Elvis Presley brought a sense of tribal identity to America’s youth when he hit national TV in 1956, although teenage style was happening even before the coming of rock’n’roll. A teenage look was adopted in the same way that “our” music would be when it arrived. In the USA post-war prosperity brought teenage style much earlier than in our war-torn and austere continent, although occupying American forces did leave a certain mark. In Britain we invented the Teddy boy and girl, a sort of working class nose-thumbing to our elders and so-called betters. For us, the advent of rock’n’roll and its attendant style was held back by our very own skiffle craze, a folky off-shoot of trad jazz (chunky knits and corduroy). The froth was not blown off the coffee until well into 1957 on this side of the Atlantic, by which time the teenage “absolute beginner” had truly arrived. And the look was all-American.
Carl Lee Perkins was the man responsible for the granddaddy of all these songs about clothes. Born out of an expression heard by Johnny Cash while serving in the military; suggested as a song subject to a bemused Carl; exacerbated by something Carl overheard on a dance floor, and eventually written in the middle of a speed-addled night on a paper potato sack. Carl’s ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ was the first essentially country record to top all three of Billboard’s charts: country & western, R&B and popular. Carl’s meteoric career was the template for most of the early rockabilly exponents: full of wild highs and tragic lows. It’s true to say that despite its longevity, phenomenal influence over much that followed, including the Beatles, and its star-crossed nature, Carl's career would never quite rise beyond the reputation of that first massive hit. This album brings the original ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ to the Ace canon for the very first time. Can you believe that?
Our opening song (and album title) would have found record-hungry European teens of ’57 somewhat confused – an example of creative juxtaposition perhaps? Red blue jeans? But of course, with time came the clarification of all things spoken hep. Back in those days, and for some time to come, our brothers and sisters across the Pond called all jeans bluejeans (one word). Sometimes they called them Levi’s, but in the UK in the late 50s that description meant even less. So, of course, we have blue jeans … and they’re red! ‘Red Bluejeans And A Pony Tail’ was, of course, the successor to a hit from the previous year where we first heard of this strange apparel, in Gene Vincent’s very first release, ‘Be Bop A Lula’: “She’s the gal in the red bluejeans, She’s the queen of all the teens.”
From ‘Blue Suedes’ and ‘Red Bluejeans’ we could have moved in the same direction as pop music tended to do at the time. In the world of the hit parade we had ‘Short Shorts’, ‘Pink Shoe Laces’, ‘Black Denim Trousers’, ‘White Bucks’ and ‘Saddle Shoes’. Not for us such drab garb. Our outfitters have rounded up some ‘Straight Skirts’, ‘Tight Sweaters’, ‘Pink Peg Slacks’, ‘Slim Jims’, ‘Tight Capris’, ‘Penny Loafers’, ‘Squeaky Shoes’, ‘Boy’s Shirts’, ‘Plaid Skirts’, ‘Yellow Pants’, ‘Red and Blue Velvet’, ‘Sun Glasses’, ‘Checkerboard and Knee Socks’ and ‘Bermuda Shorts’.
And they all rock their socks off. Yes, with that get-up you better stay out of school. By Brian “Feel The Schmutter” Nevill