown” by Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry wasn’t just a great guitar player and storyteller, he was a great actor too. Listen to how he adopts the whine of a put-upon teen in “Almost Grown”. OK, so things like being put-upon and whining might not be what you want from your joyous Rock & Roll, but there’s enough joy from the back up singers—which include Etta James and Marvin Gaye!—to sweeten Chuck’s bellyaching.
57. “Tequila” by The Champs
It’s raunchy! It’s campy! It makes Pee Wee Herman do the Pee Wee Herman! “Tequila” is too great to get tainted by overplaying. Dig how Danny Flores’s sax starts screeching with grit in its teeth on the repeat. Dig Buddy Bruce’s syncopated picking that makes the track wiggle.
56. “Mona” by Bo Diddley
Bo Diddley does his thing while floating in space. It’s all so echoy and dreamy…a touch of psychedelia before acid entered the pop bloodstream. Even Bo’s more aggressive flourishes can’t sour a really good trip.
55. “Rumble” by Link Wray & The Wraymen
Brooding and sullen, “Rumble” expresses everything about the bad kid puffing Luckys at the back of the room without needing a single word. Link Wray’s chords are so simple they shouldn’t be able to carry an instrumental. Obviously, though, they do. And I love it when he starts playing submerged in the bathtub during the final thirty seconds!
54. “Words of Love” by Buddy Holly
Fifties Rock & Roll tends to chug, pound, bounce, and brawl. We don’t generally think of it jangling until The Beatles helped twelve-string Rickenbackers fly off music-shop shelves in the mid-sixties. So, as he often was, Buddy Holly was ahead of his times when he recorded “Words of Love”. A fine cover by the expected suspects naturally followed in 1964.
53. “At the Hop” by Danny and The Juniors
Maybe when you think of “At the Hop” you think of the corniest fifties oldies crap that Joanie and Potsy ever swung to. Listen with fresh ears, Fonz, because this track is some hard-driving shit. That intense beat doesn’t let up once. Even Danny sounds like he’s having trouble keeping up in the last verse.
52. “Shakin’ All Over” by Johnny Kidd & The Pirates
In the fifties, British Rock & Roll was usually a weedy imitation of the authentic rawhide spooling out of America. One massive exception was “Shakin’ All Over”, a bluesy, cranky shimmy by one of R&R’s first power trios.
51. “The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise” by Les Paul and Mary Ford
What oh what did guitarists do before Rock & Roll? They bowed down to Les Paul, that’s what. He recorded his own picking like it was a tiny UFO zipping beyond Mars. Les recorded Mary Ford’s white-bread voice too spookily for it to be square.
50. “Crawlin’ Kingsnake” by John Lee Hooker
Back on Earth, John Lee Hooker is out back, keeping beat with his right foot, bending strings with his left hand, hunched over his guitar, whispering so softly you could almost miss how mean he is. How mean? Mean as a crawlin’ king snake. Those who can’t handle that head back into the bash, but things ain’t exactly easing up in there either.
49. “Baby, Please Don’t Go” by Muddy Waters
Halfway though this party and the sweat really starts dripping from the walls. Everyone’s crowded shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip. Muddy Water is center-stage grinning down on the hedonistic scene he’s created. A year before the official launch of Rock & Roll and everyone is rocking and rolling already.
48. “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly
Kids too scared to get on roller coasters could find a pretty good substitute in “Peggy Sue”. The rhythm rolls all over the track, goes through the loop-de-loop. The reverb clips on and off and Buddy gets real into doing his hiccupping shtick. The simplest guitar solo in guitar solo history busts out like a guy plummeting out of his roller coaster car while it goes through the loop-de-loop.
47. “Rock Island Line” by Johnny Cash
Everybody did it, including such formidable folks as Lead Belly, Lonnie Donegan, and Odetta, but nobody rode the Rock Island Line with more steam than Johnny Cash. He wails at top speed, and stops so short you can just picture him slamming into the side of a rock cliff wall like Wile E. Coyote. Action packed.
