Here's Little Richard
Release Date: May 15th, 1962
Words by: Laurence Rosier Staines 8.5
May 15th, 2012
The immediate, unaccompanied call to arms, "A WOP-BOP-A-LOOMOP, A LOP-BOP BOP!" could not be a better way to begin an album called 'Here's Little Richard.' The impact of hearing this nonsensical yet absolutely clear declaration of "listen to me, it's time to party!" in 1955 in the midst of other top 40 dross is difficult to imagine. To claim 'nothing would be the same again' is almost always hyperbole, but for many this was the exact moment that worlds were torn apart.
It might not sound that different to other music that was around at the time – notably Fats Domino and other New Orleans rhythm and blues artists – but this was faster, more colourful; the band was tighter, the attitude looser, and it was all far more recklessly amped-up than other contemporaries. Sex, of course, is never explicitly mentioned in 'Tutti Frutti' but that just makes it better, as Mr Richard lists the number of women he has on call and the things that they can do to him. It's a rambunctious link in a great chain of braggadocio that harks back to way before Figaro and then all the way up to present day hip-hop. From the pounding straight-8th's boogie piano over the swinging rhythm section, to the scream before the sax solo and the inimitable "wooo!",'Tutti Frutti' pretty much provides every important element of Little Richard's music in under two and a half minutes. It's exhilarating, simple and brilliant.
The rest of the album is an era-typical compilation of singles and b-sides, half of which are indispensable. The best ones are the night-on-the-town 'Rip It Up', the kiss-off'Slippin' and Slidin'' (complete with a great double sax solo) and the wild, occasionally-incoherent 'Long Tall Sally'. These represent the best of Little Richard's talent for cutting loose but remaining manically focused; although 'Jenny Jenny' sees him completely vocally unhinged, and 'She's Got It' has ludicrously fast wham-bam piano.
Elsewhere the songs are a little more forgettable and the formula wears pretty thin, though it's still by no means bad. 'True Fine Mama' is a fine song with some impassioned "HONEY! HONEY HONEY!"s that are deflated by unnecessary backing singers. 'Can't Believe You Wanna Leave' is fairly stock piano blues, 'Baby' sports an excellent descending horn-line in the denouement of every 12 bars, and 'Oh Why' has a verse melody that was quickly stolen for Elvis' 'Heartbreak Hotel'. Sure they don't all stand up to scrutiny, but if you were scrutinizing you were doing it all wrong anyway. They were meant to be over with sharply.
Perhaps the most concise assessment I've ever heard about these songs is that it's impossible to feel sad whilst listening to Little Richard. That's entirely true. If you can legitimately frown at hearing a screamed "WE'RE GONNA HAVE SOME FUN TONIGHT" from a guy who seems to be having the time of his life, maybe you should be seeking some medical advice.