Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Link Wray & The Ray Men

This takes me back to about 1983, when I discovered Pyramid Records, and they still carried a very limited selection of new LPs, imports generally, some Rhino, and some Charly, including this LP, called Rock ‘N’ Roll Rumble, a collection of tracks by Link Wray & The Raymen. It was called Rumble on the record label. I suppose now you could order something like this on Amazon, and that, of course, takes all the fun out of it.

But this album was a rarity when I found it. And for years after, you could search the city high and low and not find anything like it. And the punch line is this. There are 17 tracks on this LP, but only 2 of Wray’s 3 top 100 hits are included. Raw-Hide didn’t make it; lucky I found it elsewhere.

Link Wray & His Ray Men:

Rumble – Presumably a musical evocation of gang war. A tone poem, perhaps, rock and roll style. And it doesn’t get more basic than this. A few chords, metallic sounding, distorted. Says everything that needs to be said. From the summer of 1958. The only covers version I know are by The Ventures and by The Dave Clark Five.
The Swag – Is this about a piece of carpet?
El Toro – It’s got that whole bull fight thing going on, without sound effects or mariachi trumpets. From 1961.
Tijuana – A tribute to the Mexican border town. It’s even got a bit of flute.
Rumble Mambo – This doesn’t sound much like Rumble, and it doesn’t sound much like a mambo. From 1963.
Raw-Hide – Not the Frankie Laine song, which means that it’s not the song from the TV show. This was Wray’s second and final top 40 hit, from the winter of 1959.
Jack The Ripper – Kick-ass stuff. Wray’s 3rd and final top 100 hit, from the summer of 1963.
The Black Widow
Weekend – A weird shopping centre organ dominates this one, but it still sounds like Link Wray. Not the Eddie Cochran song.
Turnpike U.S.A.
The Sweeper
Good Rockin’ Tonight – A rare vocal. As a vocalist, Wray was a good guitarist, but it’s not terrible. From 1965.
I’m Branded – From 1965.
Hang On – The B side of I’m Branded.
Batman – Seems everyone had to jump on the Batman bandwagon, and Link Wray did too. This is the Neal Hefti theme, the one used on the TV show, and it’s played at the same tempo as the original, but it sounds like it’s on speed. From 1966, the year of the TV show. Spiced throughout with little bits of silly dialogue.
Alone – The B side of Batman. A ballad. Somewhere between Sleepwalk and Last Date. Not the Shepherd Sisters song.
Ace Of Spades – Another great instrumental, this one from 1965. I have another version of this, I think it’s by The Surfaris.
Hidden Charms – Vicious. “You’re the sweetest girl,” sings Link, “I’ve ever seen,” sounding like he’s about to rip her in half. The B side of Ace Of Spades.

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