Various Artists – Hollywood Rock ‘n’ Roll

Absorbing insight into a near-forgotten age

In the 1970’s and 80’s Ace Records established a reputation for quality releases by artists who may not have been of the same calibre as Carl Perkins or Gene Vincent, but who were worth hearing all the same. Most names on this compilation will be unrecognisable to anyone but the most diehard of rockabilly fans, and therefore might seem of little interest. Yet just like punk in the mid-seventies, rock ‘n’ roll in the ’50s was an outlet for a generation of youth who were all dressed up with nowhere to go.

Hollywood Rock ‘n’ Roll consists of 12 recordings from the golden age of rockabilly, rescued from the vaults of the LA based Era Records label. And while nothing here can be compared to what one could expect from the likes of RCA, or even Sun Records, the label run by Sam Phillips, this tidy compilation reveals a much seedier, less commercial side of a musical genre that was all but extinct by the early ‘60s.

Glen Glenn (born Orin Glenn Troutman) takes up half the record, and is perhaps the most familiar name, having played and recorded with none other than Eddie Cochran. His cuts dominate side one, and rightfully so. “Blue Jeans,” “Everybody’s Movin’,” and “I’m Glad My Baby’s Gone” provide much of the blueprint for The Stray Cats’ latter day DNA, while on “Would Ja” Glenn resembles Jerry Lee Lewis in the role of bluesman.

Don Deal’s “Don’t Push” is insignificant though fun all the same, like much of the material on display. Ben Joe Zeppa’s “Topsy Turvy” may not have the makings of a classic, but good enough to get more than a few hormones tingling on the dancefloor. Now whoever Dick Bush is he sounds totally nuts on the absolutely wild “Hollywood Party.” The song itself is rubbish, yet one can’t help but revel in the sheer ridiculousness of it, like listening to Gene Vincent combined with attention deficit disorder.

Dorsey Burnette passes off a reasonable Presley impersonation on “Great Shakin’ Fever,” while Dick Bush once again impresses the listener with a manic, ‘I don’t need a straight jacket’ “Ezactly.” However the most memorable tracks on side two are Glen Glenn’s “One Cup Of Coffee (And A Cigarette)” and Elis Lesley’s “He Will Come Back To Me,” both of which remain fine examples of rockabilly at its best.

Very little on this album would have ever set the world on fire, and yet each track provides a fascinating window into rock ‘n’ roll’s underbelly, a flip-side to what was appearing in the charts. Even the cover shot alone justifies owning this LP. Hollywood Rock ‘n’ Roll makes it abundantly clear that there was far more to ‘50s rock than Elvis and Little Richard alone.