46. “Come Softly to Me” by The Fleetwoods
Too much action for you? Then maybe it’s time for you to put on your footy pajamas and cuddle under that grinning old moon while The Fleetwoods sing you to sleep. The most soothing mood music also has an insistently rolling rhythm that will really affect your dreams.
45. “Tweedlee Dee” by LaVern Baker
For a peppier insistent rhythm, you can do no better than “Tweedlee Dee”. LaVern Baker and her tweetering back up singers sound like a line of robins rocking around the forest. If they don’t charm you to your core, your core is probably full of shit.
44. “Stagger Lee” by Lloyd Price
Was he a folk hero or villain? The real Stagger Lee— “Stack Lee” Shelton— has been both to different people and different interpreters. Lloyd Price seems to opt for the latter, the totally committed empathy in his voice speaking the part of Billy Lyons, who got the bad end of Stagger’s bullet. The backing vocalists seem to opt for the former as they impel “Go, Stagger Lee!” That push-and-pull makes for one powerful piece of R&B.
43. “C’Mon Everybody” by Eddie Cochran
Don’t let tales of murder get you down, though. If Billy’s sad fate stomped on your mood a little, just listen to Eddie. He is determined to swing all night, and he doesn’t even care if it costs him a week or two of movie privileges. Hear that slapping beat, and you’ll know just why.
42. “Gone” by Miles Davis
As a whole, Miles Davis and Gil Evans’s rendition of Porgy and Bess evokes July days so sweltering you can barely peel your ass off the patio chair. Everything springs to life on “Gone”. The mosquitoes start jumping. The sprinklers spring on. Miles and his band run through a descending riff and get loonier with each pass. If every summer day were like this, I wouldn’t hate summer so much.
41. “I Just Want to Make Love to You” by Muddy Waters
Then the mood slackens again as it gets hotter and hotter. The musicians slow to a slither. Muddy Water lays out his plans for you. You barely have the energy to stand, but you’re still intrigued. The man’s powers of seduction are legendary…
40. “Dimples” by John Lee Hooker
..but Muddy has some competition. John Lee picks up the tempo and doesn’t come on so hard. He doesn’t need to make love to you. He’s just happy to watch you walk. No major pressure there. But if you can contain yourself to walking, you may not be listening very closely, because that beat is made for shaking.
39. “Sleep Walk” by Santo & Johnny
Oops! Looks like you shook too hard! Suddenly, you fall into a narcoleptic trance, but you’re not out off your feet. You stroll around the room to the swaying rhythm, transported on Santo’s cloud of Hawaiian slide guitar. It’s so lovely, you considering not waking up…
38. “Bony Moronie” by Larry Williams
…but Larry Williams is having none of that. Get up and wiggle around like a stick of macaroni! Try to stop yourself… that riff will wag your ass for you.
37. “I’m Ready” by Muddy Waters
Aww, there’s one in every crowd. Just as the mood looks up and the dancing gets hot, some dynamite-smoking, ginned-up blow hard starts cruisin’ for a bruisin’. His fists are bunched up and he wants to use them. Oh wait…that someone is Muddy Waters. Better back off. He is one big cat.
36. “Beautiful Delilah” by Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry came to the party with Rebecca, but as soon as he eyeballs Delilah across the room, he rockets into a horn-dog froth with just one thing on his mind. How did he articulate the words to this jumping rocker so well with his tongue hanging out further than the Tex Avery wolf’s?
35. “Diddy Wah Diddy” by Bo Diddley
A location (neither town nor city) with a name sillier than a Tom and Jerry cartoon. A blues riff thwacking harder than Jerry whacking Tom with a frying pan. Bo Diddley brings humor and muscle like no one else. Don’t dare laugh when you hear where his girlfriend comes from.
