Some early Consuls music ingredients
The humourous silliness of “Hair Spray”, downplayed in favour of the aggressive sexuality that pervades “Grease”, is amply demonstrated by the lyrical parodying of a menacing news report of a cell block riot in “The Robins’ “Riot in Cell Block#9 that subjectively stereotypes the names of inmate rioters, like the names of jail house residents in Elvis’ later “Jail House Rock”. Similarly their “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” parodys preconceived attitudes about smoke-filled bar rooms and their patrons. Buddy Hacket’s “Chinese Rock and Egg Roll” achieves humour through egg roll playing on the words rock and roll and by stereotyping the banter of proprietors of Chinese restaurants to satirize how the rock and roll craze was making everyone, even parents wish they were 17 again. “Stranded in the Jungle” also pokes fun at preconceived notions like fear of the unknown in the jungles of Africa compared to the familiar back in the USA through juxtaposing africa’s ominous jungle drums with the familiar pop music sounds back in the “States”. This stream of humour continues in rock and roll through Elvis’ early performances when even his overtly sexual gyrations considered banable by some media were performed as self-mocking teasing to elicit his audience’s screams. I remember as he was about to begin a tune at the Gardens he’d throw a hip to begin a gyration, stop in response to screams; walk up to the mike and drawl y’all like that? Similarly the Beatles on that same Garden stage some 8 years after seemed as preoccupied with having fun, and joking as with their music; with not a whiff of sex real or pretended.
The sexual context that everyone by the 1970’s had come to associate with rock and roll though obvious in the Midnighters 50’s “Annie had a Baby” “Work for Me Annie” and “Annie’s Aunt Fanny”express a factual, fatalistic dimension an everydayness not usually associated with lyrics of sexual fantasy, for in reality sex stripped of the pleasures of romance is work. The Midnighters tell us that “Annie had a baby Can’t work no more” and “That’s what happens when the gettin’ gets good” For in real life there are consequences to pay for the good times that came to be associated with sex and rock and roll; here the baby, like “Annie’s Aunt Fannie” comes between Annie and her lover’s instinct to work. Unlike Ben’s dad’s depiction of the child produced by Ben’s mindless sexual encounter in the 2007 movie “Knocked Up” as the best thing that could have happened,just as Ben was the best thing that happened to his father. For in 2007 sex is not work and an unplanned birth is not a restricter but an unforseen liberator.
The matter of factness implied in the work metaphor was made palatable by the surprises and humour of early rock and roll, rhythm and blues that attracted so many teenagers. It was like taking the tinsel off the tree to see that it was the tree of life. My favourite Christmas pop tune is “White Christmas” by the Drifters from a time several years before I got on stage. Free of Crosby’s predictable baritone crooning it was sung in a falsetto so close to the upper male range that it crackled then descended to the almost comical limits of the bass singers range, less refined less predictable than the traditional “White Christmas” that Bing Crosby used to sing; yet it opened to something bigger, brighter and newer.