Sunday, September 14, 2014

"Guitar Riff Song of the Ages"

And that riff would be the one belonging to Train Kept a Rollin'.

In its original fingerpoppin' incarnation, the riffing was all piano and scat ba-doo-days. The groove is undergirded with a lyrical bouquet of postwar hipsterisms. This Train also offers up what is probably the greatest double entendre chorus ever written: The train kept a rollin' all night long and I still wouldn't let her go.

The song owes some debt to Cow-Cow Boogie.

Composer Tiny Bradshaw shuffles it along in 1951:

Johnny Burnette recognizes the song's carnal potential and sculpts it with a minor key slink in 1956. The result is a scorching, jungly vibe:

The Yardbirds bring the monumental riff of all rock guitar riffs in 1965. Behind the proto-metal figures, this version returns some residual swing and strips it of Burnette's jungly ambience. Keith Relf's double overlayed vocals are like a brain wrestling with good and evil:

The band rerecorded Train for the movie Blow Up. The producers couldn't get licensing clearance for the original so they changed the lyrics to Stroll On and electrocuted the riff, the fuzz-toned duel leads blowing from Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. Many have argued that this is the moment where metal began. Whatever: it's friggin' hot.

Lemmy sludges it up and takes it back to the garage:

Jimmy Page brings it to early Led Zeppelin, 1969:

For most people, the reason they know of the song at all is for Aerosmith. The band released it as a single in 1974. It failed to chart at the time:

Live on television from 1974 on what may be the world's smallest stage:

Imelda May and "good ol' rockabilly":

While I was composing this piece I ran across a post for the Hard Rock Cafe's blog that had the same idea.

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