Monday, 18 January 2016


Image result for crazy cavan and the rhythm rockers

Richard Williams in his superb blog The Blue Moment says this about Bowie this week:

 For many years I dismissed David Bowie as a shallow opportunist. What was he doing that Andy Warhol and Lou Reed, conceptually and musically, hadn't done with more wit and originality? I saw him at the Greyhound in Croydon in the summer of 1972, supported by Roxy Music in a pub room that can't have held more than 200 people. He did the Ziggy Stardust thing, he and the band in full costume, and I didn't care for it much.

There were a fair number of comments around similar to this one over the weekend.

While Richard Williams was at the Greyhound in Croydon in 1972 I was in a dark, sweaty, loud and crowded room in Wood Green being obliterated by Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers, playing the most authentic Rockabilly I have ever heard, anywhere.

I loved the music of the early seventies.

What was around in 1972? Joni Mitchell: loved her. Jackson Brown; Steely Dan: loved them. Roxy Music: loved them. Leonard Skynard: loved them. Page and Plant: loved them. Bowie was just another contender in those days but for live performance almost no-one was as exciting as Crazy Cavan.

What is Rockabilly? Okay, this is what Allmusic says on the web:

Rockabilly was a wild, hepped-up meeting between country & western music and early rhythm & blues. It was one of the very first forms of rock & roll, and it was the first one performed predominantly by white musicians (almost all of whom came from the South).

Principal exponents: Elvis in his early days; Jerry Lee Lewis; Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly when they were first starting out and many, many more one-hit wonders in the mid 1950’s. Not Little Richard. Not Chuck Berry – they sang Rock ‘n Roll and there is a difference. In Rock ‘n Roll, the lyrics matter [Berry’s lyrics have stood the test of time]. In Rockabilly, the electric guitar is featured  prominently in the music [Richard played the piano]. The guitarist used the instrument to give the material a propulsive, driving rhythm underneath the vocals, and then used equally rhythmic lead parts to accent those vocals. Rockabilly needs something else however: echo. The original Elvis/Jerry Lee records all had echo, carefully measured out by the recording engineers in the studio.

Crazy Cavan had echo. And a fabulous singing voice. And looked the part. And lived and breathed what Rockabilly was and wasn’t. Almost no breaks between songs; just straight from one to another. Loud. At Wood Green, uniquely, girls from the audience were allowed up on stage to dance and prance with the band, in their halter-tops and mini-skirts and the total effect of pounding backbeat, strident rhythm, piercing guitars, dancing girls and heaving, dancing bodies in the audience was well . . . . compelling. A lot more compelling than Bowie in his Ziggie clothes at the Greyhound, Croydon.

I had lost track of Cavan over the years and to be honest lost interest in Rockabilly music. As I have written extensively on this blog, I am into Jazz these days. I frequently listen to the BBC Jazz output on Radio 2 and was fairly astounded to hear that Jules Holland’s guest this week was  . . . .Crazy Cavan. He is still out there; just come back from a tour of Finland and about to go out on a tour of Germany. He must be well into his sixties; could be older actually. The living embodiment of that truth that old rockers never die. Hasn’t lost his terrific voice; he and Jules sang a duet - Blueberry Hill I think it was and he chatted away about how there was still an audience for Rockabilly and that most of his patrons were young kids, discovering the excitement for the first time. And it was just wonderful to hear the respect in Jules’ voice for Cavan; it wasn’t just me being idiosyncratic all those years ago.


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