Link Wray

Link Wray, born Frederick Lincoln Wray Jr, the innovative guitarist credited with inventing ‘fuzz’ (apparently he poked a pencil through the cone of his amplifier to achieve a uniquely distorted guitar sound) and widely hailed as the father of the power chord, died on this day in 2005 – at the age of 76.

An influence to more household names than you could wave a pencil at, his most famous song and signature tune – ‘Rumble’, a Top 20 12-bar blues instrumental, released in March 1958 – was banned by several radio stations across the US on the grounds that it glorified juvenile delinquency (the word ‘rumble’ being a slang term for a gang fight).

Have a listen. It’s hard to believe that he created this in 1958, when The Chordettes were chirruping about their lollipop, Little Anthony had tears on his pillow, and the presumably terribly forgetful Royal Teens kept making the same annoyingly adorable enquiries as to the wearers of short shorts.

So, first and foremost, hats off to Link Wray. Just think of the guitarists he has inspired with his innovations. Said Pete Townshend: “If it hadn’t been for Link Wray and ‘Rumble’, I would have never picked up a guitar.” Everyone from The Kinks, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix and Neil Young in the early ’60s, to the grunge bands of the ’90s, when interest in Link Wray was renewed.

Secondly, how about remembering all the things – be they songs, films, album covers – that have been banned at one time or another? Elton John’s ‘The Bitch Is Back’ (what a naughty word), the Beach Boys’ ‘God Only Knows’ (God forbid, we mustn’t mention God…) and my favourite, which I desperately hope is true: The Who’s ‘My Generation’, temporarily shunned by the BBC because those paragons of impartiality (yeah, right) didn’t want to offend people who st-st-stutter.

Thirdly and lastly, although I don’t realistically expect enough interest in the period or genre to give it a post of its own if the results of this poll are anything to go by, I’d like to know your favourite songs from 1958.

Notwithstanding my above sneers, Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard also put out ground-breaking records that would influence and re-invigorate many, making 1958 a year as worthy of note as any we have discussed previously or will discuss in the future.

Elvis also gave us ‘Don’t’ in 1958, which, of course, David has covered.

Here are 100 songs, anyway, to save you from having to search.

Naturally, I apologise if I have offended The Chordettes, Little Anthony, any of his Imperials, the Royal Teens, the BBC or anyone who stutters by writing this post.

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour's official blog, The Blog ('Features' previously being its rather naff title), affectionately - or lazily - shortened to 'FEd'.

41 thoughts on “Link Wray”

  1. … can’t believe it’s 51 years ago! Speed it a bit up, and you’ll hear Angus playing…

    Quite interesting to see some harmless, rather funny songs among “Summertime Blues” for example in that list. It looks like the masses had more and different tastes than today…

    Th, th, thanks for the posting FEd! You’re doing a great job as always!

    Taki

  2. ‘Lo all.

    Beans and Fatback – cracking album! Best tune done originally, Lead Belly then Link Wray and famously on the Nirvana Unplugged CD. “In the pines, in the pines where the sun never shines”.

    Good Weekend all!

  3. My fav is Twilight Time by the Platters. It’s such a tribute to Link Wray as the father of the power chords.

    I learned something new today and would like to thank you, FEd, for adding to my vocabulary. I’m going to study more on Link and that movement.

    Thanks again.

  4. I really don’t know anything about Link Wray and I’m very ignorant about 1958 songs, so it will be interesting to read the others’ comments and learn something new. 🙂

    Speaking about censorship, I recently read that, when Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” was released, some critics proposed to ban its cover, because, they said, he seemed to be pissing on the flag. :))

  5. I agree with Taki – these posts are fun. I’m finding music I’ve missed and getting reacquainted with songs I’ve lost along the way. Thanks, FEd.

    I found a battered old box of 45s at a yardsale once. (No one actually sells turf, just old items they no longer find useful.) Link Wray’s Rumble was included and I thought it was great for its time, much like Telstar by the Ventures. (I also became the proud owner of several Ricky Nelson’s, a couple of Jerry Lee Lewis’s, some Sam Cooke’s, among others, and many of them had picture sleeves. It was magical. :D)

    I can’t think of any banned works and didn’t realize those you mention had been banned or even challenged. I need to pay more attention, don’t I?

    A few that I like from the list you so graciously provided are Don’t (Elvis), Poor Little Fool (Ricky Nelson), Twilight Time (Platters), Splish Splash (Bobby Darin), and Bye Bye Love (Everly Brothers).

