Photographer Michael Peto and writer Anthony Samson visited the cinemas of south London to see what the Rock ‘n’ Roll fuss was all about…
…To the South London teenagers Rock ‘n’ Roll is something quite mysterious, and different from the old jazz. But to the jazz experts its pedigree is dull and not very respectable. Rock ‘n’ Roll, it seems, is a rough mongrel of blues and hill-billy, with some hot-gospelling thrown in. It’s novelty isn’t so much in its beat or tunes, as in the raucous, jungly accompaniment of a honking saxophone and crude guitar-strumming, and a very powerful beat. The result is a naked, aggressive kind of jazz which most jazz pundits despise…
…But in the long, bleak streets of South London, Rock ‘n’ Roll seems suddenly to have touched off frustration and boredom. London is still two cities; and South of the River it seems inconceivable that anyone should not know who Bill Haley is, and what is a “square.”
***A “square” in jazz language is an outsider who doesn’t understand. A “hep-cat” is a jazz fiend. “Dig” means understand; “gone” and “in the groove” mean lost in jazz ecstasy. The words of Rock Around the Clock are reproduced by permission of Edward Kassner Music Co.
Dig That Crazy Jive, Man! by Anthony Sampson was published in the Observer on 16 September 1956.
(Greg Whitmore, “Observer archive – Rock Around the Clock, 16 September 1956,” The Guardian, 9-15-18)
[Copyright (c) 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.]