Shake Rattle’n’Roll shows rock’s roots are far from gray
It’s Friday night at the Thornbury Theater and rock’n’roll is in full swing. Southern Shakedown is a three-band program presented by Queensland-based hot-rod and rockabilly festival Greazefest. The Detonators are first: a quartet from Melbourne with a slamming double bass, western shirts, slick country guitar riffs and a few neat cabbages on top.
“We call it roots rock’n’roll,” says bassist Dave Philpots. “Traditionally, rockabilly doesn’t have a harmonica. But if people want to call us a rockabilly band and pay us to play a rockabilly gig, we’ll do it.” After 25 years of playing most weekends, there’s no shortage of people willing to do it. fans in winklepicker boots and flared skirts can cut hairs at the bar.
Musicologists might liken headliner Jesse Dayton to psychobilly, but the Texas guitar gun probably doesn’t care what you call it. His fiery roots rock trio plays Shake your hips after reminding us that the Rolling Stones stole it from Louisiana swamp legend Slim Harpo, then they smashed it with AC/DC All Lotta Rosie. Wild twists on Springsteen and the Clash nail the point: all roads lead to the golden age.
It is a road that the producers of Shake Rattle’n’Roll have come to know well. The ‘while singing, while dancing, while performing’ nostalgia is a world away from the gritty Friday night shakedown at Thornbury, but for 29 years now and then it has tapped into the same well of seemingly unrelenting affection. end for the rock’n’roll style of the 50s and the beginning of the 60s.
“It’s an era that won’t die, and I’ll tell you why,” says Rick Charles, one of the stars who’s performed with the jukebox dance theater show since it opened in Essendon in 1993. (At he played Elvis at the time. This year, he has mellowed, alongside Glenn Craven, in the Everly Brothers).
“At that time, there was nothing called the Internet. You couldn’t see the performers. You had to use your imagination, you had to put yourself in those songs. With today’s music, that imagination…it’s on. People can no longer live in this fantasy like before.
“I can’t speak for anything in the world,” he adds. “But as a singer, I feel the songs from that era better. And the reason I can is because when I was growing up around them, I created my own story.
Today of course, the characters of this story are quite vivid in the collective memory. Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Connie Francis, Johnny O’Keefe, Chubby Checker, Sam Cooke, Bobby Darin, Chuck Berry, Ritchie Valens, Jerry Lee Lewis, Frankie Valli and others ride the stream Shake production, naturally crowned by the king, played by Melbourne-born, Las Vegas-seasoned Elvis tribute artist Anthony Petrucci.
Rock’n’roll culture is not a public that claps its hands. If that’s true, they do it with their feet on the dance floor.
Any synergy with Baz Luhrmann’s new film was totally unplanned, say producers Nina Randall and Adam Dion: The show was delayed two years by the pandemic. But Elvis’ new wave of love clearly won’t hurt as the cast of 15 singers and dancers hit the road Shake across the country for the third time in as many decades.
“We really had no expectations other than to put on a high-energy, fun, family-friendly show,” Nina Randall said of the show’s origins. “We had no idea we’d end up tapping into this…subculture of devoted fans who have an insatiable appetite for the 50s and 60s.”
Insatiable rings true. Rick Charles says he has held a rock ‘n’ roll dance in Keysborough every Wednesday night, attracting around 150 people a week for the past 22 years. “Rock ‘n’ roll culture is not a clappers,” he says. “If it’s good, they do it with their feet on the dance floor.
“As far as the scene goes, it’s huge all over Australia. Melbourne is a bit behind the ball eight…but you’ll find Queensland will host a lot of big rock ‘n’ roll festivals because the weather is nice all year round and most of these festivals, people want to bring their cars.”
He means festivals like Greazefest. And he’s talking about people like Lee and Debbie Brasher. The owners of Fonzie’s Diner in Kilsyth are decked out as we meet in classic 50s bomber jackets. She has the ruffled skirt, lace-trimmed bobby socks and trainers. He has gelled hair, fists bristling with rings, Fonzie’s T-shirt and a silver belt buckle depicting his beloved 1959 Ford Twin Spinner convertible.
The Brashers finish each other’s sentences as if the conversation were a dance. In the middle of a story about their meeting, they fall into each other’s arms to demonstrate a sweet rock’n’roll twirl. Although it hails from the 1980s, the scene they paint is one of dreamlike 50s innocence.
“My dad was a rock’n’roller,” Lee says, the gruff exterior failing to hide a fiery passion. “My mother too. Throwback to the days of bodgies and widgies in the St Kilda area. We were all raised on rock’n’roll. I met Debbie at a rock’n’roll ball…”
“And Lee’s pick-up line was…”
“I might as well make you dance because no one else does.”
“I was wearing a rock’n’roll skirt that night.”
“I used to wear shoes like that all the time,” Lee says, pointing to the pointy green snakeskin boots at the end of her black high tops. “Well, those aren’t real pointers,” he adds. “I have good points inside. Probably 15 pairs.
“I left that night and he kissed me on the cheek,” Debbie said, “and he came home to his dad and he said…”
“I’m going to marry this girl.”
They were 20 years old, and that was 35 years ago. Long enough for the huge, multi-level “shed” we’re in in suburban Montrose to blossom into what Rick Charles calls “Disneyland for rock ‘n’ rollers.”
Arranged around us on the vast floor are half a dozen vintage Fords – a red 1934 three-window coupe, a silver 1959 Thunderbird hardtop, a light blue convertible, a 1948 Triumph motorcycle – parked between a a dozen gleaming old petrol tanks lit up like Christmas; Statues of Elvis, retro Coke and Pepsi fixtures, a display case full of 100-year-old Golden Fleece oil jars and much more.
The “cabanon” was an invaluable resource for Shake Rattle’n’Roll producers Dion and Randall, for authentic background video screen footage and larger moving props: “That’s the car Rick comes out of in the show,” Debbie says, pointing to a metallic blue 1950 Mercury with a chrome grille, white upholstery and a MERC50 license plate.
“They act like he’s driving,” Lee grumbles, “but he’s not really. I am.”
But wait, there’s more. “The Elvis Room”, with its countless Elvis shot glasses, puzzles, carpets, lunch boxes and everything else, is upstairs. Each item is numbered, rather shockingly to learn, for an upcoming massive auction. The Brashers retreat to the countryside. Everything must go. “Except the Elvis pinball machine,” Debbie said.
“Elvis has always been my favorite singer,” Lee says, playing with the chunky gold TCB ring Debbie bought him for his 50th birthday. “I’m a big critic when people try to sing Elvis and get the lyrics wrong.” Debbie tells a story about him stepping on an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas. Lee is shameless.
“Have you seen the Elvis movie again? he asks. “I cried.”
Spookyly, a digital jukebox in the corner spontaneously starts a slow play: Elvis sings if i can dream from his ’68 Return special. It’s on an automatic preheat cycle; the machine can’t be stopped, Lee tells Debbie, until the track is finished.
“After seeing the Elvis film I noticed a new generation of children falling in love with the king,” he says. “I already hear on the radio every morning, they start playing more and more Elvis songs. Just as you think it’s dying, it all comes back. And now you hear all the young people talking about Elvis and I love it because it keeps him alive, and it keeps the whole rock ‘n’ roll vibe alive.
He almost all shouts now, as Debbie tries in vain to drown out the intensifying jukebox.
” You can not do anything ! ” he calls him. “You can’t stop the king, buddy! »
Shake Rattle’n’Roll is at the Athenaeum Sept from September 2; Geelong on September 10, Bendigo on September 17.
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