Barton Price

Barton teaches in Indiana where he enjoys cycling, coaching little league baseball and regaling his kids with the virtues of The Beatles. He studies and writes about the relationship between religion and rock music, and he boasts a healthy collection of second-hand records by holiness gospel groups. You can follow his blog at rockhistoryprofessor.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter @bartonprice

Jul 162019
 

In Defense takes a second look at a much maligned cover artist or album and asks, “Was it really as bad as all that?”

Pat Boone

Reasons abound for maligning Pat Boone’s career in popular music. The catalyst for his career was a string of covers of R&B tunes by black artists for whom the legacy of segregation never afforded the same amount of wealth. White artists made substantially more than their counterpart artists of color. Major record labels had larger distribution chains, promotional budgets, and stronger connections to radio and television networks to advantage their artists. By contrast, black musicians on “race records” benefited from none of these privileges. While artists like Little Richard, Big Joe Turner, and Fats Domino have enjoyed staying power and wide acclaim for being architects of rock music, in the early decades of that genre, white covers were commercially more successful. Added to this was the exploitative nature of covers on larger labels that made more money than the originals while paying out no royalties to the black originators. Boone was unapologetic that his career benefited from this exploitation.

It is also noteworthy that Boone’s performance and lyricism of some of rock’s first generation of are a case study in the sanitized tastes of the burgeoning white middle class in the 1950s. His smooth vocal delivery was reminiscent of crooners rather than the raspy, full-throated yowl of Little Richard. And the lyrical changes on “Tutti Frutti” were a nod to teenage infatuation stripped of any of the sexuality in Little Richard’s original.

Despite Boone representing the residuals of white privilege while Jim Crow reigned supreme, there is a note of appreciation to be made for Boone and contemporaries Elvis Presley and Bill Haley in helping to extend the reach of rock music to new audiences at a critical juncture in that genre’s history.
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Jul 092019
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

Ice Cream Man

Summer is upon us. The sweltering heat of July has arrived, and we yearn for a reprieve. And many neighborhoods still get visits from an ice cream truck to deliver treats for the kids, and the kids at heart. Thus, it is no surprise that Van Halen’s “Ice Cream Man” makes regular and routine airplay on classic rock stations at this time of the year.

Nearly all rock music fans—and most casual listeners—know that Van Halen’s debut album features the cover of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” after the explosive statement that is Eddie’s “Eruption.” However, that is not the only cover. “Ice Cream Man” is the other cover song on the album, one that reinterprets the blues for a post-punk and Sunset Strip style of heavy metal.
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