Vasco da Gama Logo 2007

The History of Rock

The true origins of beat music

Many people believe that Bill Haley and the Comets started the Rock 'and' Roll craze with their hit record "Rock around the Clock", which featured in the smash hit kinematic release "Blackboard Jungle". Many people (not necessarily the same people) believe that the term Rock n Roll was coined by Alan "Fluff" Freeman. Evidence has emerged that this might not be the case!

The diaries of Arthur Stools from a one horse town in West Yorkshire came up for auction recently and were snapped up by keen music fan and showbiz personality Judi Dench ("Rocky" from BBC's hit-series Casualty). The detailed account of Arthur's musical experiments and his innovation casts new light on all previously held beliefs.

There is astonishing evidence, deciphered from Arthur's secret "mirror writing", that he invented the musical form which we know as Rock n Roll before World War Two and it is clear that the author of these historic jottings was wearing Edwardian drainpipe trousers as early as 1941. In the light of this sensational documentary evidence it is, perhaps, time for a rethinků

Teddy Boys standing around doing nothing left: Teddy Boys discussing urgent matters of the day, 1957. Note that one is standing on a box!

The History of Popular Music

A considered re-interpretation by Dr Vernon Saffron

When insurance salesman Arthur Stools declared his ambition to become a professional musician in the dark pre-war days of 1937 many people thought he had finally flipped. "He's a bleedin' headcase" they would say. In his heart Art knew that peddling policies to the uninsured was not his true vocation and he longed for the fame and fortune a stage career might bring. His love of performing had no doubt been inherited from his parents who had earned themselves a reputation as the premier plate-spinning act in Europe. He had taught himself the rudiments of the banjolele and was no mean accordionist but Arthur's early appearances on the thriving Wetherby club scene were undistinguished at best and Art knew he would need more than that if he was to stand out from the dozens of other song and dance men who were working the same circuit - there was no doubting his ability as a Banjo-man but in the late 1930s they were ten-a-penny and the public was starting to look elsewhere for its entertainment.

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In 1938 Arthur made a decision which was to change the course of history - he purchased a ukelele and set about mastering the instrument with such intensity that it made his knuckles bleed. Within days he was a virtuoso and was looking for new and innovative ways of expressing himself - he played it with his teeth, behind his back, even in the bath with a bucket on his head. The big breakthrough came when Arthur accidentally rigged the uke up to a 10,000 watt Marshall stack and found that he was able to create a range of new sounds. As a direct result of Arthur's innovations, the uke quickly lost it's reputation as a tinny twangy thing and was emerging in the public conscience as a sexy phallic throbbing thing (rather like a penis, only smaller).

With the new sound came a new direction in the songs which could be written for the instrument and the ghost of Mr Woo the Chinese laundryman was finally laid to rest.

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For the next five years, which coincided with the second Guerre Mondiale, Arthur hid in a cupboard writing Rock and Roll songs and wearing Edwardian drainpipe trousers. His output was, according to his diary, prolific and in the five years he composed no fewer than twelve potential hit songs. In the war years, however, people didn't need Rock and Roll and when Arthur finally emerged, on VJ night, he was greeted with indifference by the tycoons and moguls of tin-pan alley. The austerity of post-war Britain meant that Arthur's songs were never heard, a fact which only served to increase Arthur's hatred of women, tortoiseshell cats and, quite naturally, men in expensive suits.

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Arthur died in September 1967, penniless, homeless and fingerless - the digits having dropped off many years before. His funeral was attended by a handful of professional mourners - the final apathetic gesture towards a man who had nearly given so much to popular culture (before his fingers dropped off at least - after that he was a waster who couldn't even pick his own nose). As the wind blew across the cemetery on a cold autumn day it's doubtful that any of the mourners and relicts gathered at the graveside could have known of Arthur's legacy. Here was a man who had lived most of his adult life in obscurity, hiding in cupboards, busking outside the Kino Splendido de Wetherby or living on handouts and small charitable donations - he had no reputation and he had no fingers. They had no idea.

Experts like me and Paul "Gambo" Gambaccini now recognise that Art's output, pre-dating the Comets by some 20 years, sparked the revolution that led to the birth of Rock - without this giant of modern music there would have been no Elvis, no Beatles, no Hendrix and no-one else either. In fact, you probably wouldn't have existed and neither would I - so you wouldn't be reading this and I wouldn't have written it. And the weather would probably be a lot colder than it is and there might have been loads of plagues and fires...Christ! The man was a Saint if only you bastards had realised, but you didn't and his fingers dropped off and did anyone care ? NO! There is no justice. This will not stand!

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all names in this feature are fictitious except Arthur, Judi and Mr. Potter - but they won't make a fuss

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