I heard Gene Vincent’s 1956 coiled rockabilly great “Be Bop A Lula” on the radio this morning. It reminded me of something …
December, 1989 – A woman came up to me while I was DJing at a Christmas party and asked me to work her upcoming 50th birthday party.
“Howja like to work for me kid? [billows of smoke issued from either side of her
mouth and nostrils] Gotta big 50th coming up. You don’t believe it? No one
ever does. I take care of myself. No kids, no stretch marks.
“I want ’50s music, no ’60s. You know the difference? None of these kids do. I’ll say ’50s and they’ll throw on the fucking Beatles. I hate the Beatles. I love Gene Vincent, Elvis, Jerry Lee, those guys.
“I gave Gene Vincent a blow job once, right backstage. I knew Elvis too, know what I mean? He had a little one, it’s the funniest thing. You’ve all got one and you’re all so worried about it. Even Elvis. Even The King.
“So you know ’50s? You know doo wop? I’ve got it made now, but I’m still wild – almost 50 and still wild. So you wanna do it? It’ll be wild, I’ll tell you that much.”
“Wild is good,” I said and gave her my card.
When she finally called me, I was already booked for that night, so I had to send someone else. I heard the party was wild.
Gene Vincent is probably the darkest figure of the original rockers. Vincent ruined his leg in a motorcycle accident while in the Navy in 1955. It never healed. He just couldn’t let it. The pain made him itchy and he just couldn’t sit still or stay off of his feet. Also, the medication made him feel like it was no big thing.
Vincent bought “Be Bop A Lula” for $25 from a fellow hospital patient. He put his own name on it, “What the hell, I paid for it.” “Be Bop A Lula” is what rockabilly should be: tense, tight, stalking. A big, black cool cat that moves around on liquid muscle and takes whatever it wants.
Vincent died of a bleeding ulcer at 36 in 1971. English post-punker Ian Dury – who himself died young at 48 in 2000 – always felt an affinity for Vincent. Dury was handicapped too, from childhood polio. Dury wrote “Sweet Gene Vincent” for his great New Boots and Panties album in 1978.
“I miss your sad Virginia whisper
I miss the voice that called my heart
Sweet Gene Vincent
Young and old and gone”
The collection below is pretty much all the Gene you’d ever need, with the amazing Galluping Cliff Gallup on lead guitar and the rest of the Blue Caps ripping with Gene through “Be Bop A Lula,” “Race With the Devil,” “Woman Love” and “Blue Jean Bop,” among many others.
They’re all dead now: Gene, Elvis, Ian. And that woman is 63, assuming she’s still around – sorry I missed your party.