Before They Were Famous: The Music of Pop and Rock
IN September 1994, a reel-to-reel tape emerged and was put up for auction. Sotheby’s were all over it because this wasn’t any old recording they had on their hands.
What had arrived was a reel to reel tape of The Quarry Men appearing at St Peter’s Parish Church garden party Liverpool in July, 1957.
The Quarry Men would of course, turn into The Beatles, who are still the biggest band in the whole wide world. The tape went for what is a reasonably low price of £69,000. That wouldn’t buy one leg of a Champion’s League footballer in 2014.
So with that, we got to thinking about famous rock stars, pop singers and rappers before they were famous. Of course, there’s a lot of them who were on television and there’s yearbook photos of just about every celebrity online, but we wanted to look at the music they were making and the evidence of it.
Pull up a chair, remove the wax from your ear and let’s get stuck into rock’s flipside.
Before they became the famous Fab Four, The Quarry Men cut a shellac disc. Lennon, Harrison and Macca were on the cut and, if you listen, you can pick out their distinctive voices, especially that of Lennon. A fan remastered the track, so have a listen. Aren’t they cute?
Before Lou Reed became the dark cloud of The Velvet Underground, he cut a record as The Primitives (no, not that one from the ’80s and no, not the other ’60s bands called The Primitives). Here, we see Lil Lou trying to get in on the dance record craze with his song ‘The Ostrich’. Even then, there was something wonderfully askew about Lou’s loud playing and deadpan delivery.
One of the most influential producers and artists in the game, Yeezy started off trying his material out in Chicago and here, at 19 years old, we see a little Kanye getting busy in a freestyle.
Love’s Arthur Lee had to wait to make baroque psychedelic masterpieces like ‘Forever Changes’ and ‘De Capo’. Before Love, he cuts some record with The American Four, a pretty typical garage band, but Lee’s voice is unmistakable.
Lana Del Rey
Before she became the Queen of Ketamine Comedown Pop, Lana Del Rey was singer-songwriter Lizzie Grant who played the clubs for anyone who would listen. Here’s a video of her in action.
Before she transformed into GaGa, there was a young singer in the New York clubs called Stefani Germanotta. She cut her teeth on the Lower East Side and here’s a great video of her wailing on a rock ‘n’ roll song.
Jimi played as a touring member of a number of bands before turning rock ‘n’ roll inside out. In this video, you can hear Hendrix providing the licks for the excellent Curtis Knight. Hendrix was probably itching to do a ridiculously long wah-wah solo with his teeth, but alas, he woulda got his arse kicked by Curtis.
Before she was Katy Perry with ice-cream firing out of her nipples and conquering the world with her arena-sized pop, she was plain ol’ Katy Hudson who sang Christian Rock. There’s full albums of hers on YouTube, should you like that sort of thing.
A little more well known, but no less fun – The Beastie Boys weren’t always a crate digging hip hop outfit. Indeed, the weren’t just that when they were famous. Either way, back in ’82, they cut a record called Pollywog Stew (hmm), indebted to the hardcore punk that was livening up disenfranchised teenagers all over America.
George Clinton’s Parliament didn’t always look and sound like they’d just come from space. Once upon a time, they were a great doo-wop band. The Parliament name remained, but the sound soon transformed into something spectacular and bizarre.