Sadly, too soon after this appeared on the blog, the Heppest of the Hep page disappeared from Facebook; something to do with copyright of the various clips, I suspect! I’ve left the article here in the hope that it will resurface, and as I’m sure most of the content could be found elsewhere on line from time to time with a bit of judicious searching.
If you’ve got anything important or urgent to do, make sure you do it before you visit the Heppest of the Hep. (note the full stop) page on Facebook because, once you arrive there, you will find that time magically disappears as you click on just one more video before getting on with something else. It’s a simple, no frills, idea, but once that must need every trick that the hard copy and on-line collector can bring to bear: hundreds, and I mean hundreds, of original performances on film, TV, and occasionally live on stage, gathered together in one place and available at the click of a button in as good a definition possible with the source material. There are the music performances harvested from all the films we hunted down on late night TV or DVD, but thankfully without the dreadful dialogue, and those superb Town Hall Party shows with wild rockabillies surrounded by handclapping country music folks, plus excerpts from the Dick Clark shows, not all of them mimed. The accompanying captions give useful details of the featured artists and the source; the only jarring feature is the weirdly repeated description “Straight out of Compton” – I just couldn’t work out why classic 50s rock’n’roll, rockabilly and rhythm’n’blues needed to be compared to LA rap to give it credibility, until I twigged that the Town Hall Party was filmed in Compton – doh! As with any Facebook page, the comments below each entry are variable, with the usual range of ‘must say something’ reactions, irrelevancies, gems of information from students of the genre and, best of all, occasional personal reminiscences from those who were there at the time – clearly the page has some significant characters amongst the 277 thousand followers it’s gained in less than a year since its inception.
Let’s start with some classics, but in format I’d not seen before, including 1954 footage of Bill Haley and the Comets knocking out ‘Crazy Man, Crazy’, and big chunks of Elvis live on stage in ’56, but with the original raw live sound left in, rather than the usual overdubbing with the versions released on record. Then there’s the weird stuff – lots of Mexican ‘rocanrol’ sourced from foreign (to us, anyway) language films you just wouldn’t come across over here; a bizarre bit of Belgian surf from The Cousins playing ‘Kana Kapila’ in 1961, plus the good bits from all those terrible early 60s surf movies, featuring some great garage instrumentals. I couldn’t resist some live performances of rockabilly classics: Gordon Terry doing ‘It Ain’t Right’ from 1958 (I never knew he played lead guitar on that himself), and Jimmy and Johnny with ‘Sweet Love on My Mind’ from 1956, with that those awesome guitar breaks repeated almost note for note in ‘Love Me’. And speaking of awesome guitar breaks – and even though they’re easy to find elsewhere – I can never leave the page without checking out Jimmy Burton’s performances behind Ricky Nelson on ‘Believe What You Say’ from Ricky’s TV ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ days, and – of course – at the tender age of 17, backing Bob Luman in ‘Carnival Rock’, on ‘All Night Long’, ‘The Creep’ and the ‘This is the Night’. If ever that second break in ‘This is the Night’ fails to move me, then dig a hole and bury me, ‘cos I’m long gone. I’ve stuck some links in there, but you really need to explore the site for yourself.
And don’t blame me if you don’t get your chores done – I didn’t make you click on Heppest of the Hep…