    1. I think the Everly Brothers song, ‘Wake Up Little Susie’, was banned by some radio stations.

      It says a lot about society’s ever-changing standards when the Everlys could be reprimanded for documenting the panic after falling asleep after a movie and realising, at 4am, that the girl should have been home hours ago, whereas some 30-odd years later George Michael could write a song with such an explicit title as ‘I Want Your Sex’.

    2. I can’t imagine anyone more seemingly innocuous than the Everly Brothers. But, as The Shadow taught us, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” 😀

      I would tally this change up to social evolution and I think we need it!

  6. I had the pleasure of seeing Link Wray several times in Houston, Texas and he was always a blast to watch. Even into his seventies he still ROCKED loud and proud with a big smile on his face! :))

  7. 1958! 8|

    I searched on the web for some songs of your list and liked them, even “The Chordettes chirruping about their lollipop”. 😉 The music seemed to express carefreeness, a great joy of life (I mean ‘joie de vivre’) in those days.

    I particularly enjoyed ‘At The Hop’ by Danny & Juniors. So funny: all the boys wore suits and ties and the girls, skirts, to dance. And isn’t the dance called ‘The Twist’?

    I also like ‘When’ by Kalin Twins and of course ‘Don’t’, but by David. 😉

    PS: I do like reading your posts. Always. And I learn a lot of things here, in many fields. Thank you.

    Michèle

  8. Some time ago I found a great website where there was a very long list of banned album covers and lyrics, but, unfortunately, I can’t find it anymore.

    I’m sure John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s “Unfinished Music No.1” and “Electric Ladyland” by Jimi Hendrix were both in the list, labelled as obscene.

    The Beatles’ “Yesterday and Today” had also some problems, because of its bloody cover.

    But one of the most absurd bans I’ve ever read about was given to The Mamas and the Papas. One of their albums’ cover was judged unsuitable, because a toilet featured in it. 8|

    I can’t remember the title of that album right now, but I’ll search for it soon.

    Speaking about censorship, I recently found a very religious Italian website where there is a big list of “Evil” rock lyrics, subliminal messages, backmaskings and things like that.

    A spokesman of this group of activists has also been invited on a popular Italian TV show, some time ago, so I could enjoy his delirium while looking at his face.

    I hope what I wrote won’t seem disrespectful towards those, here, who believe in any religion. Groups like that one have nothing to do with religion, in my opinion.

    1. The Mamas & the Papas’ album was “If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears” and it was released in 1966.

  9. I suppose Frankie Goes To Holllywood – Relax was a big one for being banned… I think? Just loved that Bass guitar sound.

    Have a nice weekend all.

  10. I love the vibrato sound on the Link’s guitar towards the end of the record. It reminds me of the vibrato unit I had on my old Fender Dual Showman once.

    Anyway, completely off topic: this has been going around my brain for some years now but I thought it would be rather neat if the actual band of PF carry on in the future. After all the band has always prided itself in being “faceless”. What I mean is Jon Carin could be the keyboardist, Guy Pratt the bassist, not sure on the drummer or guitarist, but it would certainly be a first if a band could go on and on almost to the end of time.

    Of course the music would change, like it did when Syd left, but the dream of revolution would still carry on. And the message would be the same but sang in a slightly different way. Hope that makes sense.

    Just going over thoughts in the recesses of my mind. 😉

  11. As Michèle, I also searched the web to listen to some of the songs on the list and I think my favourite is Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen”.

    I also liked Platters’ “Twilight Time”, Elvis Presley’s “Hard Headed Woman” and Ricky Nelson’s “Poor Little Fool”.

    It was also the first time I listened to the original version of “Don’t” and it’s nice, but I also prefer David’s cover.

    Have a good weekend. 🙂

  12. Two Rolling Stone’s album covers were censored: “Some Girls” because it illegally used celebrities’ pictures without their consent, and “Beggars Banquet” due to its depiction of a dirty, graffiti-covered bathroom. Ironically, that is the cover of the CD version. And Roger Waters’ “Pros and Cons of Hitch-Hiking” bears a big black box where the woman’s bottom used to be. I’ve got the original LP bearing the bare bottom.

    The Kingsmen – “Louie Louie” was banned for obscene lyrics; a court overturned it because the singing is so sloppy that you can’t decipher the words anyhow! According to Nick Mason’s book, “Arnold Layne” was banned on the BBC for “Takes two to know.” Oddly, two years later, Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” became a hit with far more nasty lyrics.

    And, returning to the Stones, “Let’s spend the night together” was changed on The Ed Sullivan show to “Let’s spend our life together.” Kinda changes the meaning, doesn’t it?

