Pop Music’s “seldom-visited relatives”

“The early 50s are the seldom-visited relative of modern pop. There are swathes of No 1 and major stars that are all but forgotten: Guy Mitchell, Dickie Valentine, Eddies Fisher and Calvert, all of whom were once household names. Joe Meek certainly nabbed a lot of ideas from the early 50s — it pained me slightly to discover that John Leyton’s Johnny Remember Me wasn’t a wholly original piece of work, but largely a rewrite of Frankie Laine’s 1952 single The Girl in the Wood.”

– Bob Stanley, Three things I learned writing Yeah Yeah Yeah (his forthcoming 800,000 800-page history of pop)

Not knowing squat about ’50s British pop (and not previously thinking it was something I should know about, though maybe Stanley’s book will convince me otherwise), I can’t comment on any of the specifics here, but based on my own experiences as a DJ and as someone who still scans the radio dial on a regular basis, I’ve been saying for years that the ’50s (and not the pre-rock ’50s, but Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, et al.) essentially disappeared — I mean, were just wiped off the map — a couple decades ago. Throw on “Jailhouse Rock” or “Don’t Be Cruel” or “That’ll Be the Day” or “Johnny B. Goode” at a wedding in 2013, and I guarantee you, 99 times out of 100 you’ll be deemed instantly irrelevant (and when was the last time you heard Elvis on the radio, or read a giant cover story about Little Richard in MOJO magazine?). I’m not sure this is at all surprising, and maybe someone else’s experience is entirely different, but from what I can see, pre-Beatle rock is less the “seldom-visited relative of modern pop” than the “rarely pondered six-feet-in-the-ground second cousin of modern pop.”

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