This is not a full episode of A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs. The full episode will also turn up in your podcatcher. But I thought I should do a separate episode as a disclaimer. I'm placing this one here because in the next epsiode proper I talk about "the king of Western swing" and I don't refer to Spade Cooley, and I thought I should explain why.
You see, there were two people who were generally called “the King of Western Swing”, both had a good claim for it. One of them was Bob Wills, and I’m going to talk about him in the episode. The other was Spade Cooley, and Cooley was a domestic abuser who eventually murdered his wife.
Now, this is a history of rock and roll, and so I am going to have to deal with a lot of abusers, sex criminals, and even a few murderers. You simply can’t tell the history of rock and roll without talking about Ike Turner, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Phil Spector, Jimmy Page… I could go on. But suffice to say that I think the assumption one should make when talking about rock music history is that any man discussed in it is a monster unless proved otherwise.
I’m going to have to talk about those men’s work, and how it affected other things, because it’s so influential. And I admire a lot of that work. But I never, ever, want to give the impression that I think the work in any way mitigates their monstrosity, or do that thing that so many people do of excusing them because “it was a different time”.
But in order for this to be a history of rock music, and not a prurient history of misogynistic crime, I’m probably not going to mention every awful thing these people do. I’m going to deal with it on a case by case basis, and I *will* make wrong calls. If I don’t mention something when I get to one of those men, and you think it needed mentioning, by all means tell me about it in comments. But please don’t take that lack of mention as being endorsement of those people.
However, in the case of Spade Cooley, he needed mentioning here, because I’m talking about Western swing in the next episode. But Cooley’s overall influence on rock and roll is basically zero, so in that episode, I’m going to pretend he never existed. If you want to hear about him, check out a podcast called Cocaine and Rhinestones. The episode there is horrifying, but it puts him in his proper context. But I thought I should make this disclaimer now and have it count for every episode of the podcast going forward. Thank you.
Here's the second episode, on "Roll 'Em Pete" by Big Joe Turner and Pete Johnson. One erratum before we continue -- in the episode, I say that "Shake, Rattle, and Roll" follows a particular formula common in hokum songs. That's not actually true for the original version -- it is true for Bill Haley's cover version, and Elvis' and the versions after them, but in Joe Turner's version the part we now know as the chorus didn't come in until near the end. Sorry about the mistake.
Welcome to the first episode proper of A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs! As this is the first real episode, you may notice a couple of flaws in the production -- those will hopefully get ironed out in the coming weeks. In the meantime, sit back and listen to the story of "Flying Home" by the Benny Goodman Sextet!