34. “Raining in My Heart” by Buddy Holly
The Beatles got a lot of praise for experimenting with complex string arrangements complete with blue-note flourishes in 1965. Buddy was already doing that shit in 1958 when he recorded Felice Bryant and Boudleaux Bryant’s picturesque “Raining in My Heart”. Listen to how Dick Jacobs’s pizzicato arrangement sounds like drops falling from the sky. Let the drops fall from you eyes as you ponder what we lost when Buddy lost the ability to continue developing his experimental streak.
33. “Havana Moon” by Chuck Berry
The rain lets up. The moon comes out. Chuck Berry floats on Caribbean waters with a jug of rum and a cod Jamaican inflection. A simple mood piece that captures a simple mood with dreamy perfection.
32. “I Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash
Over by the trees there’s a moonshined outsider watching the party, keeping his distance. He knows himself well enough to understand that he could easily slip off that line he walks and into pure evil. He broods and moans, all dressed in black, blending in with the night. His voice gets lower, more menacing with each repeat. Take a careful step back to safety…
31. “Crazy Country Hop” by The Johnny Otis Show
…It’s time to come back inside, because the party is really getting out of control since that bunch of farmers crashed it. You don’t want to miss the legendary Old MacDonald, who’s preoccupied with his cow, Snaggle-toothed Malinda, who assaults some dude, or the skunk who clears the room. Actually, none of that sounds very inviting, but it’s pretty hilarious. Now that the room is cleared, the most committed partygoers can file back in, because things are about to really take off.
30. “What’d I Say” by Ray Charles
As wild as Rock & Roll was in its primitive days, there were still some rules to follow, numero one being “keep it under three minutes. Rules didn’t mean shit to Ray Charles, and for six-and-a-half minutes he reminds us that what he says is the only thing that matters. That riff! That sexy moaning! That crazy moment when the whole song breaks down for twelve seconds! Six-and-a-half minutes well spent.
29. “Manteca” by Dizzy Gillespie
Jazz artists never had any compunction about keeping it short, and Dizzy Gillespie and his band easily sprint past the seven minute mark with their shouting, boot kicking, finger waving freak out. Dizzy’s version from the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival is a party.
28. “Bring It to Jerome” by Bo Diddley
Bo is a benevolent king, and he steps aside to allow his maraca-shaking sidekick Jerome Green to trumpet his own mighty attributes. Bo and Jerome’s back and forth gives the song as much gravity as a rhythm that threatens to pull the moon out of its orbit.
27. “Woo-Hoo” by The Rock-A-Teens
With a name that sounds like it was made up by a clueless, cigar-sucking record exec, The Rock-A-Teens shock with a song too wigged out to be the product of anyone but a bunch of glue-huffing delinquents. They can’t even form a proper phrase! Fuck, they can’t even form a proper word! They hoot, they scream, they cover the walls in graffiti, they nearly burn the joint down. Fear these teens.
26. “Everyday” by Buddy Holly
Alright, enough undisciplined jumping and shouting. It’s time to find a partner and dance close. Don’t leave anyone out, not even that gawky Melvin with the tie and chunky spex. Suddenly the shyest cornball in the room starts looking like the dreamiest.
25. “A Night in Tunisia” by Dizzy Gillespie
All at once, date palm trees sprout through the floor, which has transformed into an endless expanse of sand. The fat moon hangs among a splatter of stars overhead, and Dizzy Gillespie’s trumpet is fat as that moon. Gilbert Valdez’s flute is the twinkling stars, and the heady rumble of percussion the sandy Earth beneath. Get transported…
24. “Frenzy” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
…then go fucking nuts. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins sprays saliva from his gibbering jaws and blood from his latest victim to a sultry rhumba. Rock & Roll goes full horror and an army of Monster Kids is born. See ya later, history textbook… hellooooo, Famous Monster of Filmland!
23. “I Only Have Eyes for You” by The Flamingos
If you’ve had your fill of blood, you might want to try the champagne. I know it isn’t your standard teen dance party fare, but this is not your standard teen dance party number. Sophisticated, bubbly, and intoxicating, The Flamingoes’ version of Harry Warren and Al Dubin’s standard is as romantic and magical as Valentine’s Day on Venus.