    1. The Beggar’s Banquet cover was censored but the Some Girls was not censorship but a copyright infringement. They used some images of celebrities without their permission. The album was later released with different images, one image I know that was replaced was Lucille Ball. You may think that the original Some Girls cover is valuable, it really isn’t cause there are many of them out there.

      Some other censored albums included Roxy Music Country Life, Blind Faith self-titled release, Guns N’ Roses Appetite for Destruction (the original cover on this one is very rare and collectible), The Black Crows Amorica, Poison Open Up and Say… Ahh!, David Bowie Diamond Dogs and of course there are others.

      By the way, Bob Dylan had a copyright infringement issue as well with his release of Blonde on Blonde. The original artwork included an image on the inside gatefold of actress Claudia Cardinale. The image was used without her permission and future releases of the album (especially in America) removed that image. An American release with the image is quite valuable.

      Thanks.

      Andrew

    2. People think that things are valuable just because they are collectible. It’s actually collectibility plus rarity, just like you said. I’d bet that the “Pros and Cons” cover I mentioned is NOT worth more than its weight in cardboard, simply because so many copies were made.

      Another album cover that was banned in some places was Led Zep’s “Houses of the Holy” for its depiction of a naked girl. This, despite the fact that the model was actually in her early twenties.

  13. I remember when we would cruise Tweety Blvd. back in the early 60s and playing Rumble full blast on the radio. What a great song.

    That would be a great one for David to play while jamming in the barn with Steve, Phil, Jon and Guy.

    Take Care and have a great weekend,
    Thomas

  14. FEd!

    That’s such a wonderful year… I was born then!

    I must admit to being a fan of the Everly Brothers. I noticed they were listed about five times in the top 100 of 1958.

    Thanks for choosing such a fabulous year! 😛

    Penny

  15. It’s fascinating to note just how many timeless songs have been ridiculously banned from radio airplay.

    South African singer Johnny Clegg once said “Censorship is based on fear”. True.

    – ‘Another Brick In The Wall’, banned by the South African Government. Reason: the song is “prejudicial to the safety of the state”. (Black children, upset by the inferior education, adopted the song as their anthem and started riots. Bravo, black children!)

    – ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’, banned by the BBC, for the supposed LSD reference in the title (but it was in fact a reference to a drawing by Lennon’s son).

    ‘Je T’Aime… Moi Non Plus’ (Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin), banned in the UK, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the Vatican (of course), because of the explicit eroticism of the song, that was declared “offensive”. Such prude countries.) 😉

    – ‘Le Déserteur’ by pacifist, antimilitarist novelist, actor, musician Boris Vian, song banned in France during the Indochina War.

    And these days -thanks to the internet- the censorship of a song is even more ridiculous, as it has often the effect of drawing more attention to the song than the song would have received if it had not been banned.

    Anyway, I think censorship is never good because it removes freedoms (right of expression, freedom of speech). I don’t want media, governments, etc, to control what I listen to or watch.

    Michèle

  16. Really essential and simple arrangement, it sounds like a track to learn how to play guitar, and it probably was for so many.

    Thank you, we are still following those steps.

  17. sorry i haven’t been around much – busy job hunting.

    just a quick note to say yes – chuck berry is alive and the uk tour is confirmed.

    this is CHUCK BERRY – not a tribute band.

    shame i lost my job or i’d buy tickets. 😛

  18. One of the most controversial and recently banned songs was when Body Count released the song Cop Killer. Although the intention of Ice-T was to highlight corruption within the police force, the song was received as a statement against all law enforcement. Future releases of their debut album deleted the song.

    Thanks.

    Andrew

  19. … rather off-topic: my wife and I went to see PSP (Palladino, Saisse, Philips) in Augsburg on Monday. If anyone of you are interested to hear some real good instrumental music, I can recommend them!

    Best regards,
    Taki

  20. First hand, I’d like to commemorate the Vets today for Remembrance Day! It was a perfect sunny day. The first in many years.

    Secondly, congrats to David upon his Honorary Doctorate from Cambridge. Bravo! 😉

  21. What an interesting subject, FEd – good work as ever. I took a browse through the list of 1958 songs and there are some wonderful tunes there. Vocally, things seemed to be in a bit of a sweet spot, with some great harmonising on a number of them. Something that doesn’t seem as common these days, sadly…

    Whilst I’m here, congrats to David on his Honorary Doctorate today… Funnily enough, while he was in Cambridge, I was settling back in a dentist’s chair for some root canal work. There’s a point to this info! The really weird thing was, that as the anaesthetic was being injected, none other than Comfortably Numb started playing in the room! A more appropriate track to hear as your mouth is being numbed, I cannot think of… The dentist asked me if I liked Pink Floyd. Well… 😉

    Turned out she’d seen them (at her estimate) around 30 years ago, but the choice of music playing this morning (David’s Live At Gdansk) was down to the dental nurse who is a massive fan. She was even singing along quietly at times, and tapping on the suction tube in time to the music, while it was in my mouth!

