No doubt about it : he's the one who started it all - for so many, including this writer. As a singer, no one ever surpassed him ; as a performer, to quote Jacques Barsamian [who once wrote in the French music mags, 'Disco-Revue' & 'Rock'n'Folk'], he was quite remarkable and always ready to do it all for his fans ; as a man, well, he was - by all accounts - fitful : at times very sweet, then getting mad at anybody for any reason. It should be noted here that Gene was crippled following a motorcycle crash in 1955 : that may explain a few things.
In 1956, he was signed to Capitol Records by Ken Nelson and, at his first session in Nashville, cut four classic tracks, including 'Be-Bop-A-Lula' and 'Race With The Devil'. Quite rightly so, 'Be-Bop' was a smash hit - but also the only real big one he ever had. Only 'Lotta Lovin' and, to a lesser extent, 'Dance To The Bop', made some impact on the charts (both in 1957). However, he kept on recording GREAT stuff until his untimely death on October 12, 1971. Some of these recordings will be detailed and discussed hereafter, as well as in the new sections shown at the bottom of this page.
photo on this page is one of the best ever taken of Gene on stage - whoever
took it (during a concert in Paris, I think) did a real good job. The album
itself (Capitol T 20532) was the starting point for me, but it would still perfectly
function that way today for anyone interested in Rock'n'Roll. Mixing tracks
from Gene's first, second, fourth and fifth LPs - plus the elusive and amazing
'Well, I Knocked, Bim Bam' -, it's a killer from start to finish. Without any
sort of chauvinism, I must admit that the sound quality on this Pathé
Marconi pressing is far superior to the US or UK originals : just listen to
'Peace of Mind', 'I Flipped', 'I Got To Get To You Yet' or 'I Might Have Known'
and you'll agree with me ; the spaciousness, fluidity and brightness of the
music are striking.
Now, there's a couple of points I'd like to put right. First off, come to think that, despite having only two real hot selling singles, Gene had the privilege of having SIX albums released in the States (and the UK) from 1956 to 1960 !! Quite a feat, demonstrating once and for all that Capitol and the oft-criticized Ken Nelson in particular had kept their faith in such a fabulous singer.
Besides, I'm fed up with those so-called fans who can't picture Gene accompanied by saxophones, organs or whatever. If we all agree that the first edition of Gene & His Blue Caps was VERY impressive, one shouldn't deny the fact that the following combinations managed to maintain a high level of musicianship. Moreover, the music evolved and the addition of session players like Plas Johnson & Jackie Kelso was a definitive plus to songs like 'Say Mama' or 'Maybelline'.
Between 1960 and 1965, most of Gene's recordings were made in England often under the supervision of the late Norrie Paramor. Various bands or orchestras were used and it's true that some of the best tracks were cut with The Sounds Incorporated ; however, Gene's sessions from the Spring of 1964 with The Shouts deserve a much better appreciation. The resulting album, 'Shakin' Up A Storm' (Columbia 33 SX 1646 in the UK and FPX 269 in France, reissued on CD in mono by UK EMI in 1997, as part of their 100th Anniversary series), was excellent ; 'Private Detective', 'Someday', 'Another Saturday Night', 'Lavender Blue' are all standouts and Gene's rendition of the evergreen 'Long Tall Sally' [cut by every British band at the time : Beatles, Kinks, Swinging Blue Jeans] is as fresh and exciting as theirs. Too bad almost all of the stereo mixes are either lost or erased : they might surface one day, who knows ??!!
Gene was - at long last - inducted into The Rock'n'Roll Hall Of Fame in 1998 and remains one of the most charismatic and talented Artists of all time. His first manager, the late 'Sheriff' Tex Davis, used to say that he could sing like a bird ; well, this bird has flown and the nest stays empty ...
'The Crazy Beat Of Gene Vincent'
that album (Capitol T 20453), which was released in France and England
in early 1963 ?