22. “Who Do You Love?” by Bo Diddley
As unromantic and horrifying as a Satanic rite, “Who Do You Live” is another story. Bo Diddley makes love threatening by running down all the ways he is crazy. Cobra snake necktie? Check. Rattlesnake-hide dwelling with human-skull chimney? Check. Tombstone hand and graveyard mind? Check, check, and huh? Don’t ask too many questions, because Bo Diddley has clearly gone stark raving, and more surprisingly, so has…
21. “Rave On” by Buddy Holly
…that sweet, little bespectacled boy that had everyone holding hands just five songs ago. This bash is really getting to everyone if Buddy Holly has started raving. But he’s an egalitarian type and wants his girl to join him in raving. Actually, that’s kind of sweet.
20. “Oh, Baby Doll” by Chuck Berry
We’re in the home stretch now, children. Soon the sun is going to come up, and pretty soon after that, all this carefree frolicking and rollicking will be over. It will be time to for autumn leaves to fall, time to head back to school. Will the romance that got going tonight survive that big transition? Chuck Berry’s paranoia that he and his Baby Doll might not last much longer informs a song intense in sentiment and beat. Hopefully for him the rest of summer vacation won’t speed by as quickly as “Oh, Baby Doll”.
19. “The Girl Can’t Help It” by Little Richard
All of the sudden the front doors explode off their hinges, and when the debris settles, there stands Jayne Mansfield. She struts into the room, and the men folk all go go go insane. One guy’s eyes pop out of his head on foot-long stalks. Another starts beating himself over the head with his shoe. One Michael Landon-looking dude sprouts hair, fangs, and a tail and starts howling at the moon. And a cat so wild he makes wolf-boy look like Wally Cleaver pounces on the piano and starts screaming like a maniac. Jayne just smiles like she gets these reactions every day, because she probably does. The girl just can’t help it.
18. “I Don’t Care If the Sun Don’t Shine” by Elvis Presley
The joint is really hopping now, and one uncontainable star bolts past Little Richard’s piano with his guitar and starts beating hell out of the thing, rocking his hips in a seasick frenzy, and causing every chick in the room to faint dead away. The prospect of kissing and kissing and kissing some more is just too much for them. Those left standing bounce off the walls like rubber balls.
17. “Mr. Blue” by The Fleetwoods
Then the mood shifts again, and somehow that trio from Nowheresville called The Fleetwoods manage to capture the audience as assuredly as Elvis did. Their sound is just too enchanting to ignore. Everyone floats to the ceiling…
16. “Blue Moon” by Elvis Presley
…Then the roof floats right off the party shack and the whole crowd continues ascending way, way up to that heavy moon hanging in the sky. Elvis returns, and his voice echoes off the moon’s surface, filling the air with ghostly wails. Everyone is chilled. Everyone is thrilled…
15. “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” by Buddy Holly
…Then they all slide back to Earth on a helter skelter of Buddy Holly’s making. He and his gal are breaking up, but he cannot sound happier about it. Dick Jacobs’s strings line up and dance.
14. “Little Queenie” by Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry wants to dance too, but first he’s gotta get up the nerve to ask that dolly by the juke to take a twirl. He must take a fistful of uppers to stoke his courage because “Little Queenie” hauls ass like a souped up ragtop.
13. “Portrait” by The Charles Mingus Quintet with Jackie Paris
Winter breezes swirl at your feet. Snow drifts to the ground. The Earth mellows, and Jackie Paris’s voice flows like maple syrup as George Koutzen’s cello saws up and down. Phyllis Pinkerton’s piano glimmers as that old master painter Mingus grounds everything with his bass. Poetry in words and music.
12. “Tallahassee Lassie” by Freddy Cannon
No poetry here, just raging hormones. Freddy Cannon goes boom boom over that far-out chick with the high-fly chassis from FLA. The foundation quakes like a magnitude twelve just hit. I don’t think we’re getting back our deposit on this place.
