From ‘Rumble’ onwards, Link Wray was known for his terminal, kerrang-style guitar instrumentals as featured in many a movie. But he was also a fine singer and an enormous Elvis fan, as shown on these 90s recordings made for Ace, including the previously unissued ‘That’s When Your Heartaches Begin’. The 10-inch album format is ideal for this and no prizes for guessing the influence for the cover design. Note Link’s T-shirt as well – not photoshopped in, but worn on the day.
Say Link Wray to anyone who’s even halfway savvy to what’s shakin’ and they’ll most likely get ready to Rumble. Here’s a guitar-slinger who first hit the charts with what’s probably the only instrumental ever to have got itself banned by the squares solely on account of its name. Like just the sound of that record would be enough to send you out roaming the streets with a fifth of bourbon in your back pocket and your eyeballs fixed on trouble. Come to think of it, they might well have had a point.
This here’s a selection from the LPs Link waxed for Ace Records, rounding up eight fine performances in which he pays vocal tribute to the Memphis Flash himself. As he told long-time Headcoats tub-thumper and all-round garage legend Bruce Brand when they collaborated on some of these tracks at North London’s Pathway Studios in 1989, Elvis was pretty much all he ever cued up on the hi-fi when relaxing back at Chez Wray. The other cuts date from 1995 and were laid down in Hertfordshire with his road musicians Eric Geevers and Rob Louwers, shortly after they’d headlined the Ace Records 20th Birthday Party at the Bottom Line in Shepherd’s Bush – a vintage night where he clapped his larynx around more than one selection from the King’s back-catalogue.
If it’s full-throttle six-string mayhem you’re looking for, from the man who pretty much invented the whole shooting match, the guitar solos on Link’s blistering version of ‘Tiger Man’ will slick your hair right back and then part it in the middle, at no extra charge. You’ll find that on the Loud Side, friends.
But if you want the soulful tones of Wray the ballad-singer, flip over to the Quiet Side, and dig the previously unreleased ‘That’s When Your Heartaches Begin’ – a stripped-down masterclass in suave that’s like having the man himself leaning on the cocktail bar in the corner of your crash-pad, strumming and crooning as you mix up another jolt of juice. Then get your knowledge-box around the fact that the hepcat doing the crooning lost a lung to TB way back before he hit the bigtime, and raise a glass of tonsil paint, cats and kittens, to one of the true 50s pioneers saluting another – who both tore up the old rulebook and helped write us all a new one.