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Elvis Presley (Born: 8 January 1935 Died: 16 August 1977)

Elvis Aaron Presley was not just a rock and roll phenomenon, he was also a smouldering pop idol to thousands of teen girls for whom pop was manufactured. Elvis in the fifties was a dangerous proposition for white conservative, patriarchal America. Was he black or was he white? With his voice it was difficult to tell from radio and records and in a segregated America, this meant danger! His Southern drawl spelled red neck and hillbilly and singing the devil’s own music to hoards of teens who screamed at every pelvic thrust or leg shake made the older generation wonder what Elvis wanted with the young women of America. Presley himself wondered too. He said, “I watch the audience and we are getting something out of our system and no one knows what it is. The important thing is we are getting it out of our system and no one is getting hurt.” In this selection, you’ll find songs that were the soundtrack to many a teenage girl’s secret longing including Its Now Or Never, Love Me Tender, Are You Lonesome Tonight and Wooden Heart. Listen to these great tracks and you’ll discover why Time Magazine said: “Elvis – the hip swiveling, wooden-chair dancing, Army-enlisting Mississippi Boy – loosened the ponytails and unbuttoned the cardigans of thousands of bobby soxers across the country.”

Cliff Richard (Born: 14 October 1940)

Born Harry Rodger Webb in India, Cliff Richard was to be Britain’s answer to Elvis. While it may be difficult to square Sir Cliff’s wholesome Christian image over the last 40 years, Richard was deemed sexually provocative, with his grinding dance moves, rock and roll look and moody attitude. In the fifties Cliff was considered too sexy for British Television and BBC guidelines on filming the star made it clear he should be filmed from the waist up as “his movements are too explicit and morally questionable for family viewing.” Music magazine, NME also condemned him for his “violent hip-swinging exhibitionism.” In the pre-Beatles music scene, Cliff and his band, The Shadows, dominated with a string of hits that drove his teenage girl fans wild, including Move It in 1958 that is widely credited as the first British rock and roll song and can be found in this selection. Also included here are songs featured in Richard’s films from the sixties, including Bachelor Boy, The Young Ones and Living Doll. In terms of Richard’s influence, The Beatles were so impressed with the reaction he received on his stage performances they wanted to emulate it. The Fab Four famously copied his moves and this ultimately shaped how The Beatles performed in their early careers.

Roy Orbison (Born: 23 April 1936, Died: 6 December 1988)

Known as The Big O, Roy Kelton Orbison was born in Texas. His otherworldly voice led him to being described as the Caruso of Rock, coupled with his mysteriously static stage persona and head to toe black outfits which mesmerised audiences throughout his career. He began performing as part of a high school band, The Wink Westerners. The band changed their name to The Teen Kings and signed for Sun Records. They dissolved in a dispute over royalties and writing credits, but Orbison stayed on at Sun before moving on to RCA as a solo artist. Orbison’s fragile, ethereal vocal worked well with the Nashville Sound he came to embody. This collection includes many fine examples of his work including
Only The Lonely, Crying and Ooby Dooby. Crying is featured in the Recording Industry of America’s Songs of the Century list. The Big O’s influence cuts across genres. Robert Plant, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and k.d. lang all cite him as a major influence. Elvis said that Orbison had the “greatest, most distinctive voice I ever heard”, while Barry Gibb upon hearing Crying for the first time went further: “That was it. To me that was the voice of God.”

Buddy Holly (Born: 7 September 1936  Died: 3 February 1959)

The importance of Buddy Holly both as a songwriter and performer in the development of popular music cannot be overstated. Born Charles Hardin Holly in Lubbock, Texas, Buddy Holly and his band The Crickets are the artists who defined the traditional rock and roll line up of two guitars, bass and drums. Together they penned and performed some of the defining songs of the rock and roll era, including Thatll Be the Day, Peggy Sue, Rave On, It Doesnt Matter Anymore and Heartbeat as well as ballads of pure genius like True Love Ways. They ditched their jeans and shirts and donned Ivy League style clothes at the suggestion of Don Everly of The Everly Brothers. With his geeky image, Buddy Holly inspired ordinary boys everywhere to dream that they too could be rock and roll stars. Buddy Holly was killed in a plane crash on his way to a gig. Richie Valens and the Big Bopper were also travelling with Holly. There were no survivors. In spite of his tragic death, Holly’s legacy lives on. He influenced the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Elvis Costello, and The Clash.

The Everly Brothers

There is arguably no more heavenly sound than the close harmonies of Don and Phil Everly aka The Everly Brothers. Isaac Donald Everly (born: 1 February 1937) and Phillip Everly (19 January 1939, died: 3 January 2014), The Everly Brothers enjoyed a string of hits throughout the fifties and sixties including Cathys Clown, Wake Up Little Susie, All I Have To Do Is Dream and Walk Right Back, all included in this collection. Wake Up Little Susie has the honour of being one of the Recording Industry of America’s Songs of the Century. Explaining how it was possible for the brothers to achieve their distinctive sound, Don Everly said: “It’s almost like we could read each other’s minds when we sang.” Sadly, their musical closeness was not reflected in their personal lives. The brothers fought off-stage and also sometimes, on stage. The Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Bee Gees and Neil Young all cite the Everlys as key influences in their music. Simon and Garfunkel claimed to owe their careers to the Everlys. The Everly Brothers not only contributed to Paul Simon’s Graceland album, but they also joined Simon and Garfunkel onstage for their Old Friends Tour in 2003/4.

Connie Francis (Born: 12 December 1938)

Born Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero in New Jersey, Connie Francis was the first global female pop star. Encouraged – some might say pushed – by her father, Francis started out as a child singer and accordion player. Her first music industry job was as a demo singer, demonstrating new songs to established artists and their managers. She signed with MGM in 1956, but after only moderate success her contract was about to run out. She faced her final recording session for the label. Her father insisted that she record Whos Sorry Now, and reluctantly Francis agreed. The rest is pure pop history. Her version sold over a million copies in the US alone and is one of the Recording Industry of America’s Songs of the Century. She followed this with a string of international pop hits including Neil Sedaka penned Stupid Cupid, Lipstick on Your Collar, and Where The Boys Are – her signature tune.

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