11. “Long Tall Sally” by Little Richard
Is there anything left to destroy? Because if there is, Little Richard is primed to finish it off. He’s going ape too, but he’s not even cranked up about his own woman. Just seeing Long Tall Sally slipping down the alley with Uncle John is enough to send him ranting and raving.
10. “Be-Bop-A-Lula” by Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps
The tempo may have slowed, but emotions are still running hot as Gene pays tribute to his very own baby doll. She’s so hot that his boys can’t help but shriek their approval and shake the blue caps from their heads. 100% hot and 100% cool.
9. “The Train Kept A-Rollin’” by Johnny Burnette
That’s it, Dad. Nothing is left standing. Not a splinter of our old party shack. Johnny Burnette’s loco locomotive plows it all down. Then that train keeps rolling all night long on a riff that doesn’t ever need to end… and you can bet The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin, and Aerosmith will make sure it never does.
8. “Well… All Right” by Buddy Holly
As the partygoers survey the wreckage, Buddy Holly pulls out his acoustic and serenades the ravaged throng. It’s folk rock years before Dylan or The Byrds. Buddy’s tough but simple strumming and crooning supplies the folk. Jerry Allison rocks as he beats the hell out of the bell on his ride cymbal. Those final four bangs may be Rock & Roll’s ultimate percussive punctuation.
7. “How High the Moon” by Les Paul & Mary Ford
Man, oh, man. This party will not end! Spirits take flight again on the wings of Les Paul’s fluttering guitar and Mary Ford’s ecstatic vocals. They fly all the way to the moon and explode in a dazzling fireworks display.
6. “Get a Job” by The Silhouettes
Well, it actually looks like the party might end for some of the guys. Enough kicks, buddies, time to scan those want ads or there will be no love tonight. That situation sounds like a real drag, but The Silhouettes don’t let it get them down. They sound pretty overjoyed to me.
5. “Little Bitty Pretty One” by Thurston Harris
That bliss must be catching, because now Thurston Harris has caught it. He gets started with some restrained humming over a stomping, finger popping beat, but he cannot keep it contained for long. Humming turns to whoa-ing and everyone zooms to nirvana.
4. “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley & The Comets
The sun finally starts to wink over the horizon. Does that mean our cuckoo soiree is finished? Not even close. In fact, it has come full circle with the song that got all this rocking and rolling started in the first place. Some hipsters will try to tell you Bill and the Comets are strictly Squaresville. Nuts to that. Their signature hit has an intensity, a hardworking determination that makes me go bonkers. Danny Cedrone’s tear-ass guitar solo will shut up each and every wet rag…
3. “Somethin’ Else” by Eddie Cochran
…and if it doesn’t, then Eddie Cochran might just take your skull and pound it on the pavement in time with “Somethin’ Else”. That riff is harder than the hardest hardcore, meaner than Godzilla, scarier than the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
2. “Come Go with Me” by The Del Vikings
OK, kitty cats, we had a real blast, I mean a real cookin’ time. But it’s finally time to split. You don’t have to go off alone though. Maybe you can find a real boss gal or guy to see you home. No better way to get the invitation across than a spin of this spine-shiverer from The Del Vikings. Romantic in intent, crazy in execution, the guys scream like teenyboppers at an Elvis show. Two minutes and forty two seconds of true blue romance.
1. “Keep a-Knockin’” by Little Richard
That’s it. You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here. The expiration date on this shindig has arrived. Wait… what’s that? Sounds like someone pounding against the door with a battering ram, but there’s no door left! Some people can’t take “no” for an answer. Whoever is trying to get into this petered-out party sure won’t, but Little Richard is gonna do all he can to stop the intrusion. Those knocks come harder and faster, and Richard gets more and more gone, barely able to catch his breath in the last verse. Screw it. How can you end the party when the sounds are this hot? Let’s goose it back up, Big Daddy! Let’s spin Psychobabble’s 100 Fifties Favorites all over again…