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Sunday, November 13, 2011

"Shakin' All Over"

Johnny Kidd & The Pirates - Shakin' All Over (1960)

This was really hard to find. Cover versions are way more popular.

Early British Rock and Roll. It was a hit in Europe when it was released, but unheard in America. It didn't even gain exposure in the U.S. until five years later when covered by a Canadian band soon to be rechristened The Guess Who. Side note, you ought to read how that name change came about, it's hard to believe; story starts in the second paragraph of this section.

So what makes this song special, well firstly, the lead singer was not doing an Elvis impression. Apparently there was a lot of that going around in England at the time. He's got a good tone for that "teenager singing about attraction" thing. This is not a love song, he doesn't know the girl he's singing about, this is no quiet ballad sung by a window in an attempt to get a kiss, this is a kind of English answer to All Shook Up, without trying to sound like anything other than who they are. One of the lines "...quivers down my membranes." is decidedly not American slang and in fact the writer and lead singer Fred Heath (Johnny Kidd himself) says it was a common saying with his mates.

Second, the rhythm guitar is being played in a really odd light finger picking style. It's hard to notice under the lead guitar, but if you can catch it, you'll notice this high pitched staccato sound. Mostly it's doubling the bass so it's hard to hear it at all in some places.

Easily the most ear catching part of the song is the dominant lead guitar. It's got a recognizable riff that I think sounds like it belongs on the Good Morning Vietnam soundtrack. It's sort of a surf rock sound which is astonishing considering how far away Soho is from Santa Monica. The twang sound right before the chorus is the guitarist running his cigarette lighter down the fretboard. After a really brief drum break, the guitar gives us a blazing (for the time) guitar solo that has got to be on of the hottest licks a British guitarist had recorded up to that point. It probably helps that he's Scottish. Session guitarist Joe Moretti wasn't even in the band, and was brought in just to juice up this track. He's also the guitarist on this slightly earlier single. He was clearly a huge early lead guitar monster. I've got no doubt that Page, Harrison, Richards, Marriott, Davies, Townshend, Clapton, and many others heard that guitar solo on this track and said, "Yes, that's it right there. That's what I'm going to do for the rest of my life."

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