The O-town Scene

March 03, 2011

The O-town Scene - Oneonta, NY

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Vinyl Vault Link Wray and his Ray Men ‘Jack the Ripper,’ Swan records, 1963 After my first Vinyl Vault column was printed, I told a handful of people that I planned to write about Link Wray next, and they all had the same reply, “Who?” Rock ‘n’ roll has a lot of “firsts” and legends. Link Wray is probably the least re- membered, but the most responsible for the the development of the rock-star guitarist. Link played rockabilly and country-influ- enced rock through ’50s, and had the req- uisite plunkity guitar tone (a la Chet Atkins, Buck Owens, etc.) to go along with it. By the time “Jack the Ripper” was released in 1963, Link Wray and his Ray Men had left country for surf-rock instrumentals, and Link was writing the book on how to be a bad-ass guitar player. The catchiest tunes on “Jack the Ripper” sound familiar even on first listen. Although this is the mark of a good song, it’s also because Link’s music is has been around. The title track of the album is in the film “Desperado.” The biggest hit from this album (and Link’s career), “Rumble,” has been featured on television shows and in pop culture cult fa- vorite “Pulp Fiction.” Watch the scene where John Travolta and Uma Thurman share a $5 milkshake at the campy, retro bar again, and listen to the background music. Bet you thought that was the Ventures playing. “Rumble” was banned from radio stations, said to promote juvenile delin- quency, but still became a hit. Link’s badassness is what set him and his Ray Men apart from other surf the third album labels. The band dumped from labels acts of the time. “Jack the Ripper” was Ray Men’s on as many was frequently because their ag- gressive sound and tough reputation made them nearly impossible to market. Even Link’s guitar playing sounded delin- quent. Even Link’s guitar playing sounded delinquent. Link is said to have pioneered the “fuzz” guitar sound by punching holes in his amp’s speaker while recording, and he also invented the power chord _ two elements that have been the foundation of rock guitar since. His raw playing has a passionate, garage-y feel that obviously rubbed off on British invasion bands like the Kinks. In an attempt to corral the band and sell more records, their label had them add “lighter” songs to their albums. These were never the songs that became hits, but it made the labels happier, and left this album with a song called “Mash Potato Party.” It’s fun, but out of place _ as the only song with lyrics on the album, it puts you right at a sock-hop where Chubby Checker tells you to “get on the floor” and do the mashed potato or the twist or something. Link Wray created the hardcore rock ‘n’ roll we know today _ he wore leather jack- ets, didn’t care what other people thought of him and his music scared people. “Jack the Ripper” is a fitting soundtrack for fight scenes and parties that could result in a heroin overdose. _ Ned Brower Find us on Facebook at O-Town Scene Want to write for the O-Town Scene? E-mail Cassandra at March 3, 2011 O-Town Scene 15

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