    I can now heartily recommend the Gdansk album as the perfect way to cope with root canal work! 😀

    1. “Okay, just another pin prick…” Don’t you just Floydian coincidences, Matt? 😀

    2. The really weird thing was, that as the anaesthetic was being injected, none other than Comfortably Numb started playing in the room!

      :))

  22. In 1972 at Winterland, in San Fransico, me and my buddies had a rare sight! To see and hear “The Pink Floyd” play our favorite song, “Echoes”. We were amazed and wondered why David Gilmour wore a tee shirt entitled “Little David is not small” (blue in colour).

    Little did we know and hear “Dark Side of the Moon” was near. Plus “Careful With That Axe Augene”, a personal favorite of mine. Oh many songs and fun! “Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun”.

    In summation, it is great regret that Mr. Wright has passed. I will miss him greatly… for he was a pure genius. Every time I see a Farfissa I wonder about him, for he is not long gone.

    Congratualtions David, for you deserve a “Doc”. I only hope that you and Nick Mason can remain the Legendary “Pink Floyd”.

    Regards,
    Sam

  23. 40 years ago, on 14th November 1969, the Octopus (song), also known as Clowns and Jugglers, was released. A song, written by Syd Barrett, that appeared on his first solo album, The Madcap Laughs, whose title is from a line of this song. The song is also notable for being his only solo single, with “Golden Hair” as the B-Side, released on November 14, two months before the album was released. The song was produced by Syd Barrett and David Gilmour in 1969. 8)

    Congrats Doctor Gilmour, on the Anglia Ruskin University Honorary Doctorate representing the highest level of achievement in his field of expertise.

    Late October 2008, I traveled all the way from California to Cambridge to participate in the City Wakes tribute to Mr. Barrett. The Anglia Ruskin was the first place I went, equipped with paint and canvas, for visitors to paint on, as a special guest book to Syd Barrett’s Other Room exhibition of rare paintings.

    An old friend of Mr. Barrett, Warren Dosanjh, invited me and my brother to a private event to debut the People Painting happening we had brought. It was titled “The Roots of Cambridge Rock” and was located at the Center at St. Paul’s. I had a chance to meet Mr. Bob Klose while he was jamming with many of his Cambridge friends there. 8)

    I really enjoyed the experience very much and wish to return again, some sunny day. If I’m not mistaken, Syd and maybe even “the Doctor” had previously jammed at times in the basement of the Cambridgeshire College of Arts.

  24. Belated congratulations to David for his Honorary Doctorate. 🙂

    Sorry, but I read about it right now.

  25. Hey FE’d

    how’s things at DGHQ?

    hope all’s well

    good day on SkyArts 256 today!

    3:30 pm David Gilmour: Remember That Night
    8:00 pm Pink Floyd: Classic Albums
    9:00 pm PULSE: Dark Side of the Moon

    I know what I’m doing today. 😉

    andy

  26. Today I read the “Distortion (music)” article in Wikipedia. Link Wray early mentioned there and, did not recognize the name though I probably should have. I looked at the LW-page in Wikipedia to read more. Then I came to this blog to find out LW was mentioned here. Seems he inspired other ones who later also became ahead in time.

    There has always been the guys who later was realized to be ahead in time. Some of the early blues guitar players were ahead in time, some singers have been, and then in the era of “pop” and “rock”.

    In my ears, The Who was ahead, Pet Sounds was.

    In 1968 Swedish The Jackpots used rich harmonies and reverse harmonies overdubs in “Jack In the Box”.

    Another Gothenburg band, Tages, produced their last album “Studio” at Abbey Roads in 1967. IMHO, along with The Jackpots, by far, best Swedish bands in the 60s, musically innovative. One of the songs, “She’s Having A Baby Now” was banned by the BBC.

    In 1973 I was 8. My brother bought the album The Dark Side of the Moon, and by then, I did feel that it was different, yet timeless. It was on time, in time, kind of… in all time.

    I remember I thought to my self the words or feeling “It sounds modern”, yet I was not surprised, felt as it was already my style, though I had not heard it before. The stereo effects, the phaser sounds, the vsc3, the breathing drum dynamics, the rich and dense spectrum yet open sound, the slow gentle rhythm.

    Time goes on. Who will be ahead with the yet unreleased music? 🙂

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