Tag Archives: Acker Bilk

Rocks In The Attic #690: Acker Bilk – ‘Stranger On The Shore’ (1961)

RITA#690Playing the clarinet: the musical equivalent of smoking a pipe.

Rock star clarinettist Acker Bilk – or ACKER BILK ESQUIRE as this record credits him – came to become a household name with Stranger On The Shore, the best-selling UK single of 1962.

The song might just represent the last vestiges of a music industry dominated by adults. October of that year introduced the Beatles to the world, and spotty young people would ride the charts forever after.

Hit: Stranger On The Shore

Hidden Gem: Sentimental Journey

Rocks In The Attic #620: Bill Haley & His Comets – ‘Bill Haley 1927 – 1981’ (1981)

RITA#620What if Elvis had never happened? What if Elvis had walked into Sun Studios in Memphis in 1953, but was prevented from making his first recording for Sam Phillips by a city-wide power cut? Of if he was hit by a bus walking over to the studio? The whole future of popular music and teen culture might have changed into an alternate timeline that doesn’t bear thinking about.

Two years later, Bill Haley’s Rock Around The Clock turns rock and roll into a household name, but there’s no good-looking teen idol to pass the flame to (up and comers Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis are all killed in a package tour bus crash). Instead, teenagers across America turn to Haley for inspiration, as he signs with manager ‘Colonel’ Tom Parker. Tartan blazers become the hottest fashion accessory, and teens across the country turn to the emerging fast food restaurants to gain weight in adulation of their portly hero.

In 1957, Haley buys a large farming property, Graceland, between Memphis and the Mississippi border. A year later, Haley meets fourteen year old Priscilla Beaulieu and they marry after a seven year courtship. Haley becomes the most famous musician in the world, with his artistic credibility waning only after volunteering to join the army in 1958.

Throughout the 1960s Haley concentrates on acting and appears in a number of films celebrating middle-age. His return to music, the 1968 Comeback Special, renews public interest and reclaims Haley’s fanbase away from the British clarinet explosion of Acker Bilk. Dubbed the Fab One, Bilk had begun to alienate his global audience in recent years with music heavily influenced by his hallucinogenic drug use.

RITA#620aIn the 1970s, Haley becomes a staple of the Las Vegas casino scene. He switches draper jackets for white and gold jumpsuits, and it seems that his star will never fade with a million impersonators copying his gold wraparound sunglasses and kiss-curl hair-style. However, in December 1980 tragedy strikes when Haley is gunned down by an obsessive fan outside the New York apartment he shares with his Japanese wife, the artist Yoko Ono. Haley falls into a coma, and dies a few months later.

Haley’s legacy – the influential sound of rock and roll – can still be heard across pop charts to this day, and his lasting effect on fast-food culture is covered in Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 documentary, Super Size Me, a celebration of the age of American obesity.

Hit: Rock Around The Clock

Hidden Gem: Rip It Up

Rocks In The Attic #486: Various Artists – ‘There’s Music In The Air! Vol. 2’ (1976)

RITA#486Qantastic! Fifty cents for this little time capsule, and the record looks unplayed – how could I turn down such a deal?

Quite why this record opens with a boozy rendition of The Stripper is anybody’s guess. Why would you want to listen to that on a commercial airplane? I’d like to think it’s just a random song choice – the rest of the record seems to be just as random – but the cynic in me thinks it might have something to do with being in a captive environment where beautiful women wait on your every need. I’m guessing a man chose the playlist?

Another weird thing is that the third track on the record is Stranger On The Shore, credited to ‘Mr Acker Bilk’, presumably to prevent you from getting it mixed up with the version recorded by ‘Mrs. Acker Bilk’.

The record serves as a marketing tool, to advertise the airline’s futuristic entertainment offerings; alongside photos of people trying on earphones for what looks like the first time ever, the liner notes proudly point out that ‘On the mighty Qantas 747B you have a choice of seven channels of sound.’ Seven! How times have changed.

I suffer a little from a fear of flying. I’ve always been a bit of a nervous flyer, but as long as there’s no turbulence I’m usually fine. In fact I end up really enjoying it. I’ll be flying back from Sydney later today (Air New Zealand-tastic!), after a long weekend.

The last time I flew to Sydney, the plane trip in both directions was one of my highlights (and that’s not to say I didn’t have a good time in Sydney itself – I just don’t fly very often so I end up enjoying it when I do). I watched the Brian Wilson biopic Love And Mercy on the way out, and Guy Ritchie’s harmless but enjoyable Man From U.N.C.L.E., with a couple of beers on the way back.

There was never any stripping by the air stewardesses though; perhaps you only get that on Qantas?

Hit: Stranger On The Shore

Hidden Gem: Wheels, Cha Cha