After watching Glastonbury from the sofa, I tipped The Strypes, young Irish rockers looking like the Stones must have done at their age, and First Aid Kit, two Swedish sisters who turned themselves into a complete recipe for liquefying middle-aged men by harmonising on a promise to be our Emmylou and our June if we would be their Gram and Johnny.
Hear how Johanna and Klara Söderberg got me at http://tinyurl.com/7hkvwcy/
I was probably dreaming they were watching, behind a two-way mirror, when I swaggered into my local record store and splashed out several tenners on updating my cred, with buys including their second album, The Lion’s Roar, and the Irish boys’ first full one, Snapshot.
The Strypes record turned out to be easily the best buy. The Swedish girls threw away their natural advantage by making the classic mistake of using all their own material. The boys wisely recognised that they had been picked up in the first place because they sound like something from the late 50s or early 60s – and they are unlikely, as boys still only 16-18, to improve on the material which inspired them in the first place.
In view of their youthfulness, they do a corking job with material like You Can’t Judge A Book By Looking At The Cover – a Willie Dixon composition which was a hit for Bo Diddley in 1962. Willie Dixon was not a terrific performer but he was one of the great writers of all time. Hear the best of him by hearing one of Ry Cooder’s brilliant versions of Crazy Bout An Automobile. There is a good one from 1987, with the Moula Banda Rhythm Aces, at http://tinyurl.com/yby5ojt/
Catch the Strypes’s version of Can’t Judge at http://tinyurl.com/mltrrv7/
They also do a good cover of I Can Tell, written by Huey Smith with somebody called Elias McDaniel – who later became Bo Diddley. It was a hit for Bo and also one for Johnny Kidd & The Pirates – who are a good comparison if you are trying to explain what the Strypes are like.
But my favourite track on the Strypes record – because it’s a brilliant song, surprisingly seldom reprised – is I’m A Hog For You Baby, written by the ineffable Leiber & Stoller for the band which matched them best, The Coasters. You could rely on The Coasters to get full value out of a bit of not-quite-innuendo about feeling randy as a butcher’s dog and they had a hit with it in 1959. But I first heard it being performed by Screaming Lord Sutch, who was a reasonable rocker before he became a full-time clown for the tabloids, with his unfunny election campaigns. Hear his version, recorded by Joe Meek in 1963, at http://tinyurl.com/oxdakfz/
There is a nice essay on the song at http://tinyurl.com/kpp3n8s/ by Chris O’Leary, a writer on David Bowie and all things connected.
He sums up: “On Hog For You Baby, Leiber and Stoller went as dirty as 1959 would tolerate (they were good at threading the needle: these were the guys who wrote a song about VD that your grandmother could sing). Playing with the idea of a teenage boy as a root hog (not much of a stretch), Hog for You is single-minded in its dedication to lust … with its poor teenage narrator lying tortured in his bed at night, his frustrations and releases given voice by a grunting saxophone and a single-note guitar solo.
“It might’ve been too much on the nail. Hog For You was the first Coasters single to not make the Top 10 in two years, and it marked the start of the group’s commercial decline. Still, the following generation of rock ‘n’ rollers treasured it, with covers by Dr. Feelgood, Clifton Chenier the Grateful Dead and, most of all, a 1966 single by the Groupies that sounds as if it was cut by Cro-Magnons.”
If you cannot hear the Groupies version by clicking Chris O’Leary’s link, get it at http://tinyurl.com/ltfmz7k/
The reason he got involved in discussing the song is that Bowie, of all people, sang it in a charity concert organised by Neil Young in 1996 – and, incidentally, made explicit what Lieber & Stoller had only cleverly implied. Otherwise, I don’t think he did much with it, but O’Leary writes so nicely about it you must hear it for yourselves at http://tinyurl.com/n74qzac/
So, all in all, thumbs up to The Strypes for good taste. But I do feel obliged to compare them with Kitty Daisy & Lewis, the London siblings who took the rockabilly’n’country’n’rhythm’n’blues fanbase by storm with their first record, in 2008, when they were just 15, 17 and 18. Are The Strypes as good as they were? Sorry, lads, but I don’t think so. Judge for yourselves at http://tinyurl.com/6